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Watching The Professors

The New York Times has a story [1]about a website called Professor Watchlist [2], deemed by the Times as “seen as a threat to academic freedom.” It’s not hard to see why. Excerpts from the story:

A new website that accuses nearly 200 college professors of advancing “leftist propaganda in the classroom” and discriminating against conservative students has been criticized as a threat to academic freedom.

The site, Professor Watchlist [2], which first appeared last Monday, says it names those instructors who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”

“We aim to post professors who have records of targeting students for their viewpoints, forcing students to adopt a certain perspective, and/or abuse or harm students in any way for standing up for their beliefs,” wrote Matt Lamb, an organizer of the site.

The Professor Watchlist is a project of Turning Point USA [3], a nonprofit organization that says its mission is to educate students about “true free market values.” Charlie Kirk [4], its founder and executive director, wrote in a blog post [5] that “it’s no secret that some of America’s college professors are totally out of line” and that it was time to expose them.

But Julio C. Pino [6], an associate professor of history at Kent State University in Ohio who is among those named on the site, said in an interview, “What we are seeing with this site is a kind of normalizing of prosecuting professors, shaming professors, defaming professors.”

“The broader issue it raises is: What kind of country is America going to become in the next four years?” he added.

If I were a university professor, I would be thinking, “Oh good grief. It’s not enough that I have to deal with the snowflakes in class who are policing my lectures and classroom discourse for microaggressions, but now I have to worry about right-wing informers reporting me to a website? Who needs that?”

Then I had a look at the site. It describes itself as follows:

This website is an aggregated list of pre-existing news stories that were published by a variety of news organizations throughout the past few years. While we accept tips for new additions on our website, we only publish profiles on incidents that have already been reported somewhere else.

TPUSA will continue to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish; however students, parents, and alumni deserve to know the specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.

Note that they’re not publishing anonymous allegations, only aggregating things that have been reported elsewhere. The question is, were these things reported by reputable journalistic outlets? Can they be believed? I went to the site’s page for Julio C. Pino [7], quoted in the Times story. Its description:

Dr. Julio Cesar Pino [6], an Associate Professor at Kent State University faced investigation by the FBI for connections to ISIS. He is strongly anti-Israel and calls Israel the “spiritual heir to Nazism”. According to Campus Reform, a 2002 eulogy Pino wrote in a campus newspaper praising Palestinian terrorist Ayat al-Akras” gained widespread attention.

Source(s):http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=7198 [8]

Follow the link, and you’ll learn a lot about Pino. Here’s an even better link to a different Campus Reform report about him.  [9] Excerpt:

Julio C. Pino, who teaches in the school’s history department, has been the target of other investigations in the past. In 2007, the school launched [10] an ongoing investigation after Pino posted on a Jihadist blog. The investigation allegedly concluded in 2009 after Pino was visited at his home by U.S. Secret Service agents.

Early on in his tenure, Pino wrote a eulogy [11] in a school newspaper praising Palestinian terrorist Ayat al-Akras who murdered two Israelis in a suicide bombing. At the time, a fellow professor interpreted the eulogy [12] as a call to arms and urged the university to fire Pino.

Another professor said he often sees Pino wearing military camouflage around campus but dismisses any suspicions by calling it a “fashion statement.”

Pino came back into the spotlight in 2011 after he interrupted a student event [13] featuring Arab-Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi with shouts of “death to Israel!” Pino stood up in the middle of Khaldi’s presentation and said “your government killed people.” He proceeded to call Khaldi a liar before he stormed out of the room. Then-university President Lester Lefton condemned Pino’s actions as “reprehensible” and an “embarrassment to [the] university.”

A few years after his on-campus outburst, Pino published an open letter [14] to his Israeli academic peers blaming them for the murder of Palestinian children and called the Israeli government the rightful heir to Nazism. “You have chosen to openly work for and brag about academic collaboration with a regime that is the spiritual heir to Nazism,” Pino wrote in his letter. He concluded the letter with calls for a jihad, saying “hasta la victoria siempre” and “jihad until victory!”

Pino told Watchdog.org [13] he stands by every word of his original statement.

On Tuesday, the FBI confirmed its investigation after Special Agent Donna Cambeiro told the Record Courier it is “conducting an ongoing investigation.” She declined to offer any further comment. KSU spokesman Eric Mansfield said “Kent State is fully cooperating with the FBI” and assured faculty and students there is no threat to campus.

Student reporters on campus sat down with Pino for an interview on Tuesday after hearing about his alleged ties to the Islamic State. During the interview [15], Pino denied involvement with the Islamic State and said he is not aware of any investigation.

“I’ve not broken the law,” he said. “I don’t advocate anyone else break the law, so I’ll stand by that statement that I fulfill my duties as an American citizen by speaking out on issues that some people find controversial, of course, but no, I have not violated any laws that I’m aware of or than anyone has informed me of.”

As part of the FBI investigation, several of Pino’s colleagues and students were questioned. Among them was Emily Mills, editor-in-chief of the Kent Stater student newspaper, who said she was asked about what students think of Pino. He is “really, really open about his views and what he believes,” she said [10].

The FBI investigation was revealed back in January of this year.

What on earth is wrong with publicizing this information about Pino? These aren’t anonymous allegations; they’re based on the public record, including Pino’s own statements. If I were a Kent State student — or a parent of a Kent State student — I would very much want to know what kind of classroom Pino runs. I see nothing wrong with this website aggregating credible information.

I picked another professor at random. Here’s what the site says about Joseph Schwartz:

Joseph Schwartz [16], professor of Political Science at Temple University, took over a College Republican discussion with a representative from Pennsylvania Right to Work Defense and Education Foundation. He and some of his students, insulted the speaker and accused him of racism. Schwartz then exclaimed, “Oh come on, f*****g a–. I believe in the religion of foul language.”

