Rightwing group offers students $100 to spy on professors
• Republican graduate's site prompts witch-hunt fears
• 31 academics listed as 'worthy of scrutiny'
By Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
It is the sort of invitation any poverty-stricken student would find hard to
resist. "Do you have a professor who just can't stop talking about President
Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican party, or any other
ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter? If
you help ... expose the professor, we'll pay you for your work."
For full notes, a tape recording and a copy of all teaching materials,
students at the University of California Los Angeles are being offered $100
(£57) - the tape recorder is provided free of charge - by an alumni group.
Lecture notes without a tape recording net $50, and even non-attendance at
the class while providing copies of the teaching materials is worth $10.
But the initiative has prompted concerns that the group, the brainchild of a
former leader of the college's Republicans, is a witch-hunt. Several
targeted professors have complained, figures associated with the group have
distanced themselves from the project and the college is studying whether
the sale of notes infringes copyright and contravenes regulations.
The Bruin Alumni Association's single registered member is Andrew Jones, a
24-year-old former student who gained some notoriety while at the university
for staging an "affirmative action bake sale" at which ethnic minority
students were offered discounts on pastries.
His latest project has academics worrying about moves by rightwing groups to
counter what they perceive to be a leftist bias at many colleges.
The group's website, uclaprofs.com, lists 31 professors whose classes it
considers worthy of scrutiny. The professors teach classes in history,
African-American studies, politics, and Chicano studies. Their supposed
radicalism is indicated on the site by a rating system of black fists. The
organisation denies on the website that it is conducting a vendetta against
those with differing political views. "We are concerned solely with
indoctrination, one-sided presentation of ideological controversies and
unprofessional classroom behaviour, no matter where it falls on the
But in another posting, it is clear just where on the spectrum the group
thinks the bias might fall. "One aspect of this radicalisation, outlined
here, is an unholy alliance between anti-war professors, radical Muslim
students and a pliant administration. Working together, they have made UCLA
a major organising centre for opposition to the war on terror."
From the Los Angeles Times
January 20, 2006
COMES NOW ANDREW JONES, UCLA class of ought-three, bringing charges of bias, irrelevance and inappropriate partisanship among his former professors, as posted in detail on his group's website. Let us proceed to a reading of the offenses.
According to the website run by the Bruin Alumni Assn. ( www.uclaprofs.com), these academic misdeeds in large part consist of petitions the professors signed, articles they wrote or political movements they supported.
Lapses in classroom demeanor are not the main basis for the charges, although the group says it will amend its pleading with such details. It plans to pay students $100 to provide tapes or lecture notes showing that professors showed undue political or social bias in the classroom. The plan has raised the ire not only of the professors but also of a few members of the group's advisory board, who have resigned in protest.
In the meantime, there is a list of "The Dirty Thirty" professors, the so-called worst of the worst. (Actually, there are only 28; the other two are "to be announced.") They include a "modern female academic" who is "militant, impatient, accusatory and radical - very radical"; the political science professor who is "young, radical and in demand"; a "dyed-red laborista radical" who teaches Asian-American studies; a law professor who is a "rising radical star" OK, you get the idea. Everyone is radical, or at least has friends who are.
The verdict here is clear: UCLA is guilty as charged. Somehow it managed to graduate a bunch of students - Jones and fellow members of the Bruin Alumni Assn. - who can't make a coherent argument. Nor do they appear to understand one of the basic tenets of the Constitution: In the U.S., people have the right to sign petitions, write articles and subscribe to whatever politics they choose. That goes for professors - and for conservative alumni who post amusingly unconvincing whines on the Web.
There is no doubt that academics are more likely to be liberal than conservative. Some may even abuse their position by teaching a distorted view of a subject or making students who disagree feel uncomfortable or afraid to speak out, lest their grade suffer. Universities have procedures to protect students from such abuse; meanwhile, the same academic freedom that allows these lapses of judgment also protects professors so that they can question supposedly sacrosanct assumptions without losing their jobs.
Jones should return to college himself to get his dirt on professors. And while he's at it, he may want to sit in on a few courses on law, ethics, rhetoric and the history of free speech.