January 19, 2006

Monitoring faculty suspected of politicizing the classroom.

Listen to the NPR report on the Bruin Alumni Association, a group that is offering money to UCLA students who record professors who it thinks are bringing too much left-wing politics to the classroom.

Here's the group's website, courtesy of Stephen Bainbridge, who is a UCLA professor and has a thing or two to say about the project.

The group defends itself here:
UCLAProfs.com is not conducting a witch-hunt, engaging in police-state surveillance, or targeting privately-held political beliefs. We are concerned solely with indoctrination, one-sided presentation of ideological controversies, and unprofessional classroom behavior, no matter where it falls on the ideological spectrum. As an illustrative example of egregious behavior with which UCLAProfs is concerned, please review the article BAA President Andrew Jones wrote about his experience in a 2002 political science class. Occasional political remarks, jokes, or the like are generally harmless behavior. We are concerned with a class which in full any reasonable observer would agree was taught in an unacceptable or unprofessional manner...

Accusing a professor of unprofessional behavior is in essence an accusation of professional malfeasance. UCLAProfs.com will air such charges only after extended reviews of a professor’s record. The taping of lectures leaves no room for a vengeful student to take questionable statements out of context, to (deliberately or inadvertently) misquote a professor, or to otherwise give a false portrait of the class. As such, we find the current hysteria, and the many intemperate accusations that the UCLAProfs.com program is a “blacklist,” “ratting out” professors, or other contemptible phenomenon, to be a severe distortion.
Eugene Volokh, also a UCLA professor, also has commentary:
I ... think the offering of money to students is a bit unsavory, though I'm not positive how bad it is; much information-gathering, after all, is done by people who get paid, and sometimes get paid in rough correlation to the stuff they unearth...

Nonetheless, I do think we need to put all this in perspective. My colleagues and I are public servants. We have a certain degree of influence over public affairs, both through our public commentary and through our teaching. Others disagree with us, and think we're doing a public disservice rather than a public service. They're entitled to criticize us, and to monitor our public performance of our duties to see whether that performance is, in their view, lacking. I try to imagine what I would think if someone from the Left set up a site to criticize Prof. Bainbridge, me, and my (rather few) conservative colleagues, and to solicit concrete evidence of our supposed misdeeds; I would like to think that I would recognize that this was their right, both legally and ethically.
Putting their right to do it to the side, there is something awfully disturbing about displaying a list of names like this. It just looks ugly and intended to intimidate. I don't see why an organization that purports to be concerned about fairness would want to operate in this fashion. It's self-defeating. And their current complaint that people are reacting to them in an "intemperate" way is rather amusing. What did they expect?

74 comments:

Goesh said...

-at least they are not offering a bounty on their ears

Eli Blake said...

The other side of the story is that quite a few members of the Bruin alumni association have resigned their memberships in protest to this move. They claim that their organization has been taken over by a few people with an agenda. And it isn't just liberals resigning-- among those who resigned in protest is at least one member of the board: former U.S. Congressman James Rogan, a Republican who was a manager during the Clinton impeachment hearings.

This concerns a lot of people, and not just on the left.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JohnF said...

It's very easy in situations like this to let form overwhelm substance (not that both don't deserve consideration).

But the main issue here, I think, should be whether the descriptions of classroom behavior are true. Or not. If true, anyone can decide whether what happend matters or not. If untrue, well, severe criticism is warranted.

To this end, getting what happend in the classroom right is very important--whether paying for the info or not.

So while I think process and "good form" are certainly important, I think they take second place to the facts of what is going on.

David said...

Let's see what we have here. The ratio of liberal to conservative professors is what, say 5 to 1? Students pay tens of thousands of dollars to be indoctrinated by faculty cavorting with alumni while grad students are teaching the class?

What surprises me is that he offered to pay for the information at all. It is humorous when the targeted professors start talking from their bully pulpits about fairness from their captive audience, the Mongol hordes of ignorant comprising the student body!

Jake said...

What do you suggest students do, Ann? You dismiss these complaints but it is a major problem for conservatives on most campuses.

When I was in college and forced to hear left-wing propaganda from professors in non-political classes the only thing I could do is say "yes master." And in taking tests or writing papers, I had to parrot back the propaganda or fail the class.

