What’s in a Name? At UC San Diego, Threats to Academic Freedom

July 19, 2011

Heather Mac Donald’s article in City Journal last week alerted us to the University of California at San Diego’s (UCSD’s) plan to reorganize its diversity-initiatives administrative structure by refashioning the office of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) as the office of Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. UCSD’s May 4, 2011, announcement states:

Following campus and community consultation, we are pleased to announce plans to establish the position of Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and to conduct a national search for an experienced leader to guide our diversity initiatives.  The full-time vice chancellor position will have direct responsibility for a range of diversity offices and activities for faculty, staff and students.

This is not just a cosmetic makeover for the bureaucratic apparatus that last year brought us the ominous-sounding "Campus Climate" council, the dissolution of the student television station, and the unconstitutional freezing of funds to all 33 student media organizations following a variety of expression that roiled the campus including the "Compton Cookout." In continuing its efforts to place political reform at the top of its agenda, UCSD is converting a half-time position into a full-time position, even as the UC system is staring at a massive $1 billion budget deficit that has reportedly led some professors to leave for greener pastures.

But perhaps this shift is more troubling for its implication for the principles of faculty self-governance and academic freedom. Whereas previously the CDO was chosen among the UCSD faculty and limited to three-year terms, the new Vice Chancellor is to be a permanent office, firmly entrenched within the administrative hierarchy. Given that UCSD’s diversity initiatives affect core academic matters such as student and faculty discipline, course offerings, faculty hiring, and student admission, this decision deprives the faculty of some of its prerogatives and confirms a worrisome trend of diminishing academic freedom on our campuses, where decisions as to who may teach, what may be taught, and who may attend are increasingly made by bureaucrat-administrators without much or any accountability to the faculty.

Schools:  University of California, San Diego