3 local professors are on website list of those who ‘advance leftist propaganda’
Orange Coast College professor Olga Perez Stable Cox, whose recorded in-class comments critical of President-elect Donald Trump have drawn national attention, is one of more than 120 instructors named on ProfessorWatchlist.org, a website that says it identifies professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
The site was created by Turning Point USA, a nonprofit organization with chapters in 45 states that aims to help young conservatives network and promote their ideas.
The Watchlist includes names and photos of professors across the United States, along with links to news articles the educators have appeared in.
A viral video that a student recorded of Cox speaking to her human-sexuality class days after the Nov. 8 presidential election landed her a spot on the list. Apparently referring to Trump as a “white supremacist” and to Vice President-elect Mike Pence as “one of the most anti-gay humans in this country,” Cox said Trump’s election was “an act of terrorism.”
Cox could not be reached for comment this week.
According to Matt Lamb, Turning Point USA’s director of constitutional enforcement and transparency, the list was created this past summer by a team of the nonprofit’s staff members.
The group compiled the names by looking through old news articles and getting tips from others in the members’ network.
Lamb said the list is not intended to target educators.
“We don’t want anyone to get harassed and we don’t want to discourage students from taking a class with any professor,” Lamb said. “In general, we want students to be prepared to debate. The main thing is for this to be a resource for all students, parents and alumni to know what’s going on in schools.”
In addition to Cox, UC Irvine evolutionary biology professor Richard Symanski and former UCI rhetoric professor James Porter, who now teaches at UC Berkeley, also are listed.
Like Cox, Symanski was secretly recorded on video by a student in class. He was speaking to his students about gun control the day after the San Bernardino terrorist attack in which 14 people were shot to death and 22 were injured.
“I know that over time many of you are going to want to get engaged in a cause,” Symanski said in the recording. “If I were your age and knew what I think I know today what I would do is probably jump on this gun issue.”
Symanski said the video wound up on YouTube and he received death threats and hate mail saying he should have “minded his own business.”
“I was sick about what happened in San Bernardino,” Symanski said Tuesday. “We should be able to talk about issues that concern all of us. It’s ridiculous that we don’t have the right to speak up just because we teach bio or human sexuality.”
Police patrolled Symanski’s house in University Hills, a neighborhood for UCI faculty, for a few weeks after the video was posted online.
Porter, who was put on the Watchlist after signing a letter supporting six UCI students who voted to remove the American flag from a lounge last year, could not be reached for comment.
Symanski, who has taught at UCI for more than 20 years, said he doesn’t consider the list a danger.
“I think it’s laughable,” he said. “My guess is, if you were to go around the country, there would be several thousands of professors who’d say, ‘Put me on it; I’d love to be on it.’”