After a new political debate club received a cease and desist order from the Cal State University, the organization’s president speculated that it was possibly due to an Instagram post that criticized Cal State Fullerton’s use of Proctorio, an exam monitoring platform.
The order demanded that the organization, which is not an official campus club, remove "CSUF" from their name within 24 hours before legal and administrative action could be taken.
Eli Lawrence, the president of the Forum Fullerton, said that the university had no problem with how the club branded themselves before their statement against Proctorio. He expressed confusion about another Instagram account called CSUF Barstool that promotes underage drinking and is not affiliated with the university, yet includes the school name.
He said that in his communication with the Student Life and Leadership department in the Division of Student Affairs, they seemed to be fine with the group’s actions.
“The timing is pretty suspicious but I can’t say I know for sure,” Lawrence said.
The club's post contained profanity and an explanation of the privacy concerns that the service has caused among the student population. It also included a link to a petition for the university to stop using the platform.
“This program is not only a blatant infringement of privacy but creates an implication of guilt,” according to the Instagram post. “We should ask ourselves why our tuition should be used to "catch cheaters" - when it could be allocated towards furthering our education and providing more resources to students in need.”
Ellen Treanor, CSUF’s chief communications officer, said in an email to the Daily Titan that the cease and desist order had nothing to do with the profanity in the Instagram post.
The order requested that the club remove the unauthorized use of the university’s name within 24 hours before taking legal action. As a result, the club, previously known as Forum CSUF, changed their name to Forum Fullerton. In addition to the name change, the account now states that they are independent of the university in its bio.
“At the time the group was not registered with Cal State (Fullerton) as a student group. It is my understanding that they are going through the process to become a registered student group,” Treanor said. “They would be able to use CSUF when they are registered.”
Treanor said when the club did not comply and remove CSUF from their name, an attorney got involved.
The Forum is in the process of becoming a registered organization, which would take until spring, Lawrence said.
In an attempt to address concerns as expressed by the CSUF community surrounding Proctorio, Provost Carolyn Thomas recently emailed the department chairs.
She suggested two options going forward with the situation and asked faculty to share their input. The university will continue using Proctorio but are debating about whether they should disable the video monitoring and simply use the test monitoring and the lockdown-browser functions instead.
“We realize that not everyone will be in agreement about the way forward. It is important, however, to check in with you as we navigate this issue with our faculty and our students so we can make the best decision,” Thomas said.
Lawrence said his main problem with Proctorio is that it requires students to share their data, and if they refuse then they can fail their classes. He said that it also makes students anxious as they take their exams.
The purpose of the club's post was to bring attention to the petition, which now has just under 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday, and Lawrence said he has no regrets with the club’s decision.
“I feel like their cease and desist letter kind of validated us,” Lawrence said. “If we’re outside the registration of the school, I feel like that gives us a lot more freedom to really talk about what we want to do.”
The Forum Fullerton is a club that aims to organize and facilitate socio-political debates among CSUF students with opposing viewpoints and backgrounds.
The club held their first debate last month, where students discussed whether the police should be defunded. After technical difficulties with the first live show, the club decided to continue with a prerecorded, edited format to be uploaded on Instagram during virtual instruction.
Lawrence said they are currently exploring topics for future events in which students can request to participate in. The Forum Fullerton will release their next episode on Oct. 22 which will center around whether students should return to in person classes in the spring.