Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015. (Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)
A conservative activist organization named Turning Point USA (TPUSA) has released a “Professor Watchlist” to provide information about university academics across the United States who “advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Turning Point—a nonprofit organization that promotes right-wing values of free markets and limited government and connects with young, college-age conservatives—targets nearly 200 professors for purportedly displaying liberal bias. The sources of the information are primarily news sites such as Campus Reform, The College Fix and Hypeline, which is also run by Turning Point. The offenses of the professors listed include promoting a ban on guns, shutting down hate speech, blaming patriarchy for sexual assaults, linking Donald Trump with slavery, and suggesting that children should be raised without racial prejudices.
Turning Point doesn’t just give the professors’ names and supposed bias incident. The list also includes where they teach, what they teach and publicly available photos of them. The work is being done to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students,” according to the TPUSA website. The creation of the watch list is still in progress, and students are encouraged to submit names of professors. However, only those who “have already been reported somewhere else” will be added.
The website says the organization’s aim is to protect students and expose professors who attack conservative beliefs. “TPUSA will continue to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish,” the website reads. “However, students, parents, and alumni deserve to know the specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”
Matt Lamb, a regional director of Turning Point, told The New York Times, “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.”
Though the timing of the watch list coincides with white nationalists gathering to celebrate Donald Trump’s election victory—while Trump himself has “disavowed” white nationalist movements—Turning Point does not have ties to the “alt-right,” according to its founder, Charlie Kirk.
Slate’s Rebecca Shuman reports:
[Kirk] told me in no uncertain terms that he “denounce[s] completely” last weekend’s nauseating neo-Nazi Woodstock, and that the watch list’s launch had been planned for “months.” Its dovetailing with the white nationalists’ coming-out party—and the corresponding rash of grim, incredulous press coverage—was an unfortunate coincidence, and one that caused an unanticipated surge of traffic thanks to heightened media attention in the wake of the launch’s inauspicious timing. The intention, he said, is not to threaten or harm the professors—his commitment to free speech means he’ll “fight to the death” for their right to disagree with him—but to raise “awareness” for students and the parents who often pay their tuition.
No matter the intentions, Schuman wrote, the watch list is damaging.
“Intentionally or not, the Professor Watchlist, simply by being a self-styled watch list, has aligned itself with the ugly, frightening new political status quo,” she wrote.
The targeted professors have denounced the list for critiquing their published writings rather than their work in the classroom.
“I learned that I’m a threat to my students for contending that we won’t end men’s violence against women ‘if we do not address the toxic notions about masculinity in patriarchy … rooted in control, conquest, aggression,” wrote University of Texas, Austin, professor Robert Jensen. “This rather thin accusation appears to flow from my published work instead of an evaluation of my teaching, which confuses a teacher’s role in public with the classroom.”
On her Facebook page, Heather Cox Richardson, a professor in the history department at Boston College, defended herself from accusations of being leftist, writing, “I made the list not because of complaints about my teaching, but because of my public writing about politics. … I also teach the history of American conservative beliefs, as well as those of liberalism.”
President-elect Trump has not commented on the list, but his supporters have shown their support for outing “leftist” professors:
— Tamara Leigh ???????? (@tamaraleighllc) November 22, 2016
— Tamara Leigh ???????? (@tamaraleighllc) November 26, 2016
In solidarity with the named professors, other academics and social media users have taken to ridiculing the list through a Twitter hashtag:
— C. Dodds Pennock (@carolinepennock) November 21, 2016
— Taylor Maavara (@TaylorMaavara) November 21, 2016
— Donica Belisle (@DonicaLBelisle) November 21, 2016
—Posted by KiMi Robinson