UC Irvine Chancellor officially weighs in on Rittenhouse verdict: says it shows racism of the jury

November 21, 2021 • 9:15 am

There are actually two principles of free speech that should be proclaimed and adhered to by every college and university in America, whether they be private or public. (Religious schools, of course, must exempt themselves.)

1.) There must be freedom of speech for all as that freedom is described by the First Amendment and construed by the courts.

2.) The university must remove itself from making official pronouncements on morality, ideology, or politics, except when those statements affect issues that could impinge on the mission of the university itself: teaching, debating, and learning.

The second principle is there to protect the first one. For if the University makes political statements, like the one we’ll discuss today, that chills or quashes the speech of other people who might fear punishment from the administration for their opposing stands.  If an administrative or departmental website puts out a statement supporting the goals of Black Lives Matter, or that the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict demonstrates white supremacy in action, or that science is structurally racist and misogynist, what student or untenured professor is going to contradict that in public?  We already know that about 55% of college students feel that the climate on their campus prevents them from saying things they believe. That goes for professors as well, though the percentage would be lower. Ideally, the figure should be 0%.

The University of Chicago has adopted both of these principles. The first is the famous 2014 “Report on the Committee of Free Expression” headed by Law Professor Geoffrey Stone, with the committee convened by the then President Robert Zimmer. Now called the “Chicago Principles“, the statement has been adopted in its entirety or near-entirety by over 80 American colleges and universities.

But the plural use of “Principles” is erroneous, because the free-speech statement is not the only one of Chicago’s Foundational Principles about free speech. It doesn’t take care of item #2: speech-chilling official statements. But that was already covered by a lesser-known principle, The Kalven Report from 1967, which prohibits official political, ideological or moral statements by the University or its constituent departments. (I’ve written a lot on this site about Kalven.)

While the free-speech provision is highly enforced, as in the case of Dorian Abbot, the Kalven Report is often honored in the breach rather than the adherence, especially after the murder of George Floyd when departments felt compelled to make anti-racist statements (you can see our Kalven-violating statements here, here and here, though there are several more). Apparently, the University isn’t willing to enforce that important principle, at least insofar as making departments remove official statements that violate it. I’m still working with others to get Kalven properly enforced, even though that would removes some debatable political statements that I happen to agree with. But the point is not to make any statement at all to avoid chilling the speech of dissenters.

The University of Californa at Irvine (UCI) doesn’t adhere to anything resembling Kalven, and so, over at Reason, The Volokh Report shows UCI’s Vice Chancellor weighing in officially on the Rittenhouse verdict. Vice Chancellor Douglas Haynes doesn’t like it!

I’ll quote from Eugene Volokh’s article (indented) which itself quotes both the Vice Chancellor’s statement and the Kalven Report (doubly indented). I can’t find a link to the statement, but I trust that Volokh quotes it accurately.

From Douglas M. Haynes, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and “Chief Diversity Officer” (as well as history professor, but speaking in his official capacity and not just as a faculty member):

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse versus the State of Wisconsin concluded earlier today. The jury returned not guilty on all five counts of the original indictment (a sixth count was previously dismissed by the judge), including the murder of two people and the wounding of a third on August 25 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The relief of the Rittenhouse family in this verdict was met by the heavy burden of the families mourning the absence of loved ones and the continuing trauma of the lone survivor.

The conclusion of this trial does not end the reckoning about systemic racism in the United States. If anything, it has simply made it more legible. Kyle Rittenhouse did not live in Wisconsin, but in Antioch, Illinois. He traveled to Kenosha during protests against police violence in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake while in police custody. Blake was shot seven times in the back. The Kenosha event continued protests in response to the killings of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in St. Louis on March 13, 2020 in Louisville. These multi-racial protests were grounded in a call for racial justice and the end of police brutality. Rittenhouse imposed himself on the protests in Kenosha. His assistance was not requested. It was as much about resisting the calls of protestors as it was to defend property and render first aid.

For this reason, the verdict conveys a chilling message: Neither Black lives nor those of their allies’ matter.

UCI will continue its whole university approach to recognizing and responding to anti-Blackness as an existential threat to our mission as a public research university. Learn more on the UCI Black Thriving Initiative website.

