California State University officials acknowledged Thursday that one of their professors had crossed the line in using public resources to advocate for Proposition 30.
The admission came after the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association alleged in a lawsuit that a CSU, Monterey Bay, professor sent students an email advocating in favor of the initiative that is Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to raise taxes to alleviate the state budget deficit.
The email from professor Ernest Stromberg urges students to help pass Proposition 30 and notes that students will face higher fees and fewer classes if the measure fails, while they stand to receive a $498 refund if it passes.
The state plans to cut CSU funding by $250 million if voters reject Proposition 30. That could result in "threats of layoffs, furloughs, and other draconian cuts" to CSU employees, the email says.
Stromberg's email violates the law that forbids using public resources for political campaigns, according to the lawsuit.
"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, the association's president.
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 impact Proposition 30 will have on college students and employees is one reason the campaign is touring campuses to rally support. Brown spoke to hundreds of students about it at Sacramento City College on Thursday.
"The idea of Proposition 30 is to put some more money into state coffers so we can pay for schools and colleges and the University of California. This is a crucial opportunity," the governor said.
Proposition 30 calls for raising sales taxes by a quarter-cent on a dollar for four years and income taxes for seven years on those making more than $250,000.
Most of the $6 billion that would be raised from the measure each year would go toward K-12 schools and community colleges. If the measure fails, community colleges are in line to receive a $385 million cut, which would mean 140,000 students could be shut out of classes.
Sacramento City College was the second campus the governor visited this week, following an appearance Tuesday at UCLA.