Two leaders in the California Association of Scholars, which just last year warned that the University of California system was facing a “major crisis of public confidence” because of its plummeting ability to improve the reading, writing and reasoning skills of students, are blasting the institution for nominating Janet Napolitano to be its president.
The decision by officials with the University of California school system to nominate Napolitano to leave her post as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for Barack Obama to be the system’s chief administrator already has prompted protests.
Chris Newman, legal director for the California-based National Day Laborer Organization Network told the Washington Times, “UC should take the opportunity to thoroughly examine her record in Arizona and at DHS to see if it reflects the university’s values before they confirm her to this important post.”
Nor was the other side pleased.
“University of California students can look forward to the same authoritarian management style Secretary Napolitano brought to the Department of Homeland Security, hardly a bastion of free speech and open government,” warned Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.
“While I am pleased to see her leave Homeland Security, Napolitano’s views are entirely incompatible with the UC system’s history of civil liberties and the decision to appoint her is perplexing.”
It was John M. Ellis, president the the California Association of Scholars, a division of the National Association of Scholars, who expressed alarm on behalf of educators.
She is “narrowly partisan” and of questionable competence, he said. He noted most who know her record agree “that she is a poor administrator.”
He cited the scandal exposed by a lawsuit by James T. Hayes Jr., and said Napolitano’s cronyism and use of her office for partisan activism demonstrate a lack of sound judgment.
“She has often looked rather silly in her pronouncements,” he said.
Instead of looking for new leadership to solve the most serious problems in its system, UC appears to be, with this appointment, “doubling down on them,” he said.
In the Hayes case, he sued the agency alleging Napolitano created a “frat-house” atmosphere in which male staff members routinely were humiliated and intimidated, including through situations such as the one where the contents of the offices belonging to several male staff members were moved into a restroom.
In the 2012 report called “The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California,’ Ellis and others warn, “Public confidence in academia is dropping as the general public begins to understand that a college education is now much less likely to improve reading, writing, and reasoning skills, as well as general knowledge, than it used to. And this is happening just as the cost of a college education has been rising much faster than inflation.
“Faculty teach what to think rather than how to think: that is, they demand correct attitudes and beliefs of students more than they require independent reading and thought,” the report said.
“The corruption of the University of California by activist politics, a condition which, as we shall show, sharply lowers the quality of academic teaching, analysis, and research,” the report said, was discovered.
The “deficiencies” in the system are attributable to the “substantial influence of radical politics in academia, because its characteristic interests and modes of thought are the very antithesis of those that should prevail in academic life.”
Charles Geshekter, another scholar in the study, told WND that he agrees.
“The appointment process that selected Janet Napolitano at the next UC president was a farce and a tragedy.”
Geshekter, an emeritus professor of history at Cal State University in Chico, believes that “the board of regents under Sherry Lansing has shown itself to disdain criticism, ignore the politicization of classrooms, and settle for leadership mediocrity” and added that “they have done so again with this appointment.”
A previous example of the system’s hard left agenda involved a professor named James Enstrom, who held a faculty position at UCLA for 36 years.
He is a highly respected epidemiologist known as a top national expert on the impact of lifestyle and environmental risk factors in California. He also happens to be an outspoken conservative.
In 2008 he began an aggressive and effective educational effort to inform colleagues, state officials, and impacted businessmen that the health effects of fine particulate matter in California were being inappropriately exaggerated by the state regulatory agency, CARB, in order to impose draconian regulations on thousands of trucking companies.
Instead of trying to understand and debate his scientific evidence and opinions, his UCLA colleagues, which include powerful liberal professors in favor of the draconian regulations, have been engaged in efforts since February 2010 to terminate his faculty position, thereby ending his academic freedom.
One of his strongest opponents has been John Froines, now a professor but who was a political activist since his days as a member of the Chicago Seven at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
With an outpouring of support from many quarters, including assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and legal help from the American Center for Law and Justice, Enstrom has been able to retain a small portion of his former UCLA position.
The full restoration of his position depends on an ongoing federal lawsuit against UCLA.
The “Crisis of Competence” report on the corruption in the UC system from political activism included several other observations:
- There is a sharp increase in faculty members who self-identify as radicals. This has led to “one-party” academic departments, such as at Berkeley, where left-of-center faculty members outnumber their right-of-center colleagues in Political Science by a ratio of 28:2, in English 29:1 and in History 31:1.
- Curricula that promote political activism, in violation of UC regulations. Critical Race Studies at UCLA’s School of Law, for example, aims to be a “training ground” for “advocates committed to racial justice theory and practice.”
- Departments that erase the study of Western tradition. History majors are not required to take a survey course in Western civilization on any of the nine University of California undergraduate campuses.
- Suppression of free speech. Speakers at UC Berkeley who have been shouted down by protesters include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Ellis said, “The quality of education at the University of California has been jeopardized by political activism. Dogmatism is rapidly displacing open-minded inquiry, especially in the social sciences and humanities, to the severe disadvantage of students.”
He continued, “Public confidence in the university is also eroding.”
Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, added: “In the past, the regents took seriously their responsibility to keep the university free from politics. We call on the regents today to take up that responsibility again.”
And that was before the UC nomination of Napolitano.
The controversial pick, however, does have some support. Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi of the UC Davis said she is “pleased and excited with the nomination.”
She noted that even though Napolitano lacks academic experience and leadership, “she has run large, complex organizations, and has been a strong advocate for education at all levels from kindergarten to college.”
And she said Napolitano will provide the advocacy that she wants.
“Secretary Napolitano has also been deeply involved in issues of immigration and immigration reform. These issues are important to us as a university and as a nation, as they enable us to attract the best and the brightest from around the world, and have them contribute to our society and economy. She has been an advocate for the federal Dream Act, and implemented policies to prevent deportations of young people who are pursuing a college education,” Katehi said.
The report that delivered the criticism to UC said the issues aren’t complicated. Using a university to advance a political agenda hurts democracy, it said.
“It follows that when state-funded institutions are used for political advantage the concept of democracy is injured. … It is for this reason that both federal and state laws prohibit the use of public money or the paid time of public employees for partisan activity.”