Radical Professors Exposed, Woo

by Kieran Healy on January 19, 2006

Eugene Volokh is already on this, but I caught a segment on the radio about the UCLAProfs.com, the site founded by some recent political science grad “dedicated to exposing UCLA’s most radical professors,” people who are engaged in “brainwashing” their students, an activity described as “about as hard as shooting fish in a barrel.” The idea that professors exert a vise-like grip on the pliable minds of their students is a dubious one at best. But frankly, the notion that cardigan-wearing lefties can out-compete the cornucopia of brain-cleansing goods and services on offer in the city of Los Angeles strikes me as wholly implausible.

What most irritates me about the site is that it will probably play to the persecution complexes of some of the people on the list, which will lead them to make comments about Joe McCarthy and Fascism, which is exactly the kind of reaction UCLAprofs.com wants. The best thing about this otherwise lame project is its black-fist rating system for the radicalism of professors (three fists out of five shown here). Political Science prof Mark Sawyer had the right idea with his profile—he wrote in to complain, saying “I now have tenure … I have been away from UCLA for 2 1/2 years at Berkeley and Harvard. I have been active though in the anti-war movement etc. So I feel I deserve 5 fists.”

But apart from the fist innovation, UCLAprofs.com is pretty badly written, poorly designed and completely fails to hit its target, as most of the “radical causes” it cites (disapproval with President Bush, opposition to the war in Iraq) are in fact at present majority positions in the United States. It doesn’t come close to the delicious heights of Discover the Network, let alone Discover the Nutwork. So I’m afraid that on my personal scale of 1 to 5 McCarthys (also shown here), UCLAprofs.com receives a derisive half a McCarthy, a new record low. It would have gotten a zero except for the superb self-parodic line in the article There’s Something About Petitions where the author says “The list also demonstrates that a large number of UCLA professors are ardently in favor of affirmative action, and just as ardently opposed to conservative legal nominees, even opposing fellow alumni like Justice Janice Rogers Brown.” That’d be Judge Brown, incidentally, not Justice, whom we all know and love for her excellent speeches. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to supervise the students who are presently washing my collection of Che Guevara t-shirts as part of an in-class research exercise.

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Outside The Beltway | OTB
01.20.06 at 7:04 pm

{ 51 comments }

1

jayann 01.19.06 at 12:21 pm

Oh I thought it was pretty nutworky. Christine Littleton? Russell Jacoby? (I thought they’d list Carole Pateman; she really is of the Left; but it’s her feminism, I think, that annoys them.)
Anyway, to hell with them.

2

trey 01.19.06 at 12:22 pm

I heard this while in the shower this morning. At first, I wanted to laugh but then I got mad — first at the Bruins Alumni Assocation, but also at NPR for giving an air of legitimacy to these amateurs.

3

jayann 01.19.06 at 12:22 pm

(Your Volokh link goes to Sawyer’s cv!)

4

Kieran Healy 01.19.06 at 12:24 pm

whoops, link fixed.

5

Ted 01.19.06 at 12:41 pm

The only thing that really bugs me is the reward money for True Tales of Campus Radicals. I’m not going to plead real poverty, but pocket money was always scarce in college. There were definitely times when earning $100 for burning a disliked professor would look incredibly tempting.

6

Chris Bertram 01.19.06 at 1:10 pm

I especially liked the description of Piterberg as “thrashing about in the fever swamps of Oxford University”!

7

Ted 01.19.06 at 1:12 pm

This is great:

“Suggested by a reader: report every single UCLA professor in every department, for the most absurd and imaginary offenses possible. Innundate the junior McCarthyites with really stupid reports. And be sure to demand your hundred bucks, every time.”

I’m off!

8

Matt 01.19.06 at 1:29 pm

I have to say I’m pretty disapointed that not a single member of the UCLA philosophy dept. has made the list, at least as of last night. (Two philosophers are there, Douglas Kellner and John McCumber, but neither are appointed in philosophy.) Obviously the UCLA philosophers need to get to work.

