San Diego State University President Adela de la Torre has been accused by one of her former deans of saying that education leaders in California cannot obtain or keep top jobs unless they pass a left-leaning "political litmus test."
The accusation, which de La Torre denies, was made by Lance Nail, who stepped down as dean of SDSU's Fowler College of Business in May, less than two years after his high profile recruitment from Texas Tech University, where he was an innovation expert.
Nail said Monday that de la Torre made the political claim when he told her he was leaving for a deanship at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. At the time, he was willing to consider staying at SDSU, which hoped that he would make the most of a $25 million donation the campus received to improve the business school.
Nail claims that de la Torre said, "If you're not a Democrat and you don't support unions there will be no place for you in education in California."
He added that, "I was shocked; you shouldn't have to pass a political litmus test to keep a job."
Nail said he believed that de la Torre was talking about him, even though he had not disclosed his political leanings.
"I ... unequivocally deny that statement," de la Torre told the Union-Tribune Monday in a statement. "Furthermore, any sentiment that is exclusionary to one group or identity is out of alignment with my values.
"Diversity and inclusion have been a focus and priority at every level during my presidency, meaning I appreciate the identities and perspectives of every one of our students, faculty, and staff. These values are reflected in our mission statement, are strongly embedded in our strategic planning process and underscore how we approach one another as community members."
Nail's claim also elicited surprise Monday from Adam Day of San Diego, chair of the board of trustees in the California State University system.
"I find it difficult to believe that any campus leader would say something like this, and the alleged statement strikes me as out of character when it comes to the personal values of President de la Torre," Day said.