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Should Departments Make Political Statements?

Should Departments Make Political Statements?

Inside Higher Ed

Johanna Alonso and Sara Weissman
January 26, 2024
University of California professors and board members are divided over a controversial proposal to ban departments and campus centers from making statements containing their “personal or collective opinions” via “official channels of communication.” Those include “the main landing pages” of individual schools, departments, centers and other campus entities. The policy would not prevent the system president, chancellors or regents from using university websites to make statements on political or social issues.
The proposal, discussed during a long and heated Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, was tabled Thursday until the next meeting in March.
It comes amid impassioned debates about the Israel-Hamas war on campuses in the UC system and across the country. Arguments about when, where and what members of the university community can say about the war have convulsed institutions from Harvard to Indiana University at Bloomington. But departmental websites have proven a particularly contentious forum for addressing the conflict. While some faculty members say that preventing them from using such sites to discuss global events violates academic freedom, supporters of such bans argue that it’s easy to misconstrue a statement on a department website as representing the entire institution—or all the members of the department.
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