When I wrote a letter to the local newspaper complaining about the situation, I was called in to the College President's office and told to keep my mouth shut or be kicked out of college. I replied, "yes master" and obeyed.

Alan Stewart Carl said...

While I understand that professors can hold great influence over their students, this whole idea of "indoctrination" rings rather false. It's just one of those conservative talking points/beliefs. They seem to think the country would be less liberal if they could just stop those liberal profs from warping young minds. I don't buy it. One of my political science professors was an avowed socialist but no student seemed brainwashed by her views. On the contrary, there was much lively debate, as I imagine there is in most college classrooms.

Elizabeth said...

Sippican, what's the infection exactly?

We're becoming a nation of rats.

Stiles said...

My initial take on this is that the UCLAProfs project is dishonest, and being dishonest is not to be trusted.

Just to get a sense of the project, I clicked the first name on their list, some lawprof named Richard Abel. I see a lot about his overall views, which are left. But there is really nothing about indoctrination or unprofessional classroom behavior.

It does not appear that the alumni group follows their stated methods, which seem to be nothing but a smokescreen. But I'll grant them this, it is very bold to whine about distortions when your own web site seems to support the allegations of your critics.

nunzio said...

I think the Bruin Alumni should be more concerned about USC's football program just demolishing UCLA's.

And UCLA's men basketball program isn't so hot either.

Sloanasaurus said...

I think the list is ugly also.

However, it would have been great to have such a list when I was an undergrad. Instead, I had to suffer through leftist professors who were not worth the money.

If you consider the list a "consumers guide" it doesn't seem so ugly afterall.

Meade said...

Maybe what makes the list ugly are some of the individuals on it.

David said...

I arrived at class early so I could complete my Veterans proof of attendance. My monthly stipend depended on class attendance.

The English Literature professor told me to leave her classroom as she did not support the military or the Viet Nam war. I was desecrating her classroom with my actions apparently.

I went to the student union from then on to complete my nefarious Veterans activities.

I received a "C" in the class.

My wife received a "C" in a graduate course in Oregon when she disagreed with an Indian wannabe about the virtues of teaching the "Melting Pot Theory" of assimilation. He was teaching the Indian as a victim a la Ward Churchill.

Liberal bias is the infection in higher education. If I knew then what I know now, we would have gone to the Claremont Colleges instead of the California University system.

Elizabeth said...

David, I had the highest average in a poli sci class, an A on every exam, an A on both papers, As on all my quizzes. But I wore a button supporting the Democrat running for president, and my teacher was an outspoken conservative. I got a B in the course. I don't know how that happened, since only liberals are unfair, and only conservatives are honest, upstanding listmakers.

DEC said...

So why did you get a B, Elizabeth? Your comment as written doesn't past the sniff test since you obviously could have filed a complaint with such obvious evidence.

Abraham said...

I don't know how that happened
Did you ask for an explanation?

Meade said...

Elizabeth: So it's wrong either way. What is the ratio of liberal faculty to conservative on American campuses? Isn't it about 5 to 1?

David said...

Elizabeth; apparently you didn't listen in class! As I recall, quizzes and papers did not count for the entire grade. You must have flunked the logic portion!
LOL
I suspect there is more to this story than you are letting on!

MadisonMan said...

This is an interesting thread to read, as I never experienced any politicization in the classrooom -- but then, I'm in the physical sciences. Physicists and biologists might moan about funding changes with changing administrations, and there might be political talk in the classroom, but it's so far removed from the subject matter as to be irrelevant.

Here is a relevant quote:
When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect -- but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has grey hair or has lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel laureate, may be wrong. The world progresses, year by year, century by century, as the members of the younger generation find out what was wrong among the things that their elders said. So you must always be skeptical -- always think for yourself. There are, of course, exceptional circumstances: when you are taking an examination, it is smart to answer the questions not by saying what you think is right, but rather what you think the professor thinks is right.


The author is Linus Pauling. One might postulate he meant it for hard science, but it's equally valid in any classroom. There are hoops one must jump through to pass a course, and sometimes the hoop is deferring to your professor.

Art said...

"It just looks ugly and intended to intimidate. I don't see why an organization that purports to be concerned about fairness would want to operate in this fashion."

Of course it's intended to imtimidate.
And fairness?
These folks are fighting what they see as a winner take all war for America's cultural soul!

brylin said...

