By Peter Phillips
Professor Watch List: A Racist Violation of Free Speech
By Peter Phillips
Turning Point USA is biased against black faculty and freedom of speech. Turning Point is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded on June 5, 2012. They sponsor Professor Watch List http://www.professorwatchlist.org a website meant to expose and document college professors who allegedly discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom. Listed on this watch list are 147 US college professors who have supposedly expressed leftist perspectives. Turning Point accept tips for new additions to the Professor Watch List, but claims to only publish profiles on incidents that have already been reported somewhere else.
Turning Point’s mission is to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government. They claim that they continue to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish; however, students, parents, and alumni deserve to know the specific incidents and names of professors who advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.
Unfortunately, Turning Point’s methodology for selection of professors to include on the list seems to arise from student tips and secondary information with unverified assertions resulting in an extremely biased and racist list. Blacks on the Professor Watch List are over three times more likely to be included than any other ethnicity.
In addition, most of the alleged violations include classroom teaching that is clearly covered under freedom of speech and principles of academic freedom. That those at Turning Point have different perspectives than the scholars listed seems to be the offending issue, and many of Turning Points claims are erroneous, unsubstantiated, or have been refuted.
Dr. Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas Austin, is cited for writing an essay, where Jensen argues that rape is part of the larger violent, patriarchy, a position widely held in social science literature, but apparently not in right-wing limited-government organizations.
John Bellamy Foster, a sociology professor at the University of Oregon and editor of Monthly Review argues that the specific accusations directed at himself and others on the Professor Watch list are completely beside the point. The point is whether a new McCarthyite witch hunt, initiated by the alt-right, is to be allowed to intimidate professors in the universities, putting an end to academic freedom.
Any watch list of individuals clearly implies a warning to stop the behavior for which the list was created. The McCarthy era taught us the dangers of generalized assertions and labeling of individuals with tainted accusations. Turning Point’s Professor Watch List is an ugly racist attempt to repress free speech in colleges and universities in the US and deserves to be widely condemned.
Peter Phillips is a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University and former director of Project Censored. www.projectcensored.org