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May 24, 2004

UCSC's Academic Senate adopts anti-Patriot Act resolution

By Jim Burns

Objecting to what they contend are the Patriot Act's "attacks on civil liberties," UCSC faculty members voted overwhelming Friday for a resolution that would have the campus decline to cooperate with federal agencies seeking information under the Bush administration's anti-terrorism law. There was no dissent to the "voice" vote.

Faculty have "no higher calling" than protecting the free flow of information and ideas.
--Professor George Lipsitz

History of consciousness professor Barbara Epstein, presenting a resolution that was initiated in the senate's Committee on Academic Freedom, said it was not the intention of the faculty to request that Chancellor Chemers violate a court order to comply with the Patriot Act. "We didn't think there was any point in asking the chancellor to engage in civil disobedience because we didn't think he would do it."

But Epstein said the many people--on and off campus--who worked on the resolution believe there is "space" between the federal government requesting information about faculty, students, or campus employees under the Patriot Act and actually enforcing compliance in the courts. That is the area the UCSC resolution targets, she said.

Based in part on a draft resolution prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union, the UCSC measure joins anti-Patriot Act resolutions adopted by more than 300 U.S. cities, including New York City, Epstein said. Within the UC system, Berkeley's senate will consider a similar resolution, and the Davis and Irvine campuses are also drafting legislation, she added.

UCSC faculty were overwhelming supportive of the resolution. American studies professor George Lipsitz said faculty have "no higher calling" than protecting the free flow of information and ideas. Sociology professor Wally Goldfrank called the resolution the "finest piece of legislation I've seen in 35 years in the senate."

Among its many provisions, the resolution calls upon the chancellor to direct campus police and other departments to refrain, in the absence of a court order, from:

  • participating in a "Joint Terrorism Task Force";

  • disclosing information about members of the campus community to federal, state, or local law enforcement officials.

The resolution also calls upon the chancellor--unless prohibited by a statute or court order--to direct:

  • campus officials to provide immediate notice to individuals whose education, library, or other records have been obtained or examined by law enforcement agents;

  • UCSC libraries, bookstores, and computer labs to post notices warning patrons that records of borrowing, purchase, or computer use may be obtained by federal agents.

In addition, the resolution requests that the chancellor periodically seek information from the federal government about UCSC people detained or records accessed in the name of the Patriot Act.

When asked his view of the resolution, Chancellor Chemers indicated that he would be seeking the advice of university counsel about his ability to enforce its provisions. He also expressed concern about additonal work the resolution may create for staff and others.

While expressing hope that the chancellor would enforce the resolution, professor of literature Helene Moglen said the chancellor's perspectives should not deter faculty from weighing in on the Patriot Act. "What is important is that we as a faculty decide what we want to say" about the federal government's anti-terrorism act.

Final resolution adopted by UCSC's Academic Senate

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