The opinions expressed in this article are those of the editorial board and do not necessarily represent the sentiments of each individual member of The UCSD Guardian. We encourage other individuals and organizations on campus to sign this statement as well. Any responses with competing viewpoints, either from within the paper or from other groups, are welcome.
The events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, namely the violence incited by the president against the country he is sworn to protect, are beyond unconscionable. The president’s repeated refusal to unequivocally condemn white nationalist and right-wing extremist groups has only emboldened their presence within the Republican party. While some Republican members of Congress have firmly opposed this connection, others were not only supportive but helped the president incite the seditious attack on the Capitol.
It is with these events in mind that we respond to the comments of UC San Diego Professor in Practice Nathan Fletcher from Jan. 13 and the consequent call by the College Republicans at UCSD for Prof. Fletcher to be suspended or fired for these comments. It is our position that Prof. Fletcher should apologize, but not be suspended or fired, for these comments. We will discuss the comments and our reasoning below.
As a key figure in the Democratic Party in California and as an elected representative of San Diego County, Prof. Fletcher spoke at a Democratic Party virtual event, along with other prominent Democratic elected officials. During this event, Prof. Fletcher denounced white supremacists and neo-Nazis unequivocally, a position that The UCSD Guardian fully supports.
However, Prof. Fletcher continued, connecting these groups to the recall effort that is growing in California against Governor Gavin Newsom, an effort being joined by Republican office holders across California that has garnered more than one million signatures. Here are his comments along with a video of his statement.
“The recall efforts led by Pro-Trump extremists seeks to undermine the Democratic process across our state. There is substantial evidence that those who are leading this recall effort are linked and associated with Neo Nazis, with white supremacists, with right wing militia groups, and we can’t stand for this.”
These comments are problematic in our eyes. In speaking of undermining the Democratic process, Prof. Fletcher was referring to the recall election efforts against Gov. Newsom, which are efforts protected by California’s State Constitution under Article II.
In his statement, Prof. Fletcher says the connection of the violent racist and anti-Semitic elements to this recall movement is backed by “substantial evidence.” At this point in time, this evidence is not clear. Other speakers at the virtual Democratic Party event Prof. Fletcher attended made similar claims. In their rebuke of these statements, The Los Angeles Times editorial board said this:
“Speakers echoed this message by condemning the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week and hinting that the same forces rioting in Washington are behind the recall. Those are alarming allegations, but they were not followed up with a single shred of evidence to back them up.”
We feel that Prof. Fletcher’s comments, coming without evidence, create a damaging and othering generalization connecting California Republicans with white supremacists and neo-Nazis that harkens to the damaging association GOP politicians make between Antifa and the peaceful protests of the Black Lives Matter movement and other liberal groups. We feel that the hyper-partisan efforts of Prof. Fletcher, and the CA Democratic Party he represents, to connect extremist elements of the GOP to the recall are disingenuous.
This sentiment is shared by the College Republicans at UCSD, though we believe the intended remedy they propose goes too far.
The College Republicans at UCSD put out a statement urging Chancellor Pradeep Khosla to “either suspend or terminate” Prof. Fletcher.
“After the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, Professor Fletcher chose to reignite the flames of division by labeling opponents of his politics – many of whom are UC San Diego students – as being associated with neo-nazis and white supremacist groups. Many of our club members, including myself, who are Jewish or of Jewish descent are deeply hurt by this accusation. By comparing the supporters of a democratic process to neo-nazis, he has undermined the gravity of the Holocaust and has insulted Jewish-Americans nationwide.
Further, Professor Fletcher’s comments have smeared the reputation of Republican and Conservative-leaning students by associating them with hate groups. In Professor Fletcher’s words, by simply exercising the constitutional right of the recall processes, you have associated yourself with neo-nazis and white supremacists. This association is dangerous and smears the reputations of students who use the democratic process to promote change in governance.
UC San Diego’s principles of community uphold the right to maintain a climate of justice marked by mutual respect while fostering an understanding and tolerance among individuals and groups. Professor Fletcher’s words strike against the core of these principles that make all Tritons safe and are simply unbecoming of a UC San Diego Professor. As such, we believe that Professor Fletcher’s actions require discipline.”
