Students at University of Wisconsin System schools might not need to use the “My dog ate my homework” excuse for late work anymore; the federal government shutdown could suffice.
UW System professors and students are encountering new roadblocks on assignments due to the recent federal government shutdown. However, a UW-La Crosse professor attracted national attention for political comments made amid shutdown frustration.
When UW-La Crosse students in a geography class were unable to gather information for an assignment, geography professor Rachel Slocum sent out an email blaming U.S. House Republicans for her students’ inability to complete their assignment.
“Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government,” Slocum wrote in the email. “The Census website, for example, is closed. Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts that you’re unable to do because of the shutdown will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government.”
Hannah Bresson, UW-Lacrosse College Republicans co-chair, said as a conservative student on campus, she was concerned about the email.
“As a student on campus, I don’t appreciate being given a viewpoint,” she said. “It wasn’t that it was a liberal bias, or a conservative bias, it was that there was a bias.”
Bresson added most professors are professional and conceal their opinions, but there is a considerable liberal bias from professors on campus.
Once the email was circulated to Yahoo! News, Gawker and other news websites, UW-Lacrosse Chancellor Joe Gow sent an email to students and faculty Tuesday evening.
In the email, Gow said partisan statements about the shutdown are only acceptable if they contribute to the educational experience and do not offend students who hold different views.
He added the university will continue to do everything possible to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
“We proudly support academic freedom and free speech, but we want to make sure that if partisan comments are made, they are designed to encourage classroom discussion, not impede learning,” Gow said in an interview with The Badger Herald.
According to Gow, no official complaints were filed, but questions were asked about the university’s response.
Gow said Slocum will not lose her job and has not been given a suspension. He added an official investigation has not begun because no formal student complaint was filed.
“We have simply conveyed our concerns,” Gow said.
UW-Madison junior Elise Kissell said she was stalled when she could not get to the U.S. Census website for a sociology assignment. The assignment was to analyze the phrasing of a question on the site, but after the shutdown, her professor was forced to find other means for finding data on privately run sites.