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Planned Sarah Palin CSU speech stirs California protest

Students and other critics want to know if Sarah Palin will be paid $100,000 or more for her CSU speech. Is the state university – part of California government – obliged to reveal the confidential contract?

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State politics involved

The controversy has found its way to the state capitol.

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“CSU Stanislaus officials sought out Sarah Palin, negotiated her contract behind closed doors, and are now welcoming her to our public university, yet they think they are above the law in disclosing to the public the cost of her appearance,” said Senator Yee, in a statement. A law authored by Yee in 2008 states that regardless of any contract term to the contrary, a contract between a private entity and a state or local agency is subject to the same disclosure requirements as other public records.

Yee says if the university’s administration has documentation of the Palin contract – which he claims “would be logical” considering the foundation is fully staffed by public employees within the administration – then state law would require the release of such information at the request of a member of the public.

“State law is explicitly clear that such confidentiality clauses hold no legal bearing,” he says. “If the CSU administration has documentation of this compensation contract, then they need to immediately disclose it. Students and members of the public deserve and have a right to view this contract.”

Add another speaker for balance?

Others say the speaker should be broadly acceptable to avoid spoiling the day for some grads and their families. Still others say an opposing speaker could balance the festivities.

"The Palin invite is good," says Robert Langran, political science professor at Villanova University. "It would also be good for the school to bring in another speaker with the opposite point of view to try to achieve a balance."

Whatever the objections, many say they are exacerbated by tough economic times. A national day of action saw student rallies that began in California spread nationwide in protest of cuts in education. There were campus strikes and sit-ins.

“Our students are being slammed by enormous fee hikes while cuts mean they can’t get the classes they need,” says Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association. “This resistance to transparency is another slap in the face. CSU executives are at the top of these so-called auxiliaries, and they need to show more respect for the people they supposedly serve.”

CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani has declined to comment about Palin's appearance, referring questions to Matt Swanson, president of the university foundation which invited Palin.

"I am thrilled that we're in a country where we can exercise our free speech," Swanson told the Sacramento Bee.

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