Assume that some students, either left or right, receive grades influenced by a professor's bias.

Assume also that this monitoring is repulsive to you.

What remedy would you suggest for these students?

John(classic) said...

Seems to me there ought be but a single question. Are the facts given accurate?

I wouldn't have any objection to a leftist group putting up a "right wing professors" web site.

What is the gripe? A presumption that people can't handle this sort of information and should not be allowed to have it? That professors who pontificate on poilitics in class and sign public petitions are entitled to privacy on those issues?

I agree that professors are entitled to privacy, like anyone, on personal matters -- their family, religion, peculiar dog training beliefs, favorite sex toy, whatever-- but these views at issue seem to be public views, given in public venues, not private ones.

Stiles said...

Brylin,

I think that Rate my Professor is a better all purpose clearinghouse for students to share perspectives on the quality of instruction, both in terms of bias and effectiveness. It's a better resource for students. Projects like UCLAProfs are more about outside constituencies than helping students make an informed choice about professors.

If there is a grading problem that can be well documented, universities have appeals processes. How well they work may vary by school.

John(classic) said...

Why assume? As the Drill Instructuirs used to say:

"Recruit, I see your nose. It is out of line. Why do you think I want to see your ugly nose? I want my noses orderly. I want my noses in line. I want to look down this row and see one nose. Get your nose in line!"

http://www.campusmagazine.org/articledetail.aspx?id=cbd2e835-9373-47e9-8783-fa1d78117811

Eli Blake said...

On the highest-gets-a-B thing:

I teach at a community college (and yes, I'm a liberal, but since I teach algebra, it is very infrequently that anything remotely related to politics comes up, and at that I check two things at the door-- my politics and my religion. But that's just me.)

However, on the highest-gets-a-B thing:

I've had classes where no one got an A (I've even had one class where no one got an A OR a B). That's because no one earned an A. I've also had classes where more students earned an A than any other grade. I don't like to compare students to other students in the class, but to a fixed standard. If you meet that standard, then you get an A, regardless of how many other people in the class met it.

Not that every college instructor agrees with my grading philosophy, but that is how a student could get the highest score in the class and not get an A.

DEC said...

Brylin: "What remedy would you suggest for these students?"

Sorry, Brylin, I don't do free consulting work.

Elizabeth said...

DEC, I did file a complaint. Part of the procedure is to first meet with the professor. He was on sabbatical, and wouldn't take calls. The department refused to follow it up. This is before the days of students as "consumers" or "customers," as they are regarded now. I was SOL.

MadisonMan said...

What remedy would you suggest for these students?

If my kid came to me with this complaint, I'd likely tell them that life is not fair, and such things will happen to them. They could consider this class a harsh learning experiment. It's unlikely, after all, that they will remember either the class, the professor, or the grade in 20 years.

What do the students who complain about the leanings of their professors do when they get a job and their boss has similar leanings? At some point you have to learn how to accommodate the sometimes unreasonable demands and expectations of others. Sometimes it makes life much more interesting to encounter such people.

Elizabeth said...

DEC, now that I think about it, you're calling me a liar. How rude! And wrong. My story is true. Why don't you address the substance of my experience instead?

Elizabeth said...

No David, there's nothing more to it. I had a 98 average, my attendance was fine. I learned much from the course, as well. It was worth the experience. But I just got on this guy's wrong side. I was probably too deferential to authority, and should have protested to the right people. My point is that there are arrogant jerks in the classroom, on both sides of the spectrum. That there are more liberals teaching (not in all disciplines, but that's another subject) doesn't mean they're any more inclined to be biased. What I learned from my experience also is that the department closed ranks against criticism. The chair to whom I complained was not conservative, just not inclined to follow up a grade issue.

Kurt said...

While I believe that the problem of professors unnecessarily politicizing classrooms both exists and is a problem, the failing of this list project, it seems to me, is that there's no way to distinguish truly extreme cases of politicization, and what students might perceive as bias.

When I was teaching freshman writing classes (where the topics for papers sometimes focused on current issues), I evaluated my student's writing through the application of very strict standards of logic, evidence, and stylistic clarity, and I was always tough on papers filled with partisan dogma (but lacking in specifics or logic or whatnot), no matter which position they took. I'm sure that my conservative students thought I was a liberal, and my liberal students thought I was a conservative. But they probably didn't discuss it with each other.