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/09/19/ultra-liberal-professor-disrupts-college-republican-meeting-with-vulgar-rant.html [17]

If you follow the link, you’ll go to a column about the incident by Todd Starnes, a controversial figure in conservative culture-war opinion journalism. I don’t follow his work, but conservative Evangelical friends of mine who do, and who are generally sympathetic to his point of view, have told me they always double-check allegations he floats before believing them. In this case, Starnes posts an actual video of the confrontation [18], and Schwartz did exactly what his critics say he did — and there’s proof.

One more, chosen at random:

Dr. Brittney Cooper [19] is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University. Cooper stated that white racism is to blame for Brexit. She tweeted “White nationalism gone be the death of all of us. #Brexit” and went on to say “The only thing I know that makes white folks vote against their own economic interest is racism. #Brexit.” In another interview to Salon she stated that white people need to start recognizing that they are “the face of the oppressor.” Cooper has also stated that Christian conservatives worship a “white supremacist Jesus.”

Source(s): http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6423 [20]http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=7760 [21]

Again, follow the link, which simply quotes choice bits from Cooper’s Salon.com essay [22] reacting to the state of Indiana’s passage of a RFRA. Here are excerpts from that essay. Remember, these are Cooper’s own words:

And given our current anti-Black racial climate, there is no reason to trust that these laws won’t be eventually used for acts of racially inflected religious discrimination, perhaps against Black Muslims or Muslims of Arab descent, for instance. Surely this kind of law in this political climate sanctions the exercise of Islamophobia.

As a practicing Christian, I am deeply incensed by these calls for restoration and reclamation in the name of religious freedom. This kind of legislation is largely driven by conservative Christian men and women, who hold political views that are antagonistic to every single group of people who are not white, male, Christian, cisgender, straight and middle-class. Jesus, a brown, working-class, Jew, doesn’t even meet all the qualifications.

More:

This is why I identify with the story of Jesus. And frankly, it is the only story there really is. This white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, gun-toting, Bible-quoting Jesus of the religious right is a god of their own making. I call this god, the god of white supremacy and patriarchy. There is nothing about their god that speaks to me as a Black woman of working-class background living in a country where police routinely murder black men and beat the hell out of black women, where the rich get richer while politicians find ever more reasons to extract from the poor, and where the lives the church imagines for women still center around marriage and motherhood, and no sex if you’re single.

This God isn’t the God that I serve. There is nothing holy, loving, righteous, inclusive, liberatory or theologically sound about him. He might be “biblical” but he’s also an asshole.

The Jesus I know, love, talk about and choose to retain was a radical, freedom-loving, justice-seeking, potentially queer (because he was either asexual or a priest married to a prostitute), feminist healer, unimpressed by scripture-quoters and religious law-keepers,  seduced neither by power nor evil.

That’s the story I choose to reflect on this Holy Week.

Clearly, Brittney Cooper is a crackpot. Nobody made this stuff up about her. She wrote it herself! And yes, it is relevant to Rutgers students, parents of Rutgers students, and Rutgers alumni.

Professor Watchlist clearly needs to be edited more professionally. For example, it ought to link to original sources when possible, not to other aggregators. But based on the entries I looked at, the problem left-wing critics have with the site is not that it makes things up, but that it holds left-wing professors publicly accountable for their words and deeds.

Today on TAC’s site, I wrote about a creative writing professor at Sweet Briar College who decided to toss her lesson plan on the day after the presidential election and harangue her students [23] into admitting that they voted for Donald Trump, and, having received this admission from some of them, proceeded to berate them for their thoughtcrime. I don’t know this because a classroom spy made spurious allegations. I know this because the professor wrote about it herself in a sympathetic magazine, praising her own “honesty,” and calling on other professors to do the same thing during the Trump administration.

Again: parents, students, and alumni of Sweet Briar College should know that this is what passes for pedagogy in Prof. Nell Boeschenstein’s classroom. If Professor Watchlist puts her on its site, I hope its editors won’t only link to my blog entry about her, but to Boeschenstein’s own article in Guernica magazine.  [24] It makes the claims more credible.

Of course you knew this was coming:

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In what sense is it “McCarthyism” to draw attention to the professors’ own words and deeds? For people like this, a “McCarthyite” is someone who simply notices what left-wing professors say and do, and says, “Hey, look at this.”

The fact that Professor Watchlist exists, and that there is an actual need for it, is evidence of a profound institutional failure, and a failure of trust. Prof. Stanley Fish, who is nobody’s idea of a conservative, writing critically about Nell Boeschenstein’s nonsense at Sweet Briar [25], said:

Boeschenstein knows that her performance that day goes against the “general rule of thumb for us teachers… not to say what is right or what is wrong, but to teach our students to think critically.” But she invokes the “these-are-not-ordinary-times” rationale and regrets only that she hadn’t set aside “test preparation and dates to memorize and topic sentences to hone” earlier: “Had I been brave enough to start this conversation in September, I wonder whether some of my Trump-supporting students might have chosen otherwise at the ballot box on Tuesday.” That is to say, had I engaged in political indoctrination from the beginning of the semester instead of merely doing my job, my students might have done the right thing on November 8. The rest of us, however, can learn from her failure to act in time and take up the real work ― of saving the world from Donald Trump — right away: “Don’t defer the conversation any longer. If we do, more bucks will be bound for our desks that we cannot afford to watch pile up”.

And people wonder why so many take a dim view of what goes on in our college classrooms.

I am made queasy by a site like Professor Watchlist, but when academia has lost the ability to police itself, allowing ideological fervor to abrogate a basic commitment to professional standards, then it should not be surprised when the public it serves is no longer willing to trust it. Nell Boeschenstein ought to be professionally reprimanded for her behavior in the classroom that day. If the academy were working as it ought to, she wouldn’t have felt free to abandon her post that day and spend it picking on her students. And she would have been ashamed of having done so, instead of being so proud of it that she wrote in praise of herself in a magazine.

Again: if there are instances of such gross failure on the part of individual academics to abide by basic standards, and a failure of the culture of academia to form the minds of professors in these standards, then they have no right to be surprised when people lose trust in their authority. In my education, the four best professors I ever had were men of the political left. I knew that. But they were not crusaders, or ideologues; they were teachers of moral and intellectual integrity, who challenged us students to think, and taught us how to do so.

