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CSU Heads Warned on Prop. 209 Remarks

Politics: Chancellor urges them to be neutral on anti-affirmative action measure.


LONG BEACH — California State University Chancellor Barry Munitz on Tuesday cautioned his 23 campus presidents against collectively opposing Proposition 209, an idea that has already drawn fire from the initiative's supporters.

At a Cal State trustees meeting in Long Beach, Munitz said he believed that the presidents should "stay in line" with the university's Board of Trustees, which has not taken a position on the anti-affirmative action measure. While defending the presidents' right to speak out individually, Munitz said that acting collectively would "put them out in left field."

"Since neither the board nor I are going to take a position, it doesn't make much sense for the presidents collectively to take a position," Munitz said. "I'm saying: 'The board has chosen to stay the course [on affirmative action]. Stay in line with them.' "

For months, the heads of all the Cal State campuses have quietly considered issuing a joint statement condemning Proposition 209. Then last week, the chairman of the initiative campaign, University of California Regent Ward Connerly, charged that such an action by the presidents would be inappropriate.

"If they say, 'I represent Cal State Northridge, and as the president I am hereby opposing Proposition 209,' that crosses the line," Connerly said Tuesday. "I certainly don't want to intrude on anyone's freedom of speech. I just don't think they have the right to use their position for which the taxpayers are paying them to go out and take sides."

Several presidents said they expected to take Munitz's advice and refrain from issuing a collective statement. But they stressed that Connerly's objections had played no role in their decisions, and they vowed to continue their individual opposition.

"As a personal view, I think it's very important that leaders of important organizations in society also be civic leaders and citizens and have the right to speak out," said Cal State Northridge President Blenda J. Wilson. But a document signed by all the presidents, she said, "would appear as an institutional statement for the CSU, and I don't think we as presidents can speak for the CSU."

Robert Corrigan, president of San Francisco State, said he regretted that the collective statement was unlikely to go forward. But he said he believed that Munitz's advice--not Connerly's objections--had prevailed.

"I don't believe there is a single president that is concerned about Ward Connerly," he said. "What they are concerned about is maintaining a very, very good relationship with the [Cal State] board."

Donald Gerth, president of Cal State Sacramento, spoke more bluntly of Connerly. "The bully didn't win," Gerth said. "I think we may well be better off addressing the matter individually."

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