University of California, Davis

Location: Davis, California
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of California, Davis has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

Yellow Light Policies
  • University of California Campus Climate 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech

    If you experience or observe behavior that is inconsistent with our Principles of Community, please report it.

    You may report in a variety of ways:

    *Report anonymously or by name, via this Campus Climate page, by selecting the University of California campus where the incident occurred from the list to the right and clicking “Continue”.
    * Report anonymously to an appropriate campus office, based on the nature of the incident. Please refer to the website for the campus where the incident occurred.
    * Report anonymously via your campus’ Bias Reporting page, by selecting your campus from the Local Bias Reporting menu above. If your campus does not appear on this list, there is no local reporting form available. Please use this form, instead.
    * File a report with your Campus Police Department, via the Campus Police menu above.

    Expressions of Bias: A general communication not directed toward a particular individual, which disparages a group of people on the basis of some characteristic ….

    Hate Speech: Hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display that may incite violence or prejudicial action against someone based on actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, gender, gender identity, ethnicity ….

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  • Principles of Community 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience

    The successful conduct of the university’s affairs requires that every member of the university community acknowledge and practice the following basic principles: … We affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and we strive to maintain a climate of justice marked by respect for each other. We acknowledge that our society carries within it historical and deep-rooted misunderstandings and biases, and therefore we will endeavor to foster mutual understanding among the many parts of our whole. … We confront and reject all manifestations of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, status within or outside the university, or any of the other differences among people which have been excuses for misunderstanding, dissension or hatred. We recognize and cherish the richness contributed to our lives by our diversity. We take pride in our various achievements, and we celebrate our differences.

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  • Report Hate and Bias: Definitions 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech

    A hate or bias incident includes non-criminal conduct that is motivated by hatred or bigotry and directed at any individual, residence, house of worship, institution, or business expressly because of the target’s real or perceived race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or service in the uniformed services. Such incidents also include conduct directed against an individual or group because of their association with or advocacy on behalf of a member or members of a legally protected class.

    Examples include hate speech, treating someone differently in the work or learning environment because of that person’s legally protected characteristic, displaying offensive materials on one’s property, distributing hate materials in public places and posting hate materials even if there is no resulting property damage.

    Harassment is verbal or physical conduct that unreasonably interferes with a person’s work or education or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment when that conduct is based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (including cancer-related or genetic characteristics), genetic information (including family medical history), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or service in the uniformed services.

    Examples may include name calling, teasing, or making other derogatory remarks based on a person’s real or perceived gender identity (or other protected category); repeatedly sending unwelcome e-mails, text messages, or photos of a sexual nature; or a display of racially charged images, such as nooses and Confederate flags.

    Freedom of Expression

    UC Davis is committed to assuring that all people may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, assembly and worship. Some acts of hate or bias may not violate law or policy and may, in fact, be protected expressions of speech. Protecting freedom of expression, including controversial speech, and sometimes even offensive or hurtful words, is vital to our commitment to teaching and learning. While our policies do not prohibit such speech, the University encourages all members of the community to engage in respectful dialogue and to observe the Principles of Community.

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Green Light Policies
  • Policy On Student Conduct And Discipline 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment, defined as conduct that is so severe and/or pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so substantially impairs a person’s access to University programs or activities that the person is effectively denied equal access to the University’s resources and opportunities.

    Harassment includes, but is not limited to, conduct that is motivated on the basis of a person’s race, color, national or ethnic origin, citizenship, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identify, pregnancy, marital status, ancestry, service in the uniformed services, physical or mental disability, medical condition, or perceived membership in any of these classifications.

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  • Policy and Procedure Manual: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when submission to or rejection of this conduct affects a person’s employment or education, unreasonably interferes with a person’s work or educational performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.

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  • Policy and Procedure Manual: Acceptable Use Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Users shall not use electronic communications resources in a manner that creates a hostile working environment (including sexual or other forms of harassment), or that violates obscenity laws.

    Users shall avoid spamming, and other inappropriate mass messaging to newsgroups, bulletin boards, mailing lists, or individuals.

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  • Policy and Procedure Manual: Freedom of Expression 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    On University grounds open to the public generally, all persons may exercise the constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, assembly, and worship (including the distribution or sale of noncommercial literature incidental to the exercise of these freedoms).

