A public university in Colorado may have violated state law by offering students course credit if they volunteered with President Obama’s re-election campaign. A blog post on the Adams State University website billed the opportunity as a “12 week long organizing internship for the Obama Campaign.”
Both the blog post and the course are now gone. The course was canceled due to lack of interest, according to the university. The blog post was taken down earlier this week after a conservative student blog, Campus Reform, reported on it.
The course may have been in violation of the Colorado Fair Campaign Practices Act, which prohibits the use of public resources toward “campaigns involving the nomination, retention, or election of any person to any public office.” Oliver Darcy, the editor at Campus Reform who first reported the story, said the course struck him as a likely violation of state law.
“They are definitely using a few professors at least to help these students with the campaign process, so I don’t understand how it doesn’t use public resources for campaign purposes,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
A spokesperson for the university said the blog post was mistaken about the nature of the course, and that students would have been allowed to volunteer with any campaign.
“This is an independent study course that would be available to any student in any campaign,” said Julie Waechter, a spokesperson for ASU, in an interview with TheDC News Foundation.
Waechter declined to give the name of the employee who authorized the course. Dodie Day, the administrator who posted the blog entry, declined to comment.
According to Waechter, the Obama administration reached out to the university about hosting such an offer.
“The Obama campaign did approach the school. Others campaigns did not,” she said, adding that the school would have considered a similar offer from the Republican campaign of Gov. Mitt Romney.
But Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars and a chronicler of political bias in academia, said universities have no business awarding class credit for political activity at all.
“The principle here is that this sort of stuff does not belong in the classroom, and that also it is not something for which students should be receiving academic credit,” said Wood in an interview with TheDC News Foundation. “The public funding that goes into a university is not there to advance political campaigns.”
Earlier this week, Wood reported on a similar instance of liberal political activity entering the classroom at Ohio State University. Professor Brian McHale wrote an e-mail to colleagues asking them to set aside class time for campaign organizers to pitch students on getting involved with the Obama campaign.
“I’ve been in touch with a couple of campus organizers for the Obama campaign, who have asked me to pass along to all of you a request for access to your classes in the next few weeks,” wrote McHale in the e-mail.
For Wood, incidents like the ones at ASU and OSU fit an extensive pattern of improper cooperation between the Obama campaign and university officials.
“It’s one of those things I add to the documentation of fairly numerous instances in which the Obama campaign has crossed the line,” he said.
Stephanie Freer, a recent graduate of Northern Arizona University and conservative activist in Colorado, was disturbed that ASU would advertise a class that promoted a liberal political agenda.
“This public school is funneling students into working for the Obama campaign,” she said in an interview with TheDC News Foundation. “It isn’t right for a public university to be promoting that type of campaign work for course credit.”