Obama Campaign Recruits
in the College Classroom
The Democratic Presidential campaign almost gained a foothold inside public universities in Ohio and Colorado. An attempt by a professor to persuade colleagues to recruit volunteers for the Obama campaign during class was made at Ohio State University and at Adams State University in Colorado, an opportunity to volunteer for Obama’s campaign was offered for credit.
In a memo titled “How to turn students into voters,” Brian McHale, an English professor at Ohio State University, suggested fellow teachers allow 5 minutes of class time to a volunteer aiming to register students to vote and if they were “willing,” another few minutes would be taken to interest students in volunteering for the Obama campaign. One of the two individuals listed as a contact, Matt Caffrey, is a paid Obama presidential campaign field organizer in Ohio.
The OSU Board of Trustees Academic freedom and responsibility statement says, teachers must “differentiate carefully between official activities as teachers and personal activities as citizens, and to act accordingly.”
At Adams State University in Colorado, Government 279 – The Obama Campaign Internship – offered for credit “in depth involvement in one of the closest and most expensive Presidential races in recent history.” Students would have received credit for volunteering 15 hours each week after attending an all day training seminar on September 20. The offering included a link to the Obama campaign official website. School officials said it was cancelled due to lack of interest. The class disappeared from the school website shortly after Campus Reform, a conservative student blog, declared the internship inappropriate at a public institution.
The Colorado Fair Campaign Practices Act guarantees that no public resources are spent for any campaign and that while students may engage in political expression without limitation, they may not use university resources in advocating for or against a campaign issue. A professor overseeing this internship would be paid using public funds. Peter Wood, President of The National Association of Scholars said, “The Public funding that goes into a university is not there to advance political campaigns” and that no school should extend credit for any political activity. He stresses this is the case no matter what party is involved.
Adams State University spokesman Julie Waechter told the DC News Foundation, “The Obama campaign did approach the school. Other campaigns did not.”