Canceled by the University He Helped Found

At California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), the Craven Taskforce is busy at work to cleanse the university of its connections to the late Senator William A. Craven, who helped found the school in 1978. The renaming taskforce consists of 23 members drawn from the faculty, the student body, and the larger community, who are entrusted with a mission to replace “the name and representation of William A. Craven at CSUSM with supporting evidence and arguments.” This month, the workgroup is hearing public statements from different stakeholders. It is expected to submit a final report to the university president by May.

This self-righteous movement to sever symbolic ties to Senator Craven, a moderate Republican of North County, was ignited last spring when the CSUSM Academic Senate voted 56-2-2 to remove any signs of him “to continue its commitment to racial inclusion, and to advance its vital work to promote diversity, racial and social justice in meaningful ways.” The university has targeted Craven for his allegedly “anti-immigrant and white supremacist” comments, dated back to the early 1990s.

Most of Craven’s reportedly racist remarks were blown out of proportion to fit a predetermined “crime.”  In 1991, the senator, ranked as the chairman of the State Legislature’s Special Committee on Board Issues, asked local school districts and hospitals in San Diego to participate in a survey to collect data on undocumented immigrants. He explained his proposal as an effort to better understand the fiscal impacts of illegal immigration on local public entities and to “lobby Washington officials … for more federal funds to pay for the cost of providing services to undocumented immigrants.”

In March 1993, Craven was interviewed by the San Diego Union-Tribune, which then reported that he referred to migrant workers as those on “a lower scale of humanity.” He later clarified that he meant to pinpoint the poor economic conditions of migrant workers and that his remarks had no racial intent. He stood by his commitment to champion policies that would promote the welfare of the underprivileged, an argument corroborated by subsequent tape recordings.

[Related: “Would Galileo Be Good Enough for Woke America?”]

In October 1994, amidst heated public debates surrounding Proposition 187—a California state ballot measure restricting undocumented immigrants from using public healthcare, schools, and social services—Senator Craven was again quoted by the San Diego Union-Tribune for supporting the possibility of requiring ID cards from citizens of Latino ancestry. In the general election a month later, Prop. 187 was passed with 58.93% of the vote and nearly made its way to codification until a federal court issued a permanent injunction against its implementation. Although the full context of Craven’s comments in support of Prop. 187 was not publicized and is not traceable today, the senator was labeled as an anti-immigrant nationalist.

Understanding the broader context behind public stances on controversial policies is important. It gives fair representation of the nuances in public deliberations and addresses the temporal and spatial specificities of the situation. On the other hand, taking one’s words out of context risks engineering ill-informed discord and needless divisions.

The case against Senator Craven is flimsy in light of his quarter-century-long public service career. A vocal supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment to Proposition 13, anti-pollution laws, and public funding for senior living and public parks, Craven was noted for his candor and independence as “an old-school politician equipped with charm and a long memory for names and local problems.” He was also respected for his fierce bipartisanship “to cross party lines without apology” and is remembered for his great sense of humor against partisan bickering.

Of all his accomplishments as a policy wonk and a classical statesman, Craven was particularly celebrated for his instrumental role in establishing CSUSM, which he “started lobbying for even before he was elected to the Assembly in 1973.” In 1994, when political activists pressured university leadership to rename Craven Hall, then university president Dr. Bill Stacy stated that “Sen. Craven has made enormous historical contributions to the founding of CSUSM,” and that“the proposed cure was out of sync with the problem.”

[Related: “Disrobing the Aboriginal Stalinists on a Canadian Campus”]

The facts CSUSM examined in 1994 before opposing Craven’s cancellation were the same as the ones currently under scrutiny by the Craven Taskforce. The only difference is that modern political winds blow decisively leftward, to the extent that a reputable academic institution spinelessly caves to irrational demands by political fanatics. CSUSM has conducted a kangaroo court to judge an honorable person’s life and legacy through a binary, racialized lens focused on cherry-picked words and phrases.

The targeting of William Craven is emblematic of today’s hostility toward ideological dissent and freedom of speech. Since 2015, progressive scientists and their media cheerleaders have demanded that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) rename the James Webb Space Telescope on the unfounded basis that the late James Webb promoted homophobic policies as a NASA administrator. The National Association of Scholars (NAS), meanwhile, has tracked 212 academic cancellations, in which academic administrators, students, and even professors in America and Canada have been shamed and, in many cases, disciplined for expressing heterodox views. Among those, my colleague at the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, Dr. Stuart Hurlbert, was singled out by a woke mob seeking to strip him of his emeritus professor status for his vocal support of non-progressive policies.

While subject matter experts, policy practitioners, and true intellectuals endure retribution for reasons largely unrelated to their professional contributions, the American public, at least its progressive segment, tastelessly consumes personal tragedies as symbols of racial and social justice. For example, a plethora of universities and colleges have created scholarships and memorial funds in George Floyd’s name. The Catholic University of America displayed a painting depicting George Floyd as Jesus Christ. It seems that America’s prestigious academic institutions would rather memorialize the tragic circumstances surrounding one man’s death than celebrate the living legacy of its great yet imperfect members.

Ironically, a majority of the Craven Taskforce members, including a “Chief Diversity Officer” and a “Director of Latin@/x Center,” are ideologically aligned with far-left woke dogma, while none have demonstrated direct knowledge of the late senator’s crucial work related to CSUSM. According to the chairman of the taskforce, the members were selected for their “intent to have inclusive representation of shared governance groups on campus.”

Do you think the taskforce will treat dear Senator Craven fairly? I wouldn’t count on it.


Image: Eamuscatuli, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Wenyuan Wu

Wenyuan Wu is Executive Director of the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation. Twitter: @wu_wenyuan

One thought on “Canceled by the University He Helped Found”

  1. It’s amazing how no one mentions how MLK2 treated women or that the Harris family had the largest(?) slave plantation in Jamacia, where slavery was far more brutal than in the US.

    I don’t think this is about past wrongs as much as raw, naked power. It’s a very Owellian attempt to re-write the past.

    This is not inclusion — it’s exclusion. And the middle shall cease to hold….

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