UC Irvine Vice Chancellor retracts and apologizes for his official pronouncement on the Rittenhouse verdict

November 23, 2021 • 9:15 am

The other day I posted a statement by the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and “Chief Diversity Officer” of the University of California at Irvine, who took it upon himself to make an official pronouncement about, and criticism of, the “not guilty on all charges” verdict given to Kyle Rittenhouse. Just to remind you, here’s the statement that Vice Chancellor Douglas Haynes issued to the entire UCI community:

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.

I described why this statement, and similar statements making debatable political, ideological, or moral pronouncements should not be made officially by universities or colleges—either by administrators, departments, or other units of the school. (Such statements should be made privately and emphasized as the personal opinion of individuals.) It has to do with chilling of speech, which has to do with freedom of speech, and you can read more about my views at the original post. The rationale for prohibiting such statements is embodied in the University of Chicago’s “Kalven Report”, passed in 1967.

Well, apparently I’m not the only person who objected to Haynes’s statement, and he has now apologized for what he said—in effect retracted it. It’s not a lame apology either: he admits what he did wrong and says that it’s “uncomfortable and embarrassing to him”. Reader Michael posted it on the original thread, and I’ve now verified that this is a real statement.

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.


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

I have two things to say about this. First, Haynes left out the most important part of the apology, which was to say “I am sorry for making an official political statement as a representative of the University of California at Irvine.”  Irvine, like all schools that purport to allow freedom of speech, have to buttress that by another stricture saying that Universities should not suppress or chill speech by making their own statements on politics or ideology.

Second, I don’t think Haynes is telling the truth when he says “I prepared this [presumably the first] 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 think he prepared the message as a sign of personal and institutional virtue signaling, and to show that he objected to the Rittenhouse verdict. There is nothing in his original statement that says its purpose was to emphasize listening and learning!

Despite these beefs, I’ll take the statement, as it’s better than nothing. Someone should send Haynes the Kalven Report, and all free-speech universities should adopt a version of it. In fact, I’m going to do that now.



UPDATE: I sent Dr. Haynes this email and enclosed our Kalven Report.

Dear Dr. Haynes,

I’ve been following your statement about the Rittenhouse verdict and your apology for issuing it, and I want to congratulate you for having the courage to admit when you made a misstep. Further, your apology was not hedged: it was honest and straightforward.

Here at the University of Chicago we have a policy embodied in the Kalven Report stipulating that no university administrator or department can make official pronouncements on ideology, politics, and morality, and I enclose a copy. The reason we do this is that the Kaven Report buttresses our Chicago Principles of Free Speech. If departments, units of the University, or administrators make such official statements, it leads to chilling of free speech: what untenured faculty member or student would dare take issue with an official university statement on, say, politics, or even the Rittenhouse trial?  I really do think that more colleges and universities should adopt statements like the Kalven Report, and I urge you to read it; it’s short and (like your apology) to the point.

I wish you good luck in your endeavors.

Jerry Coyne
Professor Emeritus
Dept. Ecology & Evolution
The University of Chicago

30 thoughts on “UC Irvine Vice Chancellor retracts and apologizes for his official pronouncement on the Rittenhouse verdict

  1. If there is one line from the Kalven report that is easy (for me) to remember, it is :

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

    I found myself thinking about it during the day yesterday while doing chores.

    1. That piece is not accurate. E.g.

      Rittenhouse was allowed to use deadly force, even if he provoked the 25 August attack, if he “reasonably believed” it was necessary to prevent his own death.

      No, that is not how the judge directed the jury, under which, if he had “provoked the attack” then he would have largely lost any self-defense privilege. If the jury had felt that he had “provoked the attack” then they would have likely found him guilty.

      Before Rittenhouse killed two people and wounded another, no one else had been shot.

      Well, no one else had been attacked as he was.

      … there’s also no doubt that Rittenhouse was venturing into one of the scariest, most dangerous situations those white jurors could imagine: a Black Lives Matter protest.

      Oh come on, this sort of writing is just propaganda.

      The fact is that Rosenbaum and then 3 others attacked him. It’s on multiple videos. He did not provoke those attacks. That’s pretty much it.

    2. I gave up commenting on the Grauniad several years ago. Initially you could have a good debate about matters, exploring other peoples’ points of view, but as the debate around Brexit intensified there were more and more people declaring the ‘truth’ from within their particular ideological citadel (Left or Right, Leave or Remain) and impugning all others. Reasonable debate was no longer possible, so I cancelled my account.

      At the same time (in my view) editorials became more polemical, and that included a reluctance to consider apologies or issue clarifications when appropriate.