The debatable statements in this Diktat (beyond the fact that it shouldn’t have been issued) are that there is systemic racism in the U.S. highlighted by the trial, that Rittenhouse somehow “imposed himself” on the protests in a way that targeted the protestors themselves (not true; at least one of the white men he killed made racist statements at the protests).  Most contentious is that the verdict conveys a chilling message: “Neither Black lives matter nor those of their allies’ [sic] matter.” That may be the message that some people get from the verdict, but I doubt the jurors were sending that message, or that they would say that they voted “not guilty” because they didn’t think Black lives matter! (Both of the men Rittenhouse killed and one that he injured are white.) It’s no business of Haynes to make a statement like that—a statement about which one could argue endlessly. But what faculty or student would go up against the Vice Chancellor and say that the verdict was justified given the evidence. (Was Haynes in the courtroom?)

Well, Volokh did, though he’s not at Irvine.

I would think that the verdict conveys a message that:

  1. There’s a right to self-defense, whether against the “allies” of blacks or against the enemies of blacks or against anyone else.
  2. That’s particularly so if a person is pointing a gun at you, or reached for your rifle.
  3. The prosecution has to disprove claims of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
  4. Twelve jurors unanimously concluded that the prosecution hadn’t met its burden.

Perhaps Rittenhouse should have nonetheless been convicted. But it seems to me that universities should be places where such matters are honestly, freely, and thoughtfully debated, and I don’t think that universities’ taking an official stance on them is conducive to that.

And then Volokh quotes the Kalven Report, which you can read for yourself; but he does reproduce its most famous declaration:

The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic. It is, to go back once again to the classic phrase, a community of scholars. To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.

Good for Volokh and bad for UC Irvine. We have to remember that provision #1 is severely weakened unless provision #2 is in place to keep the university itself from chilling speech. In contrast to our “Chicago Principles”, I don’t think that any university has adopted the Kalven principles. All of them should.

30 thoughts on “UC Irvine Chancellor officially weighs in on Rittenhouse verdict: says it shows racism of the jury

  1. The young man, found not guilty of murder, is therefore not a murderer. Nevertheless, he committed homicide(s). He and his conscience will have to live with that.

  2. Although I find the Rittenhouse verdict to be deeply problematic, I agree that it is inappropriate for University leaders to take positions on such issues in their official status. And I think that most of them go out of their way to do so, even when it comes to selecting commencement speakers – while public figures are often invited, rarely if ever to they say anything meaningful. I would like to see more institutions follow in the footsteps of Cornell (my alma mater) that has no invited commencement speakers and does not award honorary degrees. That, I think, is a much better way to keep politics out of what should be a celebration of students’ accomplishments.

    1. I’d go a step further, and say that politicians who make public statements that a court’s verdict was wrong are undermining the justice system, which rather depends on the notion (sadly not 100% true) that they get verdicts right. Adults know errors can be made, but the polite fiction that this is not the case allows us to not only believe in, but to actually have a justice system. It’s plainly not the president’s place to undermine the whole system by declaring himself ‘angry and concerned’. He might be, and if so he should work towards re-writing legislation to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Simply telling a jury in retrospect they were wrong to correctly apply a badly written or wholly inadequate law will not do.
      I don’t myself see why untrained teenagers should have semi-automatic rifles, nor that they should legally carry them in public places, and especially take them to riot zones. What could possibly go wrong there? That’s the kind of legislation I think lawmakers should be addressing, rather than taking cheap shots at jurors who applied their laws for them.

  3. It is literally Haynes job to make everything about race, lest anyone think or suggest that racism is only one of several problems.

  4. “The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. ”

    Precise. Clear. Excellent.

  5. Just some notes on that Haynes statement:

    The jury returned not guilty on all five counts of the original indictment (a sixth count was previously dismissed by the judge), …

    There was also a seventh charge (violating curfew) also dismissed by the judge.

    … and the continuing trauma of the lone survivor.

    Grosskreutz wasn’t the “sole survivor”, Rittenhouse also shot at (and missed) the man who kicked him in the head. No mention that all 4 of those attacking Rittenhouse had prior criminal records. For that matter, the statement makes no mention that they did attack Rittenhouse, not the other way round.

    Kyle Rittenhouse did not live in Wisconsin, but in Antioch, Illinois.

    A whole mile south of the border, and near to Kenosha, where he worked and where his dad lived.

    … in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake while in police custody.

    Blake was not in custody! He was resisting arrest, failing to comply with police instructions, and going for a knife.

    Rittenhouse imposed himself on the protests in Kenosha.

