Turning Point USA, a conservative organization made up of high school and college students, has compiled a website database of more than 200 professors at universities across the nation that “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
The website, professorwatchlist.org, doesn’t list just any professor — TPUSA requires proof.
“This watchlist is an aggregated list of pre-existing news stories that were published by a variety of news organizations,” the website states. “While we accept tips for new additions on our website, we only publish profiles on incidents that have already been reported by a credible source.”
The website also says that TPUSA is not attempting to silence the professors on the list, but instead they are exposing “specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”
Since its recent debut, the list has seen no shortage of harsh criticism.Slate author Rebecca Schuman deemed the watchlist “grotesque,” and called it “a stock agency for photos of self-satisfied young white people.”
“Intentionally or not, the Professor Watchlist, simply by being a self-styled watch list, has aligned itself with the ugly, frightening new political status quo,” writes Schuman. “This is, indeed, a turning point in our country, a time of fear unprecedented on this continent since the Second World War. Fear of being placed on a list, targeted as undesirable, and subjected to whatever happens next.”
Schuman also compared TPUSA members and the organization as a whole to an angry violent mob, stating, “this list watches over us at our country’s darkest turning point, poised to inflame the tinder-dry, gasoline-soaked pitchforks of a mob that has just stepped boldly into the light.”
New York Times author Christopher Mele also attacked the list in an article titled “Professor Watchlist Is Seen as A Threat To Academic Freedom.”
Mele quotes Julio C. Pino, an associate professor history at Kent State included on the list that believes it “is a kind of normalizing of prosecuting professors, shaming professors, defaming professors.”
“The website has thin information in its entries and a less-than-smooth search function,” Professor Pino continues. “That could be a reflection of how rapidly it was created to capitalize on the political climate, particularly after the election of Donald J. Trump as president.”
Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, also expressed his feelings on being included on the list for teaching students that “we won’t end men’s violence against women if we do not address the toxic notions about masculinity in patriarchy … rooted in control, conquest, aggression.”
“It would be easier to dismiss this rather silly project if the United States had not just elected a president who shouts over attempts at rational discourse and reactionary majorities in both houses of Congress,” writes Jensen. “I’m a tenured full professor (and white, male, and a U.S. citizen by birth) and am not worried. But, even though the group behind the watchlist has no formal power over me or my university, the attempt at bullying professors — no matter how weakly supported — may well inhibit professors without my security and privilege.”
Alex Shephard of The New Republic wrote that “It’s hard not to feel as though Professor Watchlist is a one-stop shop for those with less innocent intentions, potentially threatening the ideas of free speech it seeks to protect.”
Despite the criticism the list has received, TPUSA founder and CEO, Charlie Kirk, fiercely defended the list on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor” Tuesday night.
“If the professors are so scared of what’s going on in their lecture halls being made public then that is their problem, not ours,” says Kirk. “We’re not trying to prevent teachers from saying anything. All we want here is to shine a light on what’s going on in our universities and the response has been incredible.”