Clayton State University professor Andrea Allen ran into trouble with university officials after she offered her students extra credit to attend a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in what she called “a onetime exception.”
The criminal justice professor offered her students two bonus points to their final grade as an incentive to attend because, she told the students, the organizers “would really like a big turnout.” This obvious display of partisan bias was immediately addressed by the university, which issued a statement on the action after the story broke.
“[U]niversity administrators have advised the professor that extra credit should be offered on an equal basis to those participating in events by all political parties,” the statement read. “The professor acknowledges she had made a mistake and agreed to fix it by offering extra credit for all political events.”
It’s not uncommon for colleges to mix partisan activities with course credit.
The Republican National Committee partners with more than 130 colleges and universities that offer class credit to college students who complete their six-week RLI Training Program.
Students can receive three to six hours of college credit and are monitored by both GOP state parties and professors or administrators who ensure students are hitting weekly requirements. Schools as large as Ohio State University and Florida State University participate in this partnership, and the number of colleges and universities wishing to participate in the class credit partnership has nearly doubled in the last three months.
Similarly, the Democratic National Committee partners with many universities on internship programs that not only offer a $3,000 DNC-funded stipend, but also course credit and college scholarships to students.
In the effort to form civic-minded, engaged citizens, universities should undoubtedly encourage their students to get involved in political activities both on and off campus. These partisan activities are perfectly acceptable means to achieving this end. Real-life political experiences immerse them in the political process and help them better understand how our democracy functions.
Course credit and extra credit is often the only way to galvanize students, but students and administrators need to be fair in how they manage this process.
Professor Allen clearly had no intention of providing extra credit to attend a Republican rally, which exposed her blatant bias. However, leftist professors like Allen make up the overwhelming majority of academia, and most of them are more diplomatic in their approach. What is stopping these other professors from doing the same? Even more, why would a student complain to administrators and risk flunking a class over it?
Colleges and universities that offer credit (or extra credit) to students for political activities should have a balanced approach in order to avoid falling into embarrassing situations like that of Clayton State University. If a professor is going to offer extra credit for a Democratic function, he or she needs to offer equal credit to attend other alternative functions hosted by opposing political parties. Similarly, course credit for political internships should be available to students volunteering at any political party.
This important balance will help guarantee that intellectual diversity will truly thrive on campus, and empower students with the freedom and incentive to support the principles they hold dear.
Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a freelance journalist in California.