CSUMB Target of Lawsuit on Political Speech
October 19, 2012
Many professionals in academia have been outspoken about their support for Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot, but a lawsuit is questioning where and when such political support is appropriate at California State University, Monterey Bay.
CSUMB student Matthew Bolner and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an anti-tax group, filed suit on Thursday against CSUMB alleging a professor inappropriately encouraged students and their families to back Prop. 30.
Humanities and Communication Division Director Ernest Stromberg sent an email from his CSU email address asking students to support the ballot measure, according to the complaint.
The Sept. 27 email went to some 360 students, and encourages them to back the initiative. “If Prop. 30 does not pass...CSU students will face higher fees [and] fewer classes,” states an excerpt of the email included in the complaint. “If we work together to pass Prop 30 ... students will get a $498 tuition refund.”
The email closes by asking students to “share this information with your family and friends and encourage them to vote their support for the CSU System this November.”
The lawsuit argues California law prohibits state officials from using public resources for campaign activity.
“This campaign mailing violates the constitutional rights of taxpayers and students whose tax dollars and student fees are being misused to promote a political cause which they do not support,” Jon Coupal, president of Howard Jarvis, said in a statement.
CSUMB Interim President Eduardo Ochoa emailed all faculty and staff yesterday reminding them not to use university resources to talk politics, and not to talk about it on the clock.
"CSU agrees that Professor Stromberg's email was inappropriate and unfortunate. It was sent by him as an individual, and not on behalf of the institution," CSU General Counsel Christine Helwick said in a statement. "We have previously reminded faculty and staff that it is not permissible to use state resources for any political advocacy. This email clearly crossed that line and the campus is taking appropriate personnel action."
Proposition 30 would raise California’s sales tax a quarter of a percent from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent, generating an estimated $6.8 billion, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
If Prop. 30 fails, the state budget calls for an additional $6 billion in automatic spending cuts; the CSU system would take a $250 million hit.