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CSUN FACULTY FAILS TO SWAY STUDENTS ON DUKE INVITATION.

Byline: Terri Hardy and Steven J. Gorman Daily News Staff Writers

Faculty and administrators at Cal State Northridge appealed to student leaders Tuesday to rethink their decision to invite former Klansman David Duke to campus for an affirmative-action debate.

But student body President Vladimir Cerna emerged from the closed-door meeting adamant that the students will proceed with plans to pay Duke $4,000 to appear at a planned Sept. 25 debate with civil rights activist Joe Hicks.

``We're going to stick with it, with our decision, no matter what consequences it brings,'' Cerna said. ``The student representatives decided that's what we want, and we're not budging.''

Duke's invitation has been sharply condemned by Gov. Pete Wilson and supporters of Proposition 209, a ballot initiative to end racial and gender preferences in state public employment, education and contracting.

The proposition's backers accuse student organizers of the debate of deliberately using Duke and his image as an extremist to tar the ballot measure, also known as the ``California Civil Rights Initiative.''

Faculty President James Goss, chairman of California State University, Northridge's religious studies department, said he called Tuesday's meeting to give professors a chance to convey their concerns, but in the end found the student leaders intransigent.

``They're not coercible,'' Goss said. ``If I can't coerce them as a faculty member, then no one can.''

Meeting in private with Cerna and several other student government leaders Tuesday were Goss, five other faculty members and three administrators, including Student Affairs Vice President Ron Kopita, participants said.

Faculty members are generally supportive of students' rights to invite speakers of their choice to campus but feel Duke's presence will unfairly skew the debate and reflect poorly on the university, Goss said before the meeting.

``They have in a sense loaded the dice,'' Goss said. ``They have one person on the anti-affirmative action stance who's known primarily for being a Ku Klux Klan member and a racist.''

Goss and other faculty members also raised concerns that controversy generated by the debate could damage the university's fund-raising efforts.

But as yet, there was no sign that large numbers of alumni or other contributors were moving to withdraw their support, according to both Michael Hammerschmidt, director of university development, and Alumni Association President Wayne Adelstein.

Ward Connerly, University of California regent and chairman of the Proposition 209 campaign, has accused student leaders of engaging in a conspiracy to discredit the initiative by linking Duke with the ballot measure and its supporters.

Cerna has denied this, saying Connerly declined his initial invitation to take part in the debate and that Duke is more than qualified to participate because of his longtime and outspoke opposition to affirmative-action programs.

A week ago - two days after the Student Senate voted 12-11 to back the Duke-Hicks matchup - Cerna rebuffed Connerly's offer to debate in place of Duke if the students rescinded their invitation to the former Klan leader.

Cerna's meeting with faculty leaders came as pressure mounted from as far away as San Francisco to scrap Duke's appearance.

At radio station KSFO in San Francisco, talk show host Michael Savage started an on-air pledge drive to raise $5,000 to pay Duke not to come to the Northridge campus.

``We're asking our listeners to contribute their money to make a pledge to pay David Duke to stay the hell out of California,'' Savage said. ``This is obviously a dirty trick campaign from the liberal left who would like to see the `CCRI' issue smeared with David Duke.''

The station raised $2,500 in pledges during Savage's first hour on the air Tuesday and expects to drum up the rest today, but Duke himself called in during the program and flatly refused to accept the money, Savage said.

Savage said if Duke won't accept the money the station may use the money to buy newspaper ads denouncing the appearance.

A spokesman at Duke's campaign for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana said the former state legislator was out campaigning and could not be reached for comment.

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Photo

PHOTO From left, CSUN students Joseph Willis and Navis Oliv er listen Tuesday to Hunter Allen and Tanya Troy speak against David Duke.

Michael Owen Baker/Daily News
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 11, 1996
Words:703
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