SAN FRANCISCO — A Quaker college instructor who was not allowed to start a teaching job because she refused to sign a state-required loyalty oath has reached a settlement with the California State University system, the two sides announced on June 2.
Under the agreement, Wendy Gonaver, a lecturer in American and women's studies, will sign the oath as a condition of teaching at Cal State Fullerton this fall but be allowed to attach a statement explaining that she objects to the requirement.
"As an American, I ... want to state my belief that such compulsion violates my right to freedom of speech. And, as a Quaker, in order to sign the oath in good conscience, I must also state that I do not promise or undertake to bear arms or otherwise engage in violence," reads the agreed-upon declaration.
CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith said the university's lawyers thought the much longer wording Gonaver proposed attaching to the oath of allegiance a year ago undermined its integrity. The lawyers approved a "toned down" version, which led to the settlement, Keith said.
The original version stated that the oath was "an instrument of intimidation" and criticized the university for not informing employees early enough in the hiring process that they would be required to sign it.
Gonaver, 38, a Ph.D. candidate at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, disputed that the university objected only to the statement's content.
She said Cal State did not give her the option of affixing any statement to the pledge until the People for the American Way Foundation, a civil liberties group, intervened on her behalf.
"I couldn't attach anything at all," Gonaver said. "I had already made clear I had objections, and to have signed it would have been to commit perjury."
Gonaver said she was looking forward to working at Cal State Fullerton and felt like the faculty there were supportive.
Judith Schaeffer, legal director for the People For the American Way Foundation, which represented Gonaver, said the settlement cleared the way for any of CSU’s 46,000 employees to express their pacifist views.
"We're especially pleased, as is Wendy, that others facing the same situation will also be able to work with CSU to resolve any issues they may have about the oath," Schaeffer said.
Earlier this year, CSU also worked out an agreement with a math teacher at California State- East Bay who raised similar objections to Gonaver.
Marianne Kearney-Brown agreed to sign the oath after the state attorney general's office determined that signing would not oblige her to take up arms to defend the state, Keith said.