I remember how shocked I was as a fired-up campus leftist in my first semester of college, and in a rhetorical composition class, turning in a paper filled with praise for the Sandinistas. I liked the professor a lot, and knew that he was a left-wing activist. Man, he gave me a low grade for that paper, and let me have it, saying it was nothing but cant and groundless appeals to emotion. I was blown away! I knew that he probably agreed with my conclusions, but he analyzed my paper as a piece of rhetoric, and tore me to bits. It was one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned as a young writer. He retired a long time ago. I looked him up online, and sure enough, he’s now living in a part of America so blue that it’s indigo, and is engaged in full-time left-wing activism. It probably would not please him to know that he had had so much influence on the development of a conservative writer, but I hope that he would be proud of what he taught me about intellectual integrity. I would trust my own kids to a college full of professors like that, because a teacher like that is trustworthy.

These other ones? Not so much.

Think of Professor Watchlist as a version of BishopAccountability.org. [26] That website — that invaluable website — arose as a collaborative project by Catholic laymen and laywomen who had lost trust in the Catholic hierarchy’s ability to police its own ranks, and even to tell the truth about what was going on inside the priesthood. BishopAccountability.org has a tremendous database, culled from media and court records, detailing accusations of clerical sex abuse and episcopal cover-ups and mismanagement of the crisis. It is not a site devoted to the theological wars within American Catholicism. It only exists as a resource for people who want to know what information is publicly available about particular priests and bishops.

That BishopAccountability.org has to exist at all is a disgrace. But the disgrace does not belong to BishopAccountability.org.

I know, I know, clerical sex crimes and their coverup is not on the same moral or legal plane as fatmouthing left-wing professors. The point is that both websites are grassroots responses to a serious problem within bedrock institutions of civil society, problems that compromise the ability of those institutions to perform their necessary function. Professors who end up on Professor Watchlist may — may — by their public words and actions have forfeited the expectation of trust by students, their parents, and the wider community. You want to take a class from Prof. Brittney Cooper at Rutgers, or is your kid signed up for one of her classes? You may not be a reader of Salon.com, but thanks to Professor Watchlist and other campus watchdog sites, you have direct evidence that she’s a racist crackpot. Let the buyer beware.

Finally, you might remember last year the online clash I had with Katie Grimes, a young Catholic theologian at Villanova who, on the basis of her own published work, despises the Catholic Church as a spiritual charnel house of homophobia and white supremacy. You think I’m kidding? Read here. [27] Note that left-wing Catholic critics blasted me not for telling lies about Katie Grimes, but about drawing negative attention to her actual written work. This, even though Villanova University trusts her to teach Catholic theology to its students.

It’s fraud, straight up. And it’s about time those perpetuating the frauds got called on it. This stuff matters, too. As one of my readers said last year:

I watched in horror at what a top-flight humanities grad program did to my sister. She went in a lively, driven, extreme talent with original thoughts. I was so excited that she got into the program. Now she just sees Dead White Zombies on every street corner, feels compelled to deconstruct the oppressive subtexts of hardware stores and ice cream, and is ONLY friends with people who consider themselves revolutionary academics because they use the c-word on Tumblr as a performative rebellion against whatever social poltergeist that they proxy for their daddy-rage. Not to mention the only job she can find is bagging groceries, is more depressed than I’ve ever known her, and “can’t” bring herself to talk to her priest, because her little tribe has turned her against him.

So Katie Grimes isn’t the problem, she’s the product of the problem.

It’s not that these professors are ashamed of what they’re doing. It’s that they don’t want the common people to know about it. It’s easier to read Professor Watchlist and shout “McCarthyism!” than it is to defend the garbage it documents. But shouting “McCarthyite!” works about as well as shouting “Racist! Homophobe! Islamophobe!” Those epithets have lost their meaning, because they aren’t intended to describe, but to silence dissent and legitimate inquiry.

Professor Watchlist isn’t the problem. It’s the product of the problem. Put another way, I’m glad the site is there, but the existence of Professor Watchlist is a testimony to a profound breakdown of trust within American society. That is the main story. How we repair that, I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. Got any ideas? Let’s hear them. I’m talking about real ideas, not the frantic suggestion that if we just call the Professor Watchlist people enough names, the serious problem they document will cease to be a problem at all.

UPDATE: Wise words from the editors of Heterodox Academy [28] (thanks, reader, for tipping me off):

Turning Point USA has a constitutionally protected right to publicize and criticize the words and actions of professors that it finds offensive. But we think that this project will only exacerbate a problem we are trying to address at Heterodox Academy: professors and students are increasingly afraid of voicing and debating opinions in the classroom. For this reason, we–the executive committee of Heterodox Academy–believe that Professor Watchlist is pernicious and misguided. We expect it to have the same speech-chilling effects as do many of the “Bias Response Teams [29]” that are being implemented nationwide, which encourage students to report professors and fellow students for anything—including sincerely expressed opinions—that they interpret or misinterpret as offensive.

We call on everyone who is concerned about the state of higher education to stop devising ways that members of an academic community can report or punish each other for classroom speech.

Whether the reporting is done to a campus authority, setting in motion weeks of time-draining bureaucratic procedure that is often far removed from common sense, or whether the reporting is done to the Internet at large, triggering public shaming campaigns and a cascade of threatening tweets and emails, such reporting systems encourage everyone to walk on eggshells. This kind of fearful climate deprives everyone of the vigorous debate and disagreement that is essential for learning and scholarship.

Serious question: I don’t want to know if my kid’s professor is a leftie. Who cares? I do want to know if my kid’s professor has been known to behave in ways that grossly betray academic standards. Again, this is what happens when you have a severe breakdown of trust in authority.

