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FULLERTON : CSUF Faculty OKs Anti-Hostility Policy

Cal State Fullerton’s faculty leadership on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a sweeping policy barring hostile or discriminatory behavior and speech on campus, but stopped short of prescribing penalties for violators.

Supporters hailed the document, which still must be approved by the university president, as a strong statement putting Cal State Fullerton on record as opposing hate crimes and discriminatory actions and speech. Some observers, however, said that without specific sanctions the Academic Senate’s heavily revised document is “toothless.”

“The enforcement arm was taken out,” said David Mendoza, a member of a campus group of conservative Republican students who attacked the proposed policy as an infringement of constitutional rights of free speech. “It’s perfectly acceptable now. . . . It’s just a nice statement--one that I agree with--saying that racism is wrong and intolerance is wrong.”

There were two abstentions and one “no” vote among the approximately 50 members of the Academic Senate. Not all who cast ayes were wholehearted supporters, however.

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Political science professor Julian Foster said he reluctantly voted for the policy as “the lesser of two evils.”

“I felt I was placed in a box where I supported either freedom of speech or diversity,” Foster said. He dismissed such non-discrimination policies as “trendy” and added that he hoped this one would be placed alongside other such documents as the campus’ mission and goals statement. “I’m sure there’s room on the shelf if you just sweep the dust away,” he told fellow faculty.

The document calls for a campus environment that values diversity, tolerance and respect for human dignity, and is “free from all forms of invidious discrimination or discriminatory harassment.” University policy would discourage derogatory language and condemn insults based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

If such acts occur, the policy calls for the university to pursue sanctions under existing campus codes, labor agreements and state laws. Student conduct codes already provide for penalties ranging from a warning to suspension or expulsion for anyone found to have behaved abusively to a member of the university community. Disciplinary measures up to suspension without pay or dismissal are already available.

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Deleted from the final document are guidelines of the sort of speech to be prohibited--an omission that prompted geography professor Bill Puzo to cast the lone “no” vote.

“With the guidelines, I would have had to say something specific to an individual,” Puzo said. “Now, the kind of speech that is liable to sanction is not spelled out.”

But Academic Senate Chairman Stewart Long, an economics professor specializing in environmental issues, defended the policy in its final form.

“All we’re saying is that this is an important problem out there,” Long said. “We see hate crimes on the rise in the nation, the county, even at UC (Irvine). . . . We’re saying we will not tolerate that on our campus . . . (and) we are talking about speech that rises to the level of discrimination or harassing speech that hurts someone, like shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

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