9

Gunner 01.19.06 at 1:29 pm

Where’s Perry Anderson?

10

honkyfive 01.19.06 at 1:38 pm

Gotta love Discover The Nutwork’s use of Flann O’Brien’s Plain People of Ireland…

11

Delicious pundit 01.19.06 at 1:49 pm

I also like “…even opposing fellow alumni like Janice Rogers Brown.”

See how the tintinnabulation of the Left even drowns out the beautiful strains of “The Sons of Westwood”?

12

harry b 01.19.06 at 1:55 pm

matt and gunner — the absence of Anderson, Brenner, and a couple of philosophers, indicates the complete lack of rigour in this exercise. Hopeless. Of course, philosophy classes are hard, so it may be that these guys haven’t taken any; and Anderson and Brenner are not entirely easy to understand.

13

greensmile 01.19.06 at 2:01 pm

I wonder if some suitably constructed survey would uncover whether belief that propaganda and biased presentations can indeed brainwash people would be a discriminator between conservative and liberal identity and prefered “value” statements.

I flatter myself that one reason I am a liberal is because I am resistant to the propaganda of the Bush administration and the tiny window on the politcal world provided by MSM. But seriously, I suspect there is some difference to be found.

14

CalDem 01.19.06 at 2:03 pm

I’m very embarassed that my school allowed someone who writes so poorly to graduate. It’s probably due to the well known fact that most Universities now practice affirmative action for males to keep gender ratios for getting too far out of whack. Without male affirmative action, he would probably have had to go to USC.

15

greensmile 01.19.06 at 2:03 pm

UCLA? Where Angela Davis taught philosophy? Do these bear brained alumni need seeing eye dogs to find liberals on the UCLA campus…lame indeed.

16

arthur 01.19.06 at 2:23 pm

Kieran, you’re not much of a campus radical if you permit your Che Guevera t-shirts to be washed.

17

ogmb 01.19.06 at 2:27 pm

A close look at Kellner’s personal history and theoretical background [sic] reveals … an overwhelming dose of anti-Bush hatred.

So he’s a Bushie?

18

Robin 01.19.06 at 2:29 pm

And where’s Robert Brenner?

19

y81 01.19.06 at 2:40 pm

I have to agree that the premise, that professors brainwash or even have much ideological influence on their students, is pretty foolish. Most of us regurgitate what the professor wants to hear (the student grapevine generates pretty reliable reports on which professors tolerate ideological disagreement and which don’t), collect our tickets to the corporate world, and depart.

20

mpowell 01.19.06 at 3:04 pm

As a male, I would be very discouraged to learn that colleges are practicing affirmative action to get more men on campus. The higher the female/male ratio the better the dating life on campus; for the men who do make the cut, of course.

21

Kieran Healy 01.19.06 at 3:05 pm

Kieran, you’re not much of a campus radical if you permit your Che Guevera t-shirts to be washed.

I neglected to mention they were being washed in the blood of capitalist running-dog middle-managers.

22

washerdreyer 01.19.06 at 3:46 pm

I’ve been thinking for the past day or two that the project was probably motivated by its founder’s realization that UCLA is an anagram of ACLU, and anything that looks like the ACLU must be combatted.

23

The Angry Clam 01.19.06 at 4:31 pm

Depending on when that was written, she could very well still have been “Justice Brown.”

24

GAB 01.19.06 at 5:32 pm

Yeah, Angela Davis taught there, but then again, so did Thomas Sowell, so there!

25

Loweeel 01.19.06 at 6:10 pm

even opposing fellow alumni like Justice Janice Rogers Brown.” That’d be Judge Brown, incidentally, not Justice, whom we all know and love for her excellent speeches.

