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  1. September 27, 2012 2:50 PM

    Thanks for clearly expressing what many of the faculty are probably feeling right now. I had come to the same conclusion after reading our faculty responsibilites. I rarely bring informational topics like this to my classes, but felt that Prop 30 was relevant to all students, all classes, and all teachers, as well as to the professions toward which our students are heading. I had noticed the term “persistently to to intrude” in our responsibilities document, and felt just fine with a simple comment/discussion letting students know that there are issues on the ballot that they should learn and that have a direct effect on them. Thanks for the links to the California Code. A bit of a stretch to use that code to prohibit discussion.

  2. Darren Hall permalink
    September 27, 2012 7:44 PM

    I quite like how you set the record straight. The question this raises is what prompted the Provost to send out the email in the first place? It seems to me there are two possibilities:

    1. He genuinely believed that raising Prop. 30 for discussion in class was somehow a violation the California Code and the Faculty Senate policies he cited. If that was his motivation, it further begs the question whether he thinks such an interpretation is in line with the principles of academic freedom and free speech generally.

    2. Or, he fears some sort of backlash that would result if faculty did discuss Prop. 30 and doing so offended one side or the other. If this is the case, he was willfully misinterpreting the code and policy to bolster his effort to engage in administrative bullying. Who is he afraid of?

    Either way, this is a fine example of why tenure is enormously important. Faculty without tenure, of which there are increasingly more as a percentage of the academic workforce (heck, my institution has exactly 0 tenured faculty), are for obvious reasons less likely to directly contradict the administration.

  3. Bob Friedman permalink
    September 28, 2012 1:13 PM

    I am in complete agreement with Mark on this one. I very much appreciate that he went to the actual California codes so as to help clarify the legal issues concerning political advocacy. While initially I had some concerns about such advocacy in certain disciplines (for example, chemistry and mathematics), it is pretty clear after reading Mark’s discussion that classroom advocacy would be appropriate even there. Mark has even gone into the ethical issues that do not appear to be required by code such as presenting a fair and balanced discussion of issues.

    As an aside, haven’t the faculty received a number of emails from Pres. Gonzalez that might be interpreted as political advocacy with regard to Proposition 30. Perhaps, the Provost should report the president to relevant authorities for possible prosecution. In fact, I would advise him to do just that.

    It is interesting that proposition 30 was singled out where I would think the more controversial proposition with regard to advocacy at the University would be proposition 32. Where the effects on students and academic life of proposition 30 are immediate and direct, the effects of proposition 32 are far less direct and obvious. I would think that advocacy with regard to this proposition might be viewed as more controversial, even though Mark’s post has persuaded me that this sort of controversial advocacy should be permitted as well.

  4. Adam Rechs permalink
    October 2, 2012 9:14 PM

    I can’t imagine how advocating for Prop. 30 to a classroom full of students could in anyway be ethical. It is one thing to bring up the issue of Prop. 30 in a fair and impartial way in a course for which the topic is relevant to the curriculum. It is an entirely different thing to urge students to vote in favor of the proposition. It not only would be an abuse of the instructor’s authority, but it would be a conflict of interest given that if Prop. 30 does not pass, the instructor would likely have to pay more for benefits and may have a salary decrease (or even lose his/her job, if we are to believe CFA).

    • October 2, 2012 11:00 PM

      Thanks for the comment. Good point on faculty conflict of interest, which faculty should acknowledge if they bring up Prop. 30. I agree that in the classroom faculty shouldn’t urge students to vote a certain way, but I think a professor could advocate a position on Prop. 30 and then turn around and advocate the other side and/or encourage students to do so, thereby ensuring that advocacy serves the purpose of open discussion. In that context, does it really matter whether students know where the professor stands on the issue? After all, students know that faculty expertise can’t provide answers to basic moral-political questions like whether to raise taxes (or if they don’t, we should tell them), so there’s little risk of us somehow indoctrinating them. The abuse of authority would occur if a professor were to evaluate students based on whether they express acceptance with the professor’s position.

      • Bob Friedman permalink
        October 3, 2012 4:53 AM

        My understanding is that, if proposition 30 does not pass, students will be presented with a 5% increase in their tuition starting Spring 2013, fewer classes to take and a more difficult road to graduation. In his previous post on the subject, Mark also brought up the point about the effect of not passing the proposition on the university as a whole and the opportunities it provides in all academic departments.

        It is hard to see how understanding this information would not be relevant to students in any course that they enroll. While I agree that it would be inappropriate for a professor to tell the students to go out and vote for proposition 30, to inform them of the facts and the impact on their lives is essential information that students ought to know. In this particular case, the facts and advocacy are identical.


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