    The protestors also imposed themselves on Kenosha! No mention that these were not “protests” but rather “riots”, no mention of the millions of dollars of damage done over several nights.

    His assistance was not requested.

    Actually, the car-lot owners did indeed request and welcome the assistance.

    It was as much about resisting the calls of protestors as it was to defend property and render first aid.

    What actually does “resisting the calls of protestors” mean here?

    For this reason, the verdict conveys a chilling message: Neither Black lives nor those of their allies’ matter.

    No, it conveys that even those opposed to BLM riots have a right to self defense. To such as Haynes, “BLM = good” means that rioting is excused, property damage is excused, and anyone opposed to such rioting is automatically in the wrong.

    1. By the way, question:

      How many instances are there, over, say, the last 5 years, of a black person ending up dead while being arrested by the police, if they were: (1) unarmed, no knife or gun; (2) complied with police instructions; and (3) did not resist arrest?

      I’m told that that number is pretty close to zero. Is that correct?

      1. You are indeed correct that the number is very small. Wilfred Reilly (originally from Chicago, now teaching at Kentucky State, one of the oldest HBCUs in the country) has written about this. It is noteworthy that Ana Kasparian of TheYoungTurks was brave enough to admit that she had been misled about many of the facts of this case by the biased coverage in the media.

      2. The numbers from the Washington Post’s study say that 9 unarmed black suspects and 19 unarmed white suspects were fatally shot by police in 2019. Those numbers have been contested because they don’t include non-shooting deaths.

        1. Whether they were resisting arrest (even if unarmed) is also relevant. For example, Floyd would not have been knelt on (and so not have died) if he hadn’t spent 6 minutes resisting arrest by physically wrestling with the police.

    2. I was going to say something similar to this, so thank you for expressing it first. The “sole survivor” was a guy who testified that Kyle did not shoot at him when he (the “survivor”) had his hands up and that Kyle only shoot at him when he (the “survivor”) lowered his own gun and pointed it at Kyle. It’s all there ov video.
      I am as far away from vigilante gun loving activity as anyone can be. But I spent a few hours following the trial and came away convinced that it was self-defense.
      As a non-American I find the fascination wiht guns incomprehensible and I think that a 17 year old boy should not be playing Rambo on the streets. I abhor all the politics and cultural eccentricities sorrunding the case. But that is irrelevant. If he had no business being there, the same should be said about the rioters (and they were rioters). At trial were specific facts, whether they were “murder” or “self-defense” and that is all.
      A University Chancellor should not make these kinds of comments in an official capacity.
      Just my opinion.

  6. > There are actually two principles of free speech that should be proclaimed and adhered to by every college and university in America, whether they be private or public. (Religious schools, of course, must exempt themselves.) ‘There must be freedom of speech for all as that freedom is described by the First Amendment and construed by the courts.’

    > First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    I can see why public universities would not limit speech, as the combination of the First and Fourteenth Amendments mean that no organ of federal or state governments can limit speech. You have excepted religious universities from your statement (and I concur with the exception). However, you seem to be saying that non-religious private universities are still somehow bound by the First Amendment or First Amendment standards. How is that the case? Whatever freedoms academics at private universities want have nothing to do with the Constitution or Supreme Court findings. While I hope they respect freedom of speech and freedom of research, I can’t find Constitutional protections or Constitutional standards to be relevant in this instance.

  7. I thought a phrase such as, “Ally Lives Matter” was racist.

    The Vice Chancellor has shown again that education and intelligence does not make one immune from emotional ignorance.

  8. At Irvine, it is notable that the program of “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” demands not merely an Associate Dean or a Dean, but a Vice Chancellor—arrayed, no doubt, with the salary, staff, budget, and feudal status that goes with the title. A yeoman farmer of academe might hesitate to issue political statements on behalf of the institution, but an Earl or Viscount considers it part of his/her feudal rank.

    I wonder if Vice Chancellor Haynes’ proclamation is only the first in a new wave. After the BLM demonstrations of 2020, many academic units joined the fashion for official ukases in that arena. Once some place in California officially called for the abolition of police, departments of Gender Studies, of Music, or of Fixed Partial Dentures everywhere began falling into the parade. It reminded me of the bandwagon process by which kids’ toys sometimes achieve market dominance. In some cases, attenuated forms of those official pronunciamentoes are still being sounded—for example, in the calls to abolish campus police.

