A school wide e-mail sent out this Monday by North Carolina’s Winston-Salem State University urged students not just to vote in upcoming elections, but to specifically support local Democratic candidates.
Michelle Redford, the university’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs, accidentally overlooked the e-mail’s politically biased information and proceeded to forward it to the student body, explains Winston-Salem’s spokesperson Nancy Young.
“This was purely human error on her part, and everyone believes that,” Young said.
It is illegal for state universities to publicly support any political party, so the e-mail was immediately retracted, Young said.
Young said the situation escalated when a student on campus forwarded the e-mail to chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, who in turn presented it to the media.
“There has been no student reaction to the e-mail on campus,” Young said.
However, Young said the Winston-Salem community is speaking out along with others who are concerned with the university’s actions nationwide.
Forsyth County Republican Party Chair Nathan Tabor is now calling on the local elections board to remove Winston-Salem State University as an early-voting site.
“If the e-mail would have just advocated students voting and told them where they can vote, that would have been fine. When you step over and tell students who to vote for and why, then you’re crossing the line,” Tabor said.
The e-mail sent out by the university included information on early-voting procedures and encouraged students to visit a Democratic Party webpage to volunteer for the Democratic Party, Tabor said.
It also urged students to vote for democratic candidates and encouraged students to get involve with democratic organizations on campus, Tabor said.
Tabor also requested the university send out an e-mail promoting the Republican Party, which they later did. The e-mail was retracted later that day, in the same amount of time after the school retracted the democratic e-mail.
Tabor said a Board of Elections meeting is scheduled for tomorrow to determine whether the university’s early voting site will be removed.
Tabor is also requesting an audit to review Winston-Salem’s e-mail log to ensure partisan e-mails haven’t previously been sent out to students.
E-mails encouraging students to register to vote and cast their ballot in upcoming elections have been sent out by the University of Wisconsin.
UW spokesperson John Lucas said the university likes when people discuss politics on campus, but a public institution shouldn’t be supporting a specific party.
Chair of UW’s College Democrats Evan Giesemann said schools should not support a particular party, and should only urge students to vote.
Chair of UW’s College Republicans Stephen Durst agreed, saying a university is an institution where people come to learn and form new opinions based on their own ideas.
“Here on the Madison campus, we follow school regulations and work hard to avoid biases in published voting material. It’s important to emphasize voting, not what party to vote for,” Durst said.
Tabor said the e-mail brings up one simple principle: Tax-funded state universities should abide by the laws that restrict public schools from publishing partisan voting information.
“It was probably just human error, but people who get speeding tickets don’t mean to (either); but it’s still a crime,” Tabor said.