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  • Policy and Procedure Manual: Freedom of Expression 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    Independent thought and diversity of opinions are the essence of the University, and freedom of expression is necessary for the University to fulfill its mission of producing and disseminating knowledge. Without the ability of its members to freely hear, express, and debate different ideas and points of view, the University would lack the culture of free inquiry that lies at the foundation of the academic enterprise.

    The University is committed to ensuring that all persons may exercise their constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, assembly, and worship, even in instances in which the positions expressed may be viewed by some as controversial or unpopular.

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  • ROBBY SOAVE: Free Speech Stifled At Colleges

    December 5, 2014

    By Robby Soave at The Press Enterprise It’s every college professor’s job to open students’ minds to new – often controversial – ideas. But many college administrators are hard at work undermining these efforts, erecting unconstitutional barriers between students and viewpoints that might offend them. The University of California-Davis provides a good example of a typical public university administration’s contempt for open discourse. Until last month, in order to register for classes, UC Davis students were obligated to complete an online activity, “Words that Hurt.” It required students to match several “problematic” words and phrases – like “I raped that […]

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  • UC-Davis Quickly Caves When Challenged About Sexual-Assault Training Coercion

    November 24, 2014

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix That was fast: Less than two weeks after the University of California-Davisdefended its sexual-assault training materials that require students to agree that certain words and phrases (“pimp,” “slut”) are “problematic,” the school has caved. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which wrote to UC-Davis to protest the violation of conscience – students couldn’t register without completing the training – says that the school has now removed the “Harmful Language” slide and “Words that Hurt” activity. The school lawyer told FIRE it will “ensure that any new slides will not in any way require […]

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  • College Makes Students Agree Saying ‘I’d Hit That’ Is Wrong To Register

    November 20, 2014

    By Emily Arata at Elite Daily Bet you never thought you’d see the phrase, “I’d hit that,” on an official university document. The University of California, Davis, is under fire for a mandatory Violence Intervention & Prevention program that all students must take before registering for classes. A section of the online quiz titled Harmful Language, for example, asks students to match common slang phrases and words with their problematic meanings. Students match “I’d hit that,” “Slut,” “I raped that exam!” and more to the provided definitions. The problem, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is that UC […]

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  • UC Davis Removes Part of Controversial Sexual Violence Questionnaire

    November 20, 2014

    By Ali Wolf at Fox 40 UC Davis took action today, after getting complaints about the university’s sexual assault training survey for incoming students. To enroll in classes at UC Davis, incoming students are required to complete an online questionnaire about sexual violence.  But a section on harmful language caught some people off guard. One slide, titled “Words that Hurt,” asks students to match phrases like “I’d hit that” and “slut,” with reasons why those words are problematic and may help normalize sexual violence. Some UC Davis students say the activities did not upset them. “As a freshman, I think […]

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  • UC Davis Forces Students To Agree With Their Views On ‘Harmful Language’ Before They Can Sign Up For Classes

    November 19, 2014

    By Ashley Dobson at Red Alert Politics The University of California Davis is now requiring its students to complete  a mandatory “Violence Intervention & Prevention” online program, which requires them to agree with the school’s stance on what constitutes “harmful language,” before they are allowed to register for classes. The issue? All of the language included in the program is constitutionally protected. The program consists of a series of slides relating to sexual assault and stalking. It includes a section on “Harmful Language”  where students much match words/phrases with why they are problematic.” There is no option for students to argue that […]

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  • UC-Davis Won’t Let Students Register Until They Say Certain Words Are ‘Problematic’

    November 18, 2014

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix The University of California-Davis is essentially “demanding that its students pray, but defending that demand by allowing students to pray to whatever deity they choose,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Which gods do they get to choose from? According to FIRE, a series of “problematic” words and phrases – including “pimp” and “I’d hit that!” – in a “Violence Intervention & Prevention” online program on sexual assault and stalking. Students are required to complete the program before they can register for classes, FIRE says: One module of five focuses […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Conscience at UC Davis: University Removes Coercive Slide from Sexual Assault Training Materials