We understand the merits of the position taken by the College Republicans at UCSD. We do not agree with Prof. Fletcher’s general association of the events at the Capitol to the California recall efforts, primarily due to a lack of evidence to this point and due to its hyper-partisan tarnishing of a group that is not primarily composed of violent extremists.
The UCSD Guardian is sympathetic to the damage that these comments could do to UCSD students, especially the conservative Jewish students who could be taking his courses. These students, along with other Republican students, are protected under the UCSD principles of community, which calls for “a climate of justice marked by mutual respect for each other” along with “the right to freedom of expression.”
As stated by the College Republicans at UCSD, we feel that Prof. Fletcher’s comments have abridged these protections for some students, and that this should not be tolerated.
As a Professor of Practice, Prof. Fletcher is in a difficult position, balancing the duties of his office as County Supervisor with his duties as a professor. While his comments served the Democratic Party, they were not permissible conduct for a professor at UCSD, and for this he should apologize and make clear that his comments were an overgeneralization that could damage the ability for Republican students to have their views treated in good faith at UCSD. He should state that students of any political ideology have the right to live and learn at UCSD, regardless of his own beliefs.
However, we also do not agree with the College Republicans at UCSD in their call for Prof. Fletcher to be suspended or terminated for these comments.
Especially at a time when there is a national debate over the restriction of right-wing political speech, we feel it does not serve the best interests of the university nor of College Republicans to call for Prof. Fletcher’s firing. Campus conservatives should be more than aware of the importance of freedom of speech at UCSD; the potential precedent set by the dismissal of Prof. Fletcher for what amounts to an unsavory political move may damage campus free speech in the future, especially for the conservative community that is a minority on most UC campuses. While Prof. Fletcher’s statement necessitates an apology, to say it rises to the level of dismissal creates a dangerously low bar that could harm ideological minorities on campus in the future.
We feel that Prof. Fletcher should apologize to students for this generalization, but do not feel that these comments are grounds for suspension or dismissal. We believe that an apology of this nature should alleviate the concerns outlined by the College Republicans at UCSD.
But while College Republicans might be correct in their denunciation of Prof. Fletcher’s comments, they have shown a lack of consistency in their own official statements since the election. They have rightly condemned the violence at the Capitol, but their statement ignores the fact that the attacks on our democracy also came from Republican lawmakers inside of Congress.
And while we support many of the claims of the College Republicans in their statement about Prof. Fletcher, they have not made a statement since the election in opposition to months of unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud coming from the president, several senators, and dozens of representatives. We understand why members of the College Republicans, especially Jewish and other minority members, are concerned with Prof. Fletcher linking them to white supremacists, but we hope they are equally concerned about President Donald Trump’s repeated waffling when asked to denounce white supremacists and right-wing extremists, as he displayed prior to the 2020 election, after the Charlottesville protests, and just last week at the Capitol.
We feel this lack of consistency truly damages the very principles of community College Republicans at UCSD rightly hold Prof. Fletcher to in their statement. With this in mind, we urge Prof. Fletcher to apologize for his comments and for the College Republicans to reconsider their call to fire Prof. Fletcher for his statements. We hope that this incident can serve to illuminate the importance of mutual respect and consideration at UCSD.
We encourage any individuals or organizations on campus at UCSD to sign on to this statement from The UCSD Guardian, to ensure the voices of as many students as possible are heard by the university regarding this issue.
UCSD Guardian Editorial Board Members
Jahfreen Alam – Editor-in-Chief
Jack Trent Dorfman – Managing Editor
Andrew Ha and Troy Tuquero – News Editors
Zara Irshad – Opinion Editor
Nelson Espinal – Features Editor
Additional Signees (will be edited as more signatures are added)
Praveen Nair – Sports Editor
Sophia Nguyen – Chief Copy Editor
Sparky Mitra – Contributing Writer
Hanaa Moosavi — Staff Writer