NYT Hysterical Over Supposedly Trump-Inspired ‘Threat to Academic Freedom’ -- a Website!

November 30th, 2016 8:23 AM

After a summer shower of concern over the left-wing squelching of free speech in academia by campus radicals, the New York Times is returning to knee-jerk hysterical concern over the newest danger posed to “academic freedom” in the dawning age of Donald Trump: Professor Watchlist.

Its self-description is rather benign: “This watchlist is an aggregated list of pre-existing news stories that were published by a variety of news organizations. 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.” So far it’s a rather bare-bones compilation of journalism about left-wing professors that references various sources.

Sounds pretty non-threatening, right? Not to the NYT and reporter Christopher Mele, who filed “Website Targeting ‘Leftist’ Professors Raises Fears of Threat to Academic Freedom” for Tuesday's paper. The text box: “Nearly 200 educators accused of advancing ‘a radical agenda.’” (Is that on just one campus?)

An organizer for the watchlist emphasized that the site was not about targeting professors for left-wing views, but those who tried to propagandize their students.

A new website that accuses nearly 200 college professors of advancing “leftist propaganda in the classroom” and discriminating against conservative students has been criticized as a threat to academic freedom.

The site, Professor Watchlist, which first appeared Nov. 21, says it names those instructors who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”

“We aim to post professors who have records of targeting students for their viewpoints, forcing students to adopt a certain perspective, and/or abuse or harm students in any way for standing up for their beliefs,” wrote Matt Lamb, an organizer of the site.


But Julio C. Pino, an associate professor of history at Kent State University in Ohio who is among those named on the site, said in an interview, “What we are seeing with this site is a kind of normalizing of prosecuting professors, shaming professors, defaming professors.”

“The broader issue it raises is: What kind of country is America going to become in the next four years?” he added.

Professor Pino said professors should not fight the creators of the list directly but instead seek allies on and off campus to address what gave rise to the atmosphere that allowed the website to flourish in the first place.

The professor is listed on the site because, it says, he faced investigation by the F.B.I. “for connections to ISIS.” He declined to address the allegations, but has denied any ties to the terrorist organization and has spoken out against violence, according to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.

The paper leaves off that Pino is the same charmer who described Israel as a “spiritual heir to Nazism” and shouted “Death to Israel!” during a talk by an Israeli figure in 2011. But Mele didn’t let that deter him from using Pino as his expert guide on criticizing the new apparently Trump-inspired website:

The website has thin information in its entries and a less-than-smooth search function. 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, Professor Pino said.

Among those featured is Melissa Click, a former University of Missouri professor who was caught on video calling for “some muscle” to remove a journalist from a student demonstration in 2015. The university later fired Ms. Click.


Professor Pino said Professor Watchlist was a “reboot” of similar past efforts, such as Discover the Networks by the conservative activist David Horowitz.

Hans-Joerg Tiede, the associate secretary for the department of academic freedom, tenure and governance at the American Association of University Professors, said in an interview: “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.”


Mr. Tiede said the site could be used to harass professors or sabotage them from gaining jobs or promotions. And some professors were submitting their own names to the website as a way to emphasize the absurdity of the list, he added.

Mele showed a total lack of curiosity about how conservative speakers and groups are routinely persecuted and not allowed to speak, and how conservative students are pressured into silence, in supposedly tolerant academe.

The Times has an irrational fear of excessive conservative influence on campus – influence which in the real world is nearly nonexistent.