I remember that one time, a student thought she would outsmart me by revising her paper to argue for the opposite position, after I had critized a draft she had written. The paper not only wasn't any better, it was probably worse because she didn't even believe in what she was saying--she just assumed it was what I wanted to see, when what I really wanted was a well-reasoned, well-supported, well-written argument.

price said...

I just finished my English degree at UCLA (finally) and yeah, sometimes it's non-stop left-wing rantings in the classroom. But who really cares? These are the things people should just accept about college... like how many of your trusted friends will get really stupid all of a sudden and join political rallies. The thing to remember is that the socialist spin of every lecture will have no further effect on you once you leave the classroom.

Also, I once took a poetry class in which my professor decided to read a poem he'd written that morning at the airport. What started with a description of a jet engine became a rant about Bush, Cheney, Nixon and Oil. To me, the most offensive part of this is that he made us listen to one of his own original poems. As though the "classic" poems weren't awful enough.

DEC said...

Elizabeth: "DEC, now that I think about it, you're calling me a liar."

Save the phony indignation for someone who cares.

price said...

I forgot to mention, but this Andrew Jones guy is a longtime fixture around campus. He's masterminded lots of right-wing rabble rousing... usually goofy stuff like affirmative action bake sales and stuff. He's also naturally hilarious... and essentially established the Bruin Republicans as being one of the hipper organizations on campus. Who would have guessed the republicans would achieve that?

Elizabeth said...

DEC, thanks for clarifying that. I realize now it's not worth the time engaging with you. You must be new to this blog.

AJ Lynch said...

Isn't having some butthead liberal profs an American rite of passage?

Even when I was a raw freshmen , I knew colleges were founded, in part, to provide a place where these misfits could make a living.

It's still that way and I say leave it be. They are pretty much harmless except to themselves.

brylin said...

Stiles, Rate My Professor is a good resource but what if the course is only offered by a professor with a bias (either left or right) and you need the course to graduate?

Elizabeth, You tried to secure a remedy through the faculty process and did not, in your judgment, get a fair result. (If there were an effective mechanism then there wouldn't be the volume of complaints.)

DEC, You want to be paid for commenting? Why is your opinion worth anything?

In the early Eighties I taught at two different universities. Currently I have two children in college (one is in law school).

My advice to my own children?

First, assume that the only thing that matters after you complete the course is the grade you get. Pretty cynical, but ... .

Research your professors before you sign up for the course.

Also, I tell my children that it pays to be intellectually dishonest and write papers that reflect the bias of the professor, even if that bias does not coincide with their beliefs.

For example, in a political science course write a paper that supports university speech codes. Don't take the free speech side of the argument unless you have a conservative professor (unlikely). Or write a pro-Bush paper for a conservative professor.

To me, it is more repulsive to have to modify your beliefs to suit a bias than to monitor the professors for bias since.

But for a young student in a highly competitive world, results matter more than whether you are repulsed.

So who is repulsed by my advice to my children?

AJ Lynch said...

Oh, and speaking of bias. I let a buddy cheat off me in an econ class.

He also played on a pickup team with the econ prof. On the final grades, my buddy got an A and I got a B!

I love being able to remind him of this story when I see him every few years. It's called the fabric of life. Deal with it.

Simon said...

I had two very different but simultaeneous reactions to hearing this on the news this morning. On the one hand, it does strike one at first glance as being the sort of thing one associates with the purges or the cultural revolution. But on the other hand, I think that it really is true to say that indoctrination takes place in the classroom, even if that indoctrination does not rise to the level of brainwashing.

I doubt that any UCLA student has been held down by a gaggle of leftist professors speaking in tongues and reading Marx over her to purge the demons of Adam Smith -- but indoctrination can take more subtle forms than this. When a student's presumptions are not only not challenged, but actively reinforced by an authority figure such as their professor, that does rise to the level of indoctrination, or at least, the reinforcement and strengthening of preexisting political leanings. In other words, even if the professor is not trying to convert conservatives to liberals, if they are none-the-less helping students who are neutral or already inclined towards liberalism to "see the light," that is a problem.

This is even more true, I think, in law school. I've spoken to law school grads before for whom it had never even ocurred to them that there is no constitutional right to privacy; somehow they had made it through law school without ever hearing the word "formalism." How is this possible?

