SDSU College Instructor uses college girls for his own purposes. And the boys too.

That headline seems a little lurid, but what it should do is make you mad. Because I read this in last night's Brookings Register and it more than got my goat. Brookings is engaged in a mildly spirited mayoral race Between current Mayor Scott Munsterman, Businessman Al Gregg, and SDSU professor Gary Aguiar.

Last night's paper reported that Aguiar teaches a class for SDSU called "Political Parties and Campaigns." And he's using his class for more than a teaching tool. It looks like he considers the students paying for an education as his personal campaign staff.

According to the Brookings Register, Professor Aguiar brought his mayoral nominating petitions into class for his students to sign. And it gets worse. From the Brookings Register:
Last fall as part of his class, he assigned class members to come up with a local candidate's campaign plan. During a forum for mayoral candidates held at the University Student Union, he freely admitted that he had students designing plans and "the campaign should focus on electing a particular, actual candidate to an actual publicly elective office. The candidate must possess a viable chance of being elected."

Aguiar has not used any one campaign plan in his run for mayor , but did get several ideas from the class activity, he said at the forum.
College students, if some of you are feeling a little icky right now, it's because you've been used. Clearly, he's considered your work submitted for class as his personal bank of knowledge to use in his own race for mayor.

Not only are you paying for the privilege of consulting on his campaign (as he admits using your ideas) as opposed to being paid for them as would be the norm, it would not appear that you're being given credit for them. And that lack of credit beings up a sticky subject.

Let's take a look at the syllabus for the course (word document). It has a definition that should be a little troubling for the professor in this matter (my emphasis):
Honesty Policy
It is expected that every student will be honest and trustworthy in their actions. Cheating is defined as claiming someone else's work as your own. Examples of cheating are (a) sharing questions or answers from a quiz or exam, (b) stealing someone else’s words (i.e., plagiarism) and (c) using someone else’s ideas without a proper citation. Students who violate this policy will be subject to SDSU disciplinary procedures as stated in the Student Policy Manual.
Unfortunately, it's looking like the professor is skating dangerously close to policy violations of this nature himself. I'm sure he's not individually giving credit to the students who came up with these ideas. While he discloses one point in his syllabus:
During this semester, I will illustrate this project in several class periods with a campaign plan for a local professor who is seeking a seat on the Brookings City Council next year. A group of students are welcome to use this campaign plan as their project.
I didn't see anything noting that he will be using any of the ideas from class in his own campaign.

The headline in the Brookings Register article read "Campaigning in the Classroom?" After reading all of this, it probably should have read "SDSU professor uses his students' ideas to run his own campaign. And he didn't ask them permission."

Today's lesson for his students? Don't trust anyone in politics. Not even your professor.


Anonymous said…
This type of "journalism" is way over the top for you, PP.

There is no evidence that Gary used any of these campaign plans in his campaign. There is no evidence that parts of these student campaign plans are unique and copyrightable.

You are characterizing one of your own (GOP) here, is that what you want to do.

Had this class been an accounting class in which the professor was talking about campaign plans, this would be valid criticism. But this is a campaign class. What better way is there to learn than by doing. ?
Publisher said…
"Don't trust anyone in politics. Not even your professor."

Does this include you?
Anonymous said…
Yes, learn by doing but not on a campaign that the teacher is conducting himself!

If they had volunteered to help a candidate that the students themselves had picked individually, then it would have been fine.

Question, Bob, do you remember being in class? Do you think that the students felt they had much choice other than supporting their instructor? You know.. the guy who gave them their grade?

This is unethical and an abuse of position. The voters of Brookings should thrash this guy and then the students might actually learn something.

Happy Trails!
Anonymous said…
I am on the fence here.

As far as using the class to sign circulate petitions, he probably shouldn't have. If student in his class offered to do so, though, it would be different. We don't know those students didn't.

As for the campaign planning - I see that as a valuable, real-world experience.

If he's TEACHING the class, I suspect he didn't need the student's ideas, really. It seems to me that he's probably being nice saying he found ideas in them.

In all, though, PP, you were way over the top here. Perhaps you should reveal who you support for Mayor...
Anonymous said…
I don't see this as any different from research professors using a team of graduate assistants on projects, medical students in internships and residencies, or, as in my experience, a law shool professor using a group of students to help prepare a major case.

It's how your learn things that matters and real-world experience is priceless.

From a political perspective, clergy motivate parishoners on political activities, unions set up members as candidates, etc. Anybody think farmers don't have influence in our legislature?

I guess I don't see a difference or harm here. Frankly, anybody who wants to take on the abuse of serving as a local elected official deserves all the benefit of the doubt we can give.
Anonymous said…
Yup, PP. I do remember being in class. Way before your time, in fact.

And as late as two weeks ago. This is an upper-level classes, most of the students Political Science majors. I understand you were also. I was.

One semester Stephanie Herseth taught the class you mention, one of her students, Larry Diedrich's daughter.

It is common knowledge here in Brookings that most SDSU students are registered to vote at home.

When is the last time you saw a really NEW campaign idea?

Under the scenario you paint, the only person in Brookings who wasn't eligible to run for Mayor was Gary Aguiar, never mind that he's one of the most qualified people in Brookings to actually SERVE as mayor.

But you've moved Gary into the big time with your attack.
PP said…
Bob Klein - For starters I'm not accusing him of anything. I'm discussing what he himself admitted doing on the front page of last night's paper.

