College professor drives students to polls while campaigning for Dem candidates
According to a photo posted on Twitter, UNH professor Bob Woodward shuttled students to go vote Tuesday in a van decked out with Democratic campaign posters from the Ready for Hillary PAC.
Woodward’s van had campaign posters on it reading “Ready for Maggie!” and “Ready for Jeanne!”
A University of New Hampshire (UNH) professor volunteered to drive students to and from the polls in a van decked out in campaign posters for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D).
According to a tweet from the Foster’s Daily Democrat, Bob Woodward drove students to Oyster River High School, a polling location, on Tuesday. His van was adorned with “Ready for Jeanne!” and “Ready for Maggie” posters, paid for by the Ready for Hillary Super PAC.
— FostersDailyDemocrat (@FostersDailyDem) November 4, 2014
“It’s typical UNH,” James Lyons, a junior psychology major at UNH told Campus Reform. “[The school is] very partisan when it comes to political views.”
"I hope this was nothing but a sincere offering and there was no influencing or pressuring at all,” Phil Boyton, a UNH alumnus, told Campus Reform. Boyton was the president of the school’s College Republicans prior to his graduation last year.
UNH’s website lists Dr. Robert S. Woodward as a professor of health economics. UNH is a public research institution in N.H.
Woodward did not provide a comment for this story as he said he was “still driving” when Campus Reform reached out to him.
“Robert Woodward has the right as a private citizen to exercise his constitutional rights,” Erika Mantz, director of UNH media relations, told Campus Reform. “He assisted in providing transportation to the polls on his own time and in his own vehicle.”
However, Mantz did not confirm whether or not Woodward had taken time off to shuttle students in his van clad with campaign signs. A class schedule was also not provided to Campus Reform.
According to the online undergraduate time and room schedule, Woodward normally teaches Health Economics on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:40-5:00 P.M. UNH's online course catalog lists the class as only taking place on Thursday. It is unclear which is correct.
The University System of New Hampshire’s political activities policy says that when university professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.
A group of UNH professors also subtly decried voter ID laws in a letter to students on Monday in their efforts to encourage students to vote in the midterm elections.
According to a Facebook post in the UNH English Majors group, UNH associate professor of anthropology Robin Sheriff wrote a letter to students detailing the events of Freedom Summer, a voter registration effort aimed at increasing black voters in Mississippi. The project faced opposition from the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacy group.
“Fifty years after Freedom Summer, we can’t relax our vigilance,” Sheriff wrote in the post. “We’ve been hearing news of late about restrictive voter ID laws and many other attempts to suppress voting among certain populations.”
Photo identification is required in order to vote in the state of New Hampshire. In 2013, Mother Jones called New Hampshire’s law “one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country” as it requires the voter’s name on the ID to match that on their voter registration.
“This reminder to vote in tomorrow's mid-term elections comes to you with the full endorsement of the English Department Chair, Prof. Rachel Trubowitz,” the post says.
In an email to Campus Reform, Trubowitz confirmed that she did endorse the post. She said that besides appearing on Facebook, Sheriff’s letter to students was also sent to a group of UNH faculty members from several departments. Trubowitz said the letter also was posted to Blackboard, an education software system.
“Dr. Sheriff contacted the English Department Chair via email with a request to share her thoughts with our majors, and social media is the best way to reach a wide range of students,” Carla Cannizzaro, UNH academic coordinator and the person behind the Facebook post, told Campus Reform in an email Tuesday afternoon.
Sheriff says in her letter that the “most significant threat to our developing democracy is apathy—not caring enough to vote.” She reminded UNH students that there will be shuttles to and from the polls on Election Day.
Sheriff did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn