In recent months, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has held outdoor rallies across the country, many of which have attracted large audiences. When Obama came to Atlanta in April, he held a campaign rally in Yellow Jacket Park – the heart of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s campus. As expected, news of Obama’s upcoming visit was everywhere – television broadcasts, newspapers, and blogs. What I didn’t expect was to learn of his visit from an email sent by the Georgia Tech Dean of Students Office.
In the email message sent through the Buzzport announcement system, usually reserved for official Institute business, all 17,000 Georgia Tech students were informed about Obama’s visit and solicited to volunteer for his campaign. The message stated:
Senator Obama is also in need of a lot of volunteers to help him publicize while he is in Atlanta. If you are interested in volunteering you can check the box that says volunteers on the RSVP page.
Volunteers will be needed for Wednesday (street publicity team),
Thursday (sign making party) and Saturday (helping with the actual event) you can also reply to this message if you'd like to volunteer.
Is this solicitation an appropriate use of the Buzzport announcement system?
According to the Dean of Students website:
The Office of the Dean of Students provides advocacy and support for students. This office assists students in resolution of problems, provides information and referral about campus resources, and promotes initiatives that address students [sic] needs and interests.
Does the message sent out by the Dean’s Office concur with their mission statement?
Unfortunately, this incident can be added to the already long list of examples of Tech’s promotion of a single ideology and of the preferential treatment afforded those students and organizations who adhere to a Leftist worldview. This unfair treatment creates a double standard, which in turn guarantees success to only select groups.
Obama’s rally, organized by College Democrats and the African American Student Union (not politically-motivated groups, mind you), was sensational. According to the Technique – the Georgia Tech student newspaper – there were approximately 20,000 people in attendance. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that there was “an especially large turnout of students from all the major colleges and universities in the area.” It’s all well and good that the rally was a success, but the role played by the Dean of Students in promoting a far Left candidate as if it were the normal course of business at Tech was inappropriate at best. It appears more like the Dean of Students misused student, alumni and taxpayer-provided resources as in-kind contributions to a political campaign.
Georgia Tech desperately needs to respond to, and find solutions for, the problems that have spanned the spectrum from unconstitutional policies to unprofessional practices among administrators and professors. Despite a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in March 2006 challenging policies that infringed on free speech and religious liberty on campus, the school has failed to address its unlawful behavior except when “encouraged” by court order. Couple that with an open disregard for the Institute’s own policies and a failure to even pretend to adhere professional standards, and it’s obvious that Tech is more interested in a radical political agenda than providing a challenging and fair learning environment.
Thanks to a federal judge’s decision last August to repeal Georgia Tech’s speech code, administrators no longer have the authority to selectively deny students their basic First Amendment right to free speech. However, there are still policies in place that limit students’ ability to be an equal member in campus debate unless the student or organization marches to the tune of the administration-approved ideology. Conservative students who engage in partisan political activities have routinely been denied access to mandatory student activity fees. But the Dean of Students feels comfortably justified in providing Sen. Obama what amounts to campaign contributions. That email is a glaring example of a powerful administration doing whatever it can and whatever it wants – just like good Socialists appropriating someone else’s resources and providing valuable access -- to advance a particular viewpoint.
According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, “U.S. Sen. Barack Obama drew on a hometown hero's words at an Atlanta rally Saturday to voice his opposition to the war in Iraq.” The hometown hero referred to is the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Senator Obama may have used Dr. King’s words to defend his anti-war position, but I wonder what would Dr. King have to say about the celebration of racial preferences by Georgia Tech’s administration?
The most insidious forms of discrimination these days are imposed by the so-called liberals and the “tolerant” Left. The worst offenders are found on college campuses. Their demands for equality have morphed into something more representative of a one-way street in which only a select group is allowed to enter and barriers have been set up to obstruct opposing traffic. In its mission to achieve particular social and political goals, the Georgia Tech administration has established a toxic environment in which it executes total control through censorship and intimidation. Consequently, students are being denied an environment of intellectual pluralism; one which challenges their existing beliefs and encourages them to test their own orthodoxies in a free exchange of ideas. Instead, the campus is treated like an indoctrination center or a re-education camp for those who have the “wrong” ideas. This environment is not adequately preparing students for the world that exists beyond college.
Hosting Presidential candidates is an honor for any college campus, and can provide great benefits for students who are presented with a unique opportunity to listen to (and protest) an individual who could become the next leader of the free world. At a time when most students suffer from apathy, there is always room for greater engagement in the political process. Two parties dominate America’s current political system, but only one dominates at Georgia Tech. Since I entered college in 2003, Georgia Tech has hosted Wesley Clark, Dennis Kucinich, Al Gore, and most recently, Barack Obama. Guess how many Republicans have had the red carpet rolled out before them.
The unfair treatment that continues to proliferate at Georgia Tech is astonishing. It is distracting and discouraging to students and frustrating to parents, alumni and Georgia taxpayers who witness the Institute’s failure to treat all students equally while the government continues to plunder their pocketbooks. As one of the most prestigious research institutes in the country, one that produces great talents and innovative solutions to global challenges, it should not be that hard to find a solution to this problem – equal access for more than just one set of ideas.