Extra credit dispute overblown

NW Staff

On Oct. 15, NMU sociology professor Jeanne Lorentzen offered extra credit points for any student who was willing to participate in the Occupy the U.P. protest. Little did she know, the extra credit assignment would spark a firestorm of criticism from (mainly conservative) bloggers and publications nationwide.

At The North Wind, we ignored the issue entirely at first. As a newspaper, we hesitated to give the Lorentzen’s “controversial” extra credit assignment any more coverage than it deserved. In recent weeks, as the story gained momentum, it became clear that we couldn’t ignore it any longer.

As a sociology professor, it is part of Lorentzen’s responsibility to educate students on social movements. Like it or not, the Occupy Wall Street protests are a global social movement, the likes of which is rarely seen in the United States. For Lorentzen to ignore the movement would have been irresponsible.

One aspect of Lorentzen’s extra credit assignment that we did find troubling, was the now infamous 20-page paper she offered in place of protest attendance for the same amount of extra credit points. Even this was addressed the next class period when Lorentzen extended the extra credit to include attendance of any social movement or protest. Problem solved.

The NMU administration is making the right decision by generally supporting Lorentzen. Did “The Blaze” run an article when professors offered extra credit for attending Ann Coulter’s speech? We didn’t think so. There are no restrictions governing Lorentzen’s extra credit decision. She had no requirement to accommodate those of different political ideologies, but by opening the assignment up to other protests, she did so anyways.

Arguably, much of the controversy was caused by Occupy the U.P.’s inherent lean toward liberal ideologies. What many ignore, is that Lorentzen didn’t require students to take a liberal viewpoint while participating; their signs could say anything, including criticism, as long as it wasn’t offensive in nature.

If so many were opposed to Lorentzen sending her students to the protest, why didn’t they make their voices heard at the event? Her critics speak loudly through anonymous internet forums, but as one occupy protester said, “the world is run by those who actually show up.”