Conservative Drops Offer of $100 Bounty at UCLA
The conservative activist who is waging a campaign against what he contends are UCLA’s “radical professors” Monday withdrew his offer to pay students bounties of up to $100 per class to provide information about their teachers. But he pledged to continue his effort with unpaid volunteers.
The $100 offer enabled activist Andrew Jones to create a national media stir last week but also drew heavy criticism from faculty who complained of a “witch hunt.” The furor prompted the resignation of several prominent members of his organization’s advisory board.
Jones, the president and sole employee of the fledgling Bruin Alumni Assn. and a former leader of the student Bruin Republicans, said the payment offer had become “a distraction from the real problem, which has been all along the issue of classroom indoctrination by UCLA professors.”
He vowed to keep his campaign alive without payments to students, saying that it is necessary to counter leftist instructors who improperly push their opinions on students. Jones said, however, that UCLA’s assertions that selling instructors’ materials would violate University of California policy and raise copyright infringement issues has had “a chilling effect” on students’ willingness to participate.
Jones, 24, characterized his initial plan to pay for taped or written accounts of comments teachers make in class as legal “news-gathering,” but said, “We don’t want to add to the problems of UCLA students who are already being abused in many of these cases by professors.”
However, his change in tactics failed to satisfy UCLA officials. Lawrence H. Lokman, a UCLA spokesman, said University of California rules bar the distribution of course materials unless permission is granted by the instructor and campus chancellor. As a result, he said, Jones’ campaign violates UC policy even if no payments are involved.
Jones said one student, whom he declined to identify, had committed to participate in the paid campaign and will now do so as a volunteer. Other students have said that they might join in, Jones said.
Meanwhile, the effort suffered another defection. Radio talk show host Al Rantel, of KABC in Los Angeles, announced that he would resign from the advisory board of the Bruin Alumni Assn. That follows last week’s resignations by former congressman James Rogan, Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom and emeritus UCLA English professor Jascha Kessler.
Rantel said he remained concerned about the politicization of college campuses, but that Jones “has mishandled the issue horribly.”
“Now what’s happened is that the whole project is discredited,” he said. “Now it looks like a bunch of crazies who were trying to go after innocent professors, which certainly wasn’t what I supported.”
Robert N. Watson, an English professor who was one of the academics singled out for further scrutiny on Jones’ www.uclaprofs.com website, said Jones “withdrew the money offer because professors figured out they could bankrupt him by encouraging masses of their students to submit recordings. He’s still recruiting spies, and it will damage education if professors have to worry constantly about what could be taken out of context and used to make them look bad, as Jones does so unscrupulously.”
But another professor on Jones’ “Dirty Thirty” list of targeted UCLA professors, historian Ellen DuBois, said she remained concerned that Jones’ effort was part of a broader campaign by conservatives to seek passage of an “academic bill of rights” to regulate discussions in university classrooms.
Jones, who graduated from UCLA in 2003 with a political science degree, was known on campus for his aggressive tactics against affirmative-action advocates, antiwar activists and other liberals. After graduation, he was fired from at least two jobs, including one as a researcher for conservative activist David Horowitz. Jones formed the independent alumni group last year, raised $24,000 and persuaded an impressive array of conservative scholars and politicians to join its advisory board.