  9. Thanks for the multiple posts on this general topic and the links to Chicago principles and the Kalven report. It’s been helpful for me to read & think about the UCI statement, the Allyn Walker controversy, and other instances of universities weighing in with official positions on these topics. I find I have changed my mind about some of them. This quote from Kalven is so important:

    “A university faithful to its mission will provide enduring challenges to social values, policies, practices, and institutions. By design and by effect, it is the institution which creates discontent with the existing social arrangements and proposes new ones. In brief, a good university, like Socrates, will be upsetting.”

    If I really embrace that idea (and I do), then I have to question my initial reaction to some of these controversies. In the case of Walker, I find their work on pedophiles repugnant, but their Old Dominion University should not be expressing public opposition to that work. And if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that this research might lead to better ways to help pedophiles who have not yet committed an offence to avoid doing so. Such research seems horrific but might actually be useful. Sorry that is slightly off topic.

    WRT Kenosha, I suspect that Dr. Haynes and others see themselves as “[creating] discontent with the existing social arrangements” by aligning themselves with BLM. I suspect that they see themselves as fulfilling that Socratic norm to be “upsetting”.

    They don’t see the woke overhaul of education as the “existing social arrangement” itself. And they can’t imagine a university in which their own comfortable confidence about these issues (Rittenhouse is a vigilante murderer; the jurors were stupid racists; crossing state lines) might legitimately be “upset” by valid counterargument (strong evidence of self-defense; legal gun possession, whatever one thinks about the excesses of American gun laws & gun culture). For Haynes and others, these discussions are a one-way street, and they see themselves as being on the right side of the Kalven report (and the right side of history). It will be hard to convince them otherwise.

    1. i just want to say (long after this comments section has died, unfortunately) that rethinking your opinions is a difficult thing to do. I applaud your efforts. So few people are willing to put their own biases, opinions, or even mere thoughts under any sort of scrutiny. Thanks for being one of the truly “rational” people, regardless of whether or not your rethinking of any particular subject or event results in an opinion that comports with my own.

  10. I am always disappointed when apparently intelligent caring people are unaware of their own biases (a criticism that I don’t exempt myself from, although I do try to be aware).

    Perhaps their social and environmental connections predispose them to particular ‘automatically held’ attitudes. After all if Douglas M. Haynes, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and “Chief Diversity Officer” didn’t believe in systemic racism then he would have no job to do and no like minded friends.

  11. The whole case has been particularly illuminating, especially as an example of political and media bias.
    When I discuss the case, most of the people who have strong opinions that R should have been found guilty seem to have many of the key facts of the case wrong.
    I guess that is the point of biased coverage. So that any person learning about the case primarily from CNN or MSNBC would reasonably conclude that he is guilty of the charges and much more.
    So lots of educated and intelligent people hold completely wrong opinions of the case because they have only been given a partial and carefully curated set of facts.

    I wonder if Haynes is aware that one of the five people (R and the four he shot at) had spent the evening loudly calling people “N****R” at the rally. If he had to guess which one, I bet he would guess wrong.

    The whole situation in Kenosha was catalyzed by a story of an unarmed Black man, shot by police for no good reason. The story should have been that a violent felon and rapist, with outstanding felony warrants, violated a restraining order, fought with and pulled a knife on cops when confronted, and was shot trying to flee cops to a car with some scared kids sitting in it.
    Blake had no car. The car was a rental, rented by the woman who had filed the criminal complaint that led to his outstanding warrants, which included stealing her car and sexually assaulting her in the presence of a child.
    Before the shooting, she had referred to Blake as her “ex-boyfriend” , and told police that “over the past eight years the defendant has physically assaulted her around twice a year when he drinks heavily.”
    Since the Blake case has been taken on by Ben Crump, she now identifies as Blake’s fiancee.

    When the cops were called on Blake, they were there to protect a Black woman from her attacker. When they shot him, they saved three Black kids from being trapped in a car with an armed felon as he fled police.

    An interesting question, for me at least, is how BLM chooses the cases of “injustice” that it devotes time, money, and resources protesting. It would seem more sensible to choose clear cases of injustice, rather than cases where hardened felons are killed by police while committing even more crimes.
    Of course, in clear cut cases of police injustice, there would be little justification for conflict. Most of us would agree that it was an outrage, and might even work together to find solutions. If they wanted more conflict, they might choose cases like this one, that are more polarizing than uniting.

