Cal State Fullerton Faculty Leader Denies Gag Order Limits Professors' Free Speech Rights

UPDATE, OCT. 26, 9:05 A.M.: In an email exchange with a campus lecturer, a Cal State Fullerton faculty leader denies trying to limit free speech through a gag order imposed after an associate professor publicly blasted overpriced textbooks.


In light of the order from Emily Miller Bonney after she sat on the Faculty Hearing Panel that dealt with associate math professor Alain Bourget's grievance on Friday, Mel Opotowsky, a communications lecturer, emailed Bonney the following: “Recognizing the weight of your burden, I nevertheless respectfully must raise my concern regarding this attempt to call for a suspension of the faculty's First Amendment rights. How can the voices and ideas of the university community be considered an outside influence?” Bonney's reply: “Allow me to clarify. My email was not an attempt to call for a suspension of the faculty's First Amendment rights. We had an evidentiary hearing on a grievance on Friday the 23rd, and the faculty on the committee are expected like a jury in a trial to make their recommendations based on the evidence they heard not the opinions and views of those who were unable to hear the evidence. Thank you for your concern, Emily.”

ORIGINAL POST, OCT. 26, 7:03 A.M.: A Cal State Fullerton faculty leader has essentially imposed a gag order to prevent professors from exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech–at least as it concerns overpriced textbooks.

This is an issue I know quite well, as someone very near and dear to me who worked for decades producing the textbooks one finds in California schools often complained to me what a rip-off they are for students. As a for-instance, this source would point to a textbook that would cost a certain amount one year and, with the simple addition of a supporting DVD slipped into it, would cost several dollars more–and state public schools, colleges and universities would require students to purchase the unnecessary updated version lest they risk failing grades.

It's probably the only instance where print isn't dead.

Anyway, the CSUF flap comes from associate math professor Alain Bourget, who got a grievance hearing Friday after formally being reprimanded after assigning an older version of the textbook Differential Equations and Linear Algebra.

At the hearing, Maria Osorio, Cal State Fullerton's interim director for faculty labor relations, defended the university requiring the $180 updated copy versus the $76 book Bourget believes is perfectly fine for his students. The teacher explained at the hearing he was trying to do what was best for his cash-strapped students, but Osorio maintained it's school policy to use the more expensive one.

A professor's academic freedom be damned, obviously.

The grievance hearing ended with no decision, and now Emily Miller Bonney, associate professor of Liberal Studies and chairwoman of the Faculty Hearing Panel, has sent a letter to fellow faculty members that essentially says keep yer yappers shut:


As chair of the Faculty Hearing Panel I am requesting that further discussion of the issues surrounding the 23 October hearing of Dr. Bourget's grievance be suspended until the members of the Faculty Hearing Committee have completed their work and made their recommendation. For similar reasons, that is to reduce the possibility of outside influence, I would also encourage faculty to abstain from communicating with the press until our campus process has been completed.

Thank you for supporting the integrity of the process-


Emily Miller Bonney
Associate Professor Liberal Studies
Chair Faculty Hearing Panel

The Weekly would ask Bonney for a penny for her thoughts but fear it would then be inflated to $27.63.

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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