    November 20, 2014

    Last month, FIRE wrote to the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) about a module in the university’s online sexual assault training that required students to identify certain types of speech as “problematic” in order to complete the training and register for classes. The module contained a section on “Harmful Language,” which informed students that phrases such as “I’d hit that!” or “I stalked him/her on Facebook” can “have a significant impact on normalizing violence.” Students were then asked to complete an activity in which they matched those words and phrases with “why they are problematic.” As FIRE wrote in […]

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  • UC Davis Response to FIRE Letter Misses the Point on Freedom of Conscience

    November 17, 2014

    FIRE wrote to the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) last month to express our concerns about a mandatory “Violence Intervention & Prevention” (VIP) online program which requires students to affirm that certain phrases—all of which are constitutionally protected expression—are “problematic.” Students who do not complete the program cannot register for classes. As we explained in our letter, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that state actors (such as, in this case, a public university like UC Davis) may not compel individuals to adopt certain viewpoints. Unfortunately, though, UC Davis counsel Michael Sweeney’s response to FIRE indicates he does not […]

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  • Free Speech, UC Davis, and the Anti-Defamation League

    September 17, 2014

    Peter Schmidt of The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today on an email that was sent to University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi by Seth Brysk of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which Katehi’s office forwarded to campus administrators. The email, the full text of which is publicly available on the Electronic Intifada website, is prompting discussion about how campuses should handle controversial issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While it’s not clear whether Katehi was meaning to endorse ADL’s perspective as written in the email or simply informing administrators about ADL’s views, it’s worth looking at a few […]

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  • Is UC Davis’ Investigation of Academic Freedom Case Fatally Flawed?

    March 7, 2013

    For months now, FIRE has followed the case of University of California, Davis School of Medicine professor Michael Wilkes, who has faced threats against his academic freedom for more than two years after he co-authored a controversial op-ed about prostate cancer testing in the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2010. As I noted previously on The Torch, the fight for Wilkes’ academic freedom took a blow in January when an administrative review panel convened by UC Davis largely rejected the consensus of the UC Davis Academic Senate, which had determined that UC Davis had substantially violated Wilkes’ academic freedom. Here’s […]

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  • UC Davis Update: Panel Rejects Finding of Academic Freedom Violation Against Professor

    January 14, 2013

    Last year, FIRE reported on the case of University of California, Davis medical school professor Michael Wilkes, who alleges that he faced retaliation from the university over comments made in a column he co-authored for the San Francisco Chronicle. Last spring, the Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility of the UC Davis Academic Senate found that the university had gravely violated Wilkes’ academic freedom. UC Davis promised an investigation after the Senate passed a resolution unanimously calling on the university to apologize to Wilkes and retract all threats against him. Among other occurrences, Wilkes was informed in a letter from […]

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  • Waiting Time for Justice at UC Davis Med School? Two Years, and Counting

    October 17, 2012

    This summer, FIRE alerted Torch readers to the saga of Michael Wilkes, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. Wilkes faced retaliation at UC Davis after co-authoring an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle in which he criticized both a particular screening method used to detect prostate cancer (an area in which Wilkes has considerable expertise) and an event co-sponsored by UC Davis that he felt overly promoted the screening method. FIRE’s involvement with Wilkes actually didn’t begin until well after this travesty started—a travesty that is now entering its third year.  Shortly following the publication […]

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  • ‘USA Today’ on UC Davis, Pepper Spray, and Free Speech on Campus

    October 3, 2012

    Over at USA Today College, Jordan Friedman reports on the University of California, Davis incident where student protesters were pepper-sprayed while exercising their First Amendment rights. The students were each awarded $30,000 as a part of a settlement last week. Friedman notes: [T]he incident at UC-Davis and its implications raise a greater question: What are common restrictions to students’ free-speech rights on college campuses, and when are these limits justified? Friedman enlists FIRE’s own Will Creeley and the Student Press Law Center’s Frank LoMonte to answer that question. Check it out!

