First Media Matters, now this. Two Chicago professors at a Catholic University have been caught using school resources to attempt to shut down a “Tea Party” jobs fair that was being held one block away from President Obama’s birthday fundraiser.
The incident adds more fuel to the fire conservatives have been stoking for years; namely, that many U.S. universities are just front organizations for Democrat recruitment and far left-wing political activity. It begs the question: isn’t it time to crackdown on academic institutions that play politics and strip them of their tax-exempt status?
On Wednesday, Dr. Midge Wilson, Associate Dean of DePaul University’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (LAS) and Associate Professor Ann Russo, Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program, used their university email accounts to coordinate a harassment campaign against the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, where a private political event was taking place. The event, “Jobs Bash 2011,” was a call to “people of all political persuasions – conservative, independent, and Tea Party” – to bring their resumes and ask the President to explain the nation’s high unemployment figures. DePaul students and faculty were among those that received Wilson’s 2,000 politicized emails.
In her email, Associate Dean Midge Wilson urged her list to contact the venue and shut down the event. Her subject line? “The Green Mill sucks.”
The scholarly email included the dean’s name, university affiliation, and contact info. Genius.
Just twenty minutes later, the venue received an email from another DePaul professor, Ann Russo. Russo railed, “I just found out that you’re hosting/supporting a Tea Party, right wing, anti-Obama event tonight at the Green Mill! That will be the end of my patronage of the Green Mill.” Right wing? Anti-Obama? Is the professor moonlighting for the DNC Victory Fund?
As a result of Wilson’s email campaign, the venue was deluged with angry phone calls. One hateful emailer charged that she would never go to the venue again for hosting a “politically marginally hate group like tea party Republicans. What’s next the KKK?” The Green Mill was not a sponsor or host of the event.
Eventually, Wilson realized her “oopsie,” and retracted the hate campaign against the Green Mill, blaming the GOP instead for her mistake and claimed that it was the Republicans that “slandered” the venue:
“The authors of these e-mails are clearly expressing their personal opinions and are not making official statements on behalf of the university,” said Robin Florzak, Director of News and Information.
DePaul declined comment on the issue of the professors’ misuse of their university email accounts to help the President’s campaign effort. Yet the university’s own Code of Conduct prohibits this activity:
…The university or anyone on behalf of the university cannot endorse or fund any political activity or individuals running for public office, whether at the local, state or federal level. Doing so could jeopardize DePaul’s tax-exempt status… Also prohibited is the use of DePaul letterhead, university lists, phones or office space to support a specific political candidate.
According to the Catholic Conference of U.S. Bishops legal guidelines, the activity also violates the political campaign intervention prohibition for Catholic organizations. The guidelines state:
A communication or activity that would constitute a violation of the political campaign intervention prohibition does not lose that characterization because it occurs on a website or via e-mail.
Recently, in his civilian complaint against Media Matters, former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray asked the IRS to revoke the organization’s tax-exempt status contending that its “unlawful conduct” is in violation of “U.S. tax law.” Boyden argued that Media Matters – in attacking Fox and Rupert Murdoch’s commercial interests – has “executed a partisan strategy that diverges from its originally stated nonpartisan aims.”
Is DePaul guilty of the same? Are its professors regularly using campus accounts and tax-exempt resources to further their political causes and candidates? Do universities really stand for the free exchange of ideas or do radical professors just seek to perpetuate a culture of hate speech against ideas that run counter to their liberal agenda? Finally, will Wilson and Russo’s actions trigger a full IRS audit of DePaul for possible violations of its tax-exempt status?
According to her professional bio, Professor Russo says her research and teaching “over the past 25 years has been embedded in the social movements organized to address the pervasive sexual, racial and homophobic harassment, abuse, and violence in women’s lives.” She is also involved in Girls Collective Action Network, Young Women’s Empowerment Project, and Queer White Allies Against Racism among others. In addition to her duties as Associate Dean at DePaul, Dr. Wilson is also an adjunct professor of experimental psychology.
Heaven help us.
William J. Kelly is a graduate of Quigley Seminary and Loyola University of Chicago. He is the organizer of “Jobs Bash 2011.”