Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Joe Gow, UW-La Crosse Chancellor, Apologizes

Rachel Slocum, the Leftist assistant GEOGRAPHY professor at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, does not have the support of Chancellor Joe Gow.

In an extremely partisan and unprofessional email to her class, she slammed the Republicans and the Tea Party for preventing her students from accessing government websites, thereby delaying their ability to complete assignments.

Gow issued an apology for Slocum's behavior.

Media Trackers first reported on the story a week ago, and now presents Gow's apology, "an email sent to the UW La Crosse community."

Gow’s apology is the first from any campus representative — including Slocum.

Slocum was asked to apologize for her first email. She responded instead with a larger description of the shutdown, admonishing students for forwarding emails to “conservative blogs.”

Chancellor Gow wrote:

As you may have learned from media accounts, a UW-L professor recently included a highly partisan political reference in an e-mail message sent to an on-line class

I’m writing to be sure you all know that although we proudly promote free speech and academic freedom here at UW-L, such a partisan political reference made by an instructor while teaching a class of students is problematic for two reasons. First, it doesn’t appear that by expressing her personal political views to her students the professor added anything to the educational experience in the class. And, second, there is the possibility that such a partisan reference might undermine the educational experience by creating discomfort in students who hold political views that are different from those inappropriately expressed by their instructor. The same would be true if the instructor had made a personal religious expression in class, for example.

We therefore consider the reference in the e-mail note to be inappropriate and we apologize to the many people who have contacted me to say they were offended by it. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that a similarly inappropriate reference does not occur in the future. As I’ve said, we’re proud to promote free speech and academic freedom here at UW-L, and we also realize the responsibility our instructors have to avoid expressing their personal political views inappropriately in our classes. Thank you for your patience with this highly unusual situation.

Gow writes that Slocum's actions constitute a "highly unusual situation."

I find that hard to believe. I think this kind of stuff is routine in the UW system, business as usual.

I think it's great that Gow is taking responsibility, acknowledging Slocum's out of line behavior, and recognizing the threat such instructors pose in education.

However, I think Gow may have been motivated to apologize due to the negative press the university was receiving in the national media. His initial reaction was not to issue an apology.

From FOX News:

“It would be inappropriate to use partisan politics in a class, so we contacted the professor in question,” Chancellor Joe Gow told “We want to be sure our students feel that they can have a different opinion from others on campus,” Gow added. “She (Slocum) can have a personal conversation with someone, but this e-mail was for an online class so the message is more in an official capacity.”
Gow's initial comments weren't as firm as they needed to be.

He said, because it was referring to the business of class, Slocum's message was "more in an official capacity." No, the email was sent in a completely official capacity.

It's from the professor to her students regarding an assignment.

Eventually, Gow admitted that was the case.

I'm glad he apologized. Nonetheless, I do wonder if it's rooted in a sincere understanding of the unacceptability of instructors like Slocum spewing their personal politics to students or in the simple desire to get the national media off his back.