LOOKING INTO THE UC BUDGET  -- Report #21a      (email version)

by Charles Schwartz, Department of Physics, University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720.        510-642-4427          April 16, 1997

     The story of one regent's misconduct is evolving into a larger 
drama that highlights the fundamental principle of academic freedom 
and challenges the integrity of the University of California's top 

     Charles J. Soderquist, one of the Alumni Association 
representatives on the UC Board of Regents, a graduate of UC Davis 
and now a successful Sacramento businessman, was the author of the 
recent letter that began:

Dear Professor Schwartz;
Unless you can explain to me how the "public service" mission of the 
University is met by your "reports," I request that you stop using 
University envelopes (and paper, postage, computers, desks, 
electricity &c) in their preparation and dissemination. 

     In Report #21 I presented a collection of opinions from faculty 
members and others from all the UC campuses, responding to this 
regent's letter.  This follow-up Report presents the letters I have 
written to the Chairman of the Board of Regents, requiring that they 
take formal action on this one regent's attempt to intimidate and 
silence a UC faculty member and whistleblower.

     The most troubling aspect of this affair has been the total 
silence from the President and the Chancellors as well as the other 
Regents - those officials who bear the primary responsibility for 
defending the climate of academic freedom at this University.  This 
indicates that they have chosen to hide behind a stonewall and let 
their lawyers handle this problem.      

                          NEWS  BREAK

     This morning's San Francisco Chronicle carries a story on this 
affair: "Gadfly Professor Challenges Cal Officials;Regent's criticism 
of whistle-blower stirs up protest," by Pamela Burdman; page A17.  
The article quotes Mr. Soderquist:  "Clearly, I wrote him a little 
letter addressing what I thought was this question of using 
university envelopes and whatnot."

     One thing is clear: many people throughout the University - not 
just  me - read that letter from a regent as something considerably 
more onerous than an innocent inquiry about the use of UC envelopes.  
Stay tuned in for further developments.

                        _  _  _  _  _

    Here is my letter of complaint sent to Tirso del Junco, Chairman 
of the UC Board of Regents, with copies to President Atkinson and 
Regent-Designate Soderquist.
                                                 March 18, 1997
Dear Regent del Junco;

     I am writing to you to file a formal complaint against another 
individual who sits with you on the Board of Regents.  The enclosed 
letter, from this regent to me and dated 9 March 1997, is the subject 
of this complaint. The text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Professor Schwartz:
     Unless you can explain to me how the "public service" mission of 
the University is met by your "reports," I request that you stop 
using University envelopes (and paper, postage, computers, desks, 
electricity &c.) in their preparation and dissemination.
     As to the value of your efforts, my brief time with the regents 
indicates that no one is listening.  Perhaps your time could be 
better spent on research and/or teaching.  You do teach and perform 
research, I assume.  

     The legal basis for my complaint is found in California 
Government Code Section 8547, which is known as the "Reporting of 
Improper Governmental Activities Act."  This law provides 
protection for whistleblowers by declaring that an officeholder in a 
state agency "may not directly or indirectly use or attempt to use 
[their] official authority or influence ... for the purpose of 
intimidating, threatening, coercing, commanding, or attempting to 
intimidate, threaten, coerce or command any person for the purpose of 
interfering with the right of that person to disclose" improper 
governmental activities.[8547.3(a)]  The Reports which I have been 
writing and distributing for some time constitute, if I may be so 
immodest, a paradigm of studious whistle-blowing; and the present 
letter to me from this regent is, in turn, an exemplar of the 
behavior which this law forbids. This state law applies to the 
University of California, providing that the procedures for filing 
reports and complaints within UC differ somewhat from those covering 
other state agencies.  From the relevant University policy statements 
(Academic Personnel Manual Section 190 - Appendix A;  Business and 
Finance Bulletin Section G-29), I conclude that since the offending 
party in this case is a regent, this complaint should be filed with 
the Board of Regents for their investigation, consideration and 

     I would note that when the Board of Regents comes to consider 
this matter in formal session, as it must, the meeting may not be 
conducted out of the public view. (See California Education Code 
Sections 92030-92032 and Regents ByLaw 14.6)  I would also bring to 
your attention the fact that the cited whistleblower protection law 
allows for both civil and criminal penalties, as well as University 
sanctions, upon the perpetrator.

     Aside from the legal aspects of this complaint, there is the 
most important matter of academic freedom.  This principle is so well 
understood throughout the academic community - and the violation of 
academic freedom posed by the present letter from this regent is so 
apparent - that I should not need to dwell upon this topic here.  
However, I do note that the letter sent to me by this regent was also 
cc'ed to yourself, as Chairman of the Board of Regents, and also to 
Dick Atkinson, the President of the University.  Why neither of you 
has contacted me about this matter is worrisome.
     Please contact me (510-642-4427) if you have any questions 
concerning this complaint; and please keep me posted on the progress 
of your investigation and proceedings.

     The law requires that this complaint be filed "together with a 
sworn statement that the contents of the written complaint are true, 
or are believed by the affiant to be true, under penalty of perjury." 
I do so swear.

Two weeks later  I had received no response and so I sent the 
following letter, again with copies to Atkinson and Soderquist.

