An invitation to hold a debate about education


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Dear Chancellor Christ,

I hope you are well, and before turning to more substantive matters, I would like to congratulate you and welcome you to your new role as Chancellor of UC Berkeley, widely regarded as the number one public university in the world

I know you are a strong proponent of free speech and open dialogue, and applaud you for taking a strong stand on the importance of protecting university campuses as places for robust debate. As you stated on Berkeley Free Speech, "Free speech doesn’t come from a simple declaration. It is a process of engagement.” I couldn't agree more. 

For that reason I would like to invite you to chair a debate between me and the UC Berkeley Class of 1961 Chair of Undergraduate Education and former Chair of the Mathematics Department, Professor Craig Evans.

The proposition I think we need to debate is the following: 

"UC Berkeley undergraduate education should not be compared to working at McDonald’s."

In January 2016, following the wall of silence the University put up in response to my whistleblowing post, I filed a Whistleblower Retaliation and Defamation lawsuit against the University. My purpose was never to make much money, but simply to force the University to engage on the substance of what I had written and give their side of the story. That has now happened, and the University's version of events is now viewable as case number RG16801168 at the website of the Superior Court of California. It makes interesting reading

In particular, it appears from his sworn testimony, delivered under penalty of perjury, that Professor Evans does not agree with the proposition I have suggested above. His view is that the only way to provide education at scale to so many students is to adopt a factory-farming approach. That is why he sees nothing wrong with analogizing to McDonald's. I disagree. 

Furthermore, the argument put forward by the University in its legal filings was that my disclosures of waste, incompetence and inefficiency regarding education at UC Berkeley "do not rise to the level of being gross mismanagement" and represent "debatable differences of opinions concerning policy."

Very well, so let us have that debate.

There is a serious point here: Students at UC Berkeley, their families, and the taxpayer, are paying an awful lot of money for the education UC Berkeley provides. They, like the Class of 1961, would expect that that money is put to good use. I am sure they would not be pleased to hear that McDonald's is being used as a model for success.

I should be clear that my purpose here is not to humiliate anyone. Despite everything, I believe that Craig Evans is a good intelligent man with honorable intentions. Moreover, his views, and please correct if this is wrong, are entirely in keeping with the aspirations of the senior leadership of not just UC Berkeley, but many universities. That is why he occupies the distinguished position he does. 

And that is why it is so urgent that we hold this debate. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours sincerely, 

Alexander Coward