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UC regents chair defends proposed principles against intolerance

On the eve of what is expected to be a contentious debate over a proposed new UC policy statement on bias and free speech, the head of the UC regents board defended what are called "principles against intolerance" on Wednesday.

Regents chairwoman Monica Lozano said the proposed principles, which condemn ethnic, religious and gender bias, "reflect the university's core values of respect, inclusion, academic freedom and a free and open exchange of ideas."

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The statement's purpose, she said, "is to provide a framework for prompt and effective response to reports of intolerant behavior and for reinforcement of the university's bedrock values."

Lozano spoke at the regents meeting, which is being held at UC Irvine and is scheduled to continue Thursday with public comment and regents' opinions about the principles.

Some students and faculty strongly support the statement while others see it as possibly limiting free speech. The matter has attracted criticism from some Jewish groups that want UC to more forcefully address anti-Semitism and adopt a U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism that includes the demonization of Israel and denials of that nation's right to exist.

The regents are not scheduled to vote on the statement Thursday and officials said it could change over the coming months.

UC President Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that the goal of any policy that emerges from the debate is "to articulate values" against intolerance "without infringing on other core values, like academic freedom."

She said, "these are not easy questions to answer — and they are not meant to be."

Napolitano said she looked forward to a serious discussion at the regents meeting.

According to a proposed draft, "everyone in the university community has the right to study, teach, conduct research and work free from acts and expressions of intolerance."

It includes a "non-exhaustive list" of behaviors it says "do not reflect the university's values of inclusion and tolerance."

Among those are vandalism and graffiti with symbols of hate, including swastikas and nooses; questioning a student's fitness for a leadership role based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender and other factors; and depicting ethnic or racial groups as less ambitious, less talented or more threatening than others.

The statement adds that it is not intended to inhibit faculty's classroom lectures and scholarship or students' political or literary expression protected by "academic freedom or free-speech principles."

Follow me on Twitter @larrygordonlat.

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