Tracking "Extreme Left-Wing" Professors - Good or Bad?

A UCLA alumni group is willing to pay for tapes and/or notes of UCLA profs espousing “extreme left-wing views” in class.

What do you think? Good idea, bad idea, pointless, witch-hunt, something else?

Lousy idea. If professors are not teaching in an academically sound manner, there are means to deal with this: students who are dissatisfied with their courses can complain to the administration. If these means are inadequate, then work to make professors more accountable. But paying students to spy on professors whose politics you don’t like is a cheap publicity stunt, and it’s justifiably backfiring on the group.


Stupid was the first thing that came to mind, but I’ll take witch-hunt for 200. For instance, signing the following petition is one of the things they consider radical:

While it would be easy to blow the whole thing off as the ravings of a lunatic, it’s unfortunately not a lone nutter (a nutter yes, but not lone), but a group of people, some of whom actually have a fairly large audience. From what I saw, I wouldn’t be surprised if funding from “Scaife and Friends” started showing up in the near future. At that point, you can bet that their ruse will be a lot less obvious, and they’ll start using terms like “non-partisan watchdog group” to describe themselves. That is the Scaife way.

Earlier GD threads of relevance:

Hounding people because of their political views? What could be more American than that?


IOW, this problem didn’t start this year and it’s not going to end any time soon.

I wish this surprised me more. While there is not an analogous movement at UW-Madison (yet) complaining about liberal indoctrination by radical left-wing professors is one of the most common topics in the student-run conservative daily. In addition to LHoD’s comment, this sort of movement implicitly defines students as passive, unthinking sponges, wholly incapable of making any sort of value judgments on their own (again, notice their complaint has nothing to do with punitive grading). This sort of protectionism infantilizes the student body, and that’s an insult to the students and the professors and TA’s who make it their life’s work to teach them. Students must be protected, therefore, from any ideas that may conflict with those they already hold, a principle that obviously runs contrary to the basic idea of education. It also foments the meme of "conservative student oppressed by liberal professor, (and ties in with the “liberal who was probably too cowardly to go and fight in Vietnam like a real American”), which beyond the anecdotal, is wholly unsupported. It is also, of course, designed to make professors and teaching assistants afraid and paranoid. I remember reading an article about the oppression of conservative viewpoints in said student daily, and was shocked by their (scarce and anecdotal) examples. I thought about my own class, an introductory language course that delves superficially into culture and literature and thought, what, if I even mention that the US was involved (without even specifying how or to what extent) in Pinochet’s coup, supporting the Contras, the SoA training, is that “oppressing” the conservative viewpoint? According to that perspective, yeah, because it’s an implicit criticism. I’ve decided to go the opposite way, making my students write about politics and religion in the US (while only discussing the Latin American examples from the text), and I hope it helps them to think and compare the two sides. I think it would be easier to just not mention anything potentially controversial, but that’s so wrong, and so detrimental. We need a population that can think critically, can make their own decisions and moral/ ethical judgments; sheltering students artificially will just assure that, in the future, those in power wil be less likely to hold themselves responsible to the public.

Maybe I’m being naive because my most liberal professor merely made it clear that she liked ELF’s tactics, but how big a threat can the average “extreme left-wing” professor be? Indoctrination is a big problem in schools…in the earliest grades. If a student reaches college-age and is still easily swayed by a teacher’s words, there’s a deeper problem there than an outspoken professor or two on campus can account for.

If the professors in question were using office hours to recruit students to form a sleeper cell, this tracking could be justified, but short of that… it sounds like a very good recipe for screwing up people’s lives for merely being vocal about their beliefs.

Your professor “merely” endorsed terrorist tactics? Didn’t any of the students get upset or challenge her?

The idea is that it isn’t just one or two outspoken professors on a campus. That any given campus is primarily made up of people who lean to the left and if you think young people in their late teens early twenties are immune to indoctrination you’re sadly mistaken. Of course I’m not one to buy into the whole “damn liberals are running the colleges” but most of my instructors have been left leaning.


Freely admitting that this is more of an IMHO response:

I think it’s a mediocre response to a real problem, done for bad reasons, which may still have good results.
“A real problem,” because I agree that it’s not a good thing that some sectors of the academy – the humanities, social sciences and education – are far, far to the left, and I do think that at least some professors abuse their posiions to push political content that is not germane to the course.

