Cal State–Fullerton Reinstates Lecturer after Loyalty Oath Controversy

By on June 4, 2008

California State UniversityFullerton has decided to reinstate Wendy Gonaver, the lecturer who was fired last August for refusing to sign the state’s loyalty oath without being allowed to attach a brief personal addendum.

Gonaver, a Quaker and lifelong pacifist, objected to the oath’s requirement that she agree to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Therefore, she sought to add a brief statement explaining her views on the matter and her belief in nonviolence, but the university refused to make the accommodation despite the fact that other state employers, including the University of California system, have allowed employees to do just that. The oath, which is embedded in the California state constitution and is required of all state employees, has also been a matter of contention at other CSU schools, including CSU-East Bay, where an instructor was fired in February for refusing to sign the oath unamended before subsequently being rehired.

In the Fullerton case, Gonaver has reached a compromise with the university whereby she will be allowed to attach the following addendum to the oath:

I support and respect the United States Constitution and the California Constitution, and I fully intend to abide by the oath that I have been required to sign as a condition of my employment by California State University (‘CSU’). As an American, I do object, however, to being compelled to sign such an oath, and want to state my belief that such compulsion violates my right to freedom of speech. And, as a Quaker, in order to sign the oath in good conscience, I must also state that I do not promise or undertake to bear arms or otherwise engage in violence, and I have been assured by CSU that my oath will not be construed to require me to do so.

Gonaver states that she was always willing to negotiate the language of the addendum, but the university’s strict stance against additions brought the case to this point (when it could have been resolved easily last fall). Now, however, she can finally think about preparing for her classes in the upcoming fall semester. Along the way, she has chalked up an important victory for freedom of conscience.