Sorry, you’re wrong on that, though I actually agree on most of the rest of your post. Before her nomination to the DC Circuit was confirmed, she was a sitting justice of the California Supreme Court and thus entitled to be (and properly!) called “Justice Janice Rogers Brown”, much like the unfortunate “[in]Justice Rose Bird”.

JRB’s title again became “judge” when she was confirmed to the DC Circuit, but when addressed in her capacity as a former sitting judge of the institution that I lovingly refer to as “the Traynor Wreck”, she is still “Justice Janice Rogers Brown”.

Hopefully, when Stevens finally dies, she will again be Justice Janice Rogers Brown.

26

Loweeel 01.19.06 at 6:11 pm

Even when Alito is confirmed, O’Connor will still be referred to as “Justice O’Connor” just as we still have “President Bill Clinton”.

27

Kieran Healy 01.19.06 at 8:36 pm

Corrected now. It’s hard to pay attention to these details when you’re forcing your students to sing “The Internationale.” Little buggers won’t stay in tune.

28

B.E. 01.19.06 at 8:56 pm

I don’t know what you’re talking about. UCLA is clearly overrun with Marxists, Leftists, Communists and Homosexuals. To say otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

29

sara 01.19.06 at 11:31 pm

I also note that the UCLA Classics Department seems to be absent from the ratings, despite Victor Hanson’s having fingered Classics as a hotbed of radicalism.

The students would have to take Latin and Greek to be able to rate these professors. Earning $100 doesn’t seem to them to be fair pay for learning to conjugate Greek irregular verbs.

The conclusion is that the wannabe McCarthyites are just lazy (why don’t they do their own research?)

30

TomC 01.20.06 at 12:23 am

As a graduate of U.C. Santa Cruz (where Angela Davis STILL teaches), I applaud the efforts of uclaprofs.com to publicize the identities of radical leftist professors who abuse their positions of authority. In the unlikely event that any radical right-wing professors can be found doing the same thing, I’m all for exposing them, too. Time to flush out the academic political sewer.

31

Catherine Liu 01.20.06 at 12:34 am

Why don’t these conservative malcontents go to Oral Roberts University?

Perhaps because they actually know the difference between education and authentic propaganda???

32

JohnLopresti 01.20.06 at 3:30 am

When the ACLU teeshirt arrived I worried about the jibe, ‘Did you attend UCLA? Didn’t know that.’ The reverse side of the teeshirt, which the website does not show when you order it, says, ‘Because democracy cannot defend itself.’ So far, no jokes, though. I guess that is the wild part: that Che G seemed irresponsible; probably the Bush administration thinks ACLU is irresponsible, trying to protect too much freedom.

I wonder what, or if, that campus’ academic senate opines about the UCLA radicalProf ratings system; perhaps is it possible for the faculty academic senate to regard with some disinterest, permissible balkanizing among tenured profs, life in USA academia; and the five-tier system complete with icons will ease the problem with branding for business marketing majors. Next is the WYSIWYG college catalog of courses with rad-icons by the instructor’s name.

Some students arrive from day one in wash-and-wear; others rumple with the experience of the student community and intellectual life there. I could see Boalt’s professor Yoo enjoying a brainwash view of his career. But there were some putative liberals on one of my campuses early in my college saga, which were profs who were actually less open and less challenging than some of the more bookish and less glamorous members of faculty. For the weak, I hope they grow strong; but brainwash is a supercharged word, and ill-suited to modern society. Trying to communicate and challenge is a more likely threshold. When professors begin to fail to evoke that potential there are results like Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard. There are all gradations of ecclectics in the student body demographic. Ask the beleaguered admissions officers.

33

John Quiggin 01.20.06 at 6:23 am

Kieran, this is why I force my students to sing “The Red Flag”. They already know the tune as “O Christmas Tree”, so it serves double duty as part of the War on Christmas®

34

CKR 01.20.06 at 8:36 am

Update from the Guardian. More rightwing bribery.

Too bad we’re not hearing this from the US media.

