UPDATED to include comment from Professor Beth Lueck
By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. – A University of Wisconsin-Whitewater English professor is offering her students extra credit for attending a planned rally Thursday evening against Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin System.
Professor Beth Lueck, a Democrat who was soundly defeated by state Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, in the 2014 23rd District Assembly race, sent a memo to her students Wednesday outlining the “extra credit opportunity.”
“UWW students have organized a non-partisan rally with students, faculty, and community members on the UW Whitewater campus against Gov. Walker’s proposed $300 million cut to the UW system, along with speaking out against attacks on shared governance and faculty,” Lueck wrote an a document first tweeted out Thursday by conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna. “You may get extra credit by joining the rally or by observing it or by protesting it.”
A fiscal analysis shows UW-Whitewater could see a $6.4 million cut in funding under the proposal, or 19 percent of the funding stream – the largest percentage hit of all universities in the system.
Students plan to meet at the university’s library mall at 6 p.m., according to Lueck’s memo. From 6:20 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the protesters will march to the campus’ Timmerman Auditorium where State. Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, and Whitewater City Council member Stephanie Abbott are expected to address the crowd. An informational forum is also scheduled.
Matthew Yontz, a second semester freshman in Lueck’s class, said students were not told how much extra credit they would receive. Yontz said the “assignment” is out of line.”
“I took a political science class last semester. I can understand maybe doing this for that class but not an English class,” he said.
In an email to Wisconsin Reporter late Thursday afternoon, Lueck stressed that students are not required to attend the event.
“The extra credit opportunity–not an assignment–requires students to write a response to the event or lecture that they attend. The amount of credit given has nothing to do with the views they express,” she wrote.
While the professor notes she will offer credit for those who protest the protest, Yontz fears the liberal teacher is trying to infuse her opinions about Walker and his budget proposal into her classes.
“She’s obviously trying to influence her political views on us as a class, and I feel that’s wrong,” the student said.” I believe professors should be neutral on politics in the classroom, that they shouldn’t bring politics in, especially in an English class.”
According to the UW-Whitewater website, Lueck’s areas of teaching include “Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers, American Literature (beginning to 1900), American Renaissance, American Realism & Naturalism, American Gothic, American Sentimental & Domestic Fiction, American Slave Narrative.”
Lueck said writing about the rally, “reading or observing or discussing, analyzing, and writing is very much a part of the curriculum in an English course.”
The longtime professor in a candidate biography said she embraces a “proud tradition of Wisconsin progressivism,” according to an election site.
“Together we can improve our state’s economy, bring back respect for unions that strive for better working conditions for everyone, support veterans, and improve our schools, from K-12 through the UW System, which have suffered from years of declining state support,” Lueck wrote. “I also believe that Wisconsin should take all necessary steps to be in full compliance with the federal Affordable Health Care Act.”
A UW-Whitewater spokeswoman did not return a call and an email seeking comment.
Yontz, a member of the campus Republican Club, wondered what would happen if the organization rallied to support Walker.
“Would she give the same extra credit? I highly doubt it,” the student said.