UCSD and UCR Teachers Face Academic Penalty for Political Dissent

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from B.A.N.G. lab:

Update from UC Riverside

Dear Colleagues,

As many of you know, over the past several months I have been engaged in the contested and ongoing conversations about the future of public education in California. As a lecturer in the art department at U.C. Riverside, I can see very clearly and directly the impact of misguided budget decisions and unfair fee hikes. Since September I have taken part in numerous activities related to the crisis of priorities within the U.C., including those organized by the Free UCR Alliance. I am currently under investigation by the University for my role in a satirical website. In the spirit of what UCSD Professor Ricardo Dominguez has called radical transparency, I would like to make you aware of some of the details of the investigation and to ask for your support.

In November of 2009, I purchased the domain name markyudof.com. Inspired in part by the energy and dynamism of the student protests in the fall and in conversation with a group of artists and activists interested in thinking about the connections between the struggles within U.C. and the broader dynamics of neo-liberalism, I imagined the site as one that might bring wider attention to the debates regarding the future of public education (these conversations eventually led to a seminar at the Public School in Los Angeles, a series of public events and to the Occupy Everything collective). Ultimately, I decided to use markyudof.com to declare the U.C. president’s resignation in anticipation of March 4, 2010, a statewide day of action in support of public education. I saw the satirical use of Yudof’s domain name as a way to playfully undermine the illusion of his power, directing the public attention focused on the president of the U.C. towards the broader context of the March 4 actions. To put it simply, markyudof.com became a vehicle for imagining other possible futures.

I contacted Ricardo Dominguez at UCSD in connection with this project, as I have long admired his pioneering work on Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD). He agreed to host the project on the B.A.N.G. Lab server. The site went live on March 2 and was quickly repudiated by Yudof himself and labelled a “hoax” by a number of media outlets. On March 11, I received news that UCR was conducting an investigation into my connection with the satirical website. On April 4, UC –AFT issued a resolution in support of B.A.N.G. Lab and in defense of academic freedom. On April 5, I attended a contentious meeting with representatives from Labor Relations at UCR, which also included the Dean of Humanities, the chair of the Art Department and representatives from UC-AFT Local 1966. Labor Relations asked me a series of questions about my involvement in the website. Although repeatedly asked by the UC-AFT to clarify their intentions, Labor Relations did not make clear the scope of the investigation nor did they specify any particular violation of my employment contract. I made it clear in the meeting that I was indeed responsible for the website and I believe that the satire is protected speech within the context of academic freedom.

Whether or not you think the satire is funny, is meaningful as political speech or a stupid prank, the real question is why the university feels it necessary to investigate this matter now and how it is relevant to my employment. The fact is that this investigation is part of a much larger and troubling trend on the part of the University that seems clearly aimed at stifling dissent and certain forms of speech. Recent cases at UCSD, UCI, and UCB all indicate that the University is engaged in a highly selective process of attempting to discourage speech it deems inappropriate. One of the core tenets of a public university is the principle of academic freedom and the ability of faculty to engage in public discourse and pursue research without fear of intimidation or retaliation. Certainly, the criminal charges that Professor Dominguez is facing are the most blatant and visible manifestation of this disturbing trend.

I encourage you to write to the President, Chancellors and Regents of the University of California and to charles.long@ucr.edu, stephen.cullenberg@ucr.edu, chancellor@ucr.edu, gkester@ucsd.edu, klarsen@ucsd.edu, slerer@ucsd.edu, Lawrence.Pitts@ucop.edu, arosen@ucsd.edu, SVCAA@ucsd.edu, rrdominguez@ucsd.edu to express your support for B.A.N.G. Lab and call for an end to the investigations of Ricardo Dominguez, Micha Cardenas, Brett Stalbaum, Amy Sara Carroll and Ken Ehrlich. Please circulate this letter as widely as possible.

Sincerely,

Ken Ehrlich

see more on this here.

One Response to “UCSD and UCR Teachers Face Academic Penalty for Political Dissent”

  1. Emily Montan Says:

    This is not the first time Mark Yudof has tried to stop free speech. When Prop 8 was on the ballot, I wrote him an e-mail asking him to take a stand as the Chancellor’s from Berkeley and Los Angeles did during that time. He responded by asking if I could be fired and then I was warned that he could sue me.

    Now, if he has meetings where he knows I am going to attend, he sets up a seating plan with me on his right and the head of HR (Dwayne Duckett) in close physical proximity. I am 5′ 2″ and in my 50s. I pose no physical threat. So speech is the key here.

    His fear of free speech has bled down to the campuses. If you think the Board of Regents don’t know about this, think again. I think we need to remind him and the Chancellor’s of the Constitution of the US which includes free speech. Satirism is included in this category. It’s the 50s and 60s all over again.

    FYI, I was obviously not fired and not sued. I continue to correspond to his office about issues of concern and will certainly do so about this. Unfortunately another idiot from a village in Texas is in a position of power again.

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