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UC regents postpone vote on contentious policy that would limit faculty speech

Screenshot of University of California regent Jay Sures during the Board of Regents meeting at UCLA on March 20.
Elena Neale-Sacks
Screenshot of University of California regent Jay Sures during the Board of Regents meeting at UCLA on March 20.

After a lengthy meeting that failed to reach any substantive consensus, the University of California’s Board of Regents decided on Wednesday to delay voting on a proposed policy that would restrict what faculty are allowed to post on department websites.

The policy, which was introduced by regent Jay Sures, would require faculty and staff to refrain from posting political or “discretionary” statements on the homepages of university websites.

“If the information was on an opinion page off of the homepage…it would also have to have a disclaimer that it’s not speaking on behalf of the regents [or] the University of California,” Sures said during the regents’ meeting Wednesday at UCLA.

The proposed policy has come under fire from faculty and students. The Academic Senate, which is comprised of UC faculty, voiced concerns that the policy would threaten academic freedom by dictating what kinds of speech can appear on university websites. The policy has received especially strong rebukes from the UC’s ethnic studies departments, including at UC Santa Cruz.

“It’s very clear what this was motivated by,” said Christine Hong, a professor of critical race and ethnic studies at UCSC. In Hong’s view, the timing of the policy is no coincidence. She sees it as an effort to censor faculty who have criticized Israel’s war in Gaza.

“I don’t trust these regents not to exercise repression,” she said.

Sures has denied that the policy is a response to any particular statement or political issue. He emphasized during the Wednesday meeting that the policy would not censor anyone, and that it would only implement guardrails.

“Anybody can post anything if they go through the process and adhere to the guidelines,” Sures said during the meeting.

Since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, Sures and the UC Ethnic Studies Faculty Council have publicly criticized each other’s stance on the war in Gaza. Members of the council called on Sures to resign, while Sures called the council’s use of the word “genocide” to describe Israel’s response “inflammatory and out of touch rhetoric.”

The Board of Regents is expected to vote on a revised version of the policy during their next meeting, which takes place May 14-16 at UC Merced. In the meantime, they plan to take a deeper look at the policy and solicit more feedback from faculty.

Elena Neale-Sacks is a freelance reporter and producer at KAZU. Prior to joining the station, they worked as a podcast producer at The Oregonian. Elena is an alum of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.