Professor Watchlists Are Stupid, So Is The Response To Them By The Left

Hello 3 readers we have left since I’ve been forced to post sporadically.

Via @PeetySDee and @Aggierican I have this…Uhh Screed against that “Professor Watch List” somebody started that I’ve only heard of because of the number of people complaining about it. (Seriously, I haven’t heard anyone actually promoting it, just people complaining.)

Now for my part, I think the idea of a “watch list” is stupid and highly counterproductive. Firstly, there’s no way you could actually screen the thing for any type of precision. So mostly you’re going to get what you get on other online review places: a bunch of people who are pissed off for some reason or another that may or may not be valid. Secondly, I don’t particularly care if an academic teaches a classed called “Why Karl Marx is awesome and dreamy and true socialism hasn’t been tried yet.” If colleges start to make that a required course, then we can have a discussion, until then, if you think a course is going to be nothing but propaganda bullshit, just don’t take it. Or, take it and argue every point you can. Ostensibly you’re an adult, act like one. Thirdly, sometimes we teach stuff we just don’t wan to. Decisions are made by departments and you just toe the line. Life sucks and all of that.

But this article decides that a reasoned complaint is not sufficient and instead goes on a full tilted crazy. I’m still busy, and can’t do a full frisking, so let’s just pull some prime quotes and dispatch with them. (Oh, sorry, is that violent rhetoric? Fine I’ll do a John Oliver and DESTROY them.)

For a group claiming to be a watchdog to higher education, the organization is training students from high school in how to not engage their education critically, but to combat anything or anyone that does not promote or teach with a conservative viewpoint. It is an all-out bid to control not only academic freedom in the university setting, but to create a hostile climate for free speech and academic freedom.

I can’t speak to this particular group, as I know jackshit about it (as I said, having only heard from people bitching about it.) But even knowing jack shit about them, I can tell you that the left does far more to teach conservatives not to engage the other side than the right could ever do. How you ask? Simple, the left, controlling the power structures of the university simply fail anyone who bothers to make a differing point. I’m not being flippant here, as I’ve pointed out, I’ve personally had this aimed at me, fortunately the shot missed it’s mark for [unique co-teaching arrangement which automatically assigned a second grading professor who was sane.] And I wasn’t an anomaly. I was warned going into this course by previous students that taking any position contra the professor would likely result in an F, no matter how soft that position was. (FWIW, my position was that Great Depression style charity would be ineffective in a post-industrial economy. I didn’t even criticize the charity as it was then, only how it would work now, but that upset her so FAIL.) I can only be me, though so I tried the impossible, I was lucky I wasn’t punished to harshly.

So yeah, you think a right wing group makes us angry and combative. Nah, bro. It’s being literally automatically dismissed without a fair hearing that makes us so. So, FYNQ.

Many professors and university officials do not know that these organizations, populated by their own students, exist. They are left flatfooted when lists like the Professor Watchlist appear, because these organizations are not only about promoting the idea that university education is hostile to conservatism, but also to get the maximum amount of exposure for their beliefs.

Being ignorant that people with different beliefs exist around you? That’s how you got Trump.

For professors on the tenure track, or lecturers who are trying to keep a contract job, being named on the professor watchlist could mean diminished opportunities for their careers if colleges and universities do not understand the purpose and nature of these groups.

Da Fuq? There are documented cases of people being denied tenure for being conservative. Very few that go the other way. I’m thinking most professors will put being on this list as a badge of honor on their resume and get promoted faster. (Now is a good time to remind you that several mentors have suggested I “hide my conservative views” until after I have tenure. Not because they disagree, in fact they’re my biggest boosters, but because they see the profession as it is.)

It also creates an environment of distrust. Students are being trained not only to report on professors, but on student events as well. At the University of Pennsylvania, a campus event the day after the presidential election in a dorm to provide a “breathing space” was reported on by a student who mocked the presence of coloring books, cats and dogs.

Uhh….This was a stupidly infantile event for a group that is again ostensibly adults. If you’re afraid your campus even might be embarrassing should it reach the public, maybe you should rethink whether it’s a good idea. (FWIW, the principle of “What if it were on the front page of the paper?” is an animating principle of COI, and Research Oversight, so it’s not like it’s not used at colleges already. Hell it’s praised as a baseline measure.)