I think the form of the UCLA group's protest is troubling, and the decision to pay for evidence is a mistake that should be rescinded. But I do think they raise a perfectly valid point.

DEC said...

Elizabeth: "You must be new to this blog."

Sorry, Elizabeth, I am not new to this blog.

Brylin: "Why is your opinion worth anything?"

Eight Fortune 500 companies pay me $600 a hour for consulting work. Next question.

AJ Lynch said...

Brylin:
I am just repulsed by your arrogant tone.

To me, your advice is so cold and calculating; I hope your kids ignore it and instead cultivate a warm heart and generous soul.

Jacob said...

I'd take the "A" over a warm heart and a generous soul.

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth said...

AJ, you're right, it's life. I don't think any grade from my undergraduate years has made my life worse or better. I think I'd have had a far less useful education, though, if all my tuition got me was a dry list of facts and regurgitation of textbook material. There's nothing threatening about professors having ideas, positions, opinions. College students are not wee flowers we have to carefully tend lest they wilt. They can cope with competing ideas, and spot a phony at the front of the classroom.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Brylin said: First, assume that the only thing that matters after you complete the course is the grade you get. Pretty cynical, but ... .


Shouldn't the first assumption be that you are actually going to learn the material that the class is represented to teach? If I have a course on Medivial History, shouldn't that be the focus of the course and nothing else? You should expect to hear political diatribes (and hopefully representing all viewpoints)in a political science class, not in a course on creative writing.

The parents of the students are paying for a product, an education. They should be able to be assured that their children are actually learning what the courses are purported to teach. If I am paying $28,000 a year (the amount that it actually did cost for my childs education) I expect to get value for my money. If you went to buy a Cadillac and got a KIA instead, wouldn't you be a tad angry?

On the other hand if you assume your children are going to be kissing butt and compromising their principles for the rest of their lives, then I guess your attitude is acceptable.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I think you can have a warm heart, generous soul, and a good GPA if you're wise about it.

School is theoretically about education - but sometimes it really is about indoctrination and saying what the profesor wants to hear in order to get by.

Smart, grounded kids figure this out and can survive in a hostile environment. The intellectual challenge can even be good for them.

And it's not so bad that they have to figure out life is about compromises. Say what you think and get a C; play along and get an A. You can still laugh at the prof behind his back.

Kids can get fired up with righteous indignation pretty quickly. But the prof's probably not going to change his mind no matter what you say. The brick wall doesn't care how hard you bash your heaad against it. There are some fights not worth having.

So while less than ideal, it's probably worth playing along to get good grades so you have more options for the future. Then you can go out into the work world where you'll be working for and with people with whom you disagree - and you can decide if it's worth biting your tongue to keep your job, or if you want to work somewhere else.

And if you need to spout off, there's always the internet.

It's offensive that public unversity profs use tax dollars to turn classes into private political platforms and punish students who disagree (in either direction). But I'm not sure I'd want my kids to try to correct a Kos-type commenter (for example) who has significant power over their futures.

David said...

Let's cut to the chase! Is there a liberal, leftwing bias, conspiracy franchise operating in the U.S. today? Does it have support from the entertainment industry, certain print media, and educational institutions?

One inference to be drawn from this hypothetical is that the goal of the conspiracy is the attainment and maintenance of power.

Among other things, this has interesting implications regarding the actions of the party out of power. One would expect both parties to work hard to ensure the success of their particular candidate(s).

After the election it would seem logical that both parties would abide by the wishes of the majority and return to running the country according to the wishes of the winning party.

Not so! It would seem that the intervening years between elections are devoted to undermining the party in power by whatever means available.

If that is so, it weakens the democracy. UBL's latest tape is aimed straight at the heart of the left-wing democrats and those that are against the GWOT.

Sounds like a conspiracy to me!

Or, maybe it is just a coincidence!

knoxgirl said...

I think bias is a serious problem... I went through college not knowing that there were actually sophisticated, intelligent alternative (non-liberal) takes on social or political issues--I certainly never heard any of them from my professors.

With that said, I truly liked and respected the majority of my professors, and I do believe they would not punish a conservative student with a bad grade. But they all neglected to provide a COMPLETE (and truly stimulating) education for me by leaving out half the story.

