UC deans defend racism studies against attack by Trump administration

UC campus: Sather Gate and Campanile in background

(Photo by Steve McConnell | UC Berkeley | © UC Regents)

Responding to criticism from the Trump administration, the deans of four University of California public policy schools said Thursday (Sept. 17) that critical scholarly studies of racism are essential to address its bitter legacy and do not constitute “un-American propaganda training sessions.”

“America is still trying to perfect itself, and scholars in our schools use multiple perspectives, including critical race theory, to understand racism and racial oppression in America,” said the letter co-signed by Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

“Whether it be the work of economists, political scientists or sociologists, the main scientific findings of the disciplines at the heart of the study and the teaching of public policy agree with critical race theory that racial discrimination and inequities still loom large in American society.”

The letter was addressed to the university community in response to scathing criticism last week from Russell Vought, director of President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. Vought’s memorandum, addressed to the heads of White House executive departments and agencies, said Trump had ordered that no federal funds be spent on these “divisive” academic programs.

The letter from the four UC public policy deans aligns with a response issued Sept. 11 by five UC law school deans, including Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

The law school deans said in their statement that they are “enormously proud” of colleagues who work in the field of critical race theory, and that they “are deeply distressed to see the federal government attack this important intellectual tradition, caricature it in an unjustified and divisive manner, and ban federal employees from learning about it through trainings.”

The law school letter was also signed by deans David L. Faigman at Hastings College of the Law, Kevin Johnson at UC Davis School of Law, Jennifer Mnookin at UCLA School of Law and L. Song Richardson at UC Irvine School of Law.

In addition to Brady, the letter from the public policy deans was signed by deans Gary Segura at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Anil B. Deolalikar at the UC Riverside School of Public Policy and Peter Cowhey at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy.

Read the full text of the letter from UC public policy deans