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Letters to the Editor

03 June 2005

I write concerning the newly announced changes in the UC Academic Personnel Manual that "explicitly recognize diversity-related activities in faculty appointment and promotion" (May 5.) Much as I deplore Proposition 209, I find it hard to see how at least one of the preferences to be installed in the APM is consistent with academic freedom and with the Regents' rule against any "political test" in hiring or promotion.

The new text states that "contributions to diversity and equal opportunity" are to be encouraged and recognized in evaluating a candidate's qualifications, and that those contributions can take forms that include "research in a scholar's area of expertise that highlights inequalities." What about the scholar whose research comes out the other way? Suppose the scholar finds that assumed inequalities in a particular area do not exist, let alone qualify for "highlighting." This scholar would seem to be at a comparative disadvantage. A preference based on a scholar's conclusions, however, raises questions of academic freedom.

Stephen R. Barnett
Elizabeth J. Boalt Professor of Law Emeritus
Boalt Hall

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Professor Barnett erroneously equates the positive recognition of "contributions to diversity and equal opportunity," where they might exist, with a requirement that appointment, retention, and promotion files should or must contain such a contribution. A careful reading of the policy as a whole reveals a detailed text with long lists of factors that may be considered as evidence of sufficient achievement. The policy states, "The criteria set forth below are intended to serve as guides for minimum standards for judging candidates, not to set boundaries or exclude other elements of performance that may be considered." Thus, the new policy language stating that faculty contributions can take the form of "research in a scholar's area of expertise that highlights inequalities" does not in any way exclude consideration of scholarship that "finds that assumed inequalities in a particular area do not exist."

The amendments to this policy were developed by faculty Senate committees and approved by the systemwide Academic Council after two rounds of formal consultation with the universitywide standing committees and divisional Senates on each campus. Each campus Committee of Academic Personnel (CAP) or its equivalent had a chance to comment during each iteration, and the new language developed specifically in order to avoid issues such as that which Professor Barnett raises. If the university cannot appropriately reward work that is fundamental to its mission (excellence and equity), when evaluated in the same manner as all academic work, this would indeed be a violation of academic freedom.

Ross Frank, Chair, University Committee on Affirmative Action and Diversity
Gibor Basri, Vice Chair, University Committee on Affirmative Action and Diversity

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The recently published and widely disseminated study by economics professors Edward Miguel and Gerard Rolland, concluding that the bombing of Vietnam had no long-term impact on its economic growth (May 5), may lead some to the erroneous conclusion that since the tons of bombs and defoliants dumped on Vietnam had little impact on the Vietnamese, we should, therefore, feel less guilt about an unnecessary war that killed millions of people. By this logic, Hitler wasn't all bad for killing six million Jews, because they subsequently built Israel.

That Vietnam is recovering so remarkably — without aid and in spite of the U.S. embargo after the war — should be attributed to the same resilience that enabled the Vietnamese to keep the Chinese at bay for more than 1,000 years and defeat the French and the Americans — and not to any supposed light impact by the full force of the American war machine. The suffering of the Vietnamese was a thousand 9/11's and more — and it continues to this day.

Tom Miller
Oakland