LEE COUNTY — Two weeks after one student was awarded $100 by a conservative Web site for reporting “leftist abuse” at Florida Gulf Coast University, a second student has been lauded for reporting another instance.
Brandon Wasicsko shared his story with CampusReform.org, a Web site encouraging conservative and libertarian students to mobilize on college campuses against what they believe to be widespread liberal bias.
It started when Wasicsko’s campus group, Eagles For Liberty, e-mailed fellow students to invite them to a screening of a documentary titled “Not Evil Just Wrong,” contesting the dire predictions about global warming contained in reports and movies such as Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” An associate professor at the university e-mailed the libertarian/conservative group back to tell its leaders that the invitation “is in violation of the FGCU policy to not use our e-mail system for political propaganda.”
“It is also a fundamentalist right-wing set of lies about the environmental necessity to control our carbon emissions so that our children and there’s (sic) can have the same quality of life that we enjoy,” the Web site reports that Associate Professor of Educational Technology Patrick J. Greene wrote.
Wasicsko, who serves as the group’s vice president, e-mailed back. He said the exchange he had with Greene was eventually forwarded to university Provost Ronald Toll’s office for review. On Oct. 30, Wasicsko was flagged as CampusReform.org’s winner for the day’s most important story of leftist abuse, for which he won $100. The Web site, which launched in September, ran the contest as a promotion through the end of October.
University spokeswoman Susan Evans confirmed Thursday that Toll’s office received the e-mail string.
“There’s absolutely no review underway,” said Evans. “The student (group) hasn’t done anything wrong. Students have the option, the opportunity to e-mail about events on campus. We don’t control the contents of that.”
University policies do, on the other hand, bar staff and faculty e-mail from promoting political parties or candidates.
“They’re not allowed to use the university e-mail to say ‘vote for so-and-so for office,’” Evans said.
Greene said he sent the e-mail initially because he believed the same policy applied to students. Still, he said he stands by the belief that students should not use the e-mail system to promote a political viewpoint.
“I found out that the faculty e-mail system is constrained from political purposes and I found that the student e-mail is not, and I think that’s very strange,” said Greene. “I think it should be one or the other; whatever the constraints, they should apply to everyone.”
Wasicsko, a sophomore studying economics, said he felt Greene was trying to intimidate the group into not screening the movie or to deter it from announcing future events and said he tried to engage Greene in a dialogue.
“I told him the standard message for reaching students on campus is e-mail,” said Wasicsko. “I said, ‘Of course, you’re not opposed to free expression, a free exchange of ideas on a college campus?’”
Evans said the university stands fully behind such expressions, e-mail or otherwise. Greene said he, as an individual and professor, encourages a robust dialogue — just not over e-mail.
“The exchange with the student was about the abuse of student e-mail, not about the content of the note,” Greene said. “I feel they’re free to express whatever opinion they want to. I’m very leftist; I teach colloquium.”
The colloquium course, required for all students, educates them about the environment of Southwest Florida. FGCU was established on a wetland, and the class is meant to give students a perspective about the sensitive environment where their school is based and how to protect it, Greene said. He has to feel impassioned about that issue, he said, because he teaches a course that urges the importance of caring for a sensitive environment.
The first instance of reported “leftist abuse” to CampusReform.org was an example from student Kimberly Legendre, who said she felt that her Foundations of Civic Engagement class was indoctrinating students into a liberal viewpoint. That class teaches the importance of community activism, and requires a community service component from students.
Adrienne Royer, new media director for CampusReform.org, said she thinks taxpayers should be “concerned” about the fact that FGCU was flagged twice by students for reported abuse.
“Florida Gulf Coast University was the only one to be reported twice,” said Royer. “We awarded leftist abuse winners to colleges across the country. There was no discernible pattern. ... Red states, blue states, it happened everywhere.”
Greene said he welcomes the discussion.
“I think it’s cool,” he said. “I think we all ought to be having debates about these kinds of things. ... I think it’s what universities are for, is to express lots of different viewpoints.”
Connect with education reporter Leslie Williams Hale at naplesnews.com/staff/leslie_hale