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CSUMB faces lawsuit over political email

Never mix politics with education – that’s what the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association is telling Cal State Monterey Bay.

Howard Jarvis filed a lawsuit against CSUMB Thursday, alleging that Ernest Stromberg, a professor of humanities and communication at CSUMB, sent out an email to his students advocating for the passage of Proposition 30.

According to Howard Jarvis’ lawsuit, Stromberg’s email contained phrases like, “If we work together to pass Prop. 30 … students will get a $498 tuition refund.”

The lawsuit cites Government Code section 8314, which states that it is illegal for a state employee to use “public resources for a campaign activity.”

Stromberg’s email “requested students to share the communication with their families and to ‘encourage them to vote their support for the CSU System this November,'” according to a Howard Jarvis website.

In response to the email and lawsuit, CSUMB Interim President Eduardo M. Ochoa sent an email of his own to all of his employees.

“I wanted to remind you that it is illegal to use any state resources for political advocacy,” Ochoa said in his email. “[Employees] should be aware that actions in contravention of state law by a university employee may result in disciplinary action.”

Some students, like freshman music education major Tim Cummins, said the lawsuit against CSUMB may be an overreaction.

“I think, if anything, [Stromberg] should’ve just educated his students on the possible pros of the proposition,” Cummins said.

In response to Stromberg’s email, the CSU also sent out a press release regarding the matter.

“The CSU agrees that Professor Stromberg’s email was inappropriate and unfortunate,” CSU General Counsel Christine Helwick said in a press release. “It was sent by him as an individual, and not on behalf of the institution.”

The other plaintiff listed in the lawsuit, besides Howard Jarvis, is CSUMB student Matthew Bolner.

According to the Monterey Herald, Matthew Bolner is a human communications major who received the email, as well as the chairman of Otter College Republicans.

Some students, like sophomore statistics major Ranil Weerackoon, said the professor should face consequences for his actions.

“I believe that Howard Jarvis has the authority to sue,” Weerackoon said. “Professors should avoid discussing politics, but, if the professors want to, they should provide information only about the props to students.”

According to CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis, the CSU does not support professors campaigning in the classroom.

“We have expressed to all of our employees, including faculty members, what the appropriate role is for election issues,” Fallis said. “We [CSU] do not use state resources or state time for campaign purposes.”

Professor Ernest Stromberg was not immediately available for comment.
 

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