The American Association of University Professors delivered an open letter to Turning Point USA, criticizing its watch list and requesting that the names of more than 11,000 faculty and supporter signatories be added in a show of solidarity with those listed.
Turning Point USA launched the Professor Watchlist in the wake of a polarizing election and an upsurge in campus hate crimes. The site, which harkens back to times in US history many prefer not to repeat, monitors and lists professors who allegedly “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom” and “promote anti-American values.” While faculty and members of the public initially took to the website to submit reports for Jesus, Socrates, and fictional characters like Indiana Jones, the list continues to raise serious concerns about academic freedom, free expression, and the role of colleges and universities as places where open debate is not only permitted but encouraged.
In December, the AAUP posted the open letter, in part, stating: “The American Association of University Professors has supported academic freedom and opposed those who seek to curtail it for more than a hundred years, and will continue to do so, because the common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition. The type of monitoring of professors in which you are engaged can only inhibit the process through which higher learning occurs and knowledge is advanced.”
This aligns with the spirit of a letter by faculty at the University of Notre Dame proclaiming: “This is the sort of company we wish to keep. We surmise that the purpose of your list is to shame and silence faculty who espouse ideas you reject. But your list has had a different effect upon us. We are coming forward … reaffirming our values and recommitting ourselves to the work of teaching students to think clearly, independently, and fearlessly.”
“The acts of solidarity from the community are heartening,” said Julie Schmid, executive director of the AAUP. “We are exceedingly concerned about the current climate for academic freedom and the implications for our society. This watch list is an unwelcome attempt to intimidate and silence voices on campus. It comes at a time when professors are being targeted with death threats and online harassment, largely not for their speech or activities in the classroom or on the job.”