And I'm saying it was wrong.

And I don't give a crap if he's a Republican. There's equal opportunity to get thrown under the bus on this blog.

I have no problem with a political science professor teaching classes on politics. But in this instance I think he's crossed the line.

There's too much of an appearance that he's simply using the class as his personal laboratory to figure out the best way to run for mayor.

For crying out loud, he brought his petitions into class for his students to sign. You can't tell me there weren't people in that class that felt uncomfortable being put in that position.

And yes, poly sci students learn the most while being in the field working on campaigns.

And if he had former students who came and volunteered on the campaign, then more power to him for inspiring his students that much.

But the students in question paid tuition to learn, not to be used. And that's the difference.

I'm not seeing there was an expectation that this would happen, as with a graduate assistant or law student.

In fact, questions came up on this at the forum, so I'm assuming there were people in the audience P.O'd about it.

And who would know it happened? The students.

Who am I supporting in the mayor's race? I was leaning towards Gary before I read about this. (My sister and brother in law have his sign in her yard.)

Now? No freaking way.
Anonymous said…
Yo Bob... it was me Anon that asked about you being in class, not PP. Just fyi.

Research profs and law school profs are involving students as part of their jobs. Not as a sideline.

Are we saying that business school grads should be in balancing the books of the prof's wife's business? Should landscape design students be working on the prof's house?

I got a problem when you mix the personal/professional line. As far as this blog goes.. I think it was a poor campaign decision and one that could bite him in the butt.

Candidates should try to be pristine.

Happy Trails!
Anonymous said…
A question came up at the forum means either:
1. Someone cared enough about it to complain.
2. Someone is scared that they may be thrown out of office and sent one of their buddies over to ask a question.

It is remarkable that the local media decided this was newsworthy after they completely ignore the mayor's ethical lapses.

And you keep bringing up that he brought his petitions into class for people to sign as if those petitions are equivalent to asking for campaign contributions. This is squeaky clean in my book.

What's not clean is the governor refusing to fully disclose those who were invited to the Governor's hunt, or those who contributed the governor's slush fund which funds at least part of his personal travel.
PP said…
Bob -

Trying to change the topic isn't helping your cause any. (Nice letter supporting Gary to the editor in today's paper BTW).

The issue is that his campaign and his class should have been two entirely separate things.

As "Happy Trails" noted, it's like a landscape class being told they need to work on their prof's yard as part of the class.

Legal? Maybe. Ethical? no way.
Anonymous said…
I am a student in Gary Aguiar's classes. He often references to 'talking as a mayoral candidate, not a professor' and also 'what he believes should be done' and not to mention using classtime to get students registered in brookings and to sign petitions. Oh, and deliver button-making tools.
Anonymous said…
Yes, Gary Aguiar uses his classroom for campaigning. But, more than just the honestly policy being the problem here, it is the fact that he is using classroom time (paid learning time) to promote his own political interests. In regental policy it clearly states that classroom time is not to be used for political gain. His actions, as mentioned by anon above, are true. This is in his other classes, not just 'Political Parties and Campaigns.' It is not the mock campaign plans that are in question, as much as using PAID (or in most cases, LOANED) regental hours for his own political benefit.

fyi- the mock campaign plans also aided him in not doing a lot of normal campaign footwork. he had the demographics of the entire city handed to him. the cost of advertising (tv, radio, newspaper) was already researched. the cost of signs, buttons, mugs, brochures, palm cards, and all printed material was already given to him.

his campaign for mayor is actually only the begining. before this, it was constant talk about the "Lowe's Deal" or about the Brookings waterpark.
PP said…
Holy crap.
Anti-Socialist said…
I very much doubt if the professor learned anything from the students. I don't know how long ago it has been that you have attended school, but school assignments must reflect the attitudes and beliefs of the professor, if your interested in getting a good grade. I am quite sure that a seminar class at SDSU is not the "Great Political Think Tank" that you are trying to give credit.

All political campaigns use volunteers to raise money, and research advertising costs, petitions, and anything else that is menial leg work.

You put all the value on the student's work, and place no value on the time that the professor spent teaching, nor his knowledge of the subject, and the benefit his students receive by not having a less qualified instructor.

BTW, there is nothing stopping the students from giving copies of their research to other candidates.
PP said…
All political campaigns use volunteers to raise money, and research advertising costs, petitions, and anything else that is menial leg work.


The difference is that volunteers know they are volunteering. These students weren't told that.
Douglas said…
Maybe John Thune can hire them to circulate petitions.

Sounds like this prof pushed the limits a bit. Did any students complain in class to him?

Maybe it was a lesson in courage. Seems to be greatly lacking in more than a few places.

Any evidence that grades are effected in the class by helping or not helping, by signing or not signing?

And, it seems to me a very non-resident of Brookings, that the Lowe's deal there stunk to high heaven. Subsidizing a huge corporation while screwing existing local businesses seems to me to have some problems that good conservative Republicans and plain old Democrats really ought to have some problems with.
Anonymous said…
If I lived in Brookings, I'd vote for this guy. He's not a conformist, and there is no evidence that anyone was intimidated into helping his campaign.
PP said…
I live (and vote) here now, and I can guarantee you that there's at least one big vote against Gary.

(And likely to be a few more after today's Argus Story)
Anonymous said…
PP, when did you get the ability to vote against persons?

I thought you voted for persons??

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