College Park Profs Electioneering e-mail

, Nathan Burchfiel, Leave a comment

In yet another case of a college professor using university resources for political ends, a University of Maryland professor sent a presidential campaign e-mail to her students. Nathan Burchfiel relates the story, as relevant now as when it first appeared in the alternative campus newspaper two months ago—ed.

A professor of government and
politics has come under fire from
students for an e-mail she sent to her
pupils promoting a new wave of ads
from the extreme anti-Bush group,
MoveOn Political Action Committee.

Linda Williams, who teaches
GVPT170, e-mailed her student listserv
Aug. 31 to encourage them to check out
the new ads, one of which directly tells
viewers that President Bush should not
be reelected.

The e-mail was short, stating only,
“Hi, Just wanted to let you know that
MoveOn PAC has some great new ads
online,” including the Web address at the
end of the message.

The e-mail offended freshman
student Brian Banes, a Republican, who
passed it along to The Terrapin Times.

One reviewer on Pick-a-Prof
complained that Williams’s GVPT170
course “wasn’t taught as American
Government, but rather How American
Government Has Screwed the Country’s

Another reviewer noted that “some
people got annoyed at her very liberal
position on most things,” but added that
Williams’s leftist stance “didn’t bother

In response to the e-mail, Banes sent
a reply that included a link to the anti-
Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He
sent his e-mail to Williams, but not the
rest of his peers.

Williams told The Terrapin Times in
an e-mail, “I respect their [my students’]
position to choose their own candidate
and hope that they will respect mine to
do the same. … I have told the class that
it is highly unlikely that I will vote for
George W. Bush.”

She wrote that she sent the e-mail
link because “I just thought that
particular ad was cleverly done – in a
youth vernacular.”

She added that she told the class the
ad was from a pro-Kerry group the day
she sent the e-mail.

Williams said that she tries to
present both sides of the issues, citing
guest speakers from the Republican
National Committee and Democratic

“I was once surprised when a
student told me he thought I was a
Republican because I had a former chair
of the RNC speak,” she wrote.

“I believe that one of the most
important things a student can learn is
to think critically on their own,” she said.
“My goal is to help them learn to do

She said she doesn’t expect students
to share her views, but does expect them
“to put together logical arguments
whose propositions do not contradict
each other and whose hypotheses can
be backed up by empirical

She also mentioned that she asks her
students to check her on any biases they

Williams’s comments were copied to
her class listserv in addition to being
sent to The Terrapin Times.

Nathan Burchfiel, a junior at the University of Maryland at College Park, is a broadcast journalism major who serves as editor-in-chief of The Terrapin Times, from which this article is reprinted.