Editorial Board

Professor Watchlist is an attack on academic freedom

/ The Daily Orange

Professor Watchlist, hosted by nonprofit organization Turning Point USA, initially intended to protect conservative students who may feel marginalized on college campuses. But in reality, the platform is an attack on academic freedom.

Formally, Professor Watchlist’s mission is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The list was created with the purpose of letting students and parents prepare to engage with these professors — one of whom is Syracuse University’s own Dana Cloud, a professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Still, universities are institutions created for the purpose of exchanging thought. They should uphold an expected standard for diversity of opinion. Because of this, it’s crucial that students get the chance to hear as many different viewpoints from their professors as possible.

Liberal or conservative, no professor should be subject to this kind of shaming and surveillance. Labeling a faculty member as “untrustworthy” and “dangerous” because of a curriculum hinders students and discourages them from taking a class that can challenge their beliefs.

“All posts are of professors who have radical views that would chill the free speech of students in the classroom and stifle debate,” said Matt Lamb, Turning Point’s director of constitutional enforcement and transparency.

If anything, this list chills professors’ free speech.

Professors may now teach in fear that if they say the wrong thing, they’ll end up on this list. And because online presence is crucial in this day and age, association with this watchlist damages a professor’s respectability and humiliates them.

Given that there aren’t guidelines or hard requirements, this list is subjective. There is no threshold as to what defines dangerous, and intellectual voices should never be softened by biased shouts.

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