In internal documents, U of California president dismisses charges of liberal bias on campuses

Internal documents obtained by Campus Reform reveal that the president of the University of California (UC) system dismissed findings of a study released last year which alleged strong liberal bias on UC campuses.

University of California President Mark Yudof dismissed allegations of political bias throughout the UC system, in internal e-mails obtained by Campus Reform.

The series of private letters were exchanged between UC President Mark Yudof and the California Association of Scholars (CAS), the organization that originally produced the 81-page report detailing the bias.

Throughout the correspondences, Yudof dismissed the findings as anecdotal and cited a rebuttal produced by the faculty’s Academic Senate, which unsurprisingly found little bias among faculty.

“Most of the assertions in the report are made without data,” wrote the Chairman of the Academic Council, Robert M. Anderson in a letter to Yudof, which was forwarded to CAS. “Anecdotes do not provide evidence of a systemic problem.”

While the 81-page report entitled “A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effects of Political Activism in the University of California” does include seven pages of anecdotes, it also includes surveys, class descriptions, syllabi, and reading lists, and cites outside research.

In the letters, CAS President John M. Ellis repeatedly pointed to the detailed nature of the report, arguing that the Academic Senate’s claims of a lack of data were untrue.

“The Senate leadership says that the CAS makes its assertions without data, instead using anecdotes,” wrote Ellis. “That is a flagrant lie, as anyone who reads the report will easily see.”

“[R]egardless of powerful evidence, you give the impression that your main concern is to evade the issues we raised and concede as little as possible,” he continued.

Yudof, however, continued to dismiss the validity of the report before finally ending the dialogue over what he called “fundamental disagreement” on whether or not liberal bias exists in the UC system.

"We are at the point where we are in fundamental disagreement about these issues,” he wrote in his final letter. “A meeting of minds is unlikely.”

Rather than take Yudof’s suggestion to drop the issue, CAS submitted its concerns on Feb. 5 to the UC Board of Regents, a governor-appointed entity that has authority over UC administrators, including Yudof.

“We approached the regents in good faith, we expect them to respond to us in good faith,” Ellis said in an interview with Campus Reform on Friday.

“We don’t assume that everyone is going to be like the president of the university,” he said, referring to Yudof’s dismissal of the charges of bias.

CAS recommended that the regents prepare “an independent commission of respected senior scholars from around the nation” and “schedule a full airing of the issue at a regular meeting of the board of regents.”

At time of publication, the UC Board of Regents had not announced what, if any, action they would take.

One anecdote included in CAS’s report involved a student who claimed a professor at UC-Santa Barbara forced her to express an anti-capitalist viewpoint in an exam.

“One of the questions on the multiple choice final for the class asked: ‘What system is based on the division and exploitation of classes?’’” she said, according to the report.  “The answer to the question was capitalism, and in order to receive a good grade on the test, I was forced to select that answer although I did not agree.”

The report also cites outside research — such as a survey conducted by the George Mason University in 2004 which found a 17:1 ratio of registered Democrats among professors to registered Republicans in the humanities department. The ratio in the social sciences department was  21:1.

Several of the CAS letters also cited a July 2012 incident in which the UC-Los Angeles Committee on Academic Freedom unanimously voted to permit instructors to use the classroom to “promote a personal political agenda.”

When Yudof first responded to this concern on Sept. 19, 2012, he referred to and treated it as “dispute” — not a vote — and stated that he would not get involved because campus disputes are best handled at the university level. 

“[T]he University would not have achieved its current level of excellence if its policies and practices in this area are as flawed as you purport,” wrote Yudof in another letter about that incident on Oct. 26, 2012. 

Ellis, however, told Campus Reform that the safeguards for academic freedom Yudof cites are clearly failing.

“The university has chosen to stonewall, which is very unfortunate, because the university is dedicated to the truth, the pursuit of the truth,” he said. “[T]he responses of the university have not lived up to that ideal.”

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