A professor makes a comment about race or gender. A student is offended and argues with the professor. They bicker and, after a few minutes, class resumes as normal. For many of us, this is something we’ve seen in at least one class. However, a new website is challenging that ability to openly converse with our professors.
The Professor Watchlist is a website that was created with the intention of warning college students about extremely liberal instructors. According to the website’s own description, “The mission of Professor Watchlist is to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” As of writing this editorial, no Rider professors have been named on the list. However, professors from Rutgers and Princeton have been added.
The Professor Watchlist is a shameful attempt at policing freedom of thought and restricting the freedoms of speech that are meant to take place in college classrooms. The website not only shames professors by naming them as callous individuals, but it also picks apart the things they have said or tweeted that could be seen as liberal opinions.
For example, a professor from Rutgers was named on the watchlist for, the website states, claiming “that white people need to start recognizing that they are ‘the face of the oppressor.’” This professor was also implicated for tweeting about racism.
Another professor, this one from Princeton, was named because he “strongly questions the personhood given to any unborn child and finds little similarity to killing an unborn child and killing any other person.” This professor also strongly supports animal rights.
These, while liberal or controversial, are simply opinions. No professor, just like no other individual, should be ridiculed for whatever their opinions may be.
This Professor Watchlist is not an attempt to protect anyone. It is an attempt at marginalizing and shaming professors for participating in freedom of thought. This is not a watchlist. This is a blacklist.
The New York Times writes that this website is a threat to academic freedom. Julio C. Pino, a professor from Kent State University who is on the watchlist, told the newspaper that the website encourages the “normalizing of prosecuting professors, shaming professors, defaming professors.”
That sentiment is entirely true. There is a level of shame that comes with being implicated on this watchlist. This intimidates professors into hiding their views in a higher education environment that is intended to promote free thinking.
This does not only apply to liberal professors who want to share their views in the classroom. No professor should be defamed on a blacklist for their opinions, whether those opinions are extremely liberal or extremely conservative. Professors, like all people in this country, have a right to their freedom of speech.
And students should not be deterred by anyone’s free speech. Most undergraduate students fall somewhere between the ages of 17 and 23. We are all adults, with developed minds and the ability to think for ourselves.
If a professor does not share our ideals, that does not necessarily influence our beliefs in any way. A liberal student remains liberal, even in the face of a conservative professor, and vice versa. This watchlist makes it seem like we need someone to hold our hands and guide us around the big, mean professors who so cruelly do not share our opinions.
As college students, we are all adults. If any of us are being so strongly influenced by a professor’s views, then maybe that professor is not the one we should worry about.
There are some professors, surely both liberal and conservative, who do not allow much room for students to disagree with them. That is a more pressing issue. No professor should ever make a student feel marginalized for their beliefs. If a student disagrees with them, that student should not be ridiculed.
And, at the same time, no student should ever feel threatened by the fact that a professor does not agree with them on everything. Colleges are educational spaces that promote the exchange of ideas.
Many of us in 2016 don’t want to listen to opinions that dissent from our own, which is what makes politics such a touchy subject. But what’s the harm in listening to someone else’s opinions? Maybe a professor’s views will help further solidify our own, or offer a new perspective we never considered.
The world has a vast variety of differing views, beliefs, faiths and more. If we go out into that world looking for people who are just like us, then we will surely be lost. If we persecute professors for their opinions, then we contradict everything that every university stands for. And if we’re only learning from the people who share our narrow views, then we are wasting thousands of dollars on an inferior education.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 12/7/16 issue.