Pharmacy Prof. Uses Campus Email to Lobby for Big Labor

This post originally appeared on CampusReform.org, a project of Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute.

Professors at the University of Cincinnati James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy are using their school-issued email addresses to lobby students to sign a petition in favor of repealing Senate Bill 5, which was passed this year to curb collective bargaining efforts by Ohio public employees. If the petition garners enough signatures, SB5 will appear on the November ballot in the form of a referendum.

States like Ohio have had to trim millions of dollars in expenses due to tough economic conditions. One way conservatives are balancing state budgets is by cutting back the Big Labor largesse by compelling public sector employees to contribute more to their own benefits and restructuring collective bargaining arrangements.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and other unions are protesting all over the country, and they’ve launched a repeal effort in Ohio called “We Are Ohio.”

Andrea Wall, the Assistant Dean of the School of Pharmacy & Alumni Affairs, sent the following message to students on behalf of a few professors this morning: (Emphasis added.)

Are you a registered Ohio voter in Hamilton or Butler Counties?  Would you be interested in signing a petition to place Ohio Senate Bill 5 (SB5) on the November ballot? If so this message is for you!

Ohio Senate Bill 5, restricts the rights of all public employees (Teachers, Police, Firemen, Professors, etc.) to fully participate in collective bargaining through their respective unions.

Today May 31, Drs. Cavanaugh and Cluxton will be collecting signatures on the petition in the hallway outside room 331 from 12 n until 1pm.

To sign the petition you MUST BE a registered voter in Ohio counties of Butler or Hamilton and have voted at least once in the last 4 years.   By signing the petition you are exercising your right to vote on Senate Bill 5.  Signing the petition is NOT a vote for or against SB5 it merely places the bill on the ballot in November for a vote.  If SB5  is on the ballot you can be sure that both sides on the issue will provide considerable information for you the voter to decide what is best for Ohio.

The forwarded email is signed by Robert J. Cluxton, Jr., PharmD, MBA under the closing “WE ARE OHIO,” a reference to the left-wing lobbying organization that is pushing the effort to repeal SB5.

The message is curiously worded: By signing the petition you are exercising your right to vote on Senate Bill 5.  Signing the petition is NOT a vote for or against SB5 it merely places the bill on the ballot in November for a vote.

It appears as though the professors in question understand they are using their school-issued (and by extension, taxpayer-funded) email addresses to lobby against SB5. They carefully suggest their message is not for or against the collective bargaining bill, but only those who want to repeal it are pushing this effort.

Dr. Cluxton signs the message with his entire title, including the James R. Winkle School of Pharmacy and his on-campus P.O. Box.

The email was sent out and the petition signatures will be collected during school business hours, which suggests taxpayers will be bankrolling their Big Labor efforts.

Would conservative professors be allowed to use the same listserv to lobby on behalf of a conservative cause? Is it appropriate at all to use this taxpayer-funded platform to lobby for or against anyissue?

As a conservative university student, you have the responsibility to report these leftist abuses on campus. If you encounter an abuse like this one, don’t hesitate to contact CampusReform.org by reporting aleftist abuse here or by finding your Regional Field Coordinator (RFC) here.

UPDATE I: I stumbled upon this 2008 Huffington Post column by Greg Lukianoff, the President of theFoundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Lukianoff noted prior to the 2008 Presidential election that students at the University of Oklahoma were warned about forwarding political commentary through their university email accounts. Lukianoff writes:

If you’re a student at the University of Oklahoma and you enjoy The Huffington Post, beware: Your school has forbidden you from forwarding any of the fabulous political content you may find on this site.

Sounds crazy, but sadly it’s true. Students at the University of Oklahoma have been warned not to use their university e-mail accounts for “the forwarding of political humor/commentary” during this election season.

Meanwhile, anyone who has an actual opinion on the election should think twice about expressing it on a bumper sticker at the University of Illinois, or in their dorm window at University of Texas at Austin. In fact, students who hung an Obama sign in their window at UT Austin were threatened with expulsion.

The good news is that after being confronted by the press, angry students and faculty, or outside organizations, each of the above universities has now backtracked from their original censorship of huge swaths of political speech like bumper stickers, window signs, and e-mails.

One question Lukianoff posed was: Can the partisan speech or expressive act in question reasonably be construed as the official stance of the university, as opposed to the individual opinion of a student, student group, faculty member, or staff member speaking as private citizens?

Had Dr. Cluxton not used his faculty email address and private listserv, the answer to this question would beabsolutely not. But because of his actions, he has seemingly blurred the lines between the speech of a private citizen and that of a university official.

UPDATE II: The University of Cincinnati News Record reported the story yesterday:

One UC student agreed with the view of CampusReform.

“I feel that this is a gross misuse of school resources,” said Ryan Printy, a graduate student in the College of Pharmacy who also ran as a Libertarian candidate for Ohio’s 32nd House District last November. “The professors used the College of Pharmacy email listserv to promote their own personal political agenda.”

Whether or not university policy allowed the email, it is highly unethical for the professors to use school resources in such a manner, Printy said.

“We are a pharmacy college, not a political science program,” Printy said. “Our professors should be using school resources to promote pharmacotherapy and patient care, not their own personal political agendas.”

John McNay, chapter head of the AAUP at UC, disagrees with Printy’s and CampusReforms’s assessment.

“It is important to recognize this announcement didn’t do that,” McNay said. “It made graduate students aware of a ballot petition and the opportunity to vote and encouraged students to educate themselves on the issue to make up their own mind.”

The university listservs, McNay said, are basically announcement boards that professors can notify students of information on — including the signature collection.

Professor McNay is being intellectually dishonest. As I argued above, only people who want to repeal SB5 would sign the petition. While the email didn’t specifically ask students to vote to repeal SB5 (if the petition gathers enough signatures to appear on the ballot in November), there is no conceivable reason why an advocate of SB5 would sign the petition.

Additionally, the professor in question signed the email “WE ARE OHIO,” which is the anti-SB5 organization behind the petition drive. Professor McNay is covering for his colleague’s inappropriate use to the listserv and his taxpayer-funded email address.

Shame on them.

Note: The Leadership Institute is a 501c(3) organization and does not support or oppose specific candidates or legislation. If you are interested in learning more about the Leadership Institute or Campus Reform, contact your Regional Field Coordinator.