Articulating a view that there are cultural (or even biological) differences between ethnic and racial groups in various fields — condemned by the authority of the University, without regard to the arguments for or against the particular assertion. It’s just an up-front categorical rule; whatever you want to say along these lines, we don’t want to hear it, we don’t care what your arguments are, we’ll condemn it, and faculty and students have a right not to hear it. Even “depicting” such a view, whatever that means, is “intolerant” and “has no place at the University.”
Saying that illegal aliens (or noncitizens who are legally here) ought not be appointed to be, say, the student member of the Board of Regents — likewise condemned. And this isn’t limited to situations where the speaker is a participant in a selection decision, which the participants are obligated to make in a nondiscriminatory way. It equally applies to, say, a student newspaper that condemns the appointment of noncitizens to leadership positions. (For a recent controversy along these lines in a local city, which could equally arise at a university, see this story about two illegal aliens named as volunteers to city commissions in an L.A.-area town.)
And these are just examples. The policy obviously extends to the other categories traditionally joined to race, ethnicity, and disability, such as sex, sexual orientation, or religion.
Defending traditional exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, by arguing that same-sex couples aren’t as good at raising children as opposite-sex couples? (I suspect that view is wrong, but we can only know it’s wrong if people are able to freely debate it.) Discussing purported differences in temperament, cognition, and more between men and women? Sharply criticizing certain religious denominations, and suggesting that people who are genuinely committed to those religious denominations are misguided or morally reprehensible?
Presumably all that, no less than statements about the disabled, is likewise “intolerance” that “has no place at the University of California” and that violates students’ and faculty members’ rights to be “free from … expression or intolerance.” You can’t “depict or articulat[e]” such ideas here — we’re a university!
2. The policy does say, “This statement of principles applies to attacks on individuals or groups and does not apply to the free exchange of ideas in keeping with the principles of academic freedom and free speech.” But what does that mean?
“Attacks on individuals or groups,” after all, often are free speech, especially recognizing that “attacks” is used here far beyond physical attacks (or threats of violence and speech that falls within the other narrow First Amendment exceptions). Certainly the third and fourth examples given in the “Addendum” are “free speech” under any existing legal definition of free speech, as is the second. Obviously the authors of the proposal have a much narrower view of “free speech” in mind. Likewise with “the free and open exchange of ideas.” The authors of the proposal love free and open exchange of ideas, until some ideas they dislike about, say, disabilities are expressed.
3. The policy also says, “This statement shall not be interpreted to prohibit conduct that is related to the course content, teaching methods, scholarship, or public commentary of an individual faculty member or the educational, political, artistic, or literary expression of students in classrooms and public forums that is protected by academic freedom or free speech principles.” But note the careful limitations in this language.
A student newspaper isn’t a “public forum” in the legal sense of the term. (“Public forum” is a legal term for government-owned property that has been opened for speech by the public at large, or by some objectively defined group of speakers on some defined topics. A newspaper isn’t open to every student to speak, and is instead subject to the editors’ editorial control, which is why students can’t sue to get access to writing in the pages of a newspaper under a “public forum” theory.)
A student group’s Web site isn’t a “public forum.” An e-mail exchange among a group of acquaintances about, say, supposed biological differences between racial groups isn’t in a “public forum” or “public commentary.” A conversation over lunch in the cafeteria isn’t public commentary or in a public forum. The “This statement shall not be interpreted …” proviso quite clearly doesn’t safeguard this sort of speech.
4. Now I’m a tenured faculty member, and I’ll keep on expressing my views despite this sort of policy. But what about undergraduates? Graduate students, who might be relying on the university for teaching assistant positions, progress in their departments, and more? Lecturers who don’t have tenure? Tenure-track faculty members who don’t yet have tenure?
When these students and faculty members are told that certain views about disabilities, about race or ethnicity, or (by obvious extension) about sexual orientation, sex, or religion have “no place at the University” — and violate others’ rights to be “free from” such “expressions” — will they feel free to openly discuss these topics? Or will they realize that they had best follow the orthodoxy?