Yesterday evening, FIRE was contacted by Steve Montiel, Media Relations Director for the University of California (UC) Office of the President, in response to yesterday’s FIRE letter to UC President Mark Yudof and the accompanying press release.
Montiel sent us a copy of a letter President Yudof sent yesterday to "Concerned Members of the UC Jewish Community." While Yudof’s letter does not respond specifically to FIRE, and includes discussion of concerns that are beyond FIRE’s mission, it does contain hopeful indications that President Yudof recognizes FIRE’s concerns about the threat to First Amendment rights presented by the fact-finding team’s recommendations. Yudof writes:
I will also ask the Vice President for Student Affairs and the General Counsel at the Office of the President to review the policy recommendations included in both reports and to submit to me their analysis. I must say, however, that I believe our current policies may go as far as they can, given constitutional limitations. As I have said before, I will continue to be the first to defend our students’ and faculty’s right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution.
None of this is designed to stifle free speech, but rather to ensure that our campuses are welcoming to a broad diversity of students, faculty, and staff. While hurtful speech may make that goal difficult to achieve at times, I want to reaffirm that the answer is not to restrict speech, but rather to see that all our community members feel supported by the University and able to take full advantage of the educational opportunities we offer.
We are pleased that President Yudof, a First Amendment scholar, appears to recognize the danger to free speech posed by the fact-finding team’s call for speech codes. While FIRE awaits a definitive response to our concerns, we are cautiously optimistic that President Yudof’s letter signals his commitment to upholding the First Amendment and an acknowledgment of his legal and moral responsibility to do so.