The irony of all of this is that while I am on the Professor Watchlist, I am probably one of the few professors in America who encourages the students who take my Religious Right in America course to attend conferences like CPAC and Values Voters Summit. No one censors my class when I ask students to watch clips of Ronald Reagan, Phyllis Schalfly or William F Buckley. I can teach a course like Religious Right in America at the University of Pennsylvania because of the institution’s commitment to academic freedom and discourse.

I’m noticing something here, never in this entire article did you say “And I’m a conservative, and I ended up on this.” In fact, I’m going to guess you’re fairly leftist. The tenor of this article suggests that you’re not interested in engaging the conservative arguments as much as studying them through a phenomenology lens. Which means that you’re not encouraging your students to attend these conferences to learn about conservative principles, you’re encouraging it as an sort of “political safari.” Well if I may paraphrase and or quote the Venerable AtC (at least I think it was her): “I AM NOT A FUCKING ANTHROPOLOGY EXPERIMENT.”

For all the talk of “lived experiences” and “Identity” the left contradictorily thinks that they can teach a class on “the religious right” without sneering condescension. Now if I tried to teach a class on “African American Experience” they’d be up in arms that I don’t understand it enough (regardless of how well studied I am in it.) So, yes, you’ll forgive me if I take your idea that suggesting people attend CPAC somehow makes you totally “on my side.”

As I said at the outset, this list is counterproductive, it doesn’t actually do anything to address the real problem of conservative viewpoints being quite literally squelched by the power differential professors have over students (“Shut up or fail, they explained”) or the entrenched monoculture at universities. But this type of response isn’t all introspective as to why groups feel like they need a list.

And well…that’s how you got Trump or at least The Higher Education Bubble.

7 comments to “Professor Watchlists Are Stupid, So Is The Response To Them By The Left”
  1. What I thought is interesting is that she teaches a Religious Right college course.


    Obviously haven’t taken it or seen the syllabus.

    But why?

    I don’t really know, but imma gonna speculate.

    Because Christians.

    Because enemy.

    Know your enemy, know yourself and you’ll never be defeated in a thousand battles.

    Why battle?

    Destroy Christians.

    Destroy those who stand in the way of your Progressive religious beliefs.

    Is there an anthropology course University of Pennsylvania about the Religious Left?

    I’d like to teach it.

  2. You can tell just based on her writing that she teaches it as an anthropology style course rather than an actual engagement of ideas.
    I don’t need a syllabus to gather that. It’s not even me inferring from someone else’s writing, it’s her writing that is dripping with condescension.

  3. I think that these watch lists are an inevitable result of the politicization of the classroom.

    If I were an eager young college student I might take a look at these just to get a sense of which professors are where on the political spectrum. And only then would I choose my classes.

    Knowing going in that your instructor is a Trotskyite zealot who hates Israel is to be forewarned…and that is forearmed.

  4. Eh? I didn’t need a watchlist for this though. I was naturally drawn into friendships with likeminded students and we talked about our professors.
    Such is life.
    And the Watchlist is an axe when you really need, well probably not a scalpel, a carving knife maybe?
    Anyway. Most of my professors were diametrically opposed to me politically. That didn’t make them all bad or even unreasonable. It ran the gamut from “tried to fail me” to “literally let the class heckle me whenever I tried to say anything” to “had intense in class disagreements, but wrote letters of recommendation for me with gusto.”
    I liked the last one. I disagreed with everything he said from literally the first 5 minutes of class when I raised my hand and made a point of saying so out loud. But he respected that and I’m far sharper for having dealt with him than I would be otherwise. (Not that the one who let the class heckle me didn’t teach me any lessons about not being booed off stage, but she didn’t intend those lessons.)

  5. Just wanted to comment that you need to add me to your list of readers. Have to be a few more than three. I check in every few days because that seems to be the pace of the posts. Not a complaint; I’m sincerely hoping this site continues to get traction.

    The posts are great. Would love to see more, but I suspect everyone here does have full time jobs.

  6. I think I was fairly apolitical when I was there but I recall as an engineering student in the 80s to keep my head down and stay quiet when taking a required class in the humanities/arts/language colleges.

    It has to be much worse now. I will say after having sent one kid through UT and another through A&M, there is no comparison. UT is a social justice hotbed of idiocy that comes out loud and clear in the administration and A&M is like a close family that works together.

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