The Senate Source

August 2013

Regents Vote to Strengthen Faculty Speech Protections

The Board of Regents has approved a revision to policy, initiated by the University Committee on Academic Freedom (UCAF) and approved by the Assembly of the Academic Senate, which explicitly articulates the academic freedom right of the UC faculty to speak on matters of institutional policy.

UCAF first proposed amendments to Academic Personnel Manual (APM) Sections 010 (Academic Freedom) and 015 (The Faculty Code of Conduct) in 2010, after rulings in several legal cases raised concerns about the faculty’s right to freedom of speech in shared governance. Most prominently, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006) held that the First Amendment does not protect public employees from discipline for criticizing their employer in public. In a subsequent California case, Hong v. Regents, a UC Irvine professor claimed that he had been denied a merit increase in retaliation for views he expressed on matters of departmental governance and that this violated his First Amendment rights. The court ruled that in light of Garcetti, there is no First Amendment right to speak on matters within an employee’s areas of professional responsibility and that Hong’s professional responsibilities included his role in shared governance. Accordingly, he could not make a claim against the University.

UCAF was concerned that these decisions implied that UC policy did not sufficiently protect faculty speech uttered in the context of shared governance.

In January 2011, the Academic Council adopted a resolution recommending revisions to both APM 010 and 015. After an administrative review and input from the Office of Academic Personnel and the Office of General Counsel, new revisions were distributed for systemwide Senate review in March 2012, and, with subsequent revisions, for final review in November 2012.

In April 2013, on the advice of the University Committees on Academic Personnel and Privilege and Tenure, the Provost decided that it would not be necessary to amend APM 010 because academic freedom already encompasses the right of faculty to speak on issues of institutional policy. In June 2013, the Academic Assembly approved the proposed amendment to APM 015 incorporating the freedom to address issues of institutional policy into the academic freedom protections provided in the Faculty Code of Conduct, which the Regents have now incorporated into Regents Policy 7401.

“This revision reaffirms and safeguards UC’s storied tradition of shared governance,” said Academic Senate Chair Robert Powell. “All faculty should be grateful to their colleagues on UCAF and local academic freedom committees for helping to assure faculty rights to actively participate in the governance of the University.”