To me this is a "problem" because the *point* of college is to expose you to ideas that will inform your life... I certainly believe that's the point of a liberal arts degree at least.

And I have known people who felt they need to alter their viewpoint to suit the prof, in fear for their grade. That is scary, I think...

David said...

Padre Jeff;

Underestimating the power of the internet is dangerous. In most cases, it is much of the MSM that is spouting off. We have dissected the subject of the Politicized Classroom to a degree you will not find on most 6 o'clock news broadcasts combined.

The tables are turned and the MSM has not fully comprehended the impact of blogs such as this on public thought.

What we are seeing is the equivalent of how a classroom discussion should be conducted.

We do ask your blessing though heathens, apostates, and unbelievers we be!

Now back to turbotax!

David said...

knoxgirl; and that is probably the main difference between the Socratic method of discourse versus Plato's Allegory of the Caves search for the truth.

The classroom as the 'cave' does not work for me in this day and age. Always look for the light and beware of those whose truth is only the figures dancing on the cave wall in the light of the fire.

Goatwhacker said...

David:
I do not think there is a conspiracy. To me that implies a conscious collective decision to deceive in order to reach a goal. While I might disagree with many liberal professors and media types, I believe the great majority consider themselves fair and try to do a good job. The problem is more that in settings where most people are liberal (or conservative for that matter), the prevailing mindset of the group is felt to be the mainstream when it actually may not be.

Elizabeth:
I went back and re-read your first post - if the story is true (and I have no reason to think it's not), the conservative professor's actions were inexcusable. But I'm not sure why you told the story. I'm guessing it was to illustrate not all the extreme profs are liberals. That's true, but no matter the political beliefs of the professors they have no right to use them as basis for grades, and no right to use their classrooms as soapboxes for personal views.

I'd have to echo another poster above in that while I don't approve of some of the Bruin Alumni Assoc. methods, I have to sympathize with their cause.

Internet Ronin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Internet Ronin said...

Elizabeth:

I don't think any grade from my undergraduate years has made my life worse or better.

I'm sure that's true. After all, the person who last in the class graduating from med school is still called "Doctor." Outside of academia, few other people (including employers) are interested in anything but the fact that someone has a degree. Grades don't matter.

Internet Ronin said...

I know one of the people on that list. When I read about this on Volokh, I checked it out because I was sure he would be there and, sure enough, there he was. He hasn't changed a bit since we were in college together, so I am sure that he privately considers it a badge of honor, although his public comments might lead those who don't know him to think otherwise (which is what he would want others to think as it would further his political goals.)

While I was there, I read a few of the bios. I thought all of the essays I read were poorly written. Based on my personal knowledge of information readily available in public records (or a Google search), whoever did the investigative work was inept. The inaccuracies I noted were so basic that they made me laugh when I ran across them. That said, I was still surprised that they completely missed the most potentially damaging stuff.

knoxgirl said...

I agree totally w/ goatwhacker, paragraph 1... there's no conspiracy.

Ann, I'd be interested in your opinion on the subject of liberal bias in academia, as I consider you the closest to an objective viewpoint I'd ever get from someone on the "inside", though I am reticent to ever make requests of bloggers I like....

Paul said...

They apparently feel without any other means to bring improper conduct or poor teaching to the attention of any one who can do something about it.
They, the students, pay huge amounts of money to be taught facts not the personal ideology, even hatred, of a professor.
I really think that's the issue no matter what. The proper venues, did not work, they're trying to learn, not be brain-washed.

Clioman said...

Goesh said...
-at least they are not offering a bounty on their ears

I think Goesh is onto something here. Ears are of little specific value once removed from the head.

Clioman said...

Goesh said...
-at least they are not offering a bounty on their ears

I think Goesh is onto something here. Ears have little value once separated from the head.

Sean said...

I don't think someone in Ann's position should be complaining that people are paying attention to her colleagues and her. For most alumni, like me, college was four years of drinking, and law school is trade school. I toss those alumni solicitations in the trash as soon as I get them. I would never "intimidate" anyone, because I don't care. If every alumnus felt as I do, fancy universities would simply wither away.

Elizabeth said...

Goatwhacker,

I think you re-read my second post; my first post indicated what I think of making lists like this. My point in telling that anecdote is that this group isn't interested in attacking bias, they're interested in attacking liberal bias.

