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UCLA lacks intellectual tolerance, but these alumni are banding together to fix it

UCLA entrance sign

Michael Gordon /

During his years in the University of California system at both Berkeley and Los Angeles, Dominic Manser was disturbed by the student body’s penchant for disruptive conduct.  That’s why he teamed up with fellow UCLA alumnus Jerry Mosley to found Bruin Alumni in Defense of Free Speech.

During Dominic’s college years in the 2010s, his curiosity drew him into conversation and even friendship with those on the opposite side of the political spectrum. With these friends, Dominic attended a number of events featuring conservative speakers, where oftentimes, protests occurred. Sometimes protesters followed First Amendment norms, engaging in counterspeech and dialogue. Other times, they disrupted planned speeches and denied their classmates important opportunities to learn.

Unfortunately, Dominic is not the only one who has experienced speech shutdowns while at UCLA. Protesters in 2018 shut down a panel on civil discourse featuring a representative from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Los Angeles Times. 

Things haven’t gotten much better since he graduated. Dominic said, “As a young alumnus of UCLA, I have seen the drastic decrease in support of free speech on college campuses within the past decade both from school administrators, faculty and students.”

Universities are meant to be the home of debate about all kinds of ethical, political, and social issues, but students are afraid to speak.

Although UCLA earns FIRE’s best, “green light” rating for nonrestrictive speech policies, putting it among only 60 colleges and universities that earn that distinction, student data suggests the culture surrounding free speech needs work. Undergraduate students at UCLA rank among the lowest nationwide for “Tolerance for Conservative Speakers,” according to FIRE’s “College Free Speech Rankings.” Of the UCLA students surveyed, 49% reported believing that a speaker who says, “Abortion should be completely illegal,” should not be allowed to speak on campus.

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UCLA students also rated themselves among the most reluctant to express their ideas. On this metric, the school landed at 192 of 203 colleges surveyed. More than half of students reported feeling uncomfortable expressing their views on a controversial political topic in a common space on campus. 

Universities are meant to be the home of debate about all kinds of ethical, political, and social issues, but students are afraid to speak. Their voices are not being silenced by authoritarian policies but by a culture hostile to expression. This culture of intellectual intolerance on UCLA’s campus is depriving students of important opportunities to refine their own arguments and learn from their ideological opponents.

That’s why Dominic and fellow UCLA alumni leader Jerry Mosley decided to form their alumni group

According to Dominic, “I am starting this group as a call to action for other alumni who want to foster and increase support for the most important liberty of all: the freedom of speech.” 

Jerry agreed: 

Our vision is a group of alumni across a wide range of political views united in their commitment to a university where students and faculty from every geographical and ideological corner come together to create one academic community built on mutual respect. UCLA should be a sanctuary from hostility and suppression, never a training ground for political intolerance.

The Bruin Alumni intend to petition UCLA to adopt the Chicago Statement, which protects free expression for students, faculty, and staff. Additionally, they hope to institute free expression training for incoming students to encourage rigorous dialogue and reduce the fear students experience when discussing their beliefs. 

Ultimately, Dominic and Jerry hope to see UCLA become the best university for free expression in California.

FIRE commends the Bruin Alumni for using their voices to protect free speech and we look forward to seeing free expression gain ground on UCLA’s campus. 

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