Education: Chancellor in a Crossfire

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Charles Young has a lot going for him. Healthy, ruggedly handsome and 38, he is in his second year as chancellor of the University of California at Los Angeles. Unlike many of his peers across the land, he enjoys the respect and affection of most of his teachers and students. But this week Chuck Young confronts an impossible dilemma: he must decide whether to rehire Angela Davis, 26, a black assistant professor of philosophy, a former Black Panther and a self-avowed Communist. "The board of regents and the public want her out," says Young, "and the faculty will lose faith in me if I don't sign her up again."

Last fall the board tried to fire Miss Davis, citing resolutions going back to 1940 that barred Communists from the faculty. Taking its cue from recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, a Los Angeles superior court held those resolutions unconstitutional. While Miss Davis kept on teaching, Governor Reagan and his not-so-Silent Majority of regents mounted a campaign of invective, to which she vigorously responded in kind. If Young decides to reappoint her, says conservative Regent John Canaday, "all hell's going to break loose."

Appropriate Criteria. In February, the regents ordered a "blue-ribbon committee" of U.C.L.A. faculty members to investigate charges that Miss Davis was propagandizing her students and making fiery public speeches. Last month the panel reported its findings to the regents —and apparently gave them no grounds for dismissal. The philosophy department has endorsed her reappointment after the most extensive review of academic qualification "ever conducted in such a case."

Chancellor Young, who opposed last fall's attempt to oust Miss Davis, clearly subscribes to the principle that a teacher's political beliefs are of concern only to the teacher. "I'm not saying we ought to have Communists teaching in the university," he explains. "What is at issue is whether or not a person can be appointed on the basis of what the university community—supported by the courts—feels to be appropriate criteria." Among those criteria, says Young, are the individual's knowledge, quality of preparation and teaching ability—plus such "attributes of character as objectivity in teaching and operating within the parameters of professional conduct." Factors that should have no bearing on appointments: "lawful party memberships, taking unpopular positions, and personal antipathy or repugnance."

Tactical Ploys. Governor Reagan, most of the regents and much of the public angrily decry the presence of a Communist on a state university faculty. Young is worried about the faculty, too. As he sees it, "They will not support a position ultimately based on how unhappy some legislators or the board or the public will be." Says one history teacher: "If Professor Davis were fired, faculty members would have to recognize a political test for teaching at the University of California."

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