The University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse has apologized for an e-mail a professor sent to students earlier this week blaming the “Republican/Tea-Party controlled House of Representatives” for the ongoing government shutdown. In an e-mail Wednesday, Chancellor Joe Gow called the comment “inappropriate” and “problematic,” based on the fact that it didn’t appear to “add anything to the educational experience in the class,” and because such a “partisan reference” could make students uncomfortable.
Rachel Slocum, assistant professor of geography, said in an e-mail that she regretted the brevity but not necessarily the content of her message to students in her online class, as she wanted to explain why they wouldn’t be able to access U.S. Census Bureau data to complete an important assignment. (The bureau's website is unavailable due to the shutdown.)
Here's what she wrote, after being alerted by a student that the site was not working:
"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.... 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.”
Slocum said that "in hindsight, I should have either left out mention of the causal agents or gone into more detail so as not to make any student feel as if I was using my position to force my perspective on them. That feeling is certainly not what I wanted to convey." The professor wrote a similar message in a second e-mail to students, at the request of the dean of the College of Science and Health.
Gow said in an interview that Slocum's comments violated the university's policy against using its resources to engage in political activity.