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  • Free Speech in Two-Year Deep Freeze At UC Davis Med School

    August 29, 2012

    FIRE is fighting to defend the academic freedom and free expression rights of University of California, Davis School of Medicine professor Michael Wilkes. Wilkes has been under threat of punishment for nearly two years after he co-authored a column in the San Francisco Chronicle in which he criticized both the effectiveness of the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test for cancer screening and UC Davis’ sponsorship of an event he felt overly promoted the PSA test. Wilkes was threatened with employment sanctions and told by UC Davis attorneys that he could be liable for “defamation.” FIRE and the UC Davis Academic Senate […]

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  • In ‘Forbes,’ Professor Takes UC Davis to Task for Academic Freedom Violations

    August 27, 2012

    On Friday, we introduced Torch readers to the case of Michael Wilkes, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine. Wilkes faced retaliation from the university for co-publishing a critical column in the San Francisco Chronicle in September 2010. Wilkes, an expert on prostate cancer screening whose research includes serving as a principal investigator on studies funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, criticized UC Davis’ co-sponsorship of a seminar that he felt excessively promoted one particular screening method-the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.  Wilkes quickly faced retaliation from the UC Davis administration, including threats of […]

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  • At UC Davis Med School, a Two-Year Cloud Over Faculty Expression

    August 24, 2012

    Perhaps the University of California, Davis School of Medicine (SOM) just doesn’t “get” free speech. It turns out that, at around the same time SOM was punishing medical student Curtis Allumbaugh on the basis of his protected emails, it was engaged in a campaign of intimidation against Michael Wilkes, an SOM faculty member. Wilkes’ great sin? Speaking his mind in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. FIRE was successful in defending Allumbaugh’s rights and has written to UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi asking her to stand up for Wilkes’ rights as well. But nearly two years after the […]

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  • Ninth Circuit: UC Davis Student May Sue Police Over ‘Pepperball’ Incident

    July 12, 2012

    The Los Angeles Times reports that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a former student at the University of California, Davis may go forward with his lawsuit against UC Davis police, as well as police officers of the City of Davis, for hitting him in the face with a “pepperball.” The student, who suffered the incident while attending a street party in April 2004, had to undergo several surgeries after injuring his eye, additionally lost his athletic scholarship, and was forced to drop out of college. The Ninth Circuit’s decision upholds a federal […]

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  • Civil Disobedience and Free Speech on Campus

    April 16, 2012

    In a thought-provoking article for Jurist published last week, University of California, Davis, School of Law Professors Alan Brownstein and Vikram Amar explore the intersection between freedom of speech and civil disobedience on campus. Prompted by a recent protest at UC Davis in which 11 students and one faculty member “repeatedly obstructed access to a branch of a bank located on-campus” and now face criminal charges, Brownstein and Amar analyze the First Amendment considerations relevant in formulating responses to such activity.   While taking no position on either the protest’s message or the charges the protestors now face, Brownstein and […]

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  • Disruptive Protesters at UC Davis Called Out by University of California President

    March 9, 2012

    Yesterday, in an open letter to the University of California (UC) community, UC President Mark G. Yudof made it clear that First Amendment rights do not protect substantially disruptive protests of an event held by others. On February 27, as these videos show, one particularly persistent heckler and what look like dozens of other students intentionally disrupted an event called “Israeli Soldiers’ Stories” at the University of California, Davis. The heckler said he wouldn’t leave until he was arrested and that his intention was to shut down the event. The others all rose to leave at once, evidently during the […]

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  • Victory: Probation Dropped for UC Davis Med Student; Unconstitutional ‘Civility’ Policy Remains

    February 29, 2012

    The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) School of Medicine has removed a student from probation after punishing him for telling a fellow student to stop monitoring the mailing list for his entering class. The School of Medicine (SOM) conflated Curtis Allumbaugh’s personal emails with professional practice when it invoked the UC Davis Principles of Community to punish his lack of “courtesy,” then added insult to injury when it threatened to put any med student who violated the Principles of Community on academic probation. Allumbaugh came to FIRE for help. Allumbaugh’s ordeal began after he emailed the “med2014″ mailing list […]

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  • University of California Schools Flout Student Speech Rights

    November 29, 2011

    While some University of California schools are facing scrutiny due to their handling of students’ exercises of free speech and civil disobedience, others in the system have unfinished business protecting students’ free speech rights in their policies. All eight of the UC universities reviewed by FIRE have “red light” or “yellow light” ratings for restricting campus speech, and four of them have flouted UC President Mark Yudof’s 2009 directive to protect free speech in their policies regarding discriminatory harassment. UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz all have been rated by FIRE with a red light for […]

