Phi Beta Cons

Reader Mail re: Credit for Campaigning

I saw Mr. Leef’s post and took a look at the linked article. Although I understand the distress some may feel about giving credit for such activities, I think there are benefits to these offerings. The article quotes my colleague David Redlawsk. Redlawsk supervises the students wishing to intern for Democratic candidates while I, as my department’s token Republican, supervise those interning for Republicans. You can still complain about the value of any student getting such credit, but at least here (the University of Iowa) we have some balance.  
As to the value, both Redlawsk and I make sure that our students get a good experience. They do a lot of the grassroots grunt work, but they also do more fun activities such as volunteering at campaign events (such as the McCain-Palin visit to Cedar Rapids last week), coalition building, and community service. In addition to building stronger (Republican) student groups on campus, the students also get first hand experience in working on campaigns. Over the last several years many of my students who interned have gone on to jobs in the Bush administration, the RNC, and many other campaigns. 
It’s true, of course, the students could get the same experience without getting credit for it. I have found, however, that knowing they need to put in a minimum number of hours gives them a greater incentive to keep participating. Without such a specific reason to continue to participate, many students stop volunteering when other activities become more pressing (e.g., midterms), or they might tend to cherry pick the events in which they participate. I usually take a very hands on approach to supervising my interns, which means I regularly send them e-mails reminding them of the need to put in their hours and of events and activities in which they can participate.  
Finally, at least in my department, the credits they earn do not count toward satisfying the requirements for the Pol Sci major. They just count as elective credits. I would like to think that they might get as much benefit in terms of experience and networking for intern credits as they would from some class they sleep through just to get enough credits to graduate.

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