MacIver News Service | January 20, 2012
Joel Rogers Says College Credits May Be Available to Those Who Help Build Liberal Alternative to ALEC
[Madison, Wisc…] One of the University of Wisconsin’s most renowned liberal professors attempted to recruit his students to work on an elaborate private political project while final grades in their class were pending, the MacIver News Service has learned.
At the conclusion of his end-of-the-year email to his UW Law School students, Professor Joel Rogers wrote: “I think I mentioned a little project I’m doing now — which thus far involves professors from such crummy law schools as Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Virgina [sic] and elsewhere, but thus far, beyond your lonesome, NOBODY from UW — to build a partial counter to ALEC. It’s going to involve a lot of law students. If you’re interested in helping out with that (no money, but possible credit), or know of somebody else who might be, please let me, or even better, “Nate Ela” <email@example.com>, a lawyer and now sociology grad student, know. Project description attached.“
Rogers is the Director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan, educational, and charitable organization. COWS was founded in 1992 by Rogers, a professor of Law, Political Science, and Sociology at UW-Madison and a longtime commentator on economic development and democratic institutions.
COWS is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Social Science Building.
According to its website, COWS current and past funders include: the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Carolyn Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Garfield Foundation, Living Cities, the Joyce Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
This last semester, Rogers taught a class titled: Law & Contemporary Problems: Public Law & Private Power to approximately a dozen students at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Coursework was completed in December, but grades had not been issued at the time he sent his email to students.
Rogers’ email was provided to MacIver News Service by someone who received the email from one of Rogers’ students. The MNS has confirmed the authenticity of the email, although we have not found a student who was willing to comment on the record.
ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is based in Washington D.C. and is frequently the target of liberal groups’ and lawmakers’ ire. ALEC bills itself as the ‘State Legislators’ Think Tank,’ and with nearly 2,000 members is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, individual membership association for legislators. Nominal membership dues paid by lawmakers and voluntary contributions from private sector companies and foundations also fund the organization.
ALEC’s stated mission is to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public. Their many task forces construct model legislation that is often introduced by ALEC members in legislatures across the country. Many liberal organizations and lawmakers decry the private sector participation in the crafting of such model laws, viewing it as undue influence peddling by corporate interests.
According to his official biography, posted on the COWS website, Rogers has written widely on American politics and public policy (books include On Democracy, Right Turn, The Forgotten Majority, What Workers Want, and, most recently American Society: How It Really Works). He is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and a longtime social and political activist.
Rogers is also the author of an article entitled “ALEC Exposed: Business Domination, Inc.” which appeared in the July 2011 edition of The Nation Magazine.
Have UW students received credit for helping Rogers with other political projects? Do Rogers, the UW Law School or the University of Wisconsin condone such solicitations from faculty using University resources? Do they believe it is a problem to solicit help from students while their grades are pending?
The MNS is awaiting comment from Rogers, the dean of the UW Law School and the UW Chancellor and will update this story to reflect their responses in the coming days.
According to a three-page description of his project, which Rogers attached to his email to students, He is attempting to form an organization called ALICE. “ALICE, like ALEC,” Roagers wrote, “would be administered as a values-‐based 501(c)(3) organization, also offer model legislation, and also do so in a wide variety of areas. But it would differ in at least three ways. First, its central aim would be approximately opposite to ALEC’s, viz. to help state and local officials advance shared prosperity, sustainability, and effective democratic government (aka “high road” ways of governing ourselves and the economy). Second, it would include models of local as well as state legislation, and executive orders as well as laws. Third, at least at first, it would be limited to such model bills/orders, not other supports.”
He later writes more about funding and granting credit to students who help on the project:
“On money, I don’t have any existing grant or donation dedicated to ALICE, but have reserved some unrestricted money at COWS for it. This is not big money, and not enough to pay outside contributors to the project, but it is enough to cover several months of the costs of graduate students and staff working on project start-‐up, and travel subsidy for those in want for needed in-‐person meetings. On governance, I imagine ALICE at least starting as a project of COWS, but with its own web identity and distinct advisory board, membership of which I’m sure we can figure out. On credit, we can talk about how much people or organizations want to be identified as contributors to different model bills, but so far as I’m concerned anybody contributing should get whatever credit they want.”
The full email:
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Joel Rogers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, Dec 31, 2011 at 1:47 PM
Subject: grading done, liked the class, keep in touch if you want to
To: law 940 2011 <email@example.com>
Just wanted to tell you all that I graded your exams, which I thought were pretty good. Jane Ford-Bennett tells me she’ll be posting your grades soon. I’m not supposed to tell you what they are until you already know.
I haven’t seen your evaluations of the course yet (I assume they’re searing!), but just wanted to say again how much I enjoyed having you in class and to emphasize, since I don’t have an office at the Law School and we’re liking not going to just bump into each other randomly, that you shouldn’t hesitate to be in contact. Email is good or call my assistant, Michelle Bright, who keeps more regular hours than I. Her number is 890-2543.
All best, hope you liked you grade, and Happy New Year.
PS – This really wasn’t the purpose of this note, but just occurred to me. I think I mentioned a little project I’m doing now — which thus far involves professors from such crummy law schools as Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Virgina and elsewhere, but thus far, beyond your lonesome, NOBODY from UW — to build a partial counter to ALEC. It’s going to involve a lot of law students. If you’re interested in helping out with that (no money, but possible credit), or know of somebody else who might be, please let me, or even better, “Nate Ela” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, a lawyer and now sociology grad student, know. Project description attached.
Here is a link to the document describing the project: ALICE-1
Coming soon in this series: University of Wisconsin officials and state lawmakers react to this story; What is COWS?