University Politics

Liberal professor watchlist raises alarm among faculty at SU and its peer institutions

Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

Syracuse University Professor Dana Cloud was listed among 111 faculty members on Professor Watchlist, a website that documents professors with history of discriminating against conservative students.

Dana Cloud is unabashed about expressing her personal opinions in demonstrations as she participated in a Black Lives Matter rally on the Syracuse University campus in October.

She is also critical of United States foreign policy in the Middle East, pointing out the hypocrisy of then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for declaring war on perpetrators of 9/11 while pointing out that U.S. military has been “the most effective and constant killer of civilians around the world.”

Those types of opinions led her to be listed in the early 2000s as one of the 101 most dangerous academics in America by conservative academic David Horowitz. Back then she dismissed it and she did not feel particularly endangered.

But now Cloud, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies at SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, is alarmed because she made it on another list called Professor Watchlist, a website created by student group Turning Point USA launched two weeks ago.

“It is McCarthyism,” said Cloud, who is also a self-described member of the international socialist organization. “You know, here’s the list we will try to silence or get rid of those people and it’s really quite frightening in this moment now.”

The website complies a list of names of professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom” based on news stories published, according to the website.

There are 148 individuals from 111 colleges listed across the country, including five of SU’s 16 peer institutions — Boston University, Georgetown University, the University of Notre Dame, Cornell University and Marquette University.

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Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

Cloud said she is concerned about the timing of the list coming out following the election of Donald Trump. He and his transition team’s incendiary rhetoric, she said, have invigorated far-right, white-supremacist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim forces that make certain academics vulnerable.

“I have to say … that on that list I am probably the safest person. I mean I am a full professor, I have tenure. My department supports me,” Cloud said. “ … But what I worry about and think should be real focus is that people on that list who are not tenured, who are minorities, who are anti-racist scholars, pro-Palestine scholars, people who are Muslims. You know, scholars who are immigrants, people who are young and not protected at their universities.

“… This moment is very different. It’s a much more dangerous moment and there are people who are on that list who are vulnerable.”

The website has nothing to do with the election of Trump and serves as a database for students and parents to prepare themselves to engage with professors who may have bias, said Matt Lamb, director of constitutional enforcement and transparency at Turning Point USA.

The organization has chapters at colleges across the country to promote values such as free markets. Lamb said the organization has heard stories of professors with biased views and decided to create a website aggregating already published stories about them, similar to Rate My Professors.

“It’s kind of like a conservative version of that,” he said.

Still, he added not all professors on the list have liberal views. The website, he explained, is more about documenting people who have radical views and engage in “disturbing behavior” — such as denying the existence of the Holocaust and destroying a pro-life display — and undermining academic freedom. Lamb raised an example of a professor who claims the National Rifle Association has blood on its hands. For those who are in support of gun rights, the professor already shows his or her bias toward the gun-lobbying group, Lamb said.

 

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Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

A majority of attributions on the website comes from conservative-leaning education websites such as campusreform.org or collegefix.com. Those websites also frequently cite other publications for their articles.

If a professor shows proof that information is inaccurate or has been changed, Lamb said the organization will review and possibly take down the professor’s webpage on Professor Watchlist.

“(The taking down process) depends on how complex it is. The more proof someone presents, the faster we will review it,” he said. “Our job is not to do the professor’s work. If they have a compliant they’re welcome to present the contrary evidence and we’ll look at it.”

Gary Peller, professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center who is listed on the website, said even though the information on it is inaccurate, he is not planning to file a compliant. He was named because he drafted an email telling students not to idolize late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia following his death.

“I looked through the list and I don’t take this as a source of serious information for students and therefore I don’t see any need to engage with it,” Peller said. “This is obviously a right-wing production that is intended to intimidate progressive teachers.”

Andrew Little, an assistant professor of government at Cornell University who is also on the list, said in an email that he denies an accusation against him calling Republicans “anti-intellectual.”

“In my case they couldn’t even make an accurate accusation, attributing a quote to me about Republicans being anti-intellectual, which I neither said nor think,” he said. “I certainly don’t aim to promote any particular political viewpoint in my classes, and am eager to teach students of any ideology.”

When asked about this case, Lamb cited the original source came from The Cornell Daily Sun and suggested Little reach out to the student publication to demand correction.

The Cornell Daily Sun article from Oct. 15, 2015 quoted Little saying that while he expressed it would be nice to have more viewpoints on campus, he would not support compromising the quality of Cornell’s professors at the expense of looking for Republican faculty.

“Placing more emphasis on diversity of political beliefs when hiring (would) almost certainly require sacrificing on general quality or other dimensions of diversity,” he said in the article.

Not all of those on the list are professors. Iris Outlaw, the director of Multicultural Student Program and Services at the University of Notre Dame, for example, is on the list for teaching a “white privilege” seminar that is designed to help students acknowledge and understand it. She declined to be interviewed.

Cloud, the SU professor, said she is capable of separating her personal opinions from professionalism in classrooms and welcomes diverse points of view. She has not received any threats after the list came out but has received an outpouring message of support from students, faculty, staff and SU alumni, she said.

“I’ve only gotten positive responses and so I am grateful to the Syracuse community for standing behind faculty who want to do public engagement,” Cloud said.

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