Educator drafts students to make war on gun culture
According to the complaint, obtained by Campus Reform, the professor compelled students in her graphic design class to create artwork opposing firearms on campus and opposing pro-gun legislation currently pending before the Texas state legislature.
The professor then used the artwork students created online to publicize an anti-gun petition entitled “MSU is anti-Concealed Carry on Campus” and on a now deleted Facebook page opposing firearms, says the complaint.
“On Monday, April 1, around 7 PM (class was 5:30 – 8:20), Jennifer Yucus, Assistant Professor of Graphic Art/Design, compelled students from her Computers For Artists class to advocate in favor of a political petition opposing firearms on campus, in opposition to a pair of bills currently before the Texas legislature, using personal art materials and MSU resources,” reads the complaint.
“Several of my classmates were uncomfortable with the assignment and either quietly or openly expressed this,” it continues. “Professor Yucus asked students to rationalize objections by thinking of it as a job from an employer (or words to that effect).”
Of course in reality the students were the ones paying for this class. They aren’t employees; they are customers. I think the ethical thing to do would be for the university to refund the student’s cost for the class.
The complaint adds that Yucus “did require all works to include the URL to the petition” she had created and adds that students were photographed while crafting the posters to give the illusion of youth support.
“Professor Yucus took photos of her students in the process of drafting and creating the posters, but did not say how these would be used,” says the complaint. “The posters were then hung in the hallways of the Fain Arts building, giving the impression of student support.”
Some of the photos later appeared on an anti-gun Facebook page that appeared to have been created by Yucus. The page appeared to have been deleted after the complaint was filed, but Campus Reform was able to capture the posted images before they were removed.
I am not a lawyer, and that goes double for Texas law, but I wonder if that crossed the legal line into misappropriating the student’s likenesses since it sounds like she was taking advantage of their reputation, prestige, or other value associated with them, for purposes of publicity.
According to the complaint, Yucus used her official university-issued e-mail address to later forward a URL to her petition to the entire class.
State law in Texas appears to forbid professors at public universities from using their authority to compel others to advocate for political causes.
“A state officer or employee may not use official authority… to interfere with or affect the result of an election or nomination of a candidate or to achieve any other political purpose,” reads subsection C of 556.004 of Government Code, Title 5, entitled “Open Government, Ethics.”
So at the least, that bit of the law seems to have been broken.