The CSU Name

The name of the California State University is a significant asset of the institution and the Office of General Counsel has the responsibility to protect the CSU name against misuse and infringement. This information is provided to educate students, staff and members of the public about the following policies and law related to the use of the CSU name.

Ownership and Appropriate Use of the California State University Name

The California State University is committed to protect against the misuse of its name, not to prevent its appropriate use.

Ownership of the CSU name

Education Code section 89005.5 provides that the name "California State University" and the names of all of the CSU campuses, nicknames and abbreviations belong to the State of California. Examples of the CSU n​ame include Cal State, California State University Stanislaus, CSUS, San Diego State University, San Diego State, SFSU, Cal Poly, Sonoma State University, Sonoma State, the California State University Maritime Academy, Cal Maritime, CSU, and so on.

Misuse of the CSU name

It is inappropriate to use the CSU name without the written permission of the institution for any purpose, including:

  • Designating a business, social, political, religious or other organization;
  • Claiming an affiliation or endorsement of the California State University, where none exists;
  • Advertising any meeting or activity that has the purpose of supporting or opposing any strike, lockout, boycott, or political, religious, sociological or economic activity; and
  • Any other commercial purpose.

Appropriate uses of the CSU name

It is appropriate to use the CSU name to describe a current or past affiliation with the institution or any of its campuses (e.g. employment or enrollment) or otherwise to describe the location of events.

Additional questions regarding appropriate uses of the CSU name

If you have any questions regarding the use of the CSU name, please address the appropriate local campus official, or contact the Office of General Counsel.

University Diplomas

The California State University does not sell, or license for sale, any diplomas, certificates, transcripts or recommendations from any of its campuses. Any business purporting to sell any such CSU documents is doing so illegally.

In recent years, some commercial vendors have emerged offering to sell what appear to be CSU and other well-known institutional diplomas. These "diploma mills" are operating without authority and have no affiliation to the CSU.

Diploma mills are a concern to the CSU because they cheapen college degrees by making them available without college-level work. They cast doubt on genuine degrees. They confuse employers, licensing agencies and the public. Wherever the CSU learns of its name being used inappropriately by any diploma mill, it takes immediate steps to stop this practice.

The purchase or sale of a CSU degree is illegal

Under California Education Code section 32381, anyone who prepares, manufactures or prints for compensation a degree or diploma without written authorization from the issuing school is guilty of a misdemeanor.

In addition, under California Education Code section 32382, anyone who buys or uses a diploma or degree that has been fraudulently or illegally issued, illegally obtained, counterfeited, materially altered, or found, is also guilty of a misdemeanor, and can be fined or jailed.

Fraudulent diplomas may be offered in different ways

There is another form of a diploma mill of concern to the CSU. Unaccredited schools that purport to offer college degrees based on minimal coursework or inappropriate life experience. These diploma mills sometimes use names that are similar to established universities. The CSU does not offer its diplomas through any of these schools.

Diploma mills share many characteristics, which are summarized on Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Fact Sheet No.6 (PDF).

If you know of a diploma mill that purports to offer a CSU degree, please contact the Office of General Counsel.

The Official Seal of the California State University

The official seal of the California State University (see below) is a symbol of the institution, and at the Chancellor's discretion, can be used for any official business, including alumni, student and other public events and projects that promote a better understanding of the institution. The Secretary of the Board of Trustees is the official custodian of the seal. See standing order(PDF).

CSU Seal  

Every CSU campus has its own seal, which may be trademarked and can only be used with campus permission. Campus seals »

Code Of Conduct for CSU Contractors

The CSU does not tolerate labor abuse. All CSU contractors that manufacture, assemble or package products, including those with the CSU name, logo or image, must certify that they do not use materials or supplies produced through sweatshop, child, convict or forced labor, and that they meet the applicable local, state and national standards relating to wage and working conditions. California Public Contracts Code section 6108. 

The CSU and its auxiliary organizations use best efforts to ensure that all licensees provide their employees with safe and healthful working conditions. These requirements are set forth in Chancellor's Executive Order No. 718 (PDF) and Section 210.10 of the CSU Policy Manual for Contracting and Procurement.

Consequences for Misuse of the CSU Name

The California State University strives to resolve any misuse of its name by first bringing the situation to the attention of the individual/business and requesting immediate correction. If that fails, or in the first instance in egregious situations, the CSU will take legal action to protect its name, which can result in civil and/or criminal penalties including:

  • Money damages or fines
  • Injunctive relief
  • Criminal charges
  • Seizure of infringing merchandise
  • Attorneys' fees

If you are in doubt about a particular use of the CSU name, please contact the Office of General Counsel.​​