As I said, I learned a lot in that class. I'm not botheed by the professor's expressing his persepective, a conservative one, on international politics (it was a comparative government course); I was bothered by his cheesy grading. That's one class out of what, 40 or so? Many instructors and professors had a point of view, and I disagreed with plenty. I never experienced repercussions for that, except for that one. I think it's absurd to expect college to consist of nothing but "facts," but I do expect myself and my colleagues to encourage disagreement, debate, discovery, and achievement. Grading should be systematic, from one student to the next.

WhatsAPundit said...

Excuse me, isn't college where you're supposed to develop some intellectual gonads? Professors worried that what they say to their classes might be scrutinized? All and sundry concerned that ideas may be challenged, orthodoxies attacked, unfairly even?

Pathetic.

chuck b. said...

I have always been impatient with political speeches from my teachers, ever since I was old enough to recognize them.

When Reagan won reelection in '84, my algebra teacher went on and on about it for days, taped up the front pages of several newspapers all around the room, told us it was a great thing--yadda, yadda, yadda. That's fine for him, but I resented it. It wasn't like I could just get up and leave.

I took a research methods class at a community college a year ago, and the teacher went on about the Supreme Court ruling in Bush v. Gore for minutes at a time every week. He'd say, "Don't get me started on that one!" Noone ever did--he didn't need anyone to get him started! He did it just fine on his own. He was a real self-starter. That class at least had a legal research component, but nothing that justified his monotonous weekly whine. And that class, I had to pay for out of my own pocket.

I find that to be the worst part of about college professor speechifying--me paying for it with large sums of money. It's my money, it's my time--I'm not paying for the political rant. I don't need it. If I want to hear about Bush v. Gore, I know *exactly* where to go.

There's something gross and narcissistic about teachers who need to bludgeon their students with politics, and I have no sympathy for them (the teachers, that is--I have lots of sympathy for the students).

Robert Fovell said...

A few items:

- This Bruin Alumni Association (BAA) is NOT the UCLA Alumni organization. Instead, it's a very new and likely very small group. Some people appear to be confusing the two.

- BAA has also posted political party registrations (or guesses at same) of faculty in selected departments. I personally find this more repugnant than paying for taped lectures. This is an invasion of privacy, IMHO.

- There is a difference between being a left/right/whatever winger and misusing one's class to proselytize -- i.e., adding political content to a class that shouldn't have it.

- I was once asked in class about my own politics. My reply: "If I do my job right, you'll never know."

reader_iam said...

Mixed feelings, here. Don't like "lists" of this kind by nature.

I can tell you, though, that profs who rail don't like the tables turned on them, and for self-righteous, not necessarily righteous, reasons.

Signed,

A Faculty Brat, Born and Bred, in Campus Environments

Jen Bradford said...

I'm with chuck on this one. I found the arrogance and self-indulgence of profs who would rant about politics in the classroom just agonizing.

It's not a question of indoctrination, but of atrophed critical-thinking skills. If the professor thinks that certain concepts can be treated as givens, and is not prepared to even engage the subject from another point of view, how good can she be?

I'm a moderate, and the biggest trouble I see on the Left is an inability to launch reasoned arguments without resorting to emotional or cynical outbursts. I cannot believe this isn't connected to the idea they get from such profs, that all the "smart" people already agree with them, therefore an articulate defense of their position is unnecessary. So someone like Alito has to become a cartoon "bigot", (and attacked on this emotional basis) instead of a guy who has a conservative point of view.

Dad29 said...

If you want to hear left-wing propaganda, simply visit the UW-Whitewater campus and take in an English lecture.

Moneyrunner said...

Two points: first, there is an entire industry based on paying people money to dig up dirt on other people: it’s call the press. And I agree the press is unsavory and should be abolished (sarcasm). Second, if we were to read about malfeasance in any other industry, those making the accusations would be termed whistleblowers. What makes those in the cloistered walls of academe think for even one moment that they are immune?

What gall.

Pogo said...

The Bruin alumni prof list does indeed have an unsavory aspect to it. If they were smarter folks, they'd have toned down the rhetoric and let the facts speak for themselves. Because, at the core, much of what they're saying is not news to anyone that's graduated in the past 30 years.

If leftist liberal thought is the smartest, best approach to solving society's woes, why would university professors shy from acknowledging that they share these views in the classroom?

