Univ. of Wisconsin professor uses class assignment to attribute blame for gov’t shutdown to Republicans

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, October 7, 2013

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse used a botched class assignment last week to place the entirety of the blame for the current government shutdown on Congressional Republicans.

Rachel Slocum, an assistant professor in the university’s geography and earth sciences department, sent her students the following email on Oct. 1, according to Media Trackers Wisconsin:

hi everyone

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. The Census website, for example, is closed. Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts that you’re 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.


Media Trackers then forwarded the email to Joe Gow, the school’s chancellor, who agreed that the email was too pointed and inappropriate for the classroom.

“I share your concerns about the inappropriate use of the overly partisan phrase ‘Republican tea party controlled House of Representatives’ in a message purported to have been sent by a UW-L instructor to a class of students,” Gow responded to Media Trackers via email.

Gow also called on the school’s dean to launch an investigation into the email, which he confirmed to Media Trackers later in the day. “I have just spoken to the College Dean, who has now called the professor, verified the authenticity of the note, pointed out the inappropriateness of the politically partisan language, and obtained the professor’s commitment to writing a follow-up apology to the class.”

As requested, Slocum sent a follow-up email to her students the next day. That email, however, only added more fuel to the as it served – by her own admission – as “a more thorough, less annoyed version of shutdown events.” Not only did she provide other reasons for why she believes the House GOP is responsible for the now week-long government shutdown, but she noted as well that Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, has openly criticized the shutdown.

“Many are not happy with this all or nothing style that people on the far right (who refer to themselves as the Tea Party) are advocating,” she wrote. “It is true that I am dismayed that you cannot easily do the assignment. My opinion is that this shutdown is a bad idea.”

To her students dismay, however, she never specifically stated in the email which government official(s) chose to close the census website that the students needed to complete their assignment. She also pleads with her class to keep the emails secret from “conservative blogs or list servs.”

Here is the complete text of the second email, entitled “Census data assignment”:

hi everyone,

The email I sent you all about the government shut down [sic] was not meant to be partisan, but it may have come across that way. The following is a more thorough, less annoyed version of shutdown events.

It’s part of the democratic process for Congress to be able to shut down the government by not raising the debt ceiling or allowing the passage of a temporary budget (continuing resolution) that keeps the government open. Typically, Congress easily passes legislation to allow the government to borrow and to keep it running until an actual budget is hammered out. Today the reason the government has shutdown is because Republicans want Democrats to agree to signficant [sic] changes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). They have control of the House. Democrats argue that the ACA just went into effect on October 1st so we haven’t yet seen what needs to be changed. They won’t agree to these big changes (like delaying the ACA for a year or stripping it of funding) nor will the president. Consequently, the Senate rejected the House bill, there was no Continuing Resolution, and the government was forced to close.

Incidentally, within the Republican party, there was disagreement over whether to shut down the government. McCain for instance was opposed along with other Senate Republicans. It’s important to recognize that within the Republican party there is disagreement over how to govern. Many are not happy with this all or nothing style that people on the far right (who refer to themselves as the Tea Party) are advocating. This is, in essence, the argument made by conservative columnist David Brooks.

It is true that I am dismayed that you cannot easily do the assignment. My opinion is that this shutdown is a bad idea.

If you want to discuss all of this, let me know and I can make an internal (D2L) discussion board about it. But please don’t forward my emails to conservative blogs or list servs and I will make sure my emails explain things fully.

Here’s hoping you can get to the assignment this week.


According to the university’s website, Slocum received both her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. She also has a bachelor’s degree from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and spent several years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger between her graduate and undergraduate degrees.

h/t The Daily Caller


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