A professor at a college in North Carolina invited a Democratic city council member to speak to students during class, allowed the students to leave early and arranged for them to receive transportation to a polling location, according to complaints.
Administrators at Winston-Salem State University are investigating the incident, which may violate rules prohibiting professors from using state resources for political activism.
The professor, Larry Little, is a friend and former campaign manager of City Councillor Derwin Montgomery, a Democrat. Since the election generally suffers from low turnout, Montgomery and Little correctly surmised that helping a few extra students to vote could spell the difference between winning and losing–a strategy that prevailed when Montgomery was first elected in 2009 as a WSSU senior.
One of his opponents in the Democratic primary, Jocelyn Jones, complained that the incident in Little’s class gave Montgomery an unfair advantage.
WSSU, a historically black college, has formed a task force to determine whether campus policies were violated.
“There are guidelines, policies and protocols in place that dictate how, when and where political activities are allowed on all UNC campuses,” said Chancellor Donald Reaves in a statement to the Winston-Salem Journal. “If there have been violations, I certainly want to be able to document them and take the appropriate action.”
Republicans claim that WSSU has a long history of showing favoritism to Democratic candidates. In 2010, a staff member sent a campus-wide email urging students to volunteer for local Democratic politicians.
Little said that he encourages his students to go volunteer on campaigns, but does not direct them toward one political party or another.