Congratulations to Dr. Michael V. Drake chosen as the new president of the University of California. Dr. Drake has pledged to face issues head-on acknowledging the difficult challenges ahead dealing with the pandemic, climate change, and social justice. Hopefully, he will apply his well-regarded reputation championing diversity and equity to political thought as well.
Most coverage on Drake’s appointment focused on the fact that he was the first Black president in the University of California’s 152-year history and the suggestion that he would lead on social justice and diversity issues.
Indeed, Dr. Drake told one newspaper interviewer, “My whole career, I’ve been focused on inclusion and diversity and looking to create opportunities for people to get an outstanding education.” While taking on the issues of the day, he should also create an atmosphere of inclusion in the academy for different points of view.
What propels this thought is an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal Monday by John M. Ellis, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of “The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done.” Professor Ellis complains that, “Academia has become politicized from top to bottom.”
He is specific about the UC system. “California’s constitution spells out that the University of California “shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom.” Yet politicization is now routine. UC Santa Barbara’s History Department offers a minor in “poverty, inequality, and social justice”—that is, radical-left politics. UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare says it’s committed to “developing leaders for social justice.” Professors indoctrinate students, seemingly unconcerned with the vast gulf between what their rules forbid them to do and what they are openly doing.”
Ellis charges that the one-sided advocacy that comes out of universities is a result of the ideology of faculty hires in recent decades. He wrote that, “A 1969 Carnegie Commission on Higher Education study found that Democrats then outnumbered Republicans among the faculty by about 3 to 2. A 2018 study found that among professors at civilian liberal arts colleges, the same ratio is now nearly 13 to 1—and it stands to rise as younger professors skew further leftward. “
Dr. Drake should look into this situation and, if confirmed, offer to advance diversity of thought in the University of California system to achieve his goal of an outstanding education.
When asked by the Sacramento Bee reporter, Sawsan Morrar, about free speech on UC campuses, Dr. Drake replied, “I’ve always actively championed the content neutral policy toward speech and speakers. I would say that that requires that speech and speakers be heard, so content neutral means content neutral. One doesn’t have to like or approve of what someone is saying. We are a place where people can bring ideas and where our students can participate and make up their own minds. So, I’m an active supporter of the First Amendment. I think it has served this country well, and we need to continue to support it.”
That’s a good foundation to achieve the goal of assuring a good all-around education and allow different voices to be heard. Not only with speakers invited to campuses, but with faculty as well.