Professor Tells Students Government Shutdown Is Republicans’ Fault

by Jennifer Kabbany - Fix Editor on October 7, 2013

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse recently told her students that Republicans and the Tea Party were to blame for the ongoing government shutdown and the reason they can’t finish their homework assignment.

Assistant Professor Rachel Slocum, in an email last week to students in her geography class, wrote that “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.”

“The Census website, for instance, is closed,” Slocum continued. “Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts you are unable to do because of the shutdown will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government. Please listen to the news and be prepared to turn in the assignment quickly once our nation re-opens.”

One student in the class who provided a screenshot of the email to The College Fix and asked to remain unnamed called the note inappropriate.

“My professor, Rachel Slocum, sent out an e-mail to everyone in the class notifying us that we would be unable to complete an assignment using the government Census site due to the government shutdown,” the student told The Fix. “However, she blamed the Tea Party and House Republicans for the shutdown in the e-mail. Keep in mind, it’s a 100-level class so most of the students are impressionable freshman and many haven’t fully formed their political views yet, so even something like that could easily sway them into thinking it’s all the Republicans’ fault.”

“As a student, it was frustrating to see that kind of political bias against the Tea Party and House Republicans– it’s unnecessary. All I needed to know was that we had more time to complete the assignment because of the shutdown.”

The College Fix emailed Dr. Slocum for comment. She replied, but asked that her response not be republished.

The student in Slocum’s class provided a copy of a second email sent by Slocum after being contacted by The College Fix:

hi everyone,

The email I sent you all about the government shut down was not meant to be partisan, but it may have come across that way. The following is a more thorough, less annoyed version of shutdown events.

It’s part of the democratic process for Congress to be able to shut down the government by not raising the debt ceiling or allowing the passage of a temporary budget (continuing resolution) that keeps the government open. Typically, Congress easily passes legislation to allow the government to borrow and to keep it running until an actual budget is hammered out. Today the reason the government has shutdown is because Republicans want Democrats to agree to signficant changes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). They have control of the House.  Democrats argue that the ACA just went into effect on October 1st so we haven’t yet seen what needs to be changed. They won’t agree to these big changes (like delaying the ACA for a year or stripping it of funding) nor will the president. Consequently, the Senate rejected the House bill, there was no Continuing Resolution, and the government was forced to close. Incidentally, within the Republican party, there was disagreement over whether to shut down the government. McCain for instance was opposed along with other Senate Republicans. It’s important to recognize that within the Republican party there is disagreement over how to govern. Many are not happy with this all or nothing style that people on the far right (who refer to themselves as the Tea Party) are advocating. This is, in essence, the argument made by conservative columnist David Brooks.

It is true that I am dismayed that you cannot easily do the assignment. My opinion is that this shutdown is a bad idea.

If you want to discuss all of this, let me know and I can make an internal (D2L) discussion board about it. But please don’t forward my emails to conservative blogs or list servs and I will make sure my emails explain things fully.

Here’s hoping you can get to the assignment this week.

Rachel

It’s unclear whether this email was less biased against Republicans than her first one. Some could easily argue it’s far worse.

The student in her class is not a fan of the email thread.

“I just don’t think there’s any excuse to insert bias into your classroom,” the student told The Fix. “It can really shape people’s political opinions and influence how students view current events. Professors are supposed to encourage students to think for themselves and be open-minded, not be blatantly political.”

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