Friday, April 04, 2008

Dan Seals, Northwestern University, and "Professor-Gate"

Back in January, the Daily Herald asked serious questions about the ethics of Illinois' 10th District Congressional candidate, Dan Seals. Seals was representing himself as a Northwestern University professor when the truth was that he was hired as a lecturer for a one-night-per-week class for the upcoming spring quarter in the School of Continuing Studies. When confronted, Seals cavalierly said that was because he didn't know the difference between a professor and an instructor (despite master's level education), but failed to revise his literature. Seals, who lives in the Congressional district in which Northwestern in located but not in the district in which he is running, and who appears to have no civic or religious ties to the community which he seeks to represent, is a newcomer to the North Shore area. For these reasons, it is likely that at the time "Professor-gate" first emerged, he was unaware of the deep emotions that locals feel when the topic of Northwestern University is raised. Many of Seals potential voters are either alumni of the University, or closely tied through family or friendship to people who are.

Dan Seals has now taught his first class of the spring semester for which he was hired, making the timing of his announcement that he was actually working at Northwestern moot. However, reports are emerging that guards were posted at the door of the classroom, which is not a usual University practice. (It is not known whether they were armed.) It is further reported that Seals presented no syllabus, no reading list and let the class go early. Alumni and students are now concerned that Northwestern hired Seals either to help him pad his resume, or to financially help a candidate with very little real-world experience who has made running for office his primary job for over three years.

Local bloggers have been covering the story for several months. As Seals' campaign has been unable to raise sufficient funds for his campaign within the district, his race has been involved in several online efforts to fill his coffers. It is possibly for this reason that a Democrat "ready response" team has begun a series of ad-hominem attacks against those who have questioned the appropriateness of Northwestern's hire. In doing so, they are attempting to raise what has been an issue of strictly local interest to a level of importance that it never had.

This is a story worth keeping your eye on. It is unlikely, given the strong historic ties in the area to Northwestern, that this issue will go away any time soon. In the words of one tenth district resident, "As an NU alum, my check book is permanently closed."

Note: The author is not a Northwestern alumna, but has family and close friends with Northwestern degrees.


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