UPDATE.2: A good comment from a reader:

I had one of the professors on the list, Mark Tushnet. He is so honored because he wrote, in a pre-election blog post, that the winners of the culture wars should take a hard line with the losers. This has been reduced, as is the way of the internets, to saying that Christians should be treated like Nazis.

While his personal politics was hardly a campus secret, and he was relatively open about his own jurisprudential philosophy, in my two classes with him he taught the material. He engaged students on the merits. He challenged our thinking on all sides of the issues. Never did he berate anyone for expressing an ideological disagreement.

If the point of Professor Watchlist is to avoid professors of the Nell Boeschenstein variety, that’s understandable. That’s not why anyone goes to college. But Mark Tushnet? Nothing in my experience qualifies him for such a list, unless the whole point is to avoid/call out people whose views–rather than behavior–its creators disagree with.

Jon Haidt said in a comment that people should lay off professors for what they say outside of class. Generally, I agree, but Nell Boeschenstein acted unprofessionally and ideologically in class, then wrote a piece about it, praising her own righteousness and encouraging other professors to do the same. How should we regard that?

82 Comments (Open | Close)

82 Comments To "Watching The Professors"

#1 Comment By Another Matt On November 29, 2016 @ 11:39 am

It’s been interesting seeing my fellow academics’ reaction to this thing:

“God, this is horrible! What’s next?! Also, I’m indignant that I’m not on the list already; what do I have to do to get listed?”

The second part is half “leftist street cred” and half solidarity. Same people are saying if there is going to be a Muslim registry, then it’s our moral responsibility to all register as Muslims.

#2 Comment By William Dalton On November 29, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

What Will Harrington says about college faculty earning their income from their students was, I believe, the pattern in higher education before the advent of the modern university. Particularly, I believe this was the case in European universities, where students were advised when they arrived what examinations they would have to pass to earn a specific degree and what would be required of them in those examinations. But the giving and taking of courses was a matter entirely separate from that of earning a degree. The university offered space for its professors to offer classes, and students were free to enroll in them, pay their fees, and take notes on the lectures given. But they weren’t obliged to enroll in any courses at all. If they thought they could sit in the library, read the books available, and learn there all they needed to pass their examinations, they were free thus to spend their time. There was no given at the end of any course, and there was no requirement to “pass” any course of instruction. But students would choose and pay for those courses whose syllabi promised to cover the material they would need to know to pass their university administered examinations. They didn’t choose and pay for courses which they would find entertaining or whose professors would stroke their ego or feed their prejudices. The greatest reform to rescue the American university from itself would be to take the task of writing and giving and grading examinations away from course instructors and place it in committees of faculty who will set and publish the specifics of knowledge and skill in which their students will be required to demonstrate competence or mastery before being awarded their degree. Students will seek and instructors will teach, if they want to earn a living, courses which will advance them in acquiring the knowledge and skills they will need to pass their examinations. And the whole world can judge whether the degrees that college or university awards signifies a student who has gained competence or mastery in any endeavor the world will find of value.

#3 Comment By Jan Han On November 29, 2016 @ 12:48 pm

Rod, not sure if this comment went through or not – darn browser refreshed in the middle of posting! – so sending it again just in case.

Rod, thanks for the clarification. I thought about that as I was posting – but I felt like the point stood regardless. His post’s major claim seems to be premised on a fundamental misconception about the nature of Christianity, namely, that it is a cultural and even racial identity, rather than a theological one. The possibility of “conservative Christians” who are also Chinese literally disappears from his vision of politics as a mere battleground of ethnic interest.

That being said, M_Young’s non-belief means that he has done an even greater service than I initially thought. That is, his post illustrates the degree to which 21st century “ethno-nationalism” is motivated by secular white people appropriating the name of Christ for their own purposes. (See terrorist and famed “Christian atheist” Anders Breivik.) I have no interest in antagonizing him, merely pointing this out – one may as well be upfront about this in Trump’s America, land of Evangelicalism-as-Stockholm-Syndrome.

#4 Comment By redfish On November 29, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

@Jan Han,

(though in academic circles, I am aware that “queer” has evolved beyond its everyday use, and refers to any kind of sexuality, including celibacy, that does not reduce to straight monogamy)

Note that celibacy isn’t the same thing as asexuality — she suggests he was asexual. You’re right that celibacy has been discussed in context of queer theory. But my sense is she doesn’t believe celibacy from a non-asexual is possible, which is why she used the term “asexual”. The evidence for that? The statement from her was that a God which said “no sex if you’re single” would also be a God that was “an asshole.” Seriously? She puts traditional proscriptions against sex outside of marriage in a parade of horribles that also includes the police murdering black men and the rich exploiting the poor.

Would you defend that as non-crazy? And, as someone who is celibate, and also familiar with the critical theory she’s drawing from, the term “erasure” comes to mind here.

At any rate, I respect your unease about the alt-right, but where you see a collusion by white supremacism and Christian conservatives, I think you should give yourself a bit of pause. With any examination, you’d find “deplorables” and controversial figures both on the Left and the Right. After all, conservatives had a field day linking Obama to Marxists, black nationalists, eugenicists, etc. Now its just the progressives turn at bat.

#5 Comment By Jan Han On November 29, 2016 @ 1:04 pm

Hector St Clare,

Let’s bracket the Brexit claims, which I admit shade into polemics. By your own admission, Jesus is not someone who fits into a box. Therefore, the necessary corollary of your statement “Jesus was neither feminist nor anti-feminist” must also be true: Jesus exhibited affinity for both feminism and what many leftists might decry as patriarchy.

He was supported by wealthy women, allowed Mary to sit at his feet as a disciple sits at a rabbi’s (indicating that he was willing to teach her), received the alabaster offering without sexualizing the long hair of the woman who offered it (thereby refusing to reduce her to a mere body), and appeared first, post-Resurrection, to women, a decision shocking enough that Paul quietly excises their presence from his account of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. All of these features of His ministry chafe against traditionalist conceptions of Jesus as being “against feminism.”

