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Prof. Asks Class to Work for Private Political Project

Students at the University of Wisconsin Law School were surprised at the end of the Fall 2011 semester when they received an e-mail from their Professor propositioning them. The e-mail asked students for their help in a private political project, while final grades in their classes had yet to be posted.

Professor Joel Rogers taught the class, entitled Law & Contemporary Problems: Public Law & Private Power. While the class work was completed in December, and grades for the class had already been calculated, students did not know their overall scores because they were still pending when the e-mail was sent.

Rogers offered students the chance to work for an organization he has been developing for the last several years called the American Legislative Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE). It is intended to function as a liberal counterpart to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The goal of ALICE is “identifying, supporting and assisting 10,000 progressive local elected officials.”

In the email to his students Rogers wrote, “[The organization] would be administered as a values-based 501(c)(3) organization, also offer model legislation, and also do so in a wide variety of areas. But it would differ in at least three ways. First, its central aim would be approximately opposite to ALEC’s, viz. to help state and local officials advance shared prosperity, sustainability, and effective democratic government (aka “high road” ways of governing ourselves and the economy). Second, it would include models of local as well as state legislation, and executive orders as well as laws. Third, at least at first, it would be limited to such model bills/orders, not other supports.”

Rogers offered funding for students who helped with ALICE through another organization he controls called the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS). COWS was founded in 1992 and is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Social Science Building. On its website, COWS describes itself as “a nonprofit think-and-do tank that promotes “high road” solutions to social problems.”

“On money,” Rogers wrote to students, “I don’t have any existing grant or donation dedicated to ALICE, but have reserved some unrestricted money at COWS for it…it is enough to cover several months of the costs of graduate students and staff working on project start-­up, and travel subsidy for those in want for needed in-­person meetings…On credit, we can talk about how much people or organizations want to be identified as contributors to different model bills, but so far as I’m concerned anybody contributing should get whatever credit they want.”

A professor of Law, Political Science, and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rogers is a contributing editor at The Nation and has written widely on American politics and public policy. He is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and a longtime social and political activist; Newsweek identified him as one of the 100 living Americans most likely to shape U.S. politics and culture in the 21st century.

The College Fix spoke with Rogers. He said he did not see a problem with providing students an opportunity to put what they’ve learned into practice. “It’s like asking a priest not to pray…they have acquired skills and want to use them in real life.”

Rogers said that although grades had not yet been posted when he sent the email, he had already finished calculating the grades, and that students’ participation in ALICE did not reflect on their grades. “I wasn’t forcing them to participate. I was presenting them with an opportunity.”

Fix Contributor Judith Ayers is a student at York College of Pennsylvania.

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  • Montana

    This is irresponsible reporting. The article makes it seem like Rogers is the one who “posts” their grades, and that there was still an opportunity for students to get their grades adjusted upwards if they participated in ALICE. But if you look at the original email, Rogers tells students that he had already graded their exams and submitted the grades to the person in the law school office who actually posts the grades to the student’s account — meaning the grades were done and submitted. Any student reading that email would know that their grades were finalized.

    • Ron

      Regardless of whether or not he controls the posting of grades, he should have known to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. In this case, because the email was sent prior to posting, a student could not be 100% certain that the professor no longer controlled the grading; as such, he did not avoid a conflict of interest and breached a fiduciary responsibility to the students. Open and shut case.

  • Anti-Montana

    @ Montanta

    That’s not the point. It’s pushing leftist political BS in a university setting. It’s equating that activism with religion. It’s indoctrination. It’s bastardizing education. It’s being in a bubble. It’s ridiculous. Universities do nothing but churn out non-thinking leftist robots.

    • Ron

      Not that I disagree with your comments, but unfortunately, the majority of university settings now seem to devolve to pushing leftist agendas and bastardized educations. The best you can hope for is that the students, at some point along the way, learn how to think for themselves and come to realize what a load of hypocritical and negatavistic thinking the left really espouses.

  • Judith Ayers

    “Rogers said that although grades had not yet been posted when he sent the email, he had already finished calculating the grades, and that students’ participation in ALICE did not reflect on their grades.”
    @Montana that’s not what I intended to say with I wrote at all. I think any college student knows that it’s not the professors but the college that officially posts and sends out grades to the students account. That’s why I said that he had already finished calculating them, which he had. But they had not been posted by the college so the students didn’t know their grade. I thought it was clear that the project was not calculated into their grade at all. I’m sorry that it wasn’t.

  • activism from teachers should be banned outright. That’s all the school systems have become. How about all focus put on teaching for intelligence instead? Bribery has even begun in school now let alone our government. Is there ANY fair and honest people left in this world. Our poor kids are becoming robots.

  • Lin Crabtree

    Any Teacher who is taking part in activism,cut their pay!!!!