    I guess Rittenhouse was the same sort of thing. The case could be and was presented in a way where leftists and Black radicals would see him as a raging homicidal White supremacist, even implying that he shot three Black men.( “Teenager who shot three black men with rifle found not guilty on all charges.”)
    On the other side of the issue, people who understand self defense law, and those who looked closely at the evidence, largely thought it was outrageous that he was even charged.
    Probably low information types who oppose the riots generally sided with the defense as well.

    Also, it is interesting that so many people are really interested in what happens “across state lines”, as if they have become state’s rights activists.

    1. “When I discuss the case, most of the people who have strong opinions that R should have been found guilty seem to have many of the key facts of the case wrong.”

      Bullseye. Because the MSM ginned up a narrative that they wanted to push and they have never admitted that or recanted it.

  12. In my opinion, the Rittenhouse verdict was a miscarriage of justice. He should have been convicted at the very least of reckless endangerment. The prosecution went too far with the homicide charges, which he evaded with a self defense argument. It sets a terrible precedent. The opinion of the Vice Chancellor of UC Irvine is of no interest to me.

    1. The “reckless endangerment” charges related to firing his weapon such that it would endanger bystanders. The legal direction was that, if the jury considered that those shots were justified as “self defense”, such that he was not guilty of the homicide charge, then that justification was also a defense against the reckless endangerment charge.

      Thus, they could not convict on reckless endangerment unless they rejected the self-defense claim and also convicted him on the accompanying homicide charge. So, the option you suggest was not open to the jury.

    2. Suggesting that a verdict that conforms entirely with the law, rather than finding a way around it, sets a “terrible precedent” is the most counterintuitive argument possible. A verdict that follows the law exactly as it is — like this one — is a sign of a functional justice system. A verdict where someone is convicted because people don’t like him or what he did or something else would set a “terrible precedent,” one in which we decide whether or not to convict people based on what we think of them or their actions, and not based on the law.

  13. What Douglas M. Haynes says is likely to lead to the attempted mass murder of white people.
    Words have consequences.

  14. I find it interesting that there is no mention of race in the Waukesha parade killings yesterday. Looking at the photo/video coverage, I’d wager that all the victims are white (or Hispanic).

    It will be interesting to see what race the perp. is. One witness saw him well enough to saw what clothing he was wearing. Interesting that the reporting doesn’t mention his race. (Want to bet he’s black?)

    If it’s a white guy driving through a crowd of BLM protestors in Minneapolis (because he’s lost; it was part of the freeway through Minneapolis), clearly it’s nan act racism and that is the immediate story line.

  15. If I remember correctly, it was 9 black males and 1 black female that year, for a total of 10. Of those 10, if I remember correctly, 6 or 7 were attacking police, 2 or 3 were allegedly driving at them in cars, and 1 was an accident. Zero fit the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative. That’s not to say they should have been shot – perhaps non-lethal force could have been employed – but “unarmed” isn’t synonymous with “innocent” or “not dangerous”.

    Nor, to be fair, is “armed” synonymous with “dangerous” even though police often assume so. I have seen police shoot people who were legally armed when they weren’t using or reaching for their weapons, in an apparent knee-jerk (finger-jerk?) reaction to seeing the gun. That’s unreasonable, in my opinion. After all, the police have guns, and if we treated lawfully armed police the way they treat lawfully armed civilians… I don’t think they’d like it.

  16. Dear campus community,

    Last week I shared my reflections on the announcement of the Rittenhouse verdict. Like the national conversation, my message generated a range of reactions and responses. As a university leader and educator, I would be remiss if I did not consider and reflect on this input. Listening is a critical skill that is important to our mission as a great public research university and valued by the many communities that we serve. Here, I want to acknowledge to the UCI community that I am listening.

    Two criticisms stand out about my message. I appeared to call into question a lawful trial verdict. I also forced a relationship between the specific facts of the case to the unique dimensions of the racial reckoning in the United States. These criticisms are valid. While uncomfortable and embarrassing, I acknowledge and apologize for these mistakes. I prepared this message out of a desire to emphasize the importance of listening and learning as our society continues to face critical issues that challenge us.

    I look forward to our continued campus dialogues in pursuit of inclusive excellence.

    Sincerely,

    Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D. (Pronouns: he/him/his)
    Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
    Chief Diversity Officer
    Director, ADVANCE Program
    Professor of History

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