Citing First Amendment, University of California Rejects State Legislature Resolution

By on August 31, 2012

On Tuesday, the California State Assembly unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution (PDF) that "urges both the University of California (UC) and the California State University to take additional actions to confront anti-Semitism on its campuses," including a ban on the use of public resources for "anti-Semitic or any intolerant agitation." The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Nanette Asimov reports that the University of California has already indicated it will not comply with the resolution’s requests: 

The University of California says it won’t support a resolution condemning anti-Semitism on campus – approved unanimously by the state Assembly on Tuesday – because the resolution says "no public resources will be allowed to be used for any anti-Semitic or any intolerant agitation."

"We think it’s problematic because of First Amendment concerns," said Steve Montiel, a UC spokesman.

However well-intentioned the state legislature’s resolution may be, this is the correct response from UC, a public university system bound by the First Amendment. While the resolution states that the recommended actions should be taken "with due respect to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," the call is nevertheless troubling, given that speech many would consider to be anti-Semitic or an instance of "intolerant agitation" is protected by the First Amendment. 

As Torch readers will remember, the Assembly’s resolution comes on the heels of last month’s formal recommendation from UC’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion that UC ban "hate speech" on campus. In a letter, FIRE warned UC System President Mark Yudof about the expensive and embarrassing First Amendment litigation that would inevitably follow such a ban—litigation the advisory committee actually welcomed. We were pleased that both President Yudof’s response to FIRE and his response to concerned Jewish UC community members emphasized that he understands that UC must honor its First Amendment commitments, which are legally and morally binding on the University of California System.  

For more on why a ban on "hate speech" is a bad idea, check out my recent interview with ReasonTV discussing the UC recommendation and why it hurts all students, including those it’s intended to protect. 

Schools: University of California