Tracking ‘Radical’ UCLA Faculty
A fledgling alumni group headed by a former campus Republican leader is offering students payments of up to $100 per class to provide information on instructors who are “abusive, one-sided or off-topic” in advocating political ideologies.
The year-old Bruin Alumni Assn. says its “Exposing UCLA’s Radical Professors” initiative takes aim at faculty “actively proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom, whether or not the commentary is relevant to the class topic.” Although the group says it is concerned about radical professors of any political stripe, it has named an initial “Dirty 30” of teachers it identifies with left-wing or liberal causes.
Some of the instructors mentioned accuse the association of conducting a witch hunt that threatens to harm the teaching atmosphere, and at least one of the group’s advisory board members has resigned because he considers the bounty offers inappropriate. The university said it will warn the association that selling copies of professors’ lectures would violate campus rules and raise copyright issues.
The Bruin Alumni Assn. is headed by Andrew Jones, a 24-year-old who graduated in June 2003 and was chairman of UCLA’s Bruin Republicans student group. He said his organization, which is registered with the state as a nonprofit, does not charge dues and has no official members, but has raised a total of $22,000 from 100 donors. Jones said the biggest contribution to the group, $5,000, came from a foundation endowed by Arthur N. Rupe, 88, a Santa Barbara resident and former Los Angeles record producer.
Jones’ group is following in the footsteps of various conservative groups that have taken steps, including monitoring professors, to counter what they regard as an overwhelming leftist tilt at elite colleges and universities around the country. He said many of these efforts, however, have done a poor job of documenting their claims. As a result, Jones, said, the Bruin Alumni Assn. is offering to pay students for tapes and notes from classes.
“We’re just trying to get people back on a professional level of things. Having been a student myself up until 2003, and then watching what other students like myself have gone through, I’m very concerned about the level of professional teaching at UCLA,” said Jones, who said he is supporting himself with a modest salary from the organization and is its only full-time employee.
He said he plans to show what he considers biased material to professors and administrators and seek to have teachers present more balanced lectures or possibly face reprimand.
UCLA administrators say they are planning no immediate legal action, other than to notify Jones and to alert students that selling course materials without the consent of the instructor and Chancellor Albert Carnesale violates university policy. Patricia Jasper, a university lawyer, said UCLA would reserve the right to take legal action if any students engaged in unauthorized selling of materials.
Adrienne Lavine, chairwoman of UCLA’s academic senate, agreed that the university could do little more at this point. She said she found the profiles on the alumni group’s website “inflammatory” and “not a positive way to address the concerns that Mr. Jones has expressed.” Still, she said, “I certainly support freedom of speech and that extends to Andrew Jones as much as it does to every faculty member on campus.”
The group’s recent campaign has upset a number of targeted professors and triggered the resignation last weekend of Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, a prominent affirmative action opponent and former UCLA professor, from the advisory board for Jones’ organization.
Thernstrom said he joined the alumni group’s more than 20-member advisory board last year because he believed it “had a legitimate objective of combating the extraordinary politicization of the faculty on elite campuses today.”
Still, 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.”
Thernstrom said a fellow advisory board member, Jascha Kessler, an emeritus UCLA English professor, also resigned for the same reason. Kessler could not be reached for comment, but Jones confirmed that Kessler had resigned.
Jones said other members of the advisory board include Linda Chavez, former federal civil rights commissioner in the Reagan administration and head of a Virginia-based anti-affirmative action group; former Republican Rep. Jim Rogan; and current UCLA professors Matt Malkan and Thomas Schwartz.
Jones said he already has lined up one student who, for $100 a class session, has agreed to provide tapes, detailed lecture notes and materials with what the group considers inappropriate opinion. He would not name the student or the professor whose class will be monitored. Jones characterized the work as non-commercial news gathering and advocacy that does not violate university policy.
On one of its websites, the Bruin Alumni Group names education professor Peter McLaren as No. 1 on its “The Dirty Thirty: Ranking the Worst of the Worst.” It says “this Canadian native teaches the next generation of teachers and professors how to properly indoctrinate students.”
McLaren, in a telephone interview, called the alumni group’s tactics “beneath contempt.”
“Any sober, concerned citizen would look at this and see right through it as a reactionary form of McCarthyism. Any decent American is going to see through this kind of right-wing propaganda. I just find it has no credibility,” he said.
The website also lists history professor Ellen DuBois, saying she “is in every way the modern female academic: militant, impatient, accusatory, and radical -- very radical.” In response, DuBois said: “This is a totally abhorrent invitation to students to participate in a witch hunt ... against their professors.”
But DuBois minimized the effect on campus, saying “it’s not even clear this is much other than the ill-considered action of a handful, if that, of individuals.”
The group’s leading financial backer, Rupe, is a UCLA alumnus. He said his foundation donated $5,000 because “I think there’s not enough balance on the campus. Some families are going into hock to send their kids there, and are not getting their money’s worth.”
Rupe said the group’s plan to pay students to record alleged bias “would be ideal if it could be done legally.”
Rupe’s philanthropy is not centered on conservative causes. His foundation donated $500,000 to UC Santa Barbara in 1998 to endow a professorship studying the effects of the media on social behavior.
Ronald E. Rice, who holds the professorship, said Rupe told him he was “really interested in the truth. He wants to bring people with different perspectives together to really argue.”
The belief among some conservatives that their views are not respected in universities has led to several movements for change. David Horowitz, a leftist-turned-conservative who heads the Los Angeles-based Center for Popular Culture, founded Students for Academic Freedom. Its members “research political bias and classroom indoctrination.”
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.