The group that wants to 'out' liberal professors

Header showing the homepage of Professor Watchlist Image copyright Professor Watchlist

A new website has been set up in the US with the aim of naming and shaming left-wing professors for being biased. But some academics are fighting back with humour, poking fun at the project.

Professor Watchlist is on the lookout for teachers who "discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom."

The website was set up by Turning Point USA, a group for young conservatives founded by 22-year-old Charlie Kirk, who argues that American campuses have become hostile to Republicans.

"We essentially argue for free markets and free people… college campuses across the country are the most treacherous terrain imaginable," he told the Republican Party convention earlier this year. "The only way we're going to take back the youth of this country is to storm them and that is how we're going to make America great again."

Nearly 150 professors are listed on the website. The list is searchable by school or name and includes pictures of the university teachers and descriptions of their alleged transgressions, backed up by links to conservative news sites.

"Almost all the instances on the website are people who not only oppose what we believe in but are very biased against it and don't present the other side," says Matt Lamb, director of constitutional enforcement and transparency at Turning Point.

"We just want students, parents, alumni to know what's going on. So if an alumni is thinking of donating to a school they may want to know where their money is going, if they believe or agree or disagree with the professor's views."

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The site also has a tip-off form where students can report professors who they think are biased against right-wing views.

But - as with nearly every volley in the culture wars - there's been a pushback. Academics and others have responded online by sending in fake tips and mocking the initiative on Twitter using the hashtag #trollprofwatchlist.

They're poking fun at Turning Point by submitting reports on historical and fictional figures, including Jesus, Dr Jekyll and Indiana Jones.

Image copyright @TwoOneSix216/Twitter
Image copyright @Nufanglenesse/Twitter

Lamb insists that the list isn't divisive or intrusive and doesn't stifle free speech.

"If you're a professor and you call out people of a political ideology and compare them to Stalin or Hitler, I think you're really the ones creating division," he says.

"There's no invasion of privacy… we're not digging into anyone's private lives about their finances or their family. We're just publicising what they already put out there."

Lamb says that the site has collected about 15 to 20 further tips and that hundreds of other professors could eventually be added to Professor Watchlist.

Image copyright @AdjunctNextDoor/Twitter

One academic who spoke to BBC Trending was sanguine about appearing on the site.

"I just kind of shrug my shoulders," says Dr Eli Hvastkovs from East Carolina University. "Some professors on campus here were surprised they didn't make the list and that I made the list."

Hvastkovs is listed because he featured in stories by Fox News and the conservative site Campus Reform two years ago, when he wrote an email to students before their graduation ceremony warning them: "You can't thank God - I'm sorry about this - and I don't have to outline the reasons why."

He told Trending that he was later misquoted, but acknowledges that that the email he wrote was probably too "informal" in tone.

He calls the list "not very well thought out" and says he's amused by the #trollprofwatchlist memes. "I saw the picture of Indiana Jones beating up the Nazi guy... I thought that was really funny."

Image copyright @IBJIYONGI

Reporting by Stephen Fottrell

Blog by Mike Wendling

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