Sure, at the same time he never called for an order of priestesses or instigated a sexual revolution. But a recitation of facts concerning Christ’s ministry shows that He defies your conception of him just as much as he might Brittney Cooper’s, or mine for that matter.

Regarding his “love of freedom” or lack thereof, his praise of the Roman centurion coexists alongside his virtual canonization of the Good Samaritan, member of a hated and marginalized ethnic group – so does the latter example “definitely” prove that he was a microaggression-addled SJW avant la lettre? What’s good for the Roman goose is good for the Samaritan gander…

#6 Comment By VikingLs On November 29, 2016 @ 1:10 pm

For once I agree with Scotty almost entirely. I would add the addendum that tenure committees do care about student assessments, which are anonymous, but also institutional.

#7 Comment By redfish On November 29, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

@Rod,

I don’t want to know if my kid’s professor is a leftie. Who cares? I do want to know if my kid’s professor has been known to behave in ways that grossly betray academic standards. Again, this is what happens when you have a severe breakdown of trust in authority.

What bothers me the most is there are double standards, so that if conservative professors did anything similar to what these leftie professors are doing, they’d be in serious trouble.

I didn’t have any real experiences with radical professors in college, though in high school (!) I did have a government teacher who was a self-professed Maoist and had students read from the Communist Party USA newspaper. I didn’t have real problems with him, because he was actually pretty fair to students who disagreed and he encouraged them to contradict him. However, there was another teacher in the same school, and I didn’t happen to be her student, but from what I heard at the time, some of her Christian views became known somehow — that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation — and she was fired for it.

I have a mixed view on the role of professors. I think there are dangers in policing their curriculum from the outside, because it undermines their ability to teach and speak freely, and often the criticism is misinformed and it can lead to witch-hunts, when the professors may only be trying to teach their courses with good conscience, with their knowledge and authority over the subject. On the other hand, I think people romanticize university education a bit much; and think it is in the end really just a service that students are paying for. Where professors are doing their job right and this gives students a challenge because they won’t give As to poorly argued papers, that’s a good thing. But I also don’t think critical thinking can really be taught — only learned. If it could be taught, you would imagine that every professor would be masters at it, having survived post-graduate education, but we see time and time again, its not really true.

#8 Comment By readingbill On November 29, 2016 @ 1:50 pm

Hector,

I agree. Jesus doesn’t fit neatly into any box, which is also the point Cooper makes.

Bill

#9 Comment By Eliavy On November 29, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

While I was fortunate to attend a college with sane professors who taught me a great deal, I have a relative who got her degree in the 60’s. The only thing I know about her classwork is that she took an English class in which the professor spent the entire semester rhapsodizing about Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. She’s still utterly disgusted about it to this day.

I wonder how many students are silently putting up with this nonsense, but it will color their entire university education for decades to come? If I were to start attending a university now, I would probably use Professor Watchlist to help pare down my list of prospects because the universities in question cannot be bothered to maintain a worthwhile educational standard.

[NFR: This brings to mind a conversation I had in a coffee shop in Oslo, Norway, in December 1994. I was visiting a friend, and met one of her pals, an artist who had recently graduated from art school. He was pretty bitter about the whole experience. He told me that all his teachers taught him was that he was already a genius, and whatever he wanted to paint was brilliant. He was certain that he had been cheated out of an education by left-wing ideologues who thought learning basic art techniques (drafting, etc) was oppressive. I am certain he was right. — RD]

#10 Comment By readingbill On November 29, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

Hector,

And while my previous comment was awaiting moderation, I see that Jan Han’s response is exactly correct.

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 29, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

I did have a government teacher who was a self-professed Maoist and had students read from the Communist Party USA newspaper.

A minor factual clarification: If the professor was a Maoist, he did not have students read from the CPUSA newspaper, unless that was to critique it as a tool of Soviet Social-Imperialism. He more likely had students read from the newspaper of the CP-ML (Michael Klonsky’s adoring acolytes) or RCP (Bobby Avakian’s equally adoring acolytes), both splinters off one half of one third of SDS. Klonsky was a red diaper baby. Avakian’s father was a California superior court judge.

I question the capacity of any teacher who pushes that stuff in the class room. I recall signing up for an introductory economics class, only to find the adjunct teacher beginning with the announcement “I don’t believe in the capitalist system.” I thought it was a pretty bad system myself, but I signed up for a class on basic economic theory of that system, the better to understand it. I already knew where the local Marxist book store was.

#12 Comment By Michael Guarino On November 29, 2016 @ 2:36 pm

I agree. Jesus doesn’t fit neatly into any box, which is also the point Cooper makes.

That’s not the point she makes at all. She is saying that Jesus is not a gun-toting redneck, no, he was totally woke. In other words, she is condemning identifying Jesus as a symbol of one brand of tribal chauvinism she disapproves of by saying he was a symbol of tribal chauvinism she approves of.

#13 Comment By Michael Guarino On November 29, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

I should add, Cooper’s characterization of the Jesus of conservative Christians is laughably inaccurate. So the fact that she tries to refute what is quite clearly a chauvinist strawman by creating a perfectly tailored, tribally-approved version of Jesus is a pretty interesting contrast.

#14 Comment By Jon On November 29, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

I had one of the professors on the list, Mark Tushnet. He is so honored because he wrote, in a pre-election blog post, that the winners of the culture wars should take a hard line with the losers. This has been reduced, as is the way of the internets, to saying that Christians should be treated like Nazis.

While his personal politics was hardly a campus secret, and he was relatively open about his own jurisprudential philosophy, in my two classes with him he taught the material. He engaged students on the merits. He challenged our thinking on all sides of the issues. Never did he berate anyone for expressing an ideological disagreement.

If the point of Professor Watchlist is to avoid professors of the Nell Boeschenstein variety, that’s understandable. That’s not why anyone goes to college. But Mark Tushnet? Nothing in my experience qualifies him for such a list, unless the whole point is to avoid/call out people whose views–rather than behavior–its creators disagree with.

