Chancellor's Friday Letters

Practicing Free Speech

Practicing Free Speech

February 10, 2012

Dear Friends,

Over the past several months, our campus has had several opportunities to engage in discussions and actions regarding freedom of speech, demonstrations, First Amendment, civil disobedience, non-violent protest, etc.

These occurrences started in earnest in November when we were clumsy in posting for a few days a ‘Protest Guidelines’ document regarding protests crafted without appropriate community consultation.  This error intersected with the ebb and flow of the Occupy movement in hundreds of communities across America.  Additionally, there were incidents of violence on the Davis and Berkeley campuses that garnered much attention, and served as a backdrop when we hosted the UC Regents meeting in mid-January.

Indeed, a confluence of many factors came to our campus.

When one adds to that the underlying unease about the economy, the vitriol and uncertainty fueled by political campaigns, the often polarized federal and state government, plus the international turmoil – from European economic issues to conflicts in the Middle East and Asia – our daily lives are inundated through social and mainstream media with concern and upset.

It’s no wonder there is whitewater in American society today.

I applaud the fact that free speech is part of the rich fabric of the University of California.  We have been at the forefront of change on many issues during our history because of our commitment to non-violent and lawful protest. I am personally – and we are as a campus – fully dedicated to protecting and nourishing these values.

While questions and divergent viewpoints continue to be expressed and discussed on campus – particularly regarding the violence surrounding the Regents meeting – I am happy to report we are still standing!

And I am pleased that, to further the discussions of these important issues, people are organizing and hosting special learning events this winter and spring term.

For example, in CHASS the faculty is presenting a seven-part series titled ”Speak Out! Dissent and the University.” Student Life continues with workshops on free speech for students, student organizations, and peer mentors. And University Extension has created for the public a series titled “Windows on the World:  Lecture/Debate Series 2012.”  All of these efforts are intended to make a positive contribution by doing what we do best at UCR – creating and disseminating knowledge to foster open and thoughtful dialogue and to deepen understanding.

But I am concerned that so much of the energy and discussion on campus is on differences of opinion over events and violence, rather than being organized and strategically focused on California’s elected officials.  We simply must bring the power of many voices together on the issue of sustaining the greatness of the UC – and the concomitant issues of access and affordability for our undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

I’m fighting for this, and plan to continue.

I invite you to join me in this effort. Write, call or visit your representative and/or Governor Brown, and let him or her know of your disappointment at our state’s progressive disinvestment in education.

At risk is California’s future competitiveness and quality of life – for all of us, and those yet to follow.  The issue is that serious.

Best wishes,


Tim White, Chancellor

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