The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has sued the California State University alleging a professor at the Monterey Bay campus sent students an email advocating in favor of a tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The email is from Professor Ernest Stromberg, director of the humanities division, according to the lawsuit. It urges students to help pass Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to raise taxes to alleviate the state budget deficit. The email notes that students will face higher fees and fewer classes if Prop. 30 fails, while they stand to receive a $498 refund if the initiative passes.
The state plans to cut CSU funding by $250 million if voters reject the measure.
The lawsuit says Stromberg's email violates the law that forbids using public resources for political campaigns. Read the suit here.
"This campaign mailing violates the constitutional rights of taxpayers and students whose tax dollars and student fees are being misused to promote a political cause which they do not support," said a statement from Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
"This is one more example of those inside government who are taking advantage of their taxpayer-funded positions to force their political beliefs upon students."
CSU officials responded by saying Stromberg's email "was inappropriate and unfortunate."
"It was sent by him as an individual, and not on behalf of the institution. We have previously reminded faculty and staff that it is not permissible to use state resources including classroom time for any political advocacy. This email clearly crossed that line and the campus is taking appropriate personnel action," said a statement from Christine Helwick, CSU's general counsel.
The high stakes Proposition 30 has created for California's public universities has led to some campus tensions, as The Bee described earlier this week.
Editor's note, 1:19 p.m.: This post has been updated to add CSU's response to the lawsuit.