Over the weekend, California Lutheran University’s Board of Regents voted to approve construction of the Elton and Janice Gallegly Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement to be built in the north atrium of the library.
The facility will house former Ventura County Republican Congressman Elton Gallegly’s donated archives, a replica of his Washington, D.C. office, and more space for students to study, said Kristine Calara, associate vice president of University Advancement.
“It’s really to honor his 33 years of service to this community, to our country, and even though people are Republicans and Democrats, we’re trying to honor the service, the public service, to our community,” Calara said.
Calara said in regards to the Board’s vote that “it was a debate, but it was passed,” as the members listened to presentations from individuals supporting the center and others raising concerns.
Colleen Windham-Hughes, a religion professor at Cal Lutheran who expressed concerns before the board, said some of Gallegly’s views “have been settled into policies and laws that run counter to the university’s values as an HSI [Hispanic Serving Institution] and as a university associated with the ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America].”
In terms of immigration, Gallegly was involved in the E-Verify program and did ride-alongs on raids that led to deportation of Conejo Valley residents, Windham-Hughes said.
Herbert Gooch, a political science professor and former director of Cal Lutheran’s Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) of which the center is a part, said “a university ought to show all sides of issues.”
Gooch said he remembers when the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was being built near campus, and faculty did not want to be associated with Reagan’s conservative views. He said today, no one looks upon the university differently due to the close proximity of the library.
“That doesn’t make us automatically republican any more than the library having some archives for research,” Gooch said.
On Friday, Oct. 6, staff of the Pearson Library at Cal Lutheran covered the windows where the center would be located in newspapers in “protest.”
A notice placed on the windows stated, “Some are protesting the destruction of the library’s aesthetic, and some the permanent installation of a political figure (any political figure) in the library.”
Students participated in the protest by posting sticky notes with statements such as “save the view.”
Planning for the center began in 2013 when Gallegly donated his archival papers and funds to begin a center dedicated to public service and civic engagement, Calara said.
The overall vision for the center is to include fellowships for students in the MPPA program, a speaker series and a scholar-in-residence program.
Thus far, the Gallegly Center has funded six Public Service Fellows who are selected in their junior year to finish a master’s and complete an internship in one year, according to the Cal Lutheran website.
Current Public Service Fellow Paulina Nunez said she had the opportunity to talk about her research and experiences before the board in support of the project. She said the center could inspire students and help them consider how to improve society.
“I just made the board remember that it’s not about what policy actions were taken by Elton Gallegly, it’s about what we can be doing in the future,” Nunez said.
Calara said the fundraising goal for the center’s library facility is $580,000, of which 92 to 93 percent has been raised through donations.
Windham-Hughes said that moving forward, those expressing concerns would like for signage to be placed on the interior, for the library staff to be consulted with on the project and for any communication regarding the center, such as press releases, to “explicitly acknowledge Mr. Gallegly’s record.” She said the board was given a document with such recommendations, but has not provided any feedback.
However, the Board of Regents did release a statement reaffirming that the center will be a non-partisan effort, Windham-Hughes said.
“I think fellowships are great, I think the archives are great, but I think carving space for the center in the library is problematic,” Windham-Hughes said.
The university submitted a proposal to the U.S. National Archives to have Gallegly’s archival papers sorted and digitized by an archivist, Calara said.
Gooch said having the archives at our university serves researchers, those interested in the “history of Congress and policy development” and the public.
The replica of Gallegly’s office will include fake windows showing his view of the capitol, his desk, plaques, and other furniture and items donated by Gallegly.
“To have him who has served five presidents and has served 13 terms in Congress. People may disagree with his perspective and his political views, but don’t we all have difference of perspectives and different point of views?” Calara said.