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  • UC Davis Update: Amid Calls for Resignation, Chancellor Apologizes

    November 22, 2011

    Outrage over the shocking use of pepper spray on seated students by campus police at the University of California at Davis continues to grow, and repercussions for the institution’s administration may follow. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this morning that calls for the resignation of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi are mounting. The Board of the Davis Faculty Association has asked Chancellor Katehi to resign immediately, and the university’s English Department has echoed that request. The Chancellor apologized yesterday at a public rally: On Monday, at a huge two-and-a-half-hour rally at the center of the Davis campus that drew thousands […]

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  • Pepper Spray Outrage

    November 21, 2011

    by Scott Jaschik Inside Higher Ed   View this article at Inside Higher Ed.

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  • FIRE President Greg Lukianoff on UC-Davis Pepper Spray Abuse

    November 21, 2011

    In a shocking incident which has garnered international attention, campus police officers at the University of California at Davis used pepper spray on at least a dozen seated students participating in protests against economic inequality this past Friday. Video of the incident quickly went viral, and reaction to this remarkably harsh and, by all appearances, disproportionate action by campus police has been equally swift: The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, as has the chief of campus police. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is quoted in InsideHigherEd‘s coverage of the incident today: Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for […]

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  • UC Davis Backtracks on Discriminatory Definition of Religious Discrimination

    February 17, 2011

    In my nearly five years with FIRE, I’ve seen a lot of terrible campus speech policies—incredibly restrictive speech codes, tiny free speech “patios”, wildly overbroad harassment policies, and more. But just when I thought I’d seen it all, along comes a school that infringes on student rights in an altogether new and fascinating way. Congratulations, University of California at Davis: You’ve impressed me. As Casey Mattox of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) documents here, until yesterday, UC Davis’ Office of Community Campus Relations defined “Religious/Spiritual Discrimination” as: The loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the […]

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  • ‘California Aggie’ Covers Speech Codes at University of California-Davis

    January 13, 2010

    The California Aggie, the student paper at the University of California-Davis, has an excellent article on FIRE’s recently released Spotlight on Speech Codes 2010 as well as the speech codes at its own university. The article notes FIRE’s major finding in the 2010 report: that restrictive speech codes declined at public universities but increased at private universities. Will had the opportunity to comment for the article: The decline in speech codes within public universities is due to increased consciousness on part of school administrators to protect student rights, said Will Creeley, FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy. “It’s difficult […]

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  • A False View of Academic Freedom at UC Davis

    October 15, 2007

    Deb Niemeier and John Cary Sims at the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) offer a defense of the UC Davis campaign against Larry Summers, arguing that academic freedom is violated when a speaker speaks at an event that does not include the possibility of “debate or discussion.” They argue, amazingly, that “Summers’ appearance before the regents was stacked in such a way that no debate or discussion was possible, violating a bedrock principle of academic freedom.” (No matter that Summers was not scheduled to speak about the issues of race and gender to which the anti-Summers petition alludes.) […]

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  • Professor, Examine Thyself

    October 8, 2007

    Check out Peter Berkowitz’s op ed, “Ethics 101,” in today’s Wall Street Journal. In his article, Berkowitz points out that, while centers to study ethics exist at many campuses across the country, including some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, few spend much time examining ethical issues relating to higher education. He writes: Celebrating its 20th anniversary last spring, the Harvard University Program on Ethics and the Professions is among the nation’s oldest and most distinguished. Yet of the more than 130 public lectures by eminent visitors sponsored over the last two decades by the Harvard ethics program, only three […]

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  • Larry Summers and ‘Academia at Its Worst’

    September 19, 2007

    It was disappointing to learn that the University of California (UC) withdrew its speaking invitation to former Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers after the invitations had gone out. The main pressure appears to have originated with a petition organized by faculty at UC Davis who argued that Summers “has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia.” His defenders, as well as some of his earlier critics at Harvard, criticized the decision in their remarks to the Harvard Crimson. “To deny him the opportunity to speak is … academia at its worst,” Harvard professor N. Gregory Mankiw told the […]

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