Professor’s partisan comments to class shines light on digital-age challenge in academia

March 11, 2014

University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Assistant Professor Rachel Slocum unintentionally started a social media frenzy this past fall when, during the partial government shutdown, she emailed her students, saying “Some of [your] data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/Tea Party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government.” Slocum urged her students to do whatever they could of an assignment that required government data to complete, but said the rest “will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government." When a student posted the email to Facebook, Slocum began to receive abusive and threatening emails, and traditional and social media began to buzz with discussions about freedom of speech for professors vs keeping partisan agendas out of academia. “What had been just a problem for Rachel Slocum now clearly loomed a problem for her entire university, exposing the complexities of dealing with the potential pitfalls of online communication,” writes Peter Schmidt of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Chronicle of Higher Education