Professor Watchlist is a website, run by conservative advocacy organization Turning Point USA, that lists academic staff which Turning Point believes "discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom." It was launched in 2016 and as of December the same year, the website listed about 200 professors.
Type of site
|Database of academics believed to "discriminate against conservative students"|
Responses to the site include the American Association of University Professors and The New York Times raising fears that it threatens academic freedoms by harassing and intimidating staff, conservative magazine National Review describing it as an "irritable gesture" of victimhood by conservatives, and concerns about the safety and welfare of staff following a trend of threatening behaviour and communication, including rape and death threats, being sent to listed faculty.
In December 2016, 1500 professors and faculty from across the globe petitioned to have their name added to the list in solidarity with academics who had been targeted and intimidated following their listing, with the message that the listed are “the sort of company we wish to keep.” Turning Point UK also maintains a similar site, Education Watch, which has been described as "McCarthyism in the UK", despite gaining support from Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and Home Secretary Priti Patel. The Council for the Defence of British Education has also called Education Watch "populist rightwing propaganda".
Concerns have also been raised about the process in which academic staff are listed. Professors have reported being listed for any discussion of race or politics, including in academic publications. Julio Cesar Pino, a professor of Latin American history, was added to the list on the basis of rumours that the FBI may have investigated him for having connections to ISIS. Lamb, a director of constitutional enforcement and transparency at Turning Point, has described the site as "simply aggregating" professors who have been the subject of news reports.
Campus Reform, a part of the Leadership Institute, and Discover the Networks, a website run by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, was the source for most of the professors initially listed on the Professor Watchlist.
Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman described the website as "abjectly terrifying" and said that she feared for the safety of the listed professors. Some have criticized the website as a threat to academic freedom; Hans-Joerg Tiede, the associate secretary for the American Association of University Professors' department of academic freedom, tenure and governance, told The New York Times: "There is a continuing cycle of these sorts of things. They serve the same purpose: to intimidate individuals from speaking plainly in their classrooms or in their publications." One professor included in the site, George Yancy, wrote that it is "essentially a new species of McCarthyism, especially in terms of its overtones of 'disloyalty' to the American republic".
Critics including Peter Dreier of Occidental College—who is listed on the site for having criticized the National Rifle Association and using Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States as a required text—have pointed out errors of fact that may make Professor Watchlist less than reliable as a source of information. Dreier's entry formerly listed him as a former employee of the Industrial Areas Foundation and as the man who inspired college student Barack Obama to become a community organizer. Dreier identifies these claims about him as "complete fantasy". He also noted elements of his biography that the website completely omitted, such as his work with labor unions, his activism in favor of a minimum wage, and the books he wrote.
We surmise that the purpose of your list is to shame and silence faculty who espouse ideas you reject. But your list has had a different effect upon us. We are coming forward to stand with the professors you have called "dangerous," reaffirming our values and recommitting ourselves to the work of teaching students to think clearly, independently and fearlessly.
In response to the Notre Dame letter, University of Chicago psychology professor Leslie Kay started the website "Free Academics". This website lists the names of professors across the United States who have signed it to ask for their names to be added to the list. As of December 2016, it had over 1,500 signatories.
- Flaherty, Colleen (November 22, 2016). "Being Watched". Inside Higher Education.
- Sidahmed, Mazin (December 2, 2016). "A conservative website is targeting professors and accusing them of spreading 'left-wing propaganda'". Business Insider.
- Sidahmed, Mazin (December 2, 2016). "Professor Watchlist website elicits both fear and ridicule in US universities". The Guardian.
- Ferguson, Michael (May 2017). "The AAUP in the Trump Era". American Association of University Professors. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- "Add My Name to the Professor Watchlist". American Association of University Professors. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- Mele, Christopher (November 28, 2016). "Professor Watchlist Is Seen as Threat to Academic Freedom". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- Schorr, Isaac (October 9, 2020). "Don't Understate the Consequences of a Political Monoculture on Campus". National Review. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- Fazackerley, Anna (March 10, 2020). "'McCarthyism in the UK': academics fear shaming for leftwing views". The Guardian. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- Strauss, Valerie (December 14, 2016). "'The sort of company we wish to keep': More than 1,500 academics ask to join controversial 'Professor Watchlist'". Washington Post. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
- Knott, Katherine (November 23, 2016). "What It's Like to Be Named to a Watch List of 'Anti-American' Professors". Retrieved July 13, 2017 – via The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- Schuman, Rebecca (November 23, 2016). "Oh Good, a "Professor Watch List"". Slate.
- Mele, Christopher (November 28, 2016). "Professor Watchlist Is Seen as Threat to Academic Freedom". The New York Times.
- Yancy, George (November 30, 2016). "Opinion | I Am a Dangerous Professor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
- "Professor Watchlist receives challenge from new blog: Watch List Redux, where being named is intended as a badge of honor". www.insidehighered.com. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
- Dreier, Peter (December 9, 2016). "Professor Peter Dreier, targeted by Professor Watchlist, says it gets an F for accuracy". History News Network. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
- Lester, Kerry (November 30, 2016). "Wheeling High graduate behind conservative 'Professor Watchlist". dailyherald.com. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- Wenzke, Marissa (December 2, 2016). "This controversial website is targeting 'radical' left-wing academics". Mashable.
- Reilly, Katie (December 1, 2016). "Professors Targeted by Conservative Watchlist Fire Back: 'It's Obviously an Attempt to Silence People'". Time.
- "A letter to Professor Watchlist". The Observer. December 8, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
- Strauss, Valerie (December 14, 2016). "'The sort of company we wish to keep': More than 1,500 academics ask to join controversial 'Professor Watchlist'". The Washington Post.