At UCLA, thirty supposedly ‘radical’ professors have been listed at ‘uclaprofs.com,’ along with detailed profiles of each, describing their alleged biases and radical activities. Uclaprofs.com describes itself as devoted to “exposing UCLA’s most radical professors.” While it is perfectly reasonable to critique and comment on faculty members’ views and biases, this site seems to me to go way too far. They are PAYING students to provide detailed notes and/or tape recordings of classes – which, as my colleague Jerry Kang points out, may possibly be illegal, but regardless of legality certainly can’t be a good idea.
Learning to be a lawyer is, in part, about learning to make and parse arguments. Surely our students are better off if there is political diversity among the faculty – it’s not that all faculty should be of any particular ideological stripe or another, and certainly we shouldn't all be the same. We do, I think, have the obligation to elicit and take seriously a wide range of views, but that doesn’t mean we should have to hide our own.
Also, while claiming that their concern is about bias in the classroom, when I skimmed through the profiles of a few of my colleagues who made the list, what I saw instead was nasty, vitriolic attacks on their scholarship, their political activities, and nary a word about alleged bias within the actual classroom. In both tone and vehemence, it seemed to me like familiar right-wing radio tactics brought home to the ivory tower, not a pretty sight.
Even some conservatives agree that the site goes too far: prominent Harvard historian Stephen Thernstrom, who was initially a member of the organization’s board, resigned recently. According the the LA Times,
Thernstrom said, "I felt it was extremely unwise, one, to put out a list of targets of investigation and to agree to pay students to provide information about what was going on in the classroom of those students. That just seems to me way too intrusive. It seems to me a kind of vigilantism that I very much object to."
Well, hooray for Thernstrom. Encouraging dialogue, open discussion and classrooms that cultivate a wide range of opinion and dissent is something we should all favor. But blacklists and snide attacks should be publicly condemned.