Professor watching

Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a conservative organization made up of high school and college students, has compiled a website database of more than 200 professors at universities across the nation who, in the view of the organization, “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The website is called Professor Watchlist.

This has outraged the left which, inevitably, complains of “McCarthyism” by TPUSA. Annabel Scott at the Daily Caller reports on some of the outcry here. Rod Dreher offers his take here.

Like Dreher, my instinct is to become uneasy at the notion of a professor watch list. But on reflection, and considering the particulars of what TPUSA is doing, I don’t see a problem.

The list turns out to be an aggregation of already published news stories. TPUSA only points out incidents that have already been reported by a source it considers credible. My casual review of the website suggests that its sources are, in fact, credible.

TPUSA also maintains that it is not attempting to silence the professors on the list. It’s CEO, Charlie Kirk, says:

We’re not trying to prevent teachers from saying anything. All we want here is to shine a light on what’s going on in our universities.

What’s wrong with that? From the perspective of college students and their parents, information that a professor teaches from a far-left perspective and/or discriminates against students who don’t share that perspective is valuable. There is no requirement that students subject themselves to such teaching. TPUSA’s compilation helps them avoid it if they wish to, whether by not taking certain courses or not attending a particular institution.

From the professor’s perspective, I’m not sure what legitimate beef they have. Colleges aren’t secret societies. A professor should be willing to stand publicly behind anything he says or does in a class room.

Some have complained that TPUSA is “shaming” professors. But I doubt that the professors are ashamed of the things TPUSA is reporting. (If they are, the remedy is to stop doing them). In fact, at least on professor has demanded to be put on the list. That seems like a more appropriate response.

It’s possible that the information compiled by TPUSA might cause those with responsibility for state schools (trustees and ultimately governors) to discipline or fire a professor. Given the way the world works, this seems unlikely except in egregious cases, but the possibility can’t be dismissed.

In my view, a professor who discriminates against a student based on his or her political position ought to be disciplined, if not fired. Melissa (“Where’s the Muscle”) Click, who appears on the TPUSA list, deserved discipline, at a minimum. Same with Nell Boeschenstein who publicly harangued some of her creative writing students into admitting that they voted for Donald Trump and then berated them in class for their vote.

Firing a professor for advancing a far-left position presents a different case, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t occur in extreme cases. There is some far-left advocacy that a board of regents or a governor might reasonably consider beyond the pale. It certainly seems that some conservative positions are deemed by many in academia to be unworthy of being presented in the classroom.

If we start to see leftist professors fired for the views they express in class, we can consider whether those doing the firing are engaging in what has come to be called “McCarthyism.” TPUSA is not engaging in it. The organization is simply providing the public with information many students and parents may find helpful.

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