UC, Cal State System Employees Required To Sign Loyalty Oath

This story was written by Pegah Yazdy,

In 1952, amid a strong anti-communist sentiment in the nation, a law was passed in California that required all workers who were American citizens to sign a loyalty oath to be eligible to be hired for employment.

Now, more than 50 years later, the law still stands and has been the subject of recent debate.

When signing the loyalty oath, citizens agree to defend the constitutions of the United States and of California.

The oath also states that the signer acknowledges he or she will not advocate nor become a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocates the overthrow of the government by force or other unlawful means.

Wendy Gonaver, a prospective professor at California State University Fullerton, refused to sign the oath at the beginning of the school year and was not able to teach as a result.

Clara Botes-Fellow, a spokeswoman for the California State University system, said Gonaver did not sign the oath because she believed the language of the oath was a violation of her First Amendment rights and an instrument of intimidation and religious discrimination.

Gonaver, who is a Quaker from Pennsylvania, said she believes signing the oath is an infringement of her religious rights, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Quaker religion preaches pacifism and does not allow followers to take up arms or be violent.

Paula Selleck, a Cal State Fullerton spokeswoman, said university administrators tried to figure out a way to help Gonaver, but it ultimately was not in their power to do anything but follow the state law.

When the legal eagles tell you there are no exceptions, no addendums, no changes, we are stuck, she said. We were told plainly by the attorney generals office that there was no way she could be hired.

Phil Hampton, a UCLA spokesman, said this hasnt been a big issue at the University of California. He said because signing the oath is a requirement of the state, it is also the policy of the University of California.

Though employees are still be required to sign the oath, the UC allows people to attach an addendum to the oath that states that by signing, people are allowed to retain their right to refuse military service, he said.

The UC system and the campus want to be sensitive to people wanting to retain their rights of free speech, he said.

I think that allowing people to attach an addendum strikes an appropriate balance between expressing allegiance to the state and retaining your individual right to free speech, he said.

Selleck said all employees in the public sector are affected by this law and this includes all employees at the University of California, the California State Universities and California community colleges.

But noncitizens are not required to sign the oath, Selleck said.

Selleck said she is encouraged that when issues like this come up, it causes people to ask appropriate questions of themselves.

When issues like come to the surface, it causes an electorate or elected officials to sit up and ask if this is something we still want to be doing, she said.

A transcript from the California Office of the Attorney General states that the oath does not compel an employee to take any violent action ad only requires employees to work within the system of government to resolve problems and achieve change.

Botes-Fellow said another instructor at California State University East Bay was concerned that she would have to take up arms to defend the Constitution, which her religion would not allow.

A clarification was made in her case and a document was attached with the oath, which made it clear that she did not have to take up arms to defend the Constitution, Botes-Fellow said.

She signed the oath when she understood the oath was not asking her to become violent, Botes-Fellow said.

But Hampton said this has not been a serious problem at the University of California and there have only been a couple of instances in which people have asked to attach an addendum to the oath.

This oath applies to all persons who are employed by the university, with or without compensation, and this includes students, Hampton said.

Laura Linnala, a fourth-year Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics student, is an Associated Students UCLA employee and said she didnt expect to have to sign the oath but said she had no problems with it.

It makes sense to expect loyalty between the workers and whoever theyre working for, whether its for the state or a company, she said.

But Giovanny Panginda, a fourth-year psychology and sociology student, said he believes the loyalty oath is outdated because it goes back to the McCarthyism and communist scare of the 1950s and is against peoples personal rights.

McCarthyism really split America. People were really afraid of their neighbors, he said. I feel like its going to be another witch hunt if you force them to do these things, he said. If were students of history, we should definitely learn from the past.