Professors nominate themselves for Turning Point USA watchlist
The Santa Clara
March 9, 2017
Santa Clara faculty members have been speaking out against Turning Point USA’s controversial Professor WatchList.
On March 3, Vice Provost for Student Life Jeanne Rosenberger announced that she was granting Turning Point USA status as a Registered Student Organization (RSO). This action overruled the Associated Student Government’s vote against granting the club RSO status for winter quarter—it has sparked a debate on campus regarding whether or not the administration’s decision was an overreach of power.
The club is a chapter of the national Turning Point USA organization. The Professor WatchList made headlines after TPUSA’s national organization launched the website in November. The watchlist contains a database of professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” according to the website. The watchlist uses news articles and other forms of documentation to back up its claims.
Some Santa Clara professors have voiced concern about the watchlist since the majority of individuals on the list are people of color, and are concerned about being targeted. Several media outlets have dubbed the watchlist as a form of McCarthyism, since it directly targets specific individuals, listing their names, place of employment and pictures.
On March 7 and March 8, several professors emailed Santa Clara’s faculty email list and nominated themselves to be added to the watchlist. One professor said that he would inevitably be added to the list because his teachings align with the values of a liberal education. Another professor stated that he wanted to be added to the list in solidarity with other professors of color currently on the list.
A total of 86 faculty members also signed a letter to the editor published in The Santa Clara on March 7, which stated that the watchlist was a threat to academic freedom and can lead to harassment of faculty members.
John Farnsworth, a senior lecturer in the Environmental Studies and Sciences Department, was the first to nominate himself for the watchlist through the faculty email list. He said that he teaches at a university known for its commitment to social justice, and that he encourages classroom conversation using critical thinking.
“In solidarity with all SCU faculty who will ultimately end up on your Faculty Watchlist, I hereby request my own listing. You should find my credentials for inclusion on the watchlist impeccable—not only have I spent a dozen years teaching at a university notorious for its commitment to diversity and social justice, but I am the current holder of the Dr. David E. Logothetti Teaching Award, the highest teaching award bestowed by my college. When the Dean of Arts and Sciences presented the award at our recent convocation, she cited how I connect conservation with critical thinking in the classroom. These are clearly values of a liberal education.”
Farnsworth said that he belongs on the watchlist because he will aim to “establish a climate of intellectual openness” in a course he will teach in spring, which he said he fears will make members of TPUSA uncomfortable.
“I recommend adding me to the Faculty Watchlist sooner than later. During the spring quarter I will be teaching ENVS 79: Environmental Thought,” Farnsworth wrote. “In this course I attempt to establish a climate of intellectual openness that I fear will make TPUSA members uncomfortable. Additionally, the rigors of the course, which have long been subject to critique, will almost certainly present difficulties to any student who subscribes to the TPUSA viewpoint. You will be doing a service, both to this instructor and those students, to warn them about the hazards of enrolling in my class.”
Filmmaker and Communication Department Professor Michael Whalen also requested his listing on the watchlist, saying that his teachings aim to empower communities ignored by the media. He added that he teaches his students to reflect on the experiences of people who do not have white and male privilege.
“I would like to nominate myself for inclusion on the Professor Watch List. As a filmmaker my goal is to empower those peoples and cultures ignored by the mainstream media,” Whalen wrote. “I teach my students to challenge the power structures of Hollywood and to create stories that reflect the true experiences of those in society who do not have white, male privilege. Over the past year I have sponsored film screenings of Dear White People, Fruitvale Station, and Trapped. Next year I plan to screen the documentary Dolores and I Am Not Your Negro. I am clearly too liberal and too left.”
Rohit Chopra, an associate professor in the Communication Department, also nominated himself for the watchlist in solidarity with other faculty members of color on the list, pointing out that a “disproportionately” high number of people on the watchlist are people of color.
“I too would like to submit myself for inclusion on the Professor Watchlist,”Chopra wrote. “First, I want to do this in my capacity as a faculty member of color, a demographic that curiously seems to show up in disproportionately high numbers on the watchlist–to show solidarity to others like myself who have been targeted on this list.”
Chopra continued by saying that his classes prompt students to question the public’s embrace of the free market, which “promotes structural violence against certain populations”—something he plans to stress even more in this current political climate.
“Secondly, in my courses, I question the idea of American exceptionalism, as indeed, I question all exceptionalism anywhere in the world, whether based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity or nationhood,” Chopra wrote. “I encourage my students to critically question the foundation of exceptionalism, which is the fundamentally discriminatory idea that one group of people is by definition superior to others. It is this idea that has justified the barbaric violence of colonialism, of the Holocaust, of slavery and genocides. My courses also ask students to critically question an uncritical embrace of the free market, which promotes structural violence against vulnerable populations. I will continue to teach these courses as before. In fact, given the recent climate of hostile attacks on minorities and people of color in the US and the policy rollback of protections for the most vulnerable members of our society, I plan to emphasize them even more strongly.”
