A first-rate discussion of the UC’s current attitude toward free speech has just appeared on the blog Work Without Dread and is not to be missed. Given the current situation at UC Irvine in which over a dozen students have just been charged by the Orange County DA with multiple misdemeanors ten months after an alleged action took place; given that UCIPD detained students for chalking on two separate occasions; given that UC Berkeley students were cited for posting flyers on public bulletin boards; given the degree of unprovoked force unleashed on students and workers at UCSF; given the fact that UCSFPD continues to intimidate students at their places of residence; given the sanctions unleashed on the UCI Muslim Student Union for protesting at a speech delivered by the Israeli Ambassador to the US, this analysis is especially relevant to our ongoing struggles. The author points to the feigned concern displayed by the UC administration after a spate of racist incidents last spring at UCSD, comparing this rhetoric to the administration’s response to the Wheeler Occupation and smaller scale acts of civil disobedience on UC campuses over the past year. Speech is to be restricted in defense of some nebulous notion of public safety, or as the author writes,
The impression the administration promulgates, instead, is the same–coincidentally, uncannily the same–as the one that the Orange County District Attorney relied on in its press release yesterday explaining why it is filing criminal charges against 19 students and workers who held a sit-in at UC Irvine on February 24, 2010 or protested outside. The D.A. points out that the campus offers “designated areas to practice free speech in a safe and effective manner without disrupting the normal operations of the University.” (Why the campus code is at all relevant to the decision to prosecute under California law is a mystery.) The D.A., citing UCI, divides “safe” from unsafe free speech by the ability of the former to comport with “normal operations,” which are then implicitly defined as not including free speech. “Normal operations” does not mean that freedom of speech normally describes or suffuses the activities of the university. They are that which free speech has to navigate around, and it is this process of navigation, a “manner,” that accrues the responsibility for maintaining safety. The contradictions of campus speech codes and applications of the First Amendment generally have been subject to many scholarly analyses since the introduction of free speech “zones.” I am pointing to something different, albeit complementary: the failure of the University to vouch for safety and civility outside the straitened terms of these self-created zones: the crushing disinterest of the University in actively defending safety and civility for dissidents.
Read the entire piece here.