A newly founded group of alumni dedicated to advancing free speech at its alma mater, UCLA, plans to lobby campus leaders into adopting principles that defend academic freedom and open discourse.
Jerry Mosley, a co-founder of Bruin Alumni in Defense of Free Speech, said the first course of action for the budding organization is to add members and spread the word as to the state of free speech at UCLA, “telling people that this is a problem.”
Eventually he said he hopes the group can convince UCLA to adopt a version of the Chicago Statement, a well-known set of standards in academia that provides a robust defense of free speech.
“Ideas should rise and fall on their merits,” Mosley said, adding the group, which formed in the spring, is “very serious about being non-partisan” and encourages people to stand up for free speech regardless of political views.
Fundamental tenets of the Chicago Statement include the principle that “debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.”
UCLA’s media relations division did not respond to The College Fix’s requests for comment.
The alumni group’s website states: “We are UCLA graduates reaching out to all Bruin alumni who are ready to take a stand against the erosion of free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity on our nation’s campuses; alumni who are dismayed at shout-down protests and violence against speech deemed offensive, faculty disciplined for pedagogical speech that challenges students’ political or cultural beliefs, and a campus culture that intimidates students into silence on controversial topics.”
The group’s formation comes amid widespread criticism of UCLA from free speech watchdogs for campus leader’s decision not to hire psychologist Yoel Inbar after some students and faculty complained Inbar had questioned the need for diversity statements.
But Mosley said concerns about UCLA’s lack of free speech dates back years.
In 2017, the university fired Keith Fink, a communications lecturer whose course defending campus free speech was wildly popular with students.
Also that year, rowdy protestors at UCLA shut down a debate on civil discourse hosted on campus. Even more, a guest speech by “The War on Cops” author Heather Mac Donald at UCLA that year was fraught with chaos as Black Lives Matters protesters continually interrupted her talk and shouted her down.
In 2020, UCLA suspended accounting lecturer Gordon Klein, who would not implement a lenient race-based grading system in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Klein was eventually reinstated and has since filed a lawsuit against the school.
UCLA has experienced at least 25 campus cancel culture incidents over the last decade, according to The College Fix’s Campus Cancel Culture Database.
Mosley said UCLA does have a statement defending free speech, but does not seem to allow it to guide campus leaders’ decisions.
As awareness of free speech concerns grow among UCLA alumni, Mosley said he hopes someday free speech training on campus during freshman orientation will be established.
The group has several dozen members so far, he said.
Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at UCLA, told The College Fix he hopes the group has some success.
“I definitely think it’s desirable – more voices speaking out in favor of free speech on campus is generally better,” he said. “As to how successful they are likely to be, time will tell.”
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