A CIA agent will be allowed to deliver guest lectures in political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but his teaching status has been downgraded and he is forbidden to recruit, the school's chancellor announced Friday in a decision raising the issue of academic freedom.
The action by Chancellor Barbara S. Uehling came a day after student protesters occupied her office and demanded she ban CIA agent George A. Chritton Jr. from the campus. Police arrested 38 demonstrators Tuesday night.
"I firmly believe that a university must guarantee differing points of view especially so those that are unpopular can be heard and debated. To subject prospective appointees to political or ideological tests is antithetical to this essential purpose," Uehling said Friday, explaining why she wants Chritton to remain at the school as part of a CIA program that now has senior agents teaching at four American universities while on the agency's payroll.
However, Uehling followed the recommendation of her political science faculty and changed Chritton's formal appointment from that of a visiting lecturer to that of a visiting fellow. That means that Chritton can not teach his own courses and can lecture only if invited into other teachers' classes where, presumably, his ideas could be more easily challenged. Uehling canceled his winter-quarter course about intelligence gathering and also cut the length of his appointment from two years to one, with the possibility of an extension.
Chritton, a 30-year veteran of the agency, declined comment Friday. Central Intelligence Agency spokesman Bill Devine in Virginia said agency officials are not upset about the change in Chritton's status. "We have perfect confidence in the university. What they choose to call him is up to the university," Devine said.
The protesters said the reputation and intellectual integrity of the campus will be soiled by having a teacher who represents what they allege to be the criminal acts of the CIA. The critics also say Chritton's presence could make UC Santa Barbara teachers traveling abroad the targets of anti-American terrorism. Chritton's supporters say that academic freedom is at stake and that even opponents of the CIA could learn something from his lectures.
No Protests Elsewhere
Chritton's downgraded role appears to be in line with that of other CIA officers in the agency's visiting scholar program, according to interviews with officials at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin. There have been no protests at those schools against the CIA officers' presence, the officials said.
According to UC officials, Chritton signed a new appointment contract Friday in which he agreed not to "actively" recruit students for CIA careers. Devine said the agreement matches the teaching program's goal of giving students the foreign policy insights of CIA officers. "He is there if people want to reach out to him but he is not going to reach out himself," Devine stated.
In a June letter, a CIA official wrote to the UC Santa Barbara political science department that Chritton's appointment would, among other things, "enhance CIA's recruiting efforts by providing an opportunity for experienced officers to serve as role models to counsel interested students on career opportunities with the CIA," campus spokeswoman Margaret Weeks said.
Uehling said her decision on Chritton was made in response to a request last week by political science faculty and not meant to answer the demonstrators. Chritton's original appointment was made last summer by the office of the vice chancellor for academic affairs in consultation with the department chairman. However, the university allows tenured faculty in each department to review any such appointment. "As administrators, we take their judgment very seriously," the chancellor said.
Campus police said Friday night that there has been no further trouble on campus. However, some students said they will not be surprised if protest actions erupt again soon. Some of the 38 arrested Thursday were taken to the Santa Barbara County Jail and remained overnight; a spokeswoman there said that all were expected to be released by Friday night and that it remains up to the district attorney to decide whether the students should stand trial on the charges of trespassing and, in some cases, resisting arrest.
Georgetown is now host to its second visiting scholar from the CIA. David Newsom, associate dean of the Foreign Service School, said: "There's been no effort to hide the fact that he is from the Central Intelligence Agency, and we have not had any problems with that on this campus. He is not teaching but is there as a resource person and assisting in courses on national security and intelligence."