                                                  April 2, 1997
Dear Regent del Junco;

     This letter is a follow-up to my phone call to your office 
today, in which I left the following message:  "When can I expect to 
receive your reply to my March 18 letter, in which I filed a formal 
complaint against another regent[?]"  That complaint centers around 
the letter dated 9 March 1997 sent to me by Regent-Designate Charles 

     At a minimum, I expect you to inform me of the procedure and the 
timetable for the handling of this matter.

     As to the timing, I call your attention to the fact that Mr. 
Soderquist is due to become a full-fledged voting member of the Board 
of Regents on July 1.  It seems to me that, in order to protect the 
integrity of the Board of Regents in its obligations to the 
University community and to the public, this matter ought to be 
resolved by that date.  To put it bluntly, if Mr. Soderquist is to be 
judged unfit to serve the office of regent, it would be best that he 
be removed from the Board before, rather than after, any 
contamination might occur.

     It is now 3 1/2  weeks since the original offending letter was 
sent to me, with copies sent to you and to President Atkinson.  I had 
entertained the hope that one of you would contact me in an attempt 
to resolve this matter - which involves fundamental principles of 
academic freedom as well as other issues - by more informal and 
collegial means.  However, since I have still heard nothing at all 
from any UC official it now appears likely that you and your fellow 
regents intend to "play hardball."  Therefore, in order to prepare 
myself appropriately for what may lie ahead, I have begun discussions 
with an attorney who can assist in the prosecution of this affair.  
Still, I am open to dialogue, which is always the preferred mode of 
conflict resolution, especially in a University.

     Two more weeks have now passed and still there is no response.  
I expect they have turned this matter over to the General Counsel, 
where it will be handled in the fashion of lawyers on the defensive: 
stonewall, deny, minimize, obfuscate, delay, delay, delay.  This is 
probably the way members of the Board of Regents are used to handling 
their own business affairs; but is this any way to run a great 

     Here is the most troubling part of this story.  When I sent out 
the first email, containing the text of the regent's letter and 
asking people for their opinions on how one ought to respond, I 
wrote, "and I also make a particular request for responses from 
each of UC's nine Chancellors, since they are the chief officials in 
charge of protecting the climate of academic freedom on the 
campuses."  I sent an individual FAX to each UC Chancellor drawing 
their attention to this particular request.  Not one of them has 
responded to me in any fashion.

     We know that when some students get carried away in a political 
protest and breach the rules by disrupting or threatening some 
academic activity, then the Chancellors and other responsible 
officials are quick and loud in their public condemnation of such 
behavior.  And we know (or believe to be true) that when an irate 
citizen writes a letter to the University calling for the ouster of 
some professor who has expressed an unpopular opinion on some 
controversial topic, then the Chancellor will respond with a letter 
explaining to that citizen the principle of academic freedom and its 
importance to a democratic society.   But in the present case, where 
the person who has issued a threat directly to a member of the 
faculty - thus demonstrating his complete ignorance of, or his 
disdain for, that central principle of academic freedom - is one of 
the Regents, then we find a wholly different behavior on the part of 
the President and the Chancellors of this University.  They are 
completely silent.

     What a terrible precedent this sets.  What a disturbing message 
this sends to all other professors at the University of California, 
and elsewhere!  This is the larger issue raised here.  Beyond the 
matter of Regent-Designate Charles Soderquist vs. Professor Charles 
Schwartz we must ask what this implies for the climate of academic 
freedom at UC when all its top officials appear willing to tolerate 
this violation.

                     A  PREVIOUS  EXPERIENCE

     The University has an extensive set of rules and procedures for 
handling all sorts of complaints and grievances; but how things work 
when the accused is someone very high up in the UC administration is 
quite another matter.  Here is one example.

     At a meeting of the Regents' Committee on Audit a couple of 
years ago, I had the opportunity to suggest that the University needs 
some sort of Inspector General, an officer to conduct independent and 
rigorous investigations of alleged misconduct no matter how high up 
the finger might point. The newly appointed University Auditor, Mr. 
Patrick Reed, responded that his office already had such authority.  
President Peltason backed him up, stating that UC's internal auditors 
"have full and complete authority of an Inspector General, ... they 
are able to investigate ... fearlessly what is brought to their 
attention."  At that time I expressed my skepticism but said that I 
would put the present system to a test.

     I then wrote to Auditor Reed,  filing a formal complaint of 
improper governmental activities on the part of certain high level 
University of California officials.  My purpose here is not to go 
into the substance of that complaint but to describe how the 
complaint was handled.

     In my letter to Mr. Reed I suggested that he ought to engage 
independent outside legal counsel to assist him in this matter, 
"since the Office of the General Counsel of the Regents would be in a 
position of conflicts of interest here."  And in a telephone 
conversation with Mr. Reed a while later he candidly acknowledged 
that conflict of interest situation on the part of UC's General 

     Nevertheless, a few days later,  Mr. Reed wrote me his formal 
response, saying that he had referred the entire matter to General 
Counsel Jim Holst.   I then made repeated inquiries of  Mr. Holst's 
office asking when I might expect to hear from him on this matter; 
but I never received even the slightest acknowledgment from him.

     I then wrote a letter to Auditor Reed, with copies to the 
President and the regents on the Audit Committee, complaining about 
this travesty.  I never got any response at all.