The Spin Continues at Cal State–Fullerton
June 6, 2008
Cal State–Fullerton is continuing its efforts to revise history in the case of Wendy Gonaver. As Azhar blogged yesterday, Fullerton spokesperson Paula Selleck e-mailed FIRE to deny that Gonaver had been fired for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. In response, Azhar pointed out in an e-mail to Selleck (reproduced in his blog entry) that, "Given that Gonaver received two appointment letters, signed a contract with the university, and participated in an orientation session for new faculty, it would seem fair to characterize the university's ultimate decision to terminate her employment as a firing." But Selleck is not giving up. FIRE received her latest e-mail yesterday:
Thanks for your reply.
The Los Angeles Times story does not report that she was hired, as its reporters know that she was not.
The California State University's own attorneys can attest to this fact. Feel free to contact Monique Shay in the CSU Office of the General Counsel at 714-278-1240.
Not signing the loyalty oath is akin to not providing a valid Social Security number. Without them, one can't complete the hiring process or begin work at the university.
Your story is inaccurate and should be corrected.
It's interesting that Selleck uses the Los Angeles Times article as evidence that Gonaver couldn't have been fired since she was never technically hired, as the headline of the article is "Teacher fired for refusing to sign loyalty oath." To insist that Gonaver was never "fired" when she was offered the job, had filled in all the paperwork, attended meetings and orientations, and was to start teaching the following day seems to me (and apparently to the Times) to insist on making a distinction without much of a difference—especially in this case, where the real issue was not her technical job status at the time she refused to sign the oath but the fact that she was told she had to sign an unmodified oath in the first place.
As with a lot of university rhetoric, the issue of whether Gonaver was unjustly fired or unjustly not hired is a smokescreen. From the beginning, the real problem in this situation has been Cal State–Fullerton's insistence that Gonaver sign an unqualified loyalty oath when most other California state agencies seem to have no problem with those who wish to make it clear that any defense they undertake of the U.S. or California Constitutions will be nonviolent. Allowing this really shouldn't be that hard a call, as provisions are made for conscientious objectors even during times of military draft. (For the amazing story of one such objector, read the citation of Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Desmond Doss.)
It goes without saying that teachers at a public university are hardly as likely as military draftees to be called on to defend the government in a violent manner. It's obvious that Fullerton is, in retrospect, embarrassed about what happened to Wendy Gonaver. But instead of seeking to revise history, the university should make an effort to learn from it.