In late November, a website called “Professor Watchlist” launched with the mission to “expose and document” college professors the website claims “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Created by a nonprofit organisation called Turning Point USA, the site currently has more than 100 professors listed, and includes their photographs and a brief description of the reason why they are included on the list.
George Yancy, a professor of Philosophy at Emory University, is one such professor the website has included on its list.
Yancy hit back at the site in an op-ed in The New York Times titled “I Am a Dangerous Professor,” taking particular aim at the intimidation tactics he says the site employs.
“The new ‘watchlist’ is essentially a new species of McCarthyism, especially in terms of its overtones of ‘disloyalty’ to the American republic,” Yancy wrote.
“And it is reminiscent of Cointelpro, the secret F.B.I. program that spied on, infiltrated and discredited American political organisations in the ’50s and ’60s. Its goal of ‘outing’ professors for their views helps to create the appearance of something secretly subversive. It is a form of exposure designed to mark, shame and silence,” he continued.
It’s criticism that other professors echo. “This is an ugly attempt to shut down free academic inquiry for teachers and students alike,” Richard D. Wolff, who used to teach economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told The Boston Globe.
Wolff is also listed on the website, which erroneously says he is a current professor at UMass Amherst.
Turning Point USA, the company which launched the watchlist, was founded by 22-year-old Charlie Kirk, who has previously struck out at the culture on college campuses.
“It’s no secret that some of America’s college professors are totally out of line,” he wrote online. “Every day I hear stories about professors who attack and target conservatives, promote liberal propaganda, and use their position of power to advance liberal agendas in their classroom.”
Some professors are urging the academic community to speak out against the watchlist without overreacting to its perceived threat, The New York Times reported.
“In the past, I have taken the position that we ignore such challenges to free speech and the hate mail that usually accompanies it, but no longer,” Joan Neuberger, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Times. “Now I say we fight as hard as we can against people who don’t care about accuracy, who can’t recognise fake news and who seek to monitor what we do as educators.”
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