Lots of folks out there are addressing the "UCLA Profs" controversy first reported earlier this week. Jill discusses the issue here, while UCLA conservatives Eugene Volokh and Stephen Bainbridge weigh in as well.
The actual site designed to track "radical left" professors is here.
I have more than a passing interest in the subject. I spent my graduate school years in the UCLA history department, earning my MA and Ph.D. Though the UCLAProfs site tracks professors from many disciplines, they have clearly singled out the highly-ranked history department for special censure. Only the graduate law school has more "radicals" listed.
The professors who were on my doctoral dissertation committee and with whom I worked most closely aren't on the list, largely because with one splendid exception, they are all dead or retired or lost to administrative duties. (Yikes, that makes me feel old.) But I do know a few of those mentioned, particularly the splendid Ellen DuBois, whose textbook I assign in my women's studies class. The UCLAProfs summary of Dubois (whose name they can't even get right) is nasty and puerile:
Feminist history professor Ellen DuBois is in every way the modern female academic: militant, impatient, accusatory, and radical – very radical.
What, boys? Did you forget that she and her most loyal grad students conduct ritual bra-burnings on the roof of Bunche Hall every Wednesday at 4:00? Why not just call her an "angry hairy dyke" and leave us in no doubt as to your misogyny? It's telling that the comments about DuBois are, on the whole, more consistently condemnatory and unpleasant than those about her male colleagues.
On one hand, I'm angered to see academics whom I know maligned and attacked. Their work is quoted out of context by folks who give no evidence of actually having enrolled in the courses these faculty members teach. And though most of those named on UCLAProfs are tenured, I worry about the effect that this site may have on more easily intimidated junior faculty. I'm also worried about this site being copied at other universities. UCLA is a progressive public institution, where being identified as a lefty is unlikely to have many repercussions. But suppose a similar site sprang up at, say, Baylor? Or Furman? Or the University of Nebraska? Professors at public institutions in red states, and private institutions with religious affiliations, are obviously more at risk. Suppose angry right-wing alumni of Wheaton College began a site designed to identify those professors who strayed too far from the path of what these self-appointed watchdogs considered to be true Protestant orthodoxy? That's a much more frightening prospect.
On the other hand, I'm also inclined to suggest that those named on the site embrace the criticism as a badge of honor. After all, there's little chance that this site will affect the professional prospects of any of the tenured professors named. Indeed, in the generally progressive world of higher ed, I can imagine that some teachers might be eager to have their names included as those most worthy of the opprobrium of the far right! I can already think of a couple of UCLA profs I know who are likely indignant at not yet having been "named and shamed" by the earnest young conservative alumni who created this site!
Though we have the silly "rate my professors" site for Pasadena City College faculty, we don't yet have any public forum for commenting on the political leanings of our teaching staff. Were such a site to appear, I would only be miffed if I were excluded. Of course, given that I hold a number of seemingly contradictory views that span the political spectrum, I would be rather difficult to classify. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't expect the hard-working busybody types who create these sorts of websites to at least give it a try.