UPDATED: Democrats, University of North Dakota Seek Digital Safe Space for Students to Protect Them From Republicans

Back during the 2014 election cycle North Dakota Democrats engaged in some rank political grandstanding, claiming that a Republican-aligned marketing firm had somehow violated the law by obtaining a directory of student email addresses from the North Dakota University System through an open records request and then sending messages to those accounts.

The Democrats – including Senator Mac Schneider and Rep. Kylie Oversen of Grand Forks District 42 – even went so far as to contact law enforcement about the matter – on election day! requesting an investigation. Which, to me, seems like a good way to waste precious law enforcement time and resources on petty political point scoring.

Not surprisingly the matter was dismissed after a review by law enforcement officials. If Schendier and Oversen apologized to law enforcement and the taxpayers for wasting everyone’s time on a partisan goose chase I’m not aware of it.

Anyway, the Democrats are complaining about emails again. This time it’s the Republican legislative candidates in District 42 who are hoping to unseat Schneider and Oversen, and per a screenshot posted by Republican candidate Jake Blum their sin was sending campaign emails to UND students:

Let’s pause here for a moment to reflect on what a low opinion the Democratic candidates must have of the intelligence of UND students that they think they must be protected from certain types of political messaging.

Done? Good.

Apparently the Democrats griped so hard that the UND administration has stepped in. Per a campus wide email sent out today, the university is condemning the use of university email accounts for any non-university business. Including, I guess, politics. The email even suggests that such emails are illegal (click for a larger view):

email
UND is actually wrong on the law here.

While it’s illegal to use any taxpayer-funded resources for political purposes – which means advocating for or against any candidates, political parties, or ballot measures – that prohibition does not extend to private citizens sending messages to state email accounts. Including those of university students.

UPDATE: UND spokesman Peter Johnson clarifies the email above, saying he didn’t intend to say the email from the Republicans was inappropriate:

Hi Rob:

My email (which you reference and show) doesn’t say the email sent on behalf of District 42 Republican Candidates is/was illegal. And this isn’t an issue of safe space. Nor does this have anything to do with any particular political party. No matter what the party was, I would have responded in the same way (although admittedly with a clearer message). The email was intended to indicate that any such emails–regardless of party–should not be construed to be condoned by or supported by the University–again, regardless of the party. I did get questions about whether the email meant the University supported the candidates.

Most of the message was to help students, faculty and staff know it is illegal to use state resources for political purposes. This was enacted long before the advent of email, but it holds true for email, as well.

“Why shouldn’t students have the same access to candidate information as the rest of the public?” a member of the UND campus who forwarded me the above email asked.

That’s a good question.

It’s a little silly to think university students are being victimized because they received an email from a candidate or political party they might not support. What’s more, unsubscribing from unwanted emails is as easy as a couple of mouse clicks.

The bigger issue here is, again, the low opinion these people seem to have of the intelligence of college students that they can’t handle a few politically-themed emails.

On a related note, it may surprise you to know that the personal contact information of people who get hunting or fishing licenses in North Dakota is also a public record. And guess who has obtained that information in the past?

The North Dakota Democratic Party, the bunch of hypocrites.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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