Cal State Fullerton and alumnus Steve Mihaylo have mutually decided to end their relationship. The university has removed Mihaylo’s name from the College of Business and Economics. Mihaylo’s name will remain on the business school building.
“We appreciate Steve’s past philanthropy to his alma mater and are grateful that many Titans have benefited from his time and treasure,” said university President Fram Virjee. “We regret that he has elected to not fulfill his financial pledge to our College of Business and Economics. Regardless, the college will continue to thrive as one of the largest and best business schools in the west and a nationally-ranked powerhouse of academic excellence and upward mobility.”
Mihaylo’s gift commitments to the university began in 2004 and totaled $4.2 million toward the construction of a new building to house the university’s College of Business and Economics. That building bears his name in recognition of those fulfilled gifts. In 2007, Mihaylo pledged an additional $30 million to name the college. Mihaylo contributed about $8 million toward that $30 million commitment until 2016, when he stopped payments toward that pledge and expressly declined to meet his financial commitment. As a result, nearly $22 million from the original $30 million commitment remains unpaid, including an irrevocable planned gift component payable from Mihaylo’s estate upon his death. Despite repeated attempts by the university to work with Mihaylo toward fulfilling his commitments — including offers to extend the time, and to restructure or reduce the amount of the commitments — he has declined to do so.
“During multiple meetings with Steve in early 2018, he made clear that his ‘reengagement’ with the university and the fulfillment of his financial obligations was contingent upon the university purchasing communications equipment from his telecommunications company,” Virjee said. “We have been advised that fulfillment of such a precondition would be unethical and potentially unlawful. I shared that information with Steve a number of times and told him that such a prerequisite would never be acceptable to the university,” he added. “Faced with this information, Steve then pivoted to complaints of alleged financial waste by the university, and a claimed a lack of support for the First Amendment rights of political conservatism on campus. Both claims were without basis.”
Regarding claims of financial waste, “we are both confident and proud of our stewardship of our financial resources,” Virjee said. “Accordingly, I personally invited Steve orally and in writing to examine any area of the university’s finances — with full access to all data and information. This offer came with both the hope that he might identify and share areas in which we could improve and the confidence that such an examination would demonstrate to him our fiscal responsibility. Each time, Steve declined my offer but could offer no specifics to support his claim of financial waste other than that we would not purchase his communication system,” Virjee said.
As for claims of lack of support for the First Amendment rights of conservatives on campus, “I shared with Steve our First Amendment-mandated content-neutral policies regarding speech and expression and offered him the chance to work with any student or faculty group on campus to bring any conservative speakers or thoughts to campus,” Virjee added. “Again, he declined to do so. Instead, as a condition of his ‘reengagement,’ he sought an agreement that we would hire a Republican faculty member for every Democrat we hired. I, of course, explained that we could not and would not inquire regarding candidates’ political affiliations before hiring them.”
Cal State Fullerton’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, with opportunities to promote faculty teaching, scholarly and creative activities, and support services is outlined in the university’s Strategic Plan.
“The university does not make hiring or policy decisions or design educational programs through a political lens,” said Ellen Treanor, a spokesperson for the university. “This is a large and diverse community. A core value on campus is free and open expression in support of our diversity, equity and inclusion objectives.”
Mihaylo has specifically acknowledged that because of his failure to live up to his financial commitments, the university is fully within its rights to remove his name from the college. While Mihaylo’s financial commitments are legally binding, the university is not pursuing legal action against him at this time. Instead, “we seek to move forward with our many partners in this wonderful community who are fully engaged and committed to our core mission of student success. CSUF is a remarkable and transformative institution that is changing the lives of its students and their families, and creating a promising, vibrant and rich future for Orange County, California, and the nation. We are confident that there are many partners who share in that vision,” Virjee said.
For the president’s complete statement go here.
Cerise Valenzuela Metzger, Associate Director of Media Services, 657-278-4856
Chi-Chung Keung, Director of Media Services, 657-278-8487