Extra credit brings up questions

Shaina James

A Northern Michigan professor is being threatened and criticized after giving students an extra credit opportunity to attend a local protest.

Assistant NMU professor of sociology Jeanne Lorentzen gave her SO 101 students the option to earn 20 extra credit points if they participated in the Occupy the Upper Peninsula protest held Saturday, Oct. 15.

The students were also given another option sent through an email Oct. 13 to her entry-level classes. It was to write a 20-page paper about a social movement.

Lorentzen stated in the email that the paper “should be a critical sociological analysis of a particular social movement and must include at least five substantive concepts from the course text.”

It also said if students chose to attend the march they “must make a protest sign as long as it’s not offensive, rude or divisive you can write anything and sign an attendance sheet twice, once at 9:45 a.m. and once after the march is over.”

“Overall, I feel that Dr. Loretzen’s extra credit opportunity was politically biased,” said President of the NMU Chapter of College Republican Sarah Morrison. “There was no equal opportunity presented for students who held opposing view points. There needs to be more diversity of opinion in our academic programs.”

Northern received several complaints stating the paper was not a fair alternative to attending the protests.

“Instructors are expected to make assignments for their courses and it is not the university’s place, as a whole. To approve or disapprove them,” said Cindy Paavola, NMU director of communications and marketing.

Paavola said she is not aware of any special rules for extra credit, but all course assignments, whether mandatory or for extra credit, must relate to the course topic in some way and must be fair.

“If a student files a formal complaint about a course, an instructor’s teaching or grading, or course assignment(s) with the Dean of Students Office or one of the related academic offices, it is reviewed and addressed by the appropriate academic leaders,” Paavola said.

An article about Lorentzen’s extra credit opportunity was published on theblaze.com Oct. 15. Many people commented on the article and criticized Lorentzen’s teaching abilities. Some even threatened her life.

One person posted Oct. 17, “She’s a candidate for a .22 (caliber) brain transplant just like most Liberal professors.”

“Encouraging students to attend events outside of the classroom in many cases is an excellent way to teach,” said President of the NMU Chapter of College of Democrats Kaylee Place.“However, reasonable alternatives should also be provided for those students who may be unable to attend, or are uncomfortable with a particular situation.”

Paavola stated that NMU will not change their rules on extra credit and the current expectations in place work well.

“The university administration only gets involved in curricular issues when there are questions about whether an assignment is relevant to a specific course,” Paavola said. “For example, a sociology professor shouldn’t have an assignment that involves a chemistry project.”

Paavola said if the assignment is appropriate to the learning level of the course and it impacts a student’s grade fairly, the administration does not get involved with curricular issues.

Lorentzen was not available for comment.