#15 Comment By Jan Han On November 29, 2016 @ 3:22 pm

redfish –

in saying that I agree with 85% of what Cooper said, I should acknowledge that her implicit equation of singlehood with racist murder is, well, loopy (hence the remaining 15%!). That said, I guess one could construe her dismissal of sexual conservatism as an aside rather than a literal equivalent of the other ills she decries.

Re: celibacy vs asexuality – I hadn’t thought about it in those terms. I suppose that, as an orthodox believer who resonated with “no sex if you’re single,” I interpreted that less as a summary rejection of celibacy, than as a critique of theology that only imposes negative prohibitions without offering positive alternatives. But I could be wrong.

Regarding equivalence of left and right’s deplorables – the Right’s “deplorables” happen to have the support of 300 years of systemic discrimination. Moreover, the direct, unmediated ties between the Right’s deplorables and the incoming administration find literal embodiment in Jeff Sessions and Stephen K. Bannon. Conservative theorizing about links between Obama and “violent radicals” don’t even come close (contra Sheriff David Clark, Black Lives Matter is not a terrorist organization!). Again and again and again, Christians in this country have chosen to take a gamble on remaining silent in the face of systemic racism, because it *might* give them a chance on pro-life policies. I believe the Bible has a thing or two to say about gambling.

#16 Comment By Major Wootton On November 29, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

I’m an associate professor, tenured since 1997, at a state university, and would speak in favor of this resource. Humanities professors sometimes hypocritically teach students about the horrors of “privilege” while being among the most privileged, non-accountable people on earth. Education is costly in terms of dollars, including earnings not received while a student is out of the workplace, and time. Students have the right to make decisions about where they will invest time and dollars, and, if they so wish, to avoid professors who are paid for instruction in a discipline but use significant class time for browbeating students with the professor’s hobbyhorses. This is not a violation of academic freedom. It is a move towards greater transparency and fairness. Students who like professors to go off on tangents, to turn the classroom into a bar-room bull session venue, may continue to enroll in such courses.

#17 Comment By Another Matt On November 29, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

[NFR: This brings to mind a conversation I had in a coffee shop in Oslo, Norway, in December 1994. I was visiting a friend, and met one of her pals, an artist who had recently graduated from art school. He was pretty bitter about the whole experience. He told me that all his teachers taught him was that he was already a genius, and whatever he wanted to paint was brilliant. He was certain that he had been cheated out of an education by left-wing ideologues who thought learning basic art techniques (drafting, etc) was oppressive. I am certain he was right. — RD]

This makes me sad, and I hope it’s not true in art in general. We’ve mostly been able to avoid that in classical music, where we adhere to a pretty high standard for performance, analysis, and composition. Composers get training in music notation, music theory, and orchestration, for instance. I think some of the reason is that art music is almost always a collaborative effort, so composers have to be able to communicate their ideas to musicians, and there aren’t very many nonstandard avenues that work.

This thoroughness in higher music education is really only under attack by right-wing “everything is a market” forces, who see value only when money can be made. A lot of my colleagues in music theory have been under pressure to remove anything from their curriculum that doesn’t have commercial application, including basic types of harmonies used since the 17th century (they aren’t used in pop music (well, they are in the Beatles and Radiohead, but they were sui generis and that can’t be learned)). The very worst are the people who point out that since most popular musicians who make the most money don’t read music, we should no longer require that as a basic skill in music training. Some of that is starting to seep in in some places: a friend told me about an opera teacher at his school whose students don’t read music but rather learn their parts by listening to recordings. But that’s very rare.

#18 Comment By readingbill On November 29, 2016 @ 4:08 pm

Michael Gaurino,

How would one, then, properly characterize the Jesus of conservative Christians? How many flavors of conservative Christians are there? And how does that Jesus differ from the one Cooper imagines?

There are plenty of Jesii floating around out there.

#19 Comment By Hound of Ulster On November 29, 2016 @ 9:12 pm

I find it interesting that it never occurs to rightist and right-wing intellectuals that if they want to have a voice in academia, they should, you know, stop living off what my (very anarchist and Roman Catholic) dad calls ‘wingnut welfare’ at all these ‘free market’ think tanks…which oddly would all cease to exist if subjected to the very market forces they advocate for on behalf of.

#20 Comment By Martha Lucinda On November 29, 2016 @ 11:11 pm

I love it that we conservatives now have a voice. There is a deep divide in our nation. No, some Americans do not want their children subjected to a professor’s liberal opinion. A teacher’s purpose is to present the facts and help the student use his or her own mental capabilities to learn.

The left will never be happy until they ruin our national identity. Isn’t it bad enough that the mainstream media is leftist and does not report without interjecting bias or leaving out vital facts in a story in order to slant it. So glad we have Veritas and Judicial Watch. It has been too long waiting for conservatives to have their voices heard and not be discounted by the left.

#21 Comment By redfish On November 29, 2016 @ 11:54 pm

@Jan Han,

Regarding equivalence of left and right’s deplorables – the Right’s “deplorables” happen to have the support of 300 years of systemic discrimination. Moreover, the direct, unmediated ties between the Right’s deplorables and the incoming administration find literal embodiment in Jeff Sessions and Stephen K. Bannon. Conservative theorizing about links between Obama and “violent radicals” don’t even come close (contra Sheriff David Clark, Black Lives Matter is not a terrorist organization!).

Well, I have to disagree. You describe the Right’s “deplorables” as having institutional support, but the Left has had control over most of our cultural institutions since at least the 60s — and I’d say earlier. Whether we’re talking about academia, entertainment, journalism — and even politics, keeping in mind that after FDR, Democrats had control over government for decades and conservatives starting to gain power is a fairly recent development. And institutional Left over history that has supported reverse discrimination and has very sympathetic to Communist tyrants, as you can see in the recent white-washing and romanticization of Fidel Castro.

Sessions and Bannon are not worse than anyone that was in President Obama’s government. The arguments against them are exaggerated and part of a partisan distortion. For example, did you know the following about Sessions? —

Sessions’s actual track record certainly doesn’t suggest he’s a racist. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted the head of the state Klan, Henry Francis Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays. When he was later elected the state Attorney General, Sessions followed through and made sure Hays was executed. The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan, effectively breaking the back of the KKK in Alabama.