Charlotta Kratz, a Communication Department lecturer, was the last to nominate herself for the watchlist on the faculty email list.
“I’d like to nominate myself for the Professor Watchlist as well,” Kratz wrote. “As a white immigrant in the US I maintain a critical perspective on American whiteness in all classes that I teach. It would be impossible to teach about media, culture and society without it.”
Junior Caleb Alleva, president of Santa Clara’s TPUSA chapter, responded by saying that he cannot add professors to the watchlist because he does not control the list. Alleva added that professors on the watchlist have to be documented by a credible source for specific incident.
Providing some examples of professors on the watchlist, he said that Holocaust deniers, professors who equated Trump’s election with an act of terrorism and those who blamed conservatives for the San Bernardino shooting are listed on the website—not professors who are simply just left-leaning.
Alleva said he thought it would be “ludicrous” for professors to be placed on the watchlist simply for doing their jobs. However, he said that if a professor was failing students who disagreed with them or was not “intellectually honest” in the classroom, it might warrant a listing on the watchlist.
“The watchlist is not for all liberal teachers,”Alleva said. “You would not be doing your job correctly if you did not connect conservation and critical thinking in the field you are teaching.”
He said that these professors’ emails are a “form of harassment” aimed at intimidating, publicly humiliating and demonizing him, rather than foster a “fruitful discussion.”
Alleva added that these emails will now impact the rest of his time at Santa Clara, since professors he will have in the future have already seen these emails through the faculty email list, and will now form “unfair opinions” about him. He said that these professors have only created a divide “between themselves and conservative students” rather than encourage a dialogue.
You can read Alleva’s statement in response to the professors in full below:
“Dear Professor Farnsworth and whoever it may concern,
Thank you for your email. I would like to make it clear that I did not start the chapter of TPUSA because of the professor watch list. Furthermore, I cannot honor your request for two reasons. First, I am not in charge of the watch list and cannot easily add any professor I would like to. Second, even if I were in charge I would not add you because I have no reason to do so.
As you can see on the website here, the watch list reports “specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls”. Based on your email I have no reason to believe that you belong on this list, nor am I a student in your class so I am unable to make any accurate claims about your teaching style. If you would like to be reported on the watch list, I see no reason why you can’t do it yourself, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Keep in mind, there has to be “incidents that have already been reported by a credible source” for you to be published on the website.
Based on your brief explanation, you seem like an ordinary environmental studies & science teacher at a fantastic liberal arts university (Go Broncos!). This does not automatically qualify you for the professor watch list. The watch list is not for all liberal teachers. You would not be doing your job correctly if you did not connect conservation and critical thinking in the field you are teaching. Therefore, it seems ludicrous to me that you would be placed on the watch list for simply doing your job. Lastly, based on the fact that you “attempt to establish a climate of intellectual openness” in your class, as you said in your email, I don’t believe you would belong on this list. Now, if you were failing students for disagreeing with you and failed to be intellectually honest in the classroom, then that might warrant an appearance on the watch list.
The watch list is there to inform students about professors who will not further their higher education. It is not there to report any left leaning professor. I am unsure of why you would want to be listed on a site with the likes of professors who deny the Holocaust, called the election of Trump an act of Terrorism, blamed the San Bernardino shooting on conservatives, are supporters of Hugo Chavez and have many other radical and sometimes downright irrational ideas.
If any other faculty wish to be on the watch list, I am not the person to talk to. I would only report a teacher if I were in their class, and I perceived they were actively trying to indoctrinate their students into a radical liberal ideology, rather than teaching with academic integrity. Fortunately I have not had such an experience at Santa Clara. The watch list is based on a personal choice by a student in your classroom to report you, and there must be credible evidence. It is not a product of the TPUSA chapter being at this school.
I have now received a total of four similar emails from professors requesting to be put on the watch list, these emails are written with the purpose to divide liberals and conservatives on campus. These emails are not an attempt to bring about fruitful discussion, but rather an attempt to purposely call me out, intimidate me and demonize me in front of the entire faculty. Emails such as these are not becoming of any educational professional, and they are a form of harassment directed at an individual student who simply set out to start a club focused on free market principles, limiting government and fiscal responsibility. This attempt at public humiliation and demonization will now affect me for the rest of my time at this university, as professors who I may take in the future will have seen these emails and formed unfair opinions of me based on them.
I want to be clear, all professors have the right to email me in such a way, but if these four professors and any others like them wish to be productive, I ask that they reach out with a plan of action, and suggest ways in which we can have fruitful discussion, instead of simply virtue signaling to their colleagues. As it stands now, the professors have only worked to create a divide between themselves and conservative students.”
Sophie Mattson is the editor in chief of The Santa Clara. Contact Sophie Mattson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4849.