Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Chancellor In Waiting and other things...

The 'Chancellor in Waiting' is how they referred to him at the UC Regents meeting-- he's got something to say:
Dirks responds to Columbia faculty criticism

On Jan. 22, The Daily Californian published a letter from some of my Columbia colleagues that contains serious misrepresentations of what I actually said during the course of an introductory online video interview (still available through the UC Berkeley NewsCenter) that was released after my selection as UC Berkeley’s next chancellor.

At issue is a difficult period on the Columbia campus eight years ago when we became aware of allegations from some Columbia students that certain faculty members had created a hostile classroom climate. The letter provides ample testimony to the enduring contention around this period in Columbia’s past.

Let me be clear: I am deeply committed to the principle of academic freedom for faculty, which entails the full freedom of expression both inside the classroom and outside.

At the same time, I hold to the principle that faculty have a fundamental obligation to promote an atmosphere of mutual tolerance, respect and civility for students, especially in the classroom and in their role as student mentors.

In my interview, I made clear that I had been (as I still am) deeply concerned about ensuring a campus climate that fosters open dialogue and free exchange, especially around issues with strong emotional resonance for students, and I make no apology for taking the concerns of all students seriously, then and now.

In my interview I spoke about the myriad of controversies that had swirled around the Columbia campus during the years from 2003-2005 and how there had been accusations, allegations, mistrust and suspicion on the part of some students around questions having primarily to do with instruction in Middle East studies. When a group of students made specific allegations, I established a committee made up of distinguished faculty and advised by an eminent First Amendment lawyer to investigate the charges.

When the committee completed its deliberations and found no evidence of anti-Semitism in the classroom, we released its report as a public document to ensure transparency and accountability. Disregarding my own words, my colleagues claim that in the interview I described an “anti-Semitic” climate at Columbia and somehow connected that to the “nature of instruction” in Middle East studies.

But as the transcript of the interview makes clear, I was referring to students’ perceptions and feelings, not my own. In the interview, I called attention to the report I commissioned and whose findings and recommendations I accepted back in 2005, precisely because I endorsed it, and held it as an example of my commitment to the values of academic freedom, faculty governance and the responsibility of the university to ensure a classroom experience predicated on tolerance and respect.

As I move from Columbia to Berkeley, I am well aware that I come to an institution renowned for its public engagement and spirited embrace of freedom of speech and debate, and that controversy, political and otherwise, will be the daily diet of my new role.

I want to assure the Berkeley community that I will bring with me the same values that have been vital to my academic leadership at Columbia: commitments to academic freedom; to transparency, engagement and dialogue and to the importance of civility and respect, especially when disagreements are deep and passionate.

— Nicholas Dirks,
UC Berkeley Chancellor-designate
UC Davis coverage in certain outlets as an example of some of the issues described above.
Changing Universities on
A University without Faculty: The Demise of the University of Phoenix and the Rise of the MOOCs
Might have to do a DeLillo MOOC if it's a go, or...
Wish this didn't feel like a sad joke.
It was good to hear from Dirks. PS You might also want to take a look at the comment thread at the original post in the Columbia Spectator Letter to the editor

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