Janet Napolitano rebukes policing speech on college campuses

Janet Napolitano rebukes policing speech on college campuses


janet-napolitanoWith a single op-ed, UC chief Janet Napolitano has become an unlikely ally of conservative and traditionalist critics of the speech-policing movement among campus crusaders nationwide. 

In a Boston Globe op-ed entitled “It’s time to free speech on campus again,” Napolitano unburdened herself of judgments she appeared to have been forming over the past several years in the hot seat of one of the country’s most progressive university systems. “As president of the University of California system, I write to show how far we have moved from freedom of speech on campuses to freedom from speech,” she wrote. “If it hurts, if it’s controversial, if it articulates an extreme point of view, then speech has become the new bête noire of the academy. Speakers are disinvited, faculty are vilified, and administrators like me are constantly asked to intervene.”

Subtly invoking the 50th year anniversary of the Free Speech Movement birthed on Berkeley’s campus, Napolitano cast the current protest trend as a distorted inversion of the FSM’s goals. “This was free speech, loud and angry and in your face,” she wrote, referencing the antiwar rhetoric of the Vietnam era. “Today many of the loudest voices condemning speech and demanding protection are students on those same campuses. Listening to offensive, or merely opposing, views is subject to frequent criticism. What has happened, and what are we to do about it?”

Longtime criticism

Napolitano’s defense of unbuffered speech summoned to mind her experience facing withering criticism from campus activists in the UC system since her tenure began. Two years ago, behind closed doors, “various students condemned her record on deportations as Homeland Security secretary, her lack of professional academic experience and the selection process by which she became UC president, among other issues,” according to the Daily Californian. “Eventually, most of them walked out of the meeting before Napolitano could respond to their statements.”

Before they did, the students did their best to leave Napolitano shaken. “I promise you that, for the next 30 minutes, you will be made uncomfortable,” one warned. “Up until now, your campus visits have all been a complete and utter farce,” DailyCal reported her as saying. “If you really wanted to know just how special our university really is, you would be walking alongside students, not avoiding them — listening to everyone’s story, not ignoring them.”

Conflicted tenure

Recently, however, Napolitano has thrown the weight of her office behind the kind of initiatives that protestors have worked to pressure university administrations into pushing. In January of last year, as Robby Soave observed at the Daily Beast, “Napolitano dispatched letters to UC deans and department chairs inviting them to attend seminars ‘to foster informed conversation about the best way to build and nurture a productive academic climate.'” Under her tenure, the UCs launched a program for faculty training them in so-called microaggressions, including phrases or terminology claimed to ambush students unprepared for the modest but cumulative hostility they inflict: “Under her administration, bureaucrats warned professors to avoid describing America as a ‘land of opportunity’ and to never say ‘affirmative action is racist’ or ‘I believe the most qualified person should get the job.'”

Nevertheless, Napolitano’s degree of commitment to activists’ cause have been viewed with suspicion or doubt. Compounding her troubles, last month, Napolitano had to defend her inclusionary bona fides under unusual circumstances. Sujit Choudhry, the ex-dean of the UC Berkeley Law School, “claimed she had racially discriminated against him when she ordered a second investigation into sexual harassment allegations by his executive assistant,” as India-West recalled. “During a press briefing at her office regarding new financial aid and admissions policies, Napolitano told India-West: ‘Without getting into the details of pending litigation, I will say that we intend to dispute that allegation vigorously.’ The UC president also stated that diversification of campus faculty was one of her primary concerns.”


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  1. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 4 October, 2016, 07:03

    It’s just good business to at least CLAIM favoring the return of free speech to campuses. Many alumni doubtless are closing their wallets to fundraising solicitations. And pissed off voters will be less inclined to vote higher taxes for these bastions of highly censured progressive-controlled political thought.

    Reply this comment
  2. RichardRider
    RichardRider 4 October, 2016, 07:05

    It’s just good business to at least CLAIM favoring the return of free speech to campuses. Many alumni doubtless are closing their wallets to fundraising solicitations. And pissed off voters will be less inclined to vote higher taxes for these bastions of highly censured progressive-controlled political thought.

    Reply this comment
  3. RichardRider
    RichardRider 4 October, 2016, 07:07

    Here’s my standard comment I post every time this topic comes up — my effort to cut off the funding for PC colleges:

    With rare exception (Hillsdale College, for instance), college campuses today have become “progressive” propaganda mills — reeducation camps (MIS-education camps) that effectively brainwash students to despise the free market, capitalism, property rights, the rule of law, free speech — indeed, freedom and liberty, period. The campuses seethe with PC obsessions — themselves changeable with the current trend.

    Today’s “college experience” usually includes this concerted effort by the left to mold the young into dutiful leftists who are tolerant of any diversity — EXCEPT diversity of opinion.

    GUT the colleges — especially the liberal arts colleges. Don’t give ’em a dime. Wealthy alumni fondly remember hazy halcyon days of campus life — often not aware of how lockstep the PC oppression has become. No mas!

    As a college alumnus, what’s the best thing you can do for your college? Send them a letter telling them WHY you’ll never give them money. Send a copy to the campus newspaper. Send a copy to your your local paper. Post it up online.

    Still want to donate? Good. Contribute to think tanks that champion Western values and classical liberalism. Ideally include them in your wills and trusts.

    I do. Reason, Heritage, AEI, CATO Institute and Institute for Justice are some of my favorites.

    Reply this comment
  4. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 4 October, 2016, 09:23

    Their no longer school,collages and universities anymore their indoctrination centers run by the leftists scum sucking bottom dwelling muck suckers

    Reply this comment
    • bobinsantee
      bobinsantee 4 October, 2016, 14:42

      Back to college Spurwing. “They are” or “They’re” – not their or there. And a collage is a collection of pictures or art.

      Reply this comment
  5. Standing Fast
    Standing Fast 4 October, 2016, 09:32

    This is a good time for me to say what I’ve been thinking for years. If we want to overcome the brainwashing that is going on in the nation’s public schools and institutions of higher learning, those of us who love Liberty and believe in the founding principles of American government will need to add one more thing to Mr. Rider’s list of things to do:

    Establish our own private schools with our own money.

    It would help our Cause if we took the ancient code of Western Tradition seriously by following the Ten Commandments & Golden Rule (the latter is considered the summation of the Laws of God and Nature) and teaching our children to do the same AND teaching them why: our obedience to these commandments is the only guarantee we have for protection of one another’s God-given rights and Liberty. Government cannot do it if we fail to follow this code.

    Cause and Effect.

    If you doubt what I’m saying, read carefully Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-20, Matthew 5, 6 & 7. Consider the consequences if everyone lived by this code and consider the consequences if nobody did. Teach your children to consider these consequences.

    The blessings and curses are just another way of saying desirable or undesirable outcomes. Our words and deeds have consequences.

    “Liberty is…a power to do as we would be done by.”
    John Adams, 1819

    Reply this comment
  6. Buldog
    Buldog 7 October, 2016, 19:50

    Time for Janet to go home to D.C.

    Reply this comment
  7. Standing Fast
    Standing Fast 8 October, 2016, 13:18

    I forgot to recommend William F. Buckley’s first book, “God and Man at Yale”. It was an expose of the progressivist views of a sizable segment of the university’s faculty, written for fellow alumni who were making sizable contributions to the institution. He thought they would be interested to know. Apparently, not enough.
    The book is still in print.

    Reply this comment

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