35

trey 01.20.06 at 9:39 am

ckr: That was all mentioned in the NPR piece.

36

Angus 01.20.06 at 11:07 am

The UCLAprofs site is fundamentally dishonest. After reading more than a dozen profiles, I saw only one mention of a single episode of classroom bias, and that was based on the report of an anonymous student.

The site instead focuses on the political beliefs of the professors, with the assumption that someone who is liberal cannot by definition be fair. Therefore, they must run their classrooms in an unfair manner.

Horsepucky.

37

Robin 01.20.06 at 11:16 am

It may be worth it to start Blacklist Watch, now that there are so many of them.

38

David 01.20.06 at 12:09 pm

Let me get this straight the President is Repulibican, the Senate has a Republican majority, and of the last 7 Presiential terms 5 have been Republican and there is wide spread liberal biased and brain washing?

39

josh 01.20.06 at 12:26 pm

Wow. What nutjobs.
My favourite line so far:
‘a tightly interconnected cabal of feminist radicals ‘.
Ah yes. I’m sure they have a list of 200 of them. Er, I mean 75. Or, maybe 450. And I bet they run the Army and the State Dept. too.
A conspiracy so immense, indeed.
I also like this, about my field:
‘Like most political theory, it veers between dense abstractions and wild-eyed policy prescriptions supposedly justified by the author’s theorizing.’
Yep. That’s Plato to a t.

40

TO 01.20.06 at 1:04 pm

I’m guessing that there’s a liberal doppelganger of Karl Rove behind this. Sort of like Rather-gate.

The plan is to get conservatives worked up about something, then to expose their concern as being baseless and nutty, then to get the public to move away from conservatives as baseless and nutty and to assume that future conservative concerns are baseless and nutty.

I think that the anti-Rove started working on this general strategy a long time ago when he made Jerry Falwell publicly visible.

Then he did the same with Pat Robertson.

Some might say that he did this with George Bush, though he had to take a character at least slightly watered down from Pat Robertson so that he could get elected.

I’m not sure that it’s working, but I’m onto it.

41

TO 01.20.06 at 1:05 pm

Also, what is the significance of “Woo” in the title of the post?

42

nkirsch 01.20.06 at 4:18 pm

Do more left-wingers wear cardigans than right-wingers? At least then you would know what direction they came from.

Check out Time magazine January 23, 2006 issue page 17 for Socialist leaning leftist Evo Morales and his alpaca-wool pullover that was sported in countries across the globe.

43

NickM 01.20.06 at 4:41 pm

I looked through the profiles for 7 professors at UCLA Law School (my alma mater). I knew some of the listed profs personally, though I never took classes from any of them. For the most part, the profiles were garbage as far as showing interference with academic freedom and a fair educational process for students – and that is what this site purports to show.

On Joel Handler, the profile reveals one area of cause for concern (his participation as a panelist in Sumi Cho’s conference, which was organized around a theme that education should be used for indoctrination, but it fails to show any instances of him actually doing this in his classroom.

On Richard Abel and Gary Blasi, the profile reveals an area, common to both men, where taxpayer funds are channeled into very liberal public policy fights by means of clinical programs. Because of the nature of legal ethical rules, this actually is not a violation of the academic free thought that students should expect (you enter a clinical program to learn lawyering skills, and your ethical responsibility is to advance the client’s position, whether you agree with it or not), but it still politicizes the university and uses funds provided by the taxpayers to accomplish ends that may be wholly against their wishes.

Gary Blasi’s involvement, discussed in his profile, in UCLA protests involving walkouts bears further examination, but the profile does not present clear evidence of personal improper behavior by him (such as cancelling classes in order to protest or pressuring students to join a protest). Perhaps the Daily Bruin or other articles mentioned such details, but they should have been made explicit in the profile if they exist and it is to be a collection of the professor’s improper activities.

None of the other 4 law prof profiles show any improper in-class activity, and in fact some suggest that such has not occurred at all.