[30]

As for Bannon, the claims about him being an anti-Semite are a bit silly on their face, given that Andrew Breitbart and most of the major writers even currently on Breitbart.com are Jewish. People want to try to draw tenuous links between him and Spencer in I think a poor understanding of what’s going on with the alt-right. That said, I can’t say I’m a fan of Breitbart’s style of yellow journalism.

And conservatives could justly single out individuals like Van Jones and Cal Sunstein for criticism. And now, have plenty of reason to criticize Keith Ellison, a guy who has made plenty of radical statements and now is being pushed by some for DNC chair.

So, yea, I disagree. Anyway, I think people who are worried about the alt-right will be pleasantly surprised when their fears don’t materialize.

#22 Comment By Old West On November 30, 2016 @ 2:31 am

There are still a fair number of distinguished and prominent tenured professors who are conservative, even at elite institutions .

I am curious about what those in the know think: are they truly a dying breed? Will they be replaced, much like one generation of old babushkas in Soviet Russia was succeeded by the next generation of elderly pious babushkas?

Or is the deck so stacked against them that it will be impossible to do what the current conservative tenured professors have accomplished?

#23 Comment By Julie Vassilatos On November 30, 2016 @ 8:31 am

Sounds like you believe all those conservative kids coming to college are snowflakes who need protection after all.

#24 Comment By Elijah On November 30, 2016 @ 9:11 am

re: Mark Tushnet – Professor Watch notes a single instance of the man’s behavior, with a link to the source. Many, if not most, would read that and take the man’s course anyway. I fail to see what’s wrong with that.

I have disagreed with Rod many times over the years, and even thought him a little over the top about certain subjects, but I still return to his blog and books.

I will continue to agree with Heterodox Academy, but it’s not like Professor Watch is out there ruining careers. The ironic thing is that most of the truly nutjob-type professors bring judgment upon themselves – like Katie Grimes – and then scream that they’re being persecuted; not sure it’s such a bad thing to expose them.

[NFR: Yeah, when I wrote about Katie Grimes, and quoted at length *her own papers* that she had put on the Internet for public consumption, some of her defenders — e.g., Grant Gallicho at Cupich’s office — accused me of picking on a young theologian. As if simply showing people what a grown woman hired by a serious university to teach theology has written, and criticizing it, was an act of bullying. Ridiculous. These people want to do what they’re doing but don’t want to be held accountable for it in any way. — RD]

#25 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 30, 2016 @ 9:59 am

I agree. Jesus doesn’t fit neatly into any box, which is also the point Cooper makes.

I don’t know how you wildly misread me so much, but that isn’t what I was saying at all. Dr. Cooper is trying to make the claim that Jesus was a “freedom-loving” feminist liberal, and she’s trying to refute the claim that Jesus was, say, a conservative Republican. I don’t think either the “liberal Jesus” or the “conservative Jesus” is historically accurate in any way, shape or form.

He was supported by wealthy women, allowed Mary to sit at his feet as a disciple sits at a rabbi’s (indicating that he was willing to teach her), received the alabaster offering without sexualizing the long hair of the woman who offered it (thereby refusing to reduce her to a mere body), and appeared first, post-Resurrection, to women, a decision shocking enough that Paul quietly excises their presence from his account of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.

You know as well as I do that isn’t what ‘feminist’ actually means. Feminism means something, and what it means isn’t ‘treating women nicelye’, any more than communism means ‘treating poor people nicely’. The actual meaning is somewhat disputed (and as I’m not a feminist, these internal debates don’t particularly interest me), but all the definitions have in common that you must subscribe to certain ideological tenets about gender and the relationship between men and women. There’s no particular reason, in the canonical gospels, to think that Jesus subscribed to any of the tenets of feminism, and the fact that he treated women well on many occasions hilariously fails at proving it. (The medievals who invented the chivalric code treated women nicely too, but they certainly weren’t feminists).

To make a case for a feminist Jesus, you would have to go to the apocryphal gospels, gnostic and otherwise, or maybe read back into Jesus what some of the Cappadocian fathers apparently said (Turmarion has quoted them in this comment section on many occasions). That might actually be an interesting debate- and I have a higher view and more interest in Christian apocrypha than conservative Christians typically do- but it’s interesting that you didn’t actually go there but instead chose to water / dumb down what ‘feminism’ means.

Regarding his “love of freedom” or lack thereof, his praise of the Roman centurion coexists alongside his virtual canonization of the Good Samaritan, member of a hated and marginalized ethnic group – so does the latter example “definitely” prove that he was a microaggression-addled SJW avant la lettre?

How does Jesus’ relationship to Samaritans have anything to do with freedom, one way or another? I thought that that’s what Brittney Cooper was talking about. There are virtually no instances where Jesus said anything about political, civic or social freedom: all we really can infer from his comments about the political order is that he didn’t particularly protest against Roman rule, that he accepted the political authorities of the world in some sense, and that he had high praise for a Roman centurion. That’s it.

#26 Comment By Michael Guarino On November 30, 2016 @ 6:02 pm

Michael Gaurino,

How would one, then, properly characterize the Jesus of conservative Christians? How many flavors of conservative Christians are there? And how does that Jesus differ from the one Cooper imagines?

To start, I can’t think of a single conservative Christian who struggles to understand that Jesus was a Jew, which Cooper seems not to have grokked about them. Instead she seems to immediately assumes that their image of Jesus is basically the same as a Hitler Youth poster boy, which sheds quite a clear light on her ability to respond to other perspectives in good faith. It’s like she is a child trying desperately to hold in her Godwin-violation pee pee.

#27 Comment By Brendan from Oz On November 30, 2016 @ 6:53 pm

“We’ve mostly been able to avoid that in classical music, where we adhere to a pretty high standard for performance, analysis, and composition.”

