A professor at California State University, Northridge is appealing a finding by school officials that he retaliated against students who complained of anti-gay and anti-women discrimination after they voluntarily attended an event concerning family issues at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for class credit.
The Cal State Northridge professor is Robert O. Lopez.
The taxpayer-funded university’s office of equity and diversity conducted a secret, 245-day investigation against Lopez, a tenured associate professor of English and classics.
When Lopez was finally presented with the secret charges against him, school officials permitted him to defend himself in an interview with Susan Hua, Cal State Northridge’s Title IX Coordinator.
On three occasions during the two-and-a-half hour interview, Hua compared voluntary attendance at a conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to appearing at a Ku Klux Klan camp, Lopez told The Daily Caller.
Throughout the duration of the interview, Lopez also said, Hua did not permit him to see the actual complaint lodged against him or an official list of the charges he faced.
The Reagan Library conference occurred on Oct. 3, 2014. It was entitled “Bonds that Matter” and featured speakers discussing family issues and the rights of children.
Lopez gave an assignment to the students who opted to attend the six-hour conference. The assignment involved creating family-related exhibits drawing on in-class readings about family obligations.
“You should not be commenting on present-day debates about children’s rights, rather giving an objective view of children and family,” Lopez explained in his syllabi.
About 75 percent of Lopez’s approximately 160 students for the fall semester (across four different 300- and 400-level courses) chose to create exhibits and to attend the conference at the Reagan Library, about 40 minutes by car from the Cal State Northridge campus.
Lopez also attended the conference but was not among the five speakers. Students who chose to complete an optional writing assignment instead did not attend.
According to complaining students, conference speakers — all women — made anti-gay and anti-female statements during a question-and-answer session. These alleged statements include “women who use sperm banks are evil” and “gay people cannot be parents.”
Lopez categorically says the students are lying. He has presented a transcript of the Q & A session to prove his claim.
“Gay adoption came up a few times because students prodded the presenters on the topic, straying from the focus of the talks,” the professor has explained.
The students who prodded conference presenters about gay adoption are among the students who then complained about the issue of gay adoption being raised at the conference.
One of the complaining students, a gay English major, claimed to be so distraught after attending the conference on family issues that he could no longer continue attending Lopez’s class on Greek and Roman mythology and thus failed it.
Lopez disputes this student’s claim, primarily because the student had never enrolled in the mythology course but was instead enrolled in a course concerning American novels. Prior to the conference, the gay student missed 50 percent of the scheduled class sessions for the course in which he was enrolled, Lopez explains, and ultimately missed 85 percent of the classes. The student also turned in no assignments, Lopez says.
“It appears that the allegations against me can be summarized thus: Because I did not warn women and gays not to attend the conference I organized, I caused them to come unprepared for dangerous ideas,” Lopez wrote in his defense this summer. “In other words, the students allege the conference was sufficiently discriminatory against gays that they would have needed trigger warnings before going.”
Cal State Northridge officials cleared Lopez on all the original charges in October. They admitted that an offer of credit for optional attendance at a Reagan Library conference is not intrinsically discriminatory.
However, school officials then found the professor guilty of charges of retaliation — charges which Lopez says school officials only brought later.