Perhaps the record in profiles in other disciplines is better. I’m not going to spend my time finding out.

Nick

44

Marc Lawrence 01.21.06 at 1:07 pm

45

Right-wingers are cavemen 01.21.06 at 1:12 pm

oh yeah the “far-left”, i forgot about that one. Isnt that how you define all people who aren’t bush apologists? Young adults can make thier own choices and fall into whatever ideology they want
(young college republicans for example). The real underlying factor is that most professors are “leftist” because they are highly educated.
It takes powerful ignorance to remain in the right wing camp of thought after getting a PHd.
The truth is there are not enough people in the right wing who are not completely ignorant(intelligent design for example shows the ignorance of the right). If you want more right wing professors stop being ignorant. This is a cry wolf about lack of power from a group who currently,and corruptly, has absolute power.
If the college professors are leftist it could be the last vestige of balance in this country that the right has turned into a running joke for 5 years.

46

gavagai 01.21.06 at 2:09 pm

I’m a philosophy instructor at a community college in California and had an opportunity to experience this type of thing first hand last semester. A student in my critical thinking class wrote a post on our class’ discussion board warning fellow students of my left-leaning agenda and how I unfairly squashed and cut off debates that expressed opposing views. I notified my chair and dean. then asked the student to substantiate his claims. In the end he had no supporting examples and he made no further complaints or comments of this sort. The lack of any examples of actual unfairness leads me to think that some Americans can’t quite stomach actual free speech (unless they find it agreeable). Also, gotta love the terms ‘brainwashing’ and ‘agenda’ that get thrown around in it all. It epitomizes the absolute lack of rigorous thought that lies at the foundation of it all.

47

TLB 01.21.06 at 5:39 pm

Here’s an interesting discussion of the “People’s College of Law”:

http://www.uclaprofs.com/profs/wong.html

They provide facts and figures in case anyone actually wants to, you know, dispute what they’re saying.

The Bruin Alumni Association also broke some very interesting news last year about L.A.’s mayor. But, that was ignored by the L.A. Times, the same paper that continues to paper over his revolutionary past:

http://www.bruinalumni.com/antonio/antonioindex.html

48

Ed 01.22.06 at 12:34 pm

Oh come on. If al these profs did was oppose the war and Bush it would be no biggie. But these profs accuse Bush of being alligned with the nazi party, accuse Bush of having orchestrated 9/11 and multiple other paranoid conspiracy theories.

A group of people laying out facts and letting the public make a decision on these facts. Whehre’s the problem?

49

josh 01.22.06 at 5:26 pm

I think the problem, ed, is that it isn’t clear whether what’s being laid out are facts, or ideologically-motivated distortions generated by people who either can’t stomach any robust expression of disagreement with their own views, or who want to get paid $100. I don’t know any of the profs mentioned personally — do you? — but I do know the work of some of them, and the accounts offered of that work on the website are travesties. If the authors of the website are so off-base, and indeed clueless, about what some of those they profile have written — and are motivated by the sort of ideological zealotry that seems to be revealed by their over-heated and very nasty rhetoric — it makes me doubt the accuracy of their reporting of other ‘facts’. This isn’t to say that the claims the authors of the website make are false; god knows there are people on the left who make such loony claims, and some of them are tenured. But I’d need more, and more reliable, evidence than UCLAprofs.com to accept that the profs in question actually said and did what they’re accused of. And, I’d suggest, you should have more and better evidence, too, before you make assertions about what are, and aren’t, facts.

50

Brett 01.22.06 at 6:14 pm

Just to rain on the merriment; if the views criticized on the website are now majority opinions, this could be seen as evidence of the undue influence the site deplores.

Besides, since when was majority opinion prima facie evidence of its truth?

51

chef 01.22.06 at 6:27 pm

Hey, what the big deal? Get better SATs etc., and take over the schools and, eventually, take their jobs.

Oh, sorry. I see . . . .

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