The University of California has a longstanding history of fighting for and protecting free speech for all. Our university was the home of the free speech movement in the 1960s, and our steadfast commitment to upholding the values of free expression and the robust exchange of ideas has not wavered since. President Trump’s announcement of a possible executive order mandating that colleges allow free speech on their campuses or lose critical federal research funding is misguided and unnecessary; UC already has clear policies and procedures in place that protect anyone’s right to peacefully protest or speak on our campuses.
“Free speech is a fundamental value of the University of California and we already have strong policies in place that protect the free expression of ideas, regardless of political persuasion,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “Protecting free expression has been part of the University of California’s DNA for decades. We do not need the federal government to mandate free speech on college campuses — that tradition is alive and thriving.”
Indeed, when these rights are infringed upon, the University of California responds strongly and appropriately. When a representative of a conservative group was assaulted recently by a member of the public on the UC Berkeley campus, the university acted swiftly. The UC Berkeley Police Department immediately began investigating the incident and eventually arrested a suspect who is not part of the university community. We now await a decision by the Alameda County district attorney’s office on whether to charge this individual. Meanwhile, the campus released a statement strongly condemning the incident and expressing support for the police department’s efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. The following day, Chancellor Carol Christ also sent a campus-wide message reaffirming UC Berkeley’s commitment to freedom of expression and encouraging anyone with information about the incident to come forward and assist the investigation.
UC expends considerable resources to ensure that anyone — of any background or viewpoint — can freely and safely express themselves on our campuses. Since 2017, our campuses have hosted many conservative speakers, including Ben Shapiro at UC Berkeley, Dennis Prager at UC Irvine and Dinesh D’Souza at UCLA.
We have also established a National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, which is dedicated to exploring issues and challenges related to free expression through research, advocacy, debate and discussion. The Center’s advisory boards are made up of public servants, journalists, private sector leaders, scholars and students — all of whom bring diverse viewpoints and experiences. In this realm, we are not only supporting free speech but applying academic rigor to the issue as well.