Political lesson for UMass chaplain
September 23, 2008
The University of Massachusetts at Amherst hardly has a reputation as a hotbed of political activism. But now a chaplain's electioneering has landed the flagship campus squarely on the partisan fault line.
News that a UMass chaplain had urged students to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama - and told them volunteering could earn them course credit - ricocheted through the political blogosphere yesterday, an immediate flashpoint for conservatives who rail against the school as a liberal bastion.
In an e-mail to students last week, chaplain Kent Higgins told students they could earn two independent study credits if they campaigned for Obama in New Hampshire, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
"If you're scared about the prospects for this election, you're not alone," Higgins wrote. "The most important way to make a difference in the outcome is to activate yourself. It would be just fine with [Republican candidate John] McCain if Obama supporters just think about helping, then sleep in and stay home between now and Election Day."
University officials said that there is no such independent study program and that Higgins was not authorized to promise students credit.
"There is no independent study for credit in the history department that involves partisan political work, and no such activity has ever been approved," said university spokesman Ed Blaguszewski.