A center to be built in the Pearson Library of California Lutheran University is facing pushback from members of the student body and faculty who feel the project undermines the university’s values.
The center to be called the “Elton and Janice Gallegly Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement” will house the archives and office replica of former Ventura County Republican Congressman Elton Gallegly, along with study space for students.
Construction for the Center began Nov. 13, but students have continued signing a petition to delay the project.
On that same day, faculty voted on a resolution to be sent to the Board of Regents calling for “meaningful dialogue” to occur prior to any further construction.
Multiple individuals said that the amount Gallegly has personally donated to the projects is between $80-85,000. President Kimball said, “$80 [thousand] sounds ballpark right … the whole endowment to be raised was $3 million, ballpark.”
Less than three percent of the funds for the Center’s endowment were personally donated by Gallegly.
Senior students Lia Ceja and Emily Sim started the petition after hearing about construction plans for the first time on Nov. 7.
The petition raises multiple concerns, one of which is the construction period, which will run through the weeks leading up to finals. It states that the library is often used as a “silent study space” and that construction will disrupt students who wish to utilize the space.
The petition goes on to state, “More importantly, after researching Elton Gallegly, we do not support his legislature and believe it contradicts what Cal Lutheran stands for…This Center serves as a monument to Mr. Gallegly’s service, one in which he targeted the identities shared by many of our students, people of color – particularly Hispanics, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants to this country.”
Director of Hispanic-Serving Institute Initiatives Paloma Vargas said that the Center hits home for many students and faculty who work to support those of diverse backgrounds and thought.
“What I do have concern with is ensuring that students of all backgrounds feel comfortable using the library regardless of what type of spaces are built there,” Vargas said.
Ceja said she is most upset that students were not given a chance to voice their opinions on the Center before it was approved by the Board of Regents last month during Homecoming Weekend.
“We have a voice too and I think it’s time they start listening to what we have to say,” Ceja said.
The library staff have also previously protested the construction of the Center by placing newspapers and sticky notes on the proposed site. A letter written by library staff was posted in the entry way of the building expressing their lack of support for the project.
The letter stated, “…the library does not endorse partisanship…Our major concern regards the placement of Gallegly’s replica office in the Pearson Library, and how it may be perceived as partisan bias.”
The sticky notes, newspapers and letter were taken down Thursday, Nov. 9. Gallegly was scheduled to visit the campus that same day.
According to a notice written by library staff, “The library staff have been asked to ‘thoughtfully remove[d] the newspapers and sticky notes…on the windows of the future Gallegly Center’ by University Administration. We acted on the request of the university, however, we do not support the removal of student opinions and voices.”
The library has since put the sticky notes and messages back up on the windows of the proposed site.
In regards to the request, President Chris Kimball said that it was a misunderstanding. Kimball said Associate Provost for Experiential Learning, Research and Faculty Development Grady Hanrahan told the library to remove its newspapers, sticky notes and letter. However, once Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson was informed of the situation, she contacted the library and told the staff they could put their materials back up.
“That was unfortunate, it shouldn’t have happened,” Kimball said.
Contractors have told Kimball that a soundproof wall will be installed in the library during construction to reduce noise levels.
“If it doesn’t work then something needs to be done, like stopping construction or only doing it when the library is closed or something like that, cause we don’t want people’s ability to work in the library to be interfered with,” Kimball said.
Kimball also addressed parts of the petition concerning Gallegly’s political past, in which some felt Gallegly did not reflect the values of Cal Lutheran. He said he understands that there are those who do not agree with some of the things Gallegly voted for and advocated for, but that Gallegly has said he wants the Center and fellowships to remain nonpartisan.
Kimball said the point of the Center is to give students in the Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program a background and resources to pursue careers in public service.
“If you look at the fellows who have gotten the fellowships over the past five or six years, in many cases they represent those very groups that supposedly he’s hostile to, and again he has been nothing but positive about all of the winners,” Kimball said.
Kimball said despite petition efforts, he thinks it would be hard to stop construction plans at this time, but if construction proves too disruptive to students during the semester, there may be a change to the plans.
“I think the big issue would be if the construction really interferes with the use of the library by students, that would lead to a pause or postponement,” Kimball said. “If it’s immediately obvious that it’s way too noisy then I can see the board saying ‘no lets put a halt to it.’”
The petition has over 325 signatures and counting as of Nov. 13.
*Article updated on Nov. 14., 2017
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