The president of the College Republicans at Simpson College, located near Des Moines, Iowa, is upset with a professor who, he claims, intimated club members from protesting United States Senator Tom Harkin (D.) at a local town hall meeting on Social Security reform.
Christopher Erickson, president of the Simpson College Republicans, says he sent an e-mail to club members calling on them to “…cause some chaos, put a politician on the spot, and let the conservative voice be heard in a room full of devils, I mean Democrats.” Erickson goes on to say, “If we can get enough people together to go to this event, they may even stage some sort of protest.”
However, the Republican memo, somehow, fell into the wrong hands. Simpson College political science professor John Epperson – who also happens to be the faculty advisor for the College Democrats on campus – received the e-mail and replied to Erickson’s note. Erickson claims the professor responded with a threat of publishing his memo with the press. Human Events obtained a copy of Professor Epperson’s e-mail:
“I’ll ignore the sophomoric name-calling but I do hope that you and your friends do not intend to disrupt Sen. Harkin’s meeting. You of course are welcome to attend–unlike the President who does not want to talk with anyone who disagrees with him–there is no screening of attendees. So show up, ask questions, and you might even learn something but don’t be rude or obnoxious or disruptive. You would be surprised how quickly your original e-mail can be sent to the press.”
Soon after reading this, Erickson contacted the professor by phone. “As I called and talked to him, he bashed my beliefs, referred to Republicans as ‘heartless bastards’ and basically told me that I need to be careful what I am sending out because people are reading it.”
Prof. Epperson denies he ever “bashed” Erickson’s beliefs or called Republicans “heartless bastards.” He says Erickson did call and assured him there was no intention to disrupt Sen. Harkin’s meeting, and that he [Erickson] probably used unwise language in the e-mail sent out to College Republicans. “We had a nice conversation and that was the end of it,” says Prof. Epperson. He also denies the e-mail message he sent back to the College Republicans’ president was intended to intimidate or threaten Mr. Erickson. “I didn’t think it was in Chris’s interest, or the College Republicans of Simpson College’s interest, to be attached to some sort of …I’m not talking about a demonstration or hostile questions…I’m talking about what seemed to be, from Chris’s language, an attempt to disrupt the meeting,” the tenured professor remarked.
When asked where he intended to send a copy of the Republican e-mail, Prof. Epperson said, “I never sent it. I never thought about sending it, I never prepared it to be sent.” When asked, why then did you say, “You’d be surprised by how quickly your e-mail can be sent to the press,” the professor responded, “Because I think that’s a statement of fact…I’m not the only one who had a copy of the e-mail. There were lots of people who had a copy of that e-mail…lots of people, if they wanted to, could have sent any or all of it.”
Prof. Epperson says he did not originally get the e-mail but asked for a copy upon hearing about it. When questioned if he received the memo from someone within Sen. Harkin’s office, the professor replied, “I didn’t say that. I said I received the e-mail.” Continuing to press the matter, “So, Mr. Harkin’s office wasn’t directly in correspondence with you?” Prof. Epperson answered, “No, I didn’t say that either. I said, I received the e-mail, and I’m not going to tell you where I received it…but I was the one who initiated the conversation with Chris – no one else…I was not working for Sen. Harkin’s office. I wasn’t coordinating anything with Sen. Harkin’s office…” But when further questioned, “…this topic or situation never came up between you and Sen. Harkin’s office?” Prof. Epperson responded, “I didn’t say that.”
Prof. Epperson, who’s been teaching at Simpson College for almost three decades, isn’t aware of any problems that occurred during Sen. Harkin’s town hall meeting on April 24th. But, the College Republican president is still upset about the entire situation, “I am unsure as to when [Prof. Epperson] became the e-mail police.” As for the College Republicans’ attempt to “cause some chaos, put a politician on the spot, and let the conservative voice be heard,” Erickson says, “Nothing came out of it legally, but we did have members of my organization that because of [Prof. Epperson’s] actions refused to participate in the event for fear of more police, and if something did happen, it would all come back on us.
Erickson says this isn’t the first time College Republicans have been given the cold shoulder at Simpson College, and he’s tired of it.