A new website is calling on students “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Professor Watchlist displays a photo gallery of professors and educators the website says have an anti-conservative bias.
The website was created by Turning Point USA, an organization founded in 2013 “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government,” it says.
Critics say Professor Watchlist is meant to chill free speech among liberal or non-conservative educators.
“The apparent purpose is to curtail free speech in the classroom,” said Hans-Joerg Tiede of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
“If any of information is false, we’ll happily remove it,” said spokesperson Matt Lamb, Turning Point’s director of Constitutional enforcement and transparency, who graduated in 2015 from Loyola University Chicago.
Teacher profiles include a photo and a short blurb that describes how a professor exhibited an anti-conservative bias, according to Professor Watchlist. It links to websites like Campus Reform and Judicial Watch.
Campus Reform is a product of Leadership Institute, whose mission is “to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process.” It is staffed by self-described conservatives, libertarians and Republicans.
Judicial Watch is “a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, [that] promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people.
“Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach,” according to its website.
Assistant Professor Melita Garza is one of the teachers featured on the watchlist. Garza was accused by a student for failing him and removing him from class because she did not agree with his conservative perspective on feminism, according to TCU360, “a student-led, faculty advised … part of the TCU Student Media,” its website says.
The source for Professor Watchlist’s inclusion of Garza is an article from Texas Christian University, whose original source was Hypeline, a publication of Turning Point USA, which owns Professor Watchlist.
Garza said she could not comment because of student privacy issues. Calls to TCU administration were not immediately answered.
While students on college campuses overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the November 2016 election, conservative students say they feel outweighed.
At Yale, 81 percent of students supported Clinton, reported theYale Daily News. At the University of Virginia, 75 percent of students said they would vote for Clinton and 13 percent backed Trump, the conservative candidate, according to the Cavalier Daily.
And at Harvard University, the Crimson student newspaper said 87 percent of students there would vote for Clinton, while 6 percent said they would vote for Trump.
Meanwhile, the Yale Daily News found that 95 percent of conservative students felt their views were unwelcome.
Critics say student complaints should be handled through college or university channels.
“AAUP does not condone discrimination of students based on political views,” Tiede said. “Every university has mechanisms to deal with student allegations. If somebody wishes to complain, that will be reviewed by the institution.”
Turning Point was founded by Charlie Kirk, a 21-year-old from Chicago. Kirk’s LinkedIn profile indicates he graduated from Wheeling High School in Illinois in 2012, but does not list college attendance or degree.
Atlantic magazine in 2015 reported that Kirk was enrolled part time in online classes at King’s College in New York, a “Christian, liberal arts college in the heart of New York City,” according to its website.
Kirk said he started Turning Point USA with the slogan, “Big government sucks.” His profile says he reports on bias in higher education.
“Since launching Turning Point, Kirk has written op-eds for the Washington Times and Breitbart, appeared frequently on Fox News and CNBC, built a network of thousands of student activists around the country, and been entrusted with, he says, at least $1 million by donors enthralled by his conservative promise,” said the profile that Atlantic magazine wrote about Kirk in 2015. “His backers swear he’s the future of conservative politics—and he’s only just old enough to drink.
“Kirk … is a reasoned and articulate advocate for his peers who is taken seriously by older generations of conservatives,” the article said.
Rating professors is not unusual or atypical. Students can check out how other students rate professors — on ratemyprofessor.com — in grading or lecturing.
Students can see how other students rated professors’ overall quality, level of difficulty, whether or not they need a text book, and general feedback. And students can add a chili pepper to indicate whether a teacher is “hot.”
Since ProfessorWatchlist has gone viral, social media began trending #trollprofwatchlist. Parody submissions to Professor Watchlist range from Harry Potter character Lord Voldemort to Jesus Christ to President-Elect Donald Trump:
In a New York Times Opinion piece, writer George Yancy, a professor of philosophy at Emory University and the author of “Black Bodies, White Gazes” and “Look, a White!” and a co-editor of “Pursuing Trayvon Martin,” say this:
“Well, if it is dangerous to teach my students to love their neighbors, to think and rethink constructively and ethically about who their neighbors are, and how they have been taught to see themselves as disconnected and neoliberal subjects, then, yes, I am dangerous, and what I teach is dangerous.”
This story was reported and curated by VOA Interns Arnella Sandy, Rebecca Hankins and Brittney Welch and editor Kathleen Struck.
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