Wednesday, January 18, 2006

McCarthyism at UCLA, the California Republican Party and the "Student Bill of Rights"

As I commented on January 14th and as the Los Angeles Times picked up on January 18th, a unofficial alumni group at the University of California at Los Angeles headed by a former member of the local College Republicans chapter has recently started a campaign to "target" professors with a perceived left-wing bias. The LA Times piece was better researched than my own, but I think they failed to talk about this in the context of California politics against perceived left-wing academics.

As noted before, the Bruin Alumni Association (not to be confused with the older, larger, university-affiliated UCLA Alumni Association) has published profiles of over thirty professors on "targeted" for talking about "President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican Party or about any other ideological issue" where they come out to the left of right-wing ideology. Jones gives you an idea of how he judges the political spectrum by referring to MoveOn.Org as "rabid" and by calling Fox's Bill O'Reilly not a "conservative."

The website urges students to take surveillance on the listed professors, and offers to buy tape recordings, notes on professors and classroom materials. As the Times noted, school officials pointed out that this activity would break the student honor code as well as copyright law.

Those targeted as "radical" leftists are concentrated in the departments of English, Law, History, Political Science and Ethnic Studies.

While David Horowitz appears to be the ideological driving force behind the website's creation, this seems to be a Republican Party project based on the actors within the Bruin Alumni Association. First there is President of the BAA, Andrew Jones who is former Chair of the Bruin Republicans and founder of the conservative campus paper the Criterion. Mr. Jones is also the sole author of content on the website unless otherwise noted. Flattering quotes about Mr. Jones can be found on the page he created entitled "Praise for Bruin Alumni Association President
Andrew Jones."
Jones has ignored questions since identifying himself as the author of all of the profiles.

The Bruin Alumni Association, whose sole activities right now seem to revolve around the project, also publishes the names of an "Advisory Board" that includes many UCLA graduates. Jones does not specify the role of these advisors, who include "President BushÂ’s one-time nominee for Labor Secretary" Linda Chavez, former Republican Congressman and "House Manager in the successful impeachment of President Bill Clinton" Jim Rogan (a UCLA graduate), Republican State Senator Bill Morrow, resident scholar at the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute John Lott, the previous chairman of the California Republican Party and co-founder of the Governer Gray Davis recall campaign Shawn Steel, Executive Director of the Monterey County Republican Party Amy Thoma, and President of the California Republican Assembly Mike Spence.

Despite the presence of a couple of Libertarians, this group appears to be closely affiliated with the Republican Party and Republican California politicians. In that light, the initiative targeting professors perceived as "left wing" seems like a simple politically motivated blacklist or smear campaign rather than an issue of academic freedom" or political "bias" that are often used to justify recent attacks on "radical" academics.

As the Times reported, several members of the advisory board have resigned their position with Jones' alumni association since this story broke including Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom and professor emeritus of English Jascha Kessler. Since the Times article ran former congressman James Rogan has also resigned according to the Associated Press. As of the early hours of Thursday morning Eastern Time Jones had not take Rogan's name off of the Advisory Board Webpage, though Kessler and Thernstrom are no longer linked from the page. The sites home page also no longer links directly to the advisors' page.

Jones uses unusual candor in his attack on over 30 UCLA academics, avoiding the misleading buzzwords like "bias," "fairness," or "academic freedom" characterizing much of the discussion of similar initiatives. Such straight talk illustrates the true reason for recent campaigns targeting "radicals" in academia that include Senate Bill SB 6 introduced in December of 2004 by... you guessed it... State Senator Bill Morrow from the Bruin Alumni Association advisory board.

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