OSU to Faculty: “No Classroom Electioneering”

Peter Wood

That didn’t take long.

Yesterday (August 30) Joseph Alutto, the executive vice president and provost at Ohio State University, issued a message to the whole OSU faculty yesterday saying that the University "must make absolutely certain that Ohio State does not engage in partisan political activities.  This includes inviting political organizers into our classrooms."  

Provost Alutto’s message came in response to an article I published the day before in The Chronicle of Higher Education calling attention to the efforts of an OSU English professor to persuade his faculty colleagues to open their classrooms to Obama campaign organizers. 

Here is the text of Provost Alutto’s message to the OSU faculty:

Dear Colleagues:

Yesterday President Gee received an email regarding an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article indicated that an Ohio State faculty member had contacted other university faculty asking that they open their classrooms to organizers from a specific political party.

University legal counsel has determined that we must make absolutely certain that Ohio State does not engage in partisan political activities. This includes inviting political organizers into our classrooms. Simply put, partisan political discussions may not be sponsored by university employees on the Ohio State campus. I urge you to refer to the guidelines regarding political activity by employees of the university. These are posted at http://legal.osu.edu/politicalactivity.php.

The prelude to a national election is an important and exciting time. As we move into this period, I ask you to join me in ensuring that Ohio State will be seen as a base for impartial discourse.

Sincerely,

Joseph A. Alutto
Executive Vice President and Provost

The Ohio State University

Kudos to President Gee for acting so quickly.  This is an important victory in the fight to reclaim the university from those who view higher education as just another avenue for promoting their political views.  I am proud that the National Association of Scholars played the lead role in bringing the problem to light. 

There is surely more to be done, not only at Ohio State but at many other colleges and universities where the 2012 presidential race has tempted faculty members to misuse their classrooms for partisan purposes.  NAS is reaching out to students and faculty members across the country to ask for their assistance in identifying other cases of abuse like this.  We will post a public log of the universities, courses, and professors, along with other pertinent data. I welcome reports of abuses by Republicans as well as Democrats or members of other parties.

My thanks to the members of our affiliate, the Ohio Association of Scholars, and its president (and member of the NAS board of directors) George Dent for bringing this matter forward.  They recognized its importance straight away, made sure of the facts, and offered very good counsel on how to proceed.   

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