Instead, they scurry for cover when exposed, denying it occurs, or attacking the messenger. It apears to me that the profs who abuse their authority to teach, and mix a little Jane Austen with a lot of Karl Marx (and really, everything seems to be viewed through the Marxian lens), recognize their theories cannot stand public scrutiny and are poorly regarded by the people who pay their salary.

I don't care if they attend rallies on Saturday night to Free Mumia. I do care if they ask my daughter to participate for class credit, or teach her about the Wonders of Mumia in class.

So, Bruin Alums: good idea, bad execution.

OhioAnne said...

Elizabeth ..

I had a similiar experience with a professior during my undergraduate education years ago. Everything pointed to an "A", but yet a "B" is what appeared on my grade card. When I questioned the grade, the response I got was that I missed the "wrong thing". I had missed very points on the final, but had missed nearly every one of the multiple choice. The professor's view was that the questions covered the most essential information of the course and, if I couldn't get those right, I obviously hadn't "gotten" what I needed to learn in that class. Personally I just found the wording of the questions to be confusing.

But, the department chair refused to even hear a complaint about the professor. He did give me the information to go around him, but that was more bureaucratic than I cared to be at the time.

Then I thought the professor's POV was idiotic. Now that I teach at the college level, I have heard myself identify some selected information with "if you aren't getting this, you aren't getting the meaning of this course".

The one thing that has remained the same over the last 30 years is the reluctance of department chairs is to take a student's position over that ov the professor's. It's easier to risk losing one customer than dealing with the paperwork of challenging a professor through the system.

I also try very hard to check my personal politics at the door. Since I don't teach politics or history, it seems even more important that I don't inject it into the conversation.

I do find, however, that students tend to spend a great deal of time trying to determine what they think I want to hear so that they can shovel it back at me. One of my greatest frustrations is the difficulty in getting a good debate going. Much of the conversation does tend to be in soundbites rather than reasoned well-thought out comments.

The conservative bias often tends to come from my students with the textbook is the source of the liberal bias. I have no problem with a book that asks the question of the students: "Is the war in Iraq illegal?" I do, however, object to the question: "What response should an ethical person have to the illegal war currently being prosecuted in Iraq by the Bush Administration?"

Assmptions about right and wrong should be left out - the discussion should center on facts and the individual left to determine what they find to be right or wrong.

OhioAnne said...

That should have been "I missed very few points on the final."

How does one edit comments for mistakes or is it not possible?

reader_iam said...

ohioanne:

You delete it and re-enter it.

I mostly don't bother (lazybones!), which is why I have so many comments with typos hangin' in cyberspace.

Or you could do what I should do (but don't, since I tend to dash these off the way I burst into speech), which is to use the Preview function instead of going straight to Login and Publish. You have the option to review and then edit if you go that route.

jakemanjack said...

Sweets for the sweet.
Why is free speech a one way street for leftists?
Everyone knows that universities are just Marxist indoctrination factories, and that left-wing politics are now provided in any class - from math to science. (It's not just for sociology majors anymore, folks.) Everyone knows the unbalanced one-sided slant that exists on most campuses across the nation.
Ann has obviously never watched "Brainwashing 101"
http://onthefencefilms.com/video/bw101/

Excuse me if I don't weep over a silly list.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Quote: I find that to be the worst part of about college professor speechifying--me paying for it with large sums of money. It's my money, it's my time--I'm not paying for the political rant. I don't need it. If I want to hear about Bush v. Gore, I know *exactly* where to go.

There's something gross and narcissistic about teachers who need to bludgeon their students with politics, and I have no sympathy for them (the teachers, that is--I have lots of sympathy for the students). end quote

Exactly. What the professors and teachers do on their own time is not the issue. The issue is that they are taking up valuable class time where the students are supposed to be learning a specific topic.

The idea of taping these classroom diatribes is actually a protection for the teacher as well. An overly zealous and easily offended student can make false claims, but backed up by a tape and listened to by a disinterested third party the truth can be discerned.

By the way, this politicizing of the classroom isn't just relegated to the college area. One of our local third grade teachers was making speeches in the classroom telling the children that Arnold Schwarzenegger was stealing money from them (the students). Is THIS an appropriate topic in a third grade classroom? Not by any stretch of the imagination.

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