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girlofscience's avatar

Would the Department of Defense react poorly to volunteer experience with the Obama campaign? [PLUS: How are we affected by political-affiliation discrimination?]?

Asked by girlofscience (7475 points ) November 6th, 2008

I am currently applying for a research grant from the Department of Defense. One of the sections asks me to write about my Current and Recent Volunteer Contributions. I have two: my animal rescue organization and the Obama campaign.

I’m assuming that the folks at the DoD aren’t the most liberal bunch. While they certainly aren’t supposed to discriminate based on political leanings, I worry that talking about the Obama campaign may leave a bad taste in the reviewers’ mouths. Because this is a very competitive grant, and the decisions are at least somewhat subjective, should I leave out Obama and focus only on my animal-rescue work? Or am I totally off the mark in this thinking, and more volunteer experience is better?

In any event, I think this opens up a broad and more interesting question:
How are we affected by political-affiliation discrimination?

Feel free to answer either or both.

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9 Answers

shilolo's avatar

If you want to be safe, you can either leave it out altogether, or modify the experience to put it into vague terms like “2008 Volunteered to canvas during the Presidential campaign.”.

You might think, however, do you really want this grant if they censor you based on your politics? Life isn’t fair, but would you feel good about yourself if you got the grant by being vague or leaving the experience out?

Edit: Also, it is worth noting that though it is a DoD grant, the people reading the science are unlikely to be affiliated with the DoD. You might want to suss that out, because reviewers of the grant may simply come from academia, in which case you should be fine to put that in.

girlofscience's avatar

@shilolo: You raise a good point. I feel that way, in general, in life. For instance, I wouldn’t want to be hired at a religious university by pretending I was religious. Especially when it means I’m going to be working with someone, I certainly like to be chosen for who I really am.

In this case, however:
1) Volunteer contributions are probably the absolute most minor part of the grant application. The elements that would get me the grant (intellectual merit, research proposal, etc.) are all completely legit.
2) I wouldn’t be making anything up, and I’m far more involved with the animal-rescue group anyway.
3) If they were to subconsciously discriminate based on my politics, that’d be totally unfair, so I would just be preventing them from having the chance to discriminate.
4) I would never have to directly work with them and fake being something I’m not.

This isn’t to say I should or should not include it, but that’s how I feel about the situation, ethically, if I were to not include it.

girlofscience's avatar

@shilolo: RE: your edit

I was thinking that, as well. However, I was worried they would send the research proposals and science-related information to the academics while having a panel at the DoD make judgments about the rest of the application. They don’t need an expert to judge someone’s volunteer experience.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I would include it in vague terms as Shilolo suggested, if only because it is the DoD, and they would know you volunteered anyways. It would come up in a background check. Better to be above board, than to have an omission questioned. It is the least part of qualifications.

girlofscience's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock: What?! There is no way the DoD would “know anyways.” What are you talking about? At one volunteer event, I wrote my first name and phone number on a sheet of paper so the coordinator could contact me, but that’s it. How could that possibly become part of my accessible record to the DoD?

wundayatta's avatar

I’d never want to lie to get a grant or a job. If leaving that off counts as a lie by ommission (and I don’t know if it does), then I wouldn’t do it. It’s never worth getting something using dishonesty.

This holds for the DoD, too. If they are being dishonest in handing out grants, and discriminating against Democrats, they will get caught some day.

The military is an instrument of foreign policy. It is not a job program for Republicans. People would do well to remember that. We have a country to fix.

americanandfree's avatar

Go for the animals, or call Oprah or Montel. They may give you some insight or suggestions.

Response moderated
WestRiverrat's avatar

Actually, working for Obama’s campaign might be a plus right now. The people in the DoD that make decisions on grants are career civil servants and political appointees. It won’t make a difference with the career CS people, but the political appointees got their jobs because their guy won.

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