Photo from the CSULB website.
Just a week after she was named to a “Professor Watchlist” by the conservative nonprofit Turnaround USA for “advancing a leftist agenda,” Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) President Jane Close Conoley issued a message to the campus community, emphasizing respect of diverse opinions and discourse.
Published on Monday, November 28, before the Post’s story about her inclusion on the “Watchlist,” Close Conoley dove into the dynamics of the fraught election and emphasized tolerance of all political viewpoints—of those who identify as Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Party, Tea Party or other. She noted that the same country that chooses a candidate of a specific political persuasion can choose a candidate of an entirely different persuasion the next election cycle—but it is the same country nonetheless.
“I’ve also learned that no supporter of a particular candidate should be defined by the worst, and perhaps exaggerated, rhetoric spoken by candidates in the heat of a campaign,” reads Close Conoley’s message. “It’s very important that on our campus we do not define those who voted one way or the other by particular words that have been said during the long campaign season. We can hold candidates accountable for each word, but not their supporters.”
The message followed her inclusion on the “Professor Watchlist,” which said she “advanced a leftist agenda” in the following words:
“In an op-ed from 2014, Conoley stated that if you are ‘light-skinned’ you have ‘significant unearned privilege,” reads Close Conoley’s page on the watch list. “Moreover, these privileged individuals show distrust and ‘lower expectations of behavior’ of those with another skin color.”
As the Post covered, the statements were taken largely out of context, quoted as such in a conservative news outlet that relies on sensational images and headlines, campusreform.org.
“President Conoley gives the founders of the list a ‘D-’ grade at getting the facts right,” said CSULB Spokesman Terri Carbaugh in an email to the Post yesterday. “The list will have zero effect on how she conducts her business going forward.”
Later on in the message published Monday, Close Conoley addressed the liberal attitudes most commonly found on campuses, and urged respect of varying viewpoints.
“Universities can be ‘bubbles’—while announcing they invite diversity, they can actually be intolerant of diverse political viewpoints,” said Close Conoley. “Many universities tend toward perspectives that may be out of step with the lived experiences of those who are outside of the bubble. This is regrettable and deserves our careful attention going forward.”
She closed her letter with a call to embracing everyone, with all of their complexities.
“People can be fairly judged on their actions, but not on their voting records alone,” said Close Conoley. “Embracing the call of E Pluribus Unum is a challenging life task, but one very much worth the effort.”
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