    3. I think we don’t need to read further than the subtitle stating that it’s problematic when Americans find black protesters scary and white vigilantes heroic. Some black protesters, and people presenting themselves as protesters, are indeed scary. An example are those who shot dead 8-yr-old Secoriea Turner because her mother didn’t submit in time to their bullying. And it is common sense that if police are rendered inefficient and regarded as an institution of the past, people will resort to vigilantes.

  2. He might also want to reflect on not just “listening” as an important critical skill, but also “thinking.”

  3. Yesterday afternoon, Cal State Long Beach held some kind of web-based therapeutic event for students to discuss the verdict, which was no doubt described as “problematic.” Frank Furedi (who often posts short pieces on Spiked) has written extensively about what he calls, very accurately, the “therapeutic university.” The pervasive idea that young adults considered bright enough to study at university need assistance from grotesquely-overstaffed collegiate bureaucracies in managing any emotions supposedly “triggered” by current events is yet another sign of the madness engulfing not only academic life, but the entire culture.

    1. “grotesquely-overstaffed collegiate bureaucracies” – as one of the folks who actually teaches, does research, and serves the university, I am stealing this phrase!!! 🙂

    2. I have no problem with the university setting up a zoom chat or something to let the students come together and talk about it.
      But they should be sticking to the emcee role at most – and maybe not even that, maybe just IT support for the event – rather than actively participating.

    3. The Mirror in the UK just released the following news: “‘Superdog’ corgi kitted our with cape and goggles can’t get enough of motorbike rides VIDEO”. Oh dear, the trauma of this news has made me feel unsafe. Is there no University affinity group—for bikers? for dogs? for bikers with dogs?—that
      I can go to for the needed doses of healing ?

  4. Good to see that Haynes has apologised – and let’s hope that our host’s attempt to draw his attention to the Kalven Report has the desired effect.

  5. Well, it was a rather half-assed attempt at an apology. But we regularly see folks in the wrong doubling down on their positions. So I give him some props for the statement he made. And hope he will be more measured in his comments in the future.

  6. He should have corrected the errors in his original statement. Since last year it was known that Rittenhouse had most of his family in Kenosha, as well as a job. He and his mother lived about a mile south of the Wisconsin border, about 20 miles from Kenosha. Was also known that he did not carry a gun across the now notorious “state lines”. And there was much video available clearly showing probable self-defense.

    For the fearless, here is part of the interview Rittenhouse did with Tucker Carlson:


  7. Matt Taibbi has done a mashup of the infamous meme “across state lines”….it’s about 3 minutes long and hilarious…..

      1. It’s hilarious because in the USA you are, shockingly, allowed to cross state lines. People who live in border towns “cross state lines” multiple times a day to work, shop, or grab a cup of coffee. It’s a completely meaningless talking point intended to make Rittenhouse seem sinister. The fact that so many in the media echoed this ridiculous “state lines” issue is truly comical.

        And in response to your other question, the gun was purchased in May 2020 by Wisconsin resident Dominic Black and had been stored at his house ever since. Rittenhouse spent the night of 8/24 at Black’s house in Kenosha and on 8/25 Black provided the gun to Rittenhouse.

  8. At the University of Washington, the Department of Global Health issued a long public statement, signed “in support and solidarity” by various departmental officials including, of course, the DEI Committee co-chairs. Parts of the statement are:
    “We recognize that this verdict is profoundly disturbing to many in our community, and, as President Biden said, “will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned.” ….The verdict on Rittenhouse brings to light complex issues in our society and is the latest reminder of how much work is still needed to end racism and create a society that is truly equitable.
    …For those needing additional support during this time, help is available by contacting the following:
    CareLink for staff and faculty
    Husky Mental Health for students”

    Another bulletin, from the School of Medicine, contained similar verbiage and announced discussions
    in “affinity groups” (racially separated of course) to help individuals process the trauma of the latest news from Wisconsin. The same gestures will no doubt be made in umpteen other academic venues. The DEI nomenklatura, once in place, will never stop finding new ways to display itself and to create new things to do. I am sure the Komsomol bureaucracy in the late-lamented USSR was exactly the same.

  9. I also forced a relationship between the specific facts of the case to the unique dimensions of the racial reckoning in the United States.

    What the heck does that even mean? Trying to parse it…is he saying he told the students how to feel about and interpret the results?

    1. My interpretation, in plainer English: ‘I wrongly understood the Rittenhouse case as an example of American racism.’ Or, in idiomatic English, ‘I had a hammer and thought I saw a nail.’

    2. Eric, just for kicks. I think he means he had one added another one and THOUGHT he got three…
      … what he got was “trouble at mill” with a forced apology.
      Lesson learnt? You can only hope.

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