“A mediocre response” because it’s well, mediocre. Not horrible, not laudable. If anything, I hope these sorts of ham-handed efforts will prompt the academy to some much-needed self-examination. I hope, but don’t expect.

“done for bad reasons” because in looking over their website, I must confess that **Aurelian’s ** criticisms have some merit: this group in particular doesn’t look like they’re committed to genuine diversity of thought so much as they are wanting to defend conservative students. They look like the sorts that are upset when politics gets brought up in a rhetoric class.

“may have good results” because, frankly, anything that makes the little bastards listen closer is a good thing.

Much of my education on the SDMB has come from starting to write brilliant riposte to someone’s horrible bilge … and then, in the process of rereading that bilge and writing that riposte, coming to the realization that the bastard wasn’t quite saying what I had assumed he was; or that, dammit, he actually had point there. And even if I do end up writing that riposte, at the very least, I’ll have been engaged in some serious thought.

When students express liberal ideas in class, I usually respond with conservative ones … and vice versa. It frankly pisses some of them off, and it’s led to several in-class discussions about “what does Mr. Furt really think.” (I sometimes never do tell.) I do it because I’m trying to make the class reach each one of them where they are, and force *all *my students to question their preconceptions. I don’t view my job as a teacher to be merely a fount of information; rather I want to be a resource to my students to help them think for themselves.

I raise an eyebrow whenever I hear professors who are angrily defending their right to make their political leanings very clear in a classroom; very often, the professorial responses sound an awful lot like “It’s my class, and I have the right to teach it the way I want to.” Yes, they have that right, but I’m not sure they should want to. It speaks to me of a very teacher-centered pedagogy. A Harold Bloom or a Stephen Jay Gould can pull off that sort of thing; but for every one of them, there are a hundred 60s burnouts getting a thrill out of their expert status.

That, to me, is the real problem: an academy that sees does not see itself as a product of and a servant to a larger society, but instead imagines itself as above and outside of it.

Would you care to share why you consider that response mediocre?

With gems like:

…I’m not seeing it.

They look like the sorts who don’t like things that aren’t straight, white, and Bush-favoring to me. They’re not looking for extreme left wing views, they’re looking for anything left of Trent Lott.

Without reading your links, I need to add here that I’ve sometimes been accused of spouting left-wing (and sometimes right-wing) points-of-view in college classes, when I’m merely trying to provoke discussion. Most of my students get it, I’m pretty sure, but there’s always one or two who get offended that I was even asking questions as

“Why was slavery outlawed? For centuries, it was okay to enslave people–why did we decide that it was suddenly so bad and wrong?”


“Why read fiction? It’s all made up stuff about people who never actually existed–I think we should just read about real people, and limit ourselves to the known facts about their lives, don’t you?”

They could draw the conclusions that I’m pro-enslavement or anti-fiction from such questions (I’ll often argue these positions passionately, just so they have to articulate good responses) but is there any real difference whether or not I actually believe this crap or not, as long as my students get to express counter-argumkents?

I wonder what the responses would be like in this thread if we were talking about an epidemic of neo-con professors who were constantly going off-subject to lecture students on the rightness of neo-con thinking?

Have you actually visited the site in question?

Wouldn’t challenging her run the risk of pissing the professor off and getting you a bad grade?

Are you here to get an education or a grade?

Lectures are intellectual property, so it’s illegal to sell the lecture notes or tapes on those grounds.

Most people I knew in college were there to get degrees (and to drink).

Are you positing that there currently is “an epidemic of [leftist] professors who [are] constantly going off-subject to lecture students on the rightness of [leftist] thinking”? If you could provide evidence of this that is not a) anecdotal or b) tautological, I would be really interested in seeing it.
Given that I have not seen evidence that is not a) or b), I tend to conclude that the point of making the argument that ‘leftist professors make a point of indoctrinating their students (course subject be damned)’ is to propagate the argument itself, thus infantilizing students, attempting to intimidate faculty and staff into avoiding any sort of potentially controversial topic and drawing attention to conservative ideas.

Just reviewed the Bruin Alumni website . . . Tsk! Somebody needs to remind these people that it is possible to be anti-capitalist without being anti-American. And it is possible to be anti-Zionist without being anti-semitic. And it is possible to oppose the Bush Admin’s foreign and military policies without being anti-capitalist or anti-Zionist. There’s a whole lot of really sloppy thinking in evidence on that site.