WATCH | Here's how one conservative group is trying to fight back against what they perceive to be a liberal bias on college campuses.
Do you care if a professor is a liberal? Well, even if you don’t, there is a website where you can find out, ProfessorWatchList.Org.
Started by the college conservative group Turning Point USA, professorwatchlist.org enables you to search for a professor by name or by school to see if Turning Point considers them liberal. And the watch list’s proof? Aggregated news reports.
We're just shining a light on individuals we believe have negatively contributed to that environment.
A mission to make universities less liberal
Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA, a non-profit that has over 300 chapters on college campuses. Their goal is to rebrand conservatism for millennials, and this website is a part of that mission.
Professors do tend to be liberal
“Part of the movement to try to tilt the scales back toward a free and fair and open debate on college campuses we think its tilted way too far to the left," Kirk told Circa.
According to a 2014 UCLA survey, Kirk isn't wrong that professors tend to be liberal. The study found that about 60 percent of college professors identify as liberal.
The watch list isn't comprehensive but does list nearly 200 professors who they consider liberal.
It's trolling, political trolling.
Professors are not happy about the list
The website includes one professor who assaulted a pro-life protester. But it also includes more unassuming targets like one University of Texas professor who believes we can’t properly deal with rape until we deal with patriarchy.
That professor is Robert Jensen, a journalism professor, and he dismisses the list.
Another professor who is on the list, Peter Singer, an ethicist at Princeton University, believes the list completely misses the mark.
“Radical or conservative, if you are a good professor you are giving students access to views that are different from your own," Singer told Circa. "If you wanted to do a serious educational job here you would have to investigate the reading list of courses and say here are professors that are trying to get across a very one-sided view to their students.”
Some students agree that the list isn't helpful
Some students Circa spoke to see value in websites that rate teachers but agreed with Singer that without knowing how the class is run its impossible to rate a teacher.
“If it's something more objective than just how do you lean politically, then possibly in terms of, is their class structure Socratic method, something like that would be useful,” said Georgetown University graduate student Edmund Zaballa.
Potential negative repercussions
Even though the political stance of any professor is pretty easy to find on your own (it's called Google), some fear that this list could have a negative impact on professors.
“It’s possible that some higher education institutes that are let’s say ones that are funded by states with conservative governments that it might have some negative effect there," Singer said.
Currently, the list has not provoked any action against the professors listed but Kirk told Circa that some regents, which are like the board of directors for public universities, have contacted him to say they are looking into the activities of professors listed. And while Kirk considers the calls from regents a proof of the success of the watch list, he maintains that the website is not about retribution against the professors.
“We condemn any sort of retribution or any sort of you know castigating or targeting of professors,” Kirk said.
For untenured people or professors who are immigrants and maybe on a different kind of visa, they have reason to be concerned.
But Kirk's reassurances provide little solace to some at public universities.