TA ‘ticketed’ for CITES e-mail use

By Jeremy Pelzer

State representative candidate Thomas Mackaman came under fire from the University for using his University e-mail account for political activity.

Mackaman, a teaching assistant in history, received a “ticket” from Campus Information and Educational Services (CITES) after he used his account in July to e-mail a press release to the Champaign News-Gazette. The News-Gazette reported Mackaman’s use of his e-mail account to send the press release in late August.

Illinois law forbids the use of state facilities for personal campaign activities. CITES, which operates the University’s e-mail system, is partially funded with state money.

Mackaman, the Socialist Equality Party candidate, is running in the 103rd District against incumbent Democrat Naomi Jakobsson and Republican Deborah Frank Feinen.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the “ticket” sent to Mackaman was a warning that “state resources are not to be allowed for political activity.”

The ban only applies to University students or staff who use their University e-mail to promote their own candidacy, Kaler said. E-mails about political events or registered student organizations such as the College Democrats or College Republicans are allowed, she said.

“(Students and staff) are certainly allowed to talk about politics,” Kaler said.

Mackaman said the press release he sent wasn’t meant to solicit support for his campaign but was rather just information about himself and his platform that he sent at the request of the News-Gazette.

Also, Mackaman said he was troubled by University restrictions on what students and staff can say in their e-mails.

“I’m not trying to use my account for political purposes, but I believe I have that right,” Mackaman said. “So many students use their e-mail for political purposes. It’s much more than me and my political campaign at stake … I think it’s a violation of free speech.”

Hearing of Mackaman’s troubles, many socialists have rallied to Mackaman’s aid, including the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), which has written editorials and letters in support of Mackaman.

Other University students running for political office sympathized with Mackaman but said they understood the University’s position.

“I think it’s hard for students (running for office), especially because we don’t think of our e-mail address as part of the state of Illinois,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, a Republican candidate for Champaign County Board in the 7th District and junior in LAS. “But I can definitely understand why they (the University) are doing it.”

Susan Rodgers, the Green Party’s candidate for Champaign County Board in the 8th District, said the University was “maybe being a bit paranoid” about candidates using their University e-mail account for campaign activity. But she agreed with Fitzgerald that the University’s actions were understandable and said it was easy to get around the regulations.

“I set up my own e-mail account,” said Rodgers, sophomore in LAS. “It wasn’t a difficult thing for me to do.”