Berkeley universities

Will the University of California lose its tax status, its impartiality? | Editorial

Quietly, University of California faculty have been planning for nearly six months to jeopardize the institution’s tax-exempt status and its long-standing impeccable credentials as an unbiased source of reliable information.

This isn’t the first time UC has seriously considered an outlandish decision – and sometimes those decisions are actually made. Just last year, for one example, UC decided that it would no longer be necessary for prospective freshmen to take standardized exams like the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or those of the American College Testing Program. (ACT).

Instead, admissions to UC are now based primarily on high school grades, meaning all high schools are considered equal, even though every parent in California knows there are big differences in the quality of program and teaching.

Surprisingly, the faculty, which votes on these sometimes fashionable and politically correct decisions, is filled with people with PhDs. degrees from the best universities in the world, with a good sprinkling of Nobel laureates among them.

The latest foolish proposal from this group, kept mostly quiet until a UC Santa Cruz professor let the spade out of the bag earlier this month, would allow university departments to take official positions on issues policies of all kinds.

This proposal arose last fall from a letter from the head of the UC Committee on Academic Freedom to the top official of the system-wide Academic Senate.

“Departments should not be prevented from publishing or approving statements,” said the letter from UC Berkeley law professor Professor Ty Alper to his Berkeley colleague Professor Robert Horwitz. The letter admitted that “such statements are sometimes ill-advised and have the potential to chill or intimidate minority views”. But he said it was okay, as long as minority views are explicitly included in the addenda and the names of those voting for the official declaration are revealed.

Of course, these very actions chill minority opinions and would influence the hiring of new faculty, who, in confidential UC processes, could easily be weeded out due to political views.

Officially sanctioning such statements on issues ranging from elections to international affairs to scientific beliefs would essentially make UC departments political institutions.

That could quickly cost the university its tax-exempt status, which now gives alumni and other donors large and small tax deductions for every penny they donate.

It’s not like faculty members don’t already have complete freedom to express any idea or thought they like.

That’s how, for just one example, former UC professor Linus Pauling became known as ‘the father of vitamin C’ and also won a Nobel Peace Prize for his disarmament activism. nuclear.

Similar full individual licensing policies to the California State University system (which would surely mimic any actual UC action on the current proposal) have allowed long-exposed Ku Klux Klan ally Kevin McDonald by the Southern Poverty Law Center and others as a “racist” and an “anti-Semite”, to remain a professor of psychology at Long Beach State until his retirement.

They also allow some departments in the state of San Francisco to be almost completely politicized, even if those departments do not officially adopt the ideas advocated by some of their most vocal members.

It’s not as if the departments don’t already go rogue sometimes, with positions on Israel’s policies, climate change and other issues. Departments can call these positions official, but under a UC policy, in effect since 1970, they are not.

The policy states that “The name, insignia, seal or address of the university or any of its offices or units shall not be used for or in connection with any political purpose or activity” . The policy also prohibits political campaigning on campus.

This is how it should and must be, if UC is to be sure that it maintains both its tax status and its reputation for unbiased academic honesty.

To the contrary, the current effort by Alper’s faculty committee should serve as a wake-up call to the UC board to be more vigilant in enforcing its longstanding policy and integrity.

Otherwise, why claim that the university or its departments are unbiased observers or analysts of anything from vaccines to political candidates?