Radical professors targetted at ucla
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Site targets professors
Web page started by alumnus singles out 31 ‘radical’ faculty, offers pay for information
By Melinda Dudley
DAILY BRUIN SENIOR STAFF
A Web site purporting to expose "UCLA's radical professors" and offering students cash payouts in return for information about their classes was thrust into the national spotlight Wednesday after a barrage of media coverage.
The site, uclaprofs.com, was launched just last month by the Bruin Alumni Association, a non-profit organization unrelated to the UCLA Alumni Association. The site was started by alumnus Andrew Jones with the goal of publicizing and reforming the "exploding crisis of political radicalism on campus," according to the Bruin Alumni Association Web site.
Jones, a former Daily Bruin Viewpoint columnist and chair of Bruin Republicans, calls "indoctrinationist professors" the organization's largest concern.
On the Web site is a link to the "dirty 30," a list of 31 professor profiles who Jones claims are among the most radical at UCLA. He ranked each professor with a scale of "power fists" – five fists being the most radical.
The profiles on the site are written in politically charged language, in some cases very extensive, even offering commentary on the professor's family and college education.
In some of the profiles, Jones questions the professor's research and teaching qualifications.
The site offers students as much as $100 in return for "information about abusive, one-sided or off-topic classroom behavior" by professors, in the form of detailed class notes with audience reactions and lecture recordings.
However, doing so is against university policies designed to protect professors' copyright over their course materials, according to Patricia Jasper, legal counsel for UCLA.
"I'm personally concerned when students may be unwittingly encouraged to violate university policies that could write them into student conduct code violations," said Jasper.
Jones said UCLA has not contacted the Bruin Alumni Association about the matter, and that "right now, we believe what we are doing is legal."
The Bruin Alumni Association is not engaged in selling lecture materials, but rather is collecting news in the public interest, Jones said.
UCLA Academic Senate chair Adrienne Lavine said, "Faculty are generally comfortable with what they say in the classroom" and would not mind it being shared, but that the Web site's profiles of the so-called "dirty 30" are sarcastic, snide and distasteful.
"The offer to pay students certainly feels like spying," Lavine said.
While she has heard concerns from a number of faculty, including some listed on the site, neither she nor Jasper have heard of any faculty contemplating suing Jones for libel.
Jasper did speculate that professors "could go after the Bruin Alumni Association for copyright infringement if in fact they are obtaining and disseminating copyrighted material."
The Bruin Alumni Association may also be at risk for using the name "UCLA" in Internet addresses.
"The university does not own the trademark 'Bruin,' but we do own 'UCLA' and we do vigilantly monitor and protect our trademark," Jasper said.
The university is not contemplating legal action at this time, but "we're keeping our options open," she said.
Several of the faculty members who are profiled – at length and in great detail – on the Web site said the situation has a number of negative implications on professors' academic freedom.
While Karen Brodkin, a professor of anthropology who is profiled on the site, dismissed the Web site as "a pretty pathetic attempt to smear people," she also said that she is most concerned with its role in the wider effort to censor university faculty.
Political science Professor Mark Sawyer, who is also profiled, shared similar sentiments, saying the Web site is an attempt to intimidate professors and make them censor what they say and teach in their courses. He said it comes between the teacher-student relationship by paying students to "spy" on their professors.
Sawyer is criticized on the site for listing "black political thought" and "critical race theory" among his focuses within political science.
"The site itself politicizes the classroom," Sawyer said. "The site itself is doing exactly what it's accusing the professors of doing."
Sawyer also said the Web site takes what is said in class out of context, and true intended meanings can not always be verified just by recording lectures.
Many of those targeted see the Web site as less than objective.
"There seems to be a divide between what they claim to be doing, which is looking for academic bias, and what they are doing, which is attacking people whose views differ from theirs," said Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor whose campaign contributions are listed on the Web page.
Zasloff said while his first reaction was one of amusement, he finds many of the site's implications disquieting.
"They're entitled to say anything they want about me or anyone else on the list because that's what it means to be able to express their point of view. But this seems to be a little more politically orchestrated," Zasloff said.
He said the Bruin Alumni Association has "some pretty heavy hitters" on its advisory board, and speculates it will use the Web site and the media attention it has created to push an academic bill of rights to the state legislature, which would mandate that students be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, including political, and that students cannot be discriminated against for their own views.
Brodkin, who is called a "radical women's studies lesbian feminist" on the Web site, also said Jones has "connections" with conservative legislators and that the Web site may be tied into a number of right-wing bills in the legislature promoting censorship.
Jones said the Bruin Alumni Association welcomes reports of abusive behaviors by conservative professors and would spend extra time looking into them, but added that such professors are unlikely to act inappropriately.
With reports from Derek Lipkin and Charles Proctor, Bruin senior staff.