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California Travel Ban Stalls Students’ Hopes to Contend in National Chemical Engineers Competition

California Travel Ban Stalls Students’ Hopes to Contend in National Chemical Engineers Competition

The Cal Poly Pomona Chem-E-Car team has been hit hard by the state-imposed ban on state-funded travel. (Courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona Chem-E-Car team)

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

7/24/2023

Updated: 7/28/2023

A group of chemical engineering students has been denied state funding to participate in a national competition in Florida because of California’s travel ban to certain states that don’t allow biological male athletes to compete in girls’ and women’s sports.
The ban, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in 2019, was recently expanded by three more states, boosting the total to 26.
As a result, the Chem-E-Car team at California Polytechnic State University—Pomona, was denied state and university funding to participate in the prestigious national American Institute of Chemical Engineers conference in November, College Republicans of America President Will Donahue told The Epoch Times.
“It’s a ridiculous reason why they can’t have state-funded travel,” Mr. Donahue said.
The students, he said, have worked hard to earn their spot in the competition after defeating other California college teams at the Western Regional Conference in the spring.
“It’s a talented team—really smart engineers, and it’s unfortunate that the state is not sponsoring them,” he said.
The cost of travel for the team is estimated at about $6,500 for airfare, hotels, and restaurants, he said.
Streetview of Cal Poly–Pomona in March 2019. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Streetview of Cal Poly–Pomona in March 2019. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

California lawmakers imposed the initial travel ban in 2016 with the passage of Assembly Bill 1887, a law that prohibits employees of state agencies to travel to any state that has enacted laws California deems discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. It also prohibits state-funded travel for employees and students to states on the list.
Legislation targeting the transgender community is part of a “concerning trend of discriminatory practices in states across the country, aiming to roll back hard-won protections,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a July 14 statement.
The law, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), requires the California attorney general to post and update a list of states that have been targeted under the ban.
Brittani Daniels, vice president of public affairs for the College Republicans group, told The Epoch Times that as a former track-and-field athlete, she is “appalled at the unfairness” of letting biological males compete in girls’ and women’s sports.
“It is insane to me that we’re acting like there’s really a debate whether or not boys and girls [should] compete in the same sports [teams],” she said.
Just as athletes compete in national championships, the Chem-E-Car competition is important to chemical engineering students.
“It’s national,” she said. “This is a big deal ... and they’re missing out on the opportunity because Governor Newsom wants to let boys play with girls.”
The Cal Poly–Pomona team had a good chance of winning the competition, according to Ms. Daniels, who added the event can open up job opportunities for students after graduation.
“They can’t even go, and they’re brilliant,” she said. “It’s extremely disappointing that students—especially students of color [and] women students—[who] put so much time and energy into being chemical engineering students are not going to have the opportunity to showcase their talents and all their hard work because of a travel ban based on not allowing biological males to compete with women in sports.”
In the competition, students must build a miniature vehicle that starts and stops as a result of a chemical reaction. Each team is given a specific distance that their car must travel, with the goal of achieving as close a distance as possible to the prescribed target.
At the regionals this year, the goal was a distance of 18 meters, and the Pomona team came within 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) of the target, claiming first place by a wide margin.
The University of California (UC)—San Diego came in second, missing the target by 1.1 meters (3.6 feet), and UC—Berkeley came in third at 1.75 meters.
Students pass through Sather Gate of the college campus at the University of California–Berkeley, in a file photo. (David A. Litman/Shutterstock)

Students pass through Sather Gate of the college campus at the University of California–Berkeley, in a file photo. (David A. Litman/Shutterstock)

Mr. Donahue said the College Republicans group is “incredibly disappointed” and blamed the travel ban for “stifling student growth.”
“Governor Newsom is preventing Cal Poly engineers, a team comprised mostly of women of color, from competing in a prestigious student competition—at the biggest chemical engineering conference in the world—because Florida doesn’t allow men to compete in women’s sports. This is absurd,” Mr. Donahue said in a July 21 statement.
The College Republicans have started a campaign to raise enough funds within the next couple of weeks to be able to send the student engineers, Mr. Donahue said.
“If Governor Newsom doesn’t want to sponsor women of color in STEM, the College Republicans will because this isn’t about political orientation. It’s about doing right by students when radical progressive policy restricts their ability to flourish academically.”
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Brad Jones

Brad Jones

Author

Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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