Division Chair's Cal Message Regarding Protests

September 21, 2017


Hello Berkeley Faculty,


I’d like to respond in my role as Faculty Senate Chair to the alarming and disturbing hate messages that have appeared on our campus as well as some of the recent comments in the press with respect to the free expression of ideas and to "free speech week". Note that these comments are my own, and not a formal representation of the Senate as a whole or of the Divisional Council (which will be discussing these topics at its next meeting Monday).  

 First of all, I condemn hate messaging in all of its forms. Individuals and groups who commit hate crimes can and should be investigated and punished.

 Secondly, I personally share the broad interests in free speech and commitment to non-violence that have been expressed by many. I also appreciate the anxiety that many of our faculty, students and staff feel with respect to the hate messaging and the potential upcoming events on campus. Please see the Chancellor’s recent message for links to support services for students, faculty and staff affected by these incidents.  I'm pleased that last Thursday night’s events were almost entirely non-violent, yet enabled many to have their voices heard. The audience in Zellerbach was orderly and the protesters outside were able to express themselves, both without violence. 

 It's unfortunate that the campus costs incurred by these events are so high. This suggests that our current policies for hosting campus events are not serving us well and need to be revisited. The Senate is currently working with the administration to fashion new policies that will better serve our campus community. New policies are currently under review by a number of committees including the Undergraduate Council (UGC), Graduate Council, Academic Freedom, and Demonstrations and Student Actions (DSA).  We are also working to strengthen the ties between student affairs and both UGC and DSA. Additional Senate involvement includes membership on the Protest Response Team, which assists in making decisions during campus protests.

 With respect to the so called “free speech week”, I believe that faculty should use their best judgement on how to handle their classes during those three days (one day is Sunday, the other three are weekdays).  The Senate is clear on its policies for canceling/postponing/moving classes for potential disruptions: 


 Finally, I do think that a broader dialog among faculty and administration about these issues more generally, and sustainable solutions to the cost issues specifically, would be helpful.  To that end, the Divisional Council of the Senate (DivCo) will take up the issue of having the Senate host a Faculty Town Hall that includes both faculty and administration to foster discussion on these topics - I would propose this event to occur after “free speech week” so that we can consider the full range of issues raised by those events and work on sustainable solutions. DivCo will take this topic up at its next meeting on 9/25.  We're also open to considering other types of interactions.



Lisa Alvarez-Cohen

Chair, Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate

Fred and Claire Sauer Professor 

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Replies to this message should be directed to aschair@berkeley.edu. Direct replies will not be received by the Academic Senate.