UC regents are debating tighter controls over views on Israel and other topics on campus websites

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

UC regents are debating tighter controls over views on Israel and other topics on campus websites

Education,@latimes on Instagram,Israel-Hamas

Teresa Watanabe

March 21, 2024

For the second consecutive meeting, University of California regents on Wednesday postponed action on a controversial proposal to tighten controls on political expression on campus websites.

such as criticism of Israel, amid sharp disagreement over progress, while numerous questions about how these policies would be rolled out and enforced remained unanswered.

The fallout from Israel-Gaza was clearly visible at Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting at UCLA. UC President Michael V. Drake and Board Chairman Rich Leib described rising acts of anti-Semitism on campuses in prepared statements. Drake said UC has begun working with Hillel International to train senior campus leaders to address anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and hate.

Several Jewish speakers spoke during public comments


increasing intimidation against faculty and students who support Israel, including a “barrage” of unwarranted negative student evaluations of faculty, classes disrupted by protests, swastikas painted on buildings, and signs calling Jews “the new Nazis.”

On the other hand, a student urged the regents to divest UC funds from companies that support the “ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians. Several others called for Palestinian freedom and later temporarily shut down discussion of the website proposal, chanting, “Shame on you!” as Regent Jay Sures tried to present it.

Tensions have increased on campuses since October. On September 7, Hamas militants unleashed the worst attack in Israel’s history, killing around 1,200 people and kidnapping more than 240 others. Israel has retaliated with massive military bombings that health officials in Gaza say have killed more than 31,800 Palestinians.

During the regents meeting, pro-Palestinian demonstrators temporarily shut down discussion of the website proposal, chanting, “Shame on you!” as Regent Jay Sures tried to present it.

The proposal would ban comments from an academic unit’s main page and require them to be posted on a separate opinion page with a disclaimer that the comments do not represent the university’s position.

Before publishing statements, campus departments must submit them to an anonymous vote among their members and explain on behalf of whom the opinions speak. Departments will also be required to develop standards to govern the process.

Sures, vice chairman of United Talent Agency, has pushed for such action in recent years. He previously said he suffered from misuse of department websites with anti-Israel sentiments and other opinions that do not reflect the university’s official positions.

For example, UC San Diego’s Department of Ethnic Studies posted a statement lamenting the loss of life on both sides during the Israeli-Hamas war and supporting calls to end the occupation of Israel and dismantle the apartheid system that creates suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.

The department has also posted statements opposing racism against Black people, Asian Americans and Muslims, along with caste discrimination. It now lists the comments on a section of its website marked “statements and commentaries” and includes the disclaimer that they “do not necessarily represent the views of all faculty and graduate students in the Department of Ethnic Studies, the Regents of the University of California. , or the University of California, San Diego.”

Sures has said he supports free speech on UC website spaces that are clearly marked as opinion pages, but not on landing pages, which should display official information such as course offerings and campus activities. He reiterated his commitment to freedom of expression on Wednesday.

“We have made it crystal clear that preserving academic freedom and freedom of expression is imperative… as we implement a policy that is, in fact, core to the mission of the University of California


he said.

But his comments were repeatedly disrupted by pro-Palestinians


One of them accused him of silencing those who spoke out against an “apartheid state that commits genocide.”

UC Academic Senate


James Steintrager told the regents that faculty leaders had rejected an earlier version of the policy over concerns that it was too ambiguous, lacked clear measures for implementation and enforcement and still potentially threatened to restrict academic freedom.

He said he was pleased that the latest proposal included more substance from a system-wide review of the issue by the faculty committee in 2021, sparked by a controversy over anti-Israel statements on a UCLA website.

The study, in consultation with university attorneys, concluded that departments had the right to express their opinions on political and social issues, although they cannot endorse candidates. The Senate issued guidelines, such as making clear statements


represented faculty members or groups and not the university and ensured that minority or dissenting opinions were not suppressed.

But Steintrager noted that the current proposal, which has been revised at least twice since the original draft was presented in January, had been posted just two days earlier and urged the regents to delay action to give Senate members time to give it a review.

“Today I felt like it was still undercooked,” he said later.

Several regents joined in, including Drake, who said the policy wasn’t “finished” yet.

Regent John A. Prez, without naming Israel, said the timing of the proposal has led to the perception that the policy is not “content neutral,” undermining efforts to create rules that are seen as fair rather than a response on specific issues. “We have a trust and mistrust problem,” he said, adding that UC needed to invite broad stakeholder engagement to generate ideas “on what might make a rule less offensive and less problematic.”

However, Leib said the intent of the policy was “not about a single issue.”

“The time to take action is now as we want to respond to the concerns raised by our University community about the increasingly common practice of posting opinions that may be offensive to some and may reflect the views of the University and the inaccurately represent the views of some students. and teachers within the department,” he said

The Times in a statement.

Ultimately, the regents sitting on a joint committee voted to postpone the action until the next meeting in May.

Entrance requirement for mathematics

Regents also discussed the recent report from an Academic Senate working group, which found that three popular data science courses could no longer replace Algebra 2 because it did not contain enough advanced math content required for admission by UC and California State University.

The decision ended a practice that had existed since 2013, when UC first approved a data science course submitted by the Los Angeles Unified School District as a step to expand math options for students.

UC’s faculty admissions committee reviewed the courses last summer and revoked their approval


questions about the proliferation of data science classes and efforts to raise awareness of the field in the new state framework for math education adopted in California last year.

After the working group confirmed that decision last month, UC notified high school counselors and other teachers.

Although the issue has sparked widespread controversy, the regents have not disputed the findings about the data science courses. UC officials told regents the decision would not have a significant impact on admissions. Only 387 of California’s roughly 130,000 freshmen had taken data science last fall without Algebra 2 or an equivalent integrated math class. Among them, 169 were admitted and 63 registered.

Regent Joel Raznick asked if the data science courses could be revised to include enough Algebra 2 content to count toward admission. Ani Adhikari, professor of statistics at UC Berkeley and chair of the working group, told him that the three courses in question would need to be “very significantly modified” for this, but in general this was not ruled out.

“It’s possible,” she said. “Is it easy? Will it happen quickly? I’m not sure.”

Regent Lark Park asked the broader question of how to make math more meaningful and relevant to students.

“When we try to instill a love of math, we fail,” she said. She called on all parties to work together because the issue “seems to be more prevalent.”


war than it should be.”


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