A Clayton State University associate professor told AJC.com Wednesday that she felt pressured by a colleague to offer students extra credit if they attended a campaign event for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Andrea Allen, an associate professor of criminal justice, also said the college is unfairly singling her out despite several other staff members offering the same extra credit.
She said Josh Meddaugh, associate professor and coordinator of political science and associate chair of the social studies department, asked her several times before she agreed to send the email offering extra credit to her students. She said at least five other professors in her department made similar offers to students.
“I ended up saying yes, because (Meddaugh) is doing it, so I figured it was not a big deal,” Allen said. “Several other people were also offering it, so I was thinking, ‘What could be the problem?’”
AJC.com tried to reach Meddaugh for comment but has not heard back from him. On Oct. 9, Channel 2 Action News obtained the email Allen sent the prior day about the rally that said, in part:
“I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Abrams campaign along with Senator (Elizabeth) Warren are visiting campus tomorrow ... They would like a really big turnout. To help out I’m offering the following opportunity: If you attend ... I’ll add 2 bonus points to your final grade.”
Allen said offering extra credit wasn’t a mistake, since she would’ve offered the credit regardless of the political party or the event. However, she said her email had a poorly chosen word that became misconstrued as political endorsement.
“In my email, I incorrectly used the word ‘they’ (would like a really big turnout). I was referring to the student Social Sciences Society (which hosted the rally) — not the Abrams’ campaign,” Allen said.
She said the initial statement Clayton State sent out regarding the incident falsely presented her as a left-leaning academic. She also said it was sent before she got to see it.
“I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Stacey Abrams supporter,” Allen said. “They cut me out of the loop, which is infuriating to me. No one could be bothered to email me or talk to me until the story comes out on the news.”
The statement, obtained by Channel 2 on Oct. 9, said, in part: “The professor acknowledges she had made a mistake and agreed to fix it by offering extra credit for all political events.”
Allen said she told Maritza Ferreira, the university’s vice president of marketing and communications, several times that her offering extra credit was not a “mistake” and that the statement made her sound politically motivated.
“I was called by (Ferreira), and she read me the statement sent to the media, and I immediately said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I called it fake news,” Allen said. “I said, ‘This is completely inaccurate, and you’re throwing me under the bus.’”
Allen said the other faculty members who offered extra credit for the rally have received no repercussions, but the university has refused her demands to issue a correction to the earlier statement.
She also said the university ordered her not to comment on the incident at the time, which a university spokesman denied to Channel 2 on Monday.
However, her husband Scott Jacques, associate professor of criminology at Georgia State University, sent AJC.com an email sent to Allen by Clayton State president Thomas “Tim” Hynes Jr. that said, in part:
“Maritza (Ferreira)’s request that you not speak to the media or post to social media is not at all unusual in dealing with media on events that have drawn considerable controversy.”
Channel 2 was also sent audio recording of a phone call between Hynes and Allen where he can be heard saying: “It is apparent to me from the outset that it was the crafting of a grammatically problematic sentence to a class on D2L that was interpreted as giving meaning that I never believed you were attempting to express.”
On Wednesday, a university system spokesman told the news station that no investigation by the university system or Clayton State was ever opened into Allen’s claims or the incident.
Jacques, however, sent AJC.com an audio recording of him speaking to Jim Flowers, Clayton State director of special projects, who told him there “is an ongoing investigation” at the time of the call.
“I don’t know if Clayton State is being negligent or malicious,” Jacques said.
Allen said she has now offered extra credit if her students attend any civic engagement to be fair to those who could not attend the Abrams’ event.
The Abrams’ campaign previously sent a statement to Channel 2 that said, “Our team did not suggest to this or any professor that extra credit should be offered to students.”
The university spokesman also said Clayton State does not provide support to political candidates or parties, and the university considers this matter closed.
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