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Academic Senate Hears Budget Update,
Seeks Apology for 'Violation of Academic Freedom'

Paul K. Mueller | May 31, 2011

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During its fifth and final meeting of the academic year, the UC San Diego Academic Senate on Tuesday moved quickly past presentations on the dire budgetary forecast facing the university to focus on a long-simmering controversy about an apparent threat to a professor’s academic freedom.

Besides ensuring a packed assembly hall, the issue also garnered local and national media attention.

The Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF), one of several committees through which the issue has traveled, was asked in March of this year to again study the accusations, which date to June of 2009. In summary, an academic dean attempted to resolve a dispute between two professors by instructing one not to comment on the other's research, and warning of consequences if he did not comply.

After hearing a report from CAF that concluded that “the administration did indeed violate generally accepted norms of academic freedom,” the senate passed a resolution that asks the administration to publicly acknowledge “a violation of academic freedom,” and to train administrators, staff and academics in academic-freedom issues.

On Wednesday, Suresh Subramani, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Frank Powell, chair of the Academic Senate, issued a response. “We deeply regret that statements made by an academic administrator have led to questions about the administration’s commitment to academic freedom rights,” they wrote. “The Academic Senate leadership and administration of the University of California, San Diego unequivocally affirm our commitment to the principles of Academic Freedom.  We acknowledge the recent determination by the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) and agree with CAF that the administration has a fundamental responsibility to protect the rights of faculty to research and publish scholarly work, and we will jointly redouble our efforts to ensure that every member of our administration fully understands this responsibility.”

Prior to the CAF report and the vote on the resolution, the senate heard from both Subramani and Gary Matthews, vice chancellor for Resource Management and Planning, about the continuing bad budget news and the university’s plans to handle reduced funding.

While the university is taking a “multi-pronged and multi-year approach” to distribute cuts fairly, they said in similar language, they continue to “give the highest priority to Core Academic Programs.”

Cuts to academic units, for example, have been held to about 4 percent, whereas cuts to non-academic units are about 9 percent. In addition, said Matthews, “new revenues from non-resident enrollment were directly allocated to Academic Programs to help with instructional priorities including continued investment in recruitment of stellar faculty.”

The senate also heard an update on the admissions review process by the Committee on Admissions, and an update on the university’s still-developing policy on remote learning by the Committee on Educational  Policy.

Judith Dolan, professor of theatre and dance, and Michael Davidson, professor of literature, were approved as new members of the Committee on Committees.

Finally, both the Committee on Extended Studies and Public Service and the Committee on Faculty Welfare asked for and received permission to amend bylaws to reflect certain recent changes. With no further reports, petitions, or unfinished business, the senate adjourned until next academic year.

Chair Frank Powell, in his last appearance in that role, opened the session by thanking the Academic Senate staff, his senate colleagues, and the administration for their cooperation, collegiality and service, and welcomed the Vice Chair, Joel Sobel, professor of economics, to his future role as Chair.

Minutes, reports, agendas and other official Academic Senate materials are available on the senate’s website.


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