Perhaps, but there hasn’t been a significant work since Shostakovich, Bartok and Richard Strauss. Atonalism doesn’t attract much of an audience. I cancelled my membership of the local Sympohony orchestra after a poerformance of some weird thing where the conductor hopped about on one foot banging the back of a violin with the bow.

That is what I hear and experience with modern Classical, which is even more depressing than Pop and the total elimination of Rock. I still love Gregorian Chant, Bach and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but there isn’t anything being created now that I find worth my time.

Noise is music, or 4’33” of silence.

#28 Comment By Another Matt On November 30, 2016 @ 9:03 pm

Shostakovich, Bartók, and Strauss all had their highly successful atonal works. Bartók died in 1945, Strauss in 1949, and Shostakovich in 1975. Here’s a work of tremendous significance which was composed from 1975 to 1983:

#29 Comment By Lawrence Larson On December 1, 2016 @ 9:18 am

“all these ‘free market’ think tanks…which oddly would all cease to exist if subjected to the very market forces they advocate for on behalf of.”

You mean like the following left-wing foundations:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Ford Foundation
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
W. K. Kellogg Foundation
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Simons Foundation
Howard Heinz Endowments
Open Society Institute
Sandler Foundation
Ahmanson Foundation
Joyce Foundation
Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Surdna Foundation
Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
Vira I. Heinz Endowment
Minneapolis Foundation
Public Welfare Foundation
Nathan Cummings Foundation
Pew Charitable Trusts
Verizon Foundation
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
Jenifer Altman Foundation
William J. Clinton Foundation
Tides Foundation

#30 Comment By Michael Torrens On December 1, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

You ask a reasonable question in your initial paragraph: “The question is, were these things reported by reputable journalistic outlets?” If you go through the list of professors on the site, you’ll see that a majority of the reference links connect to campusreform.org, which has a very specific political (and funding) agenda. I wouldn’t call them a “reputable journalistic outlet” although they many sometimes reference others that are (e.g. Fox, etc.).

Some of the major funders of Turning Point USA are also big supporters of campusreform. Nothing wrong with that, but it does make the work somewhat self-referential. If the results are not going to be more discerning (e.g. equating Tushnet with Boeschenstein) than I would think that the term McCarthyism might be somewhat appropriate–in the sense of painting a large group with a broad brush based on the clearly objectionable behavior of a small sub-set – and with a specific political end in mind, termination of jobs and opportunities for these individuals.

[NFR: Campus Reform always links to primary sources or reputable media. The Watchlist is poorly and lazily edited. — RD]

#31 Comment By Carl Eric Scott On December 1, 2016 @ 4:55 pm

Cooper deserves it. I ran into her work when looking into the controversy about the way Ava DuVernay slandered LBJ with the final script for her Selma. Hers was easily the least measured voice of all the different participants in that debate: [31] (See also my “Defamatory Selma”)

Peter Singer…hmm…but no I am not going to say a single nice thing about this infanticide advocate.

Mark Tushnet, however? Pretty big a name in constitutional law. Guilty of no obvious academic misconduct offense, or crude characterization of conservatives, but simply was freely advising his fellow progressivists in judicial institutions to adopt a very aggressive future juris-political strategy.

Most of the names are unknown to me, and I get suspicious when I see that a lot several I pick at random are there on the basis of some intemperate remark against gun-ownership. So, overall, I’ll defer to Jonathan Haidt on this.

[NFR: I think deferring to Jonathan Haidt on questions like this is always a wise strategy. — RD]

#32 Comment By ThePaganSun On July 13, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

You wanna know what the #1 problem of that website (and other such anti-liberal “watchlists”) is which you conveniently left out as a conservative yourself? It ONLY documents and accepts tips with sources against liberal professors! Such tools would indeed be useful if they documented ALL inappropriate behavior and teaching methods. But they don’t.

What about liberal students at CONSERVATIVE and RELIGIOUS schools that actually DO live off of indoctrinating their students? “Only The Bible is the correct holy book! The world was made 6,000 years ago. This fossil of a dinosaur lived alongside mankind. There’s no such thing as climate change.” THIS exists too and yet you people don’t whine about this, do you?

What about the fact that some creationists are taking over SCIENCE museums and deliberately misinform the public about scientific FACTS?! Do scientists attempt to enter churches and do the priests’ job?! So then priests and other “believers” shouldn’t attempt to do the scientists’ job. You don’t think THIS is “indoctrination?!” What double-standards!

If conservatives want a “conservative/religious” education, then pay and go to one! You guys don’t seem to mind paying into the private sphere, right? Since you guys think everything should be “privatized” these days. These biased “Watchlists” actually admit to wanting to advocate for the “free-market principles” and many refuse to contribute to those “socialist” systems, but then believe that makes them an “expert” and they get a say in how those systems they supposedly want nothing to do with get run. If some of you people believe in the “free-market” so much, why do so many conservatives often end up going to STATE colleges and universities which is paid for by TAXES?! You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

You benefit as much from a mixed economy as we all do. Socialism has its place in this country and we wouldn’t have gotten where we are without it. Same with capitalism.

And I find it highly hypocritical that although conservatives are usually the ones that want to do away with PC (Political Correctness), they are the first ones to get upset when THEIR beliefs and ideologies are the ones being criticized. You guys didn’t complain when our PRESIDENT (who I’m sure you all still support) made lewd comments about “grabbing pu**y,” but some lowly professors make a few inappropriate comments and yet because they’re “liberal,” now suddenly THAT’s “upsetting?” Yeah, no.

Bottom line: a watchlist is all fine and good if it was FAIR and UNBIASED which most of them clearly are not. If we liberals were to have our own watchlists for conservative professors and universities (which we should), nearly all religious universities would be on them since they literally make their living on indoctrinating students. But since they advance YOUR agenda, you guys don’t see that as “indoctrination,” right? Sorry, but you guys have YOUR sphere of influence and we have ours. And at least most of ours is based on actual facts and science. -_-

[NFR: You mad? — RD]