Happy Unto Yee: University of California States Intent to Violate Free Press Law

California took a major step forward in reversing the steady rollback of student speech rights this year by passing a law protecting the rights of student free speech and prohibiting the firing or suspension of employees for exercising their free speech rights on newspapers and organizations. That is when the sponsor, State Sen. Leland Yee, received a letter from Happy Chastain, senior legislative director for state government relations in the UC president’s office — stating that the school would not comply with the law.

[Not so] Happy stated “respectfully” that: “The University of California must maintain its ability to correct situations in which a member of its teaching corps or a University employee has failed to comply with academic teaching standards, violated UC policies, broken rules or laws, or misused University resources. . . . Under the provisions of SB 1370, UC is concerned that its ability to act in such circumstances would be restricted and expose the University to frivolous and unwarranted litigation.”

That seems a rather lame excuse: we will not protect free speech because people may sue us for not protecting free speech. The fact is that a protection of free speech does not mean that employees can engage in unlimited and disruptive speech. Free speech outside of the university setting is customarily subject to reasonable limitations.

It will be interesting to see how a public university fares in fighting a free speech law, but I cannot see the wisdom in publicly stating an intention to violate the law. That would seem a far greater magnet for litigation. It is baffling why university lawyers would want to create such a record against themselves. In the first case of a violation, the opposing attorneys will pull out Happy’s missive and show a court that the violations were not just reckless but intentional acts. Of course, one can only imagine what her colleague Grumpy would have written.

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10 thoughts on “Happy Unto Yee: University of California States Intent to Violate Free Press Law”

  1. Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It if truth be told was
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  2. A big Amen to Mike’s comments. The more restrictive you are with your kids thinking, the less they will learn and they will be less prepared for the real world.

  3. Mike,

    What a nice way of thinking about children.

    Seth,

    I loved your use of “sordid details”!

    Jill

  4. Kids?

    Students (and staff) at a university are all adults and near-adults. Not that you would know that from the actions at some universities, alas, but nobody can legitimately argue that they don’t have full legal rights.

    As for teenagers, I have to agree with the judge who ruled in another case that it would be a perverse interpretation of the law to treat minors as infants until their 18th birthday, upon which they are to be thrown to the wolves sans experience or legal protection. This is most commonly applied to sexual matters (e.g., trying to hide from 15+ year-olds the fact that there are sordid details and they need to protect themselves), but can also apply to speech.

  5. It seems to me that a big part of being a good parent would be to have some idea of what your children are thinking. It is also one of the great pleasures of parenthood to listen to your children’s ideas and beliefs as they grow. In some cases you might even be able to help them deal with the confusion and fear that characterizes childhood. Parents who define the parameters of their children’s speech are mainly parents who are insecure in their own beliefs and whose parenting is ineffective.

  6. If it were up to dundar, I suspect adults wouldn’t have free speech rights either–in or out of his household.

  7. dundar,

    You didn’t finish your sentence. Didn’t you mean..households that care, not about children, but about absolute power and authority of the insecure adults? I don’t think there’s another reason to keep your children silent.

  8. Some of the decisions by UC lawyer types these days seem, well, troubling.

    Yoo know what I mean?

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