Witch-Hunt at UCLA Targets Professors
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
As this year opened, a new fight over critical thinking on university campuses flared up at UCLA. A website by an outfit calling itself the "Bruin Alumni Association" (uclaprofs.com) began offering students up to $100 to spy on and tape lectures of progressive professors.
The offer read: "UCLA STUDENTS: Do you have a professor who just can't stop talking about President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican Party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter? It doesn't matter whether this is a past class, or your class from this coming winter quarter. If you help expose the professor, we'll pay you for your work." (The website was later forced to remove the money offer after UCLA said it violated school policy.)
"Bruin Alumni Association" may sound like an official organization ("Bruin" is the UCLA mascot). But this group actually has no official affiliation with the university. Its only connection with the school is that its founder and apparently its sole member, Andrew Jones, is a 2003 graduate. Jones was the chairman of the UCLA Young Republicans and brought fascist notables like William Bennett, Ann Coulter, and David Horowitz to speak on campus. The advisory board listed on the website includes Linda Chavez, George W. Bush's first nominee as Labor Secretary.
Jones' website openly targets "UCLAs Radical Professors" and has more than 200 pages of profiles on 30 professors who are branded as the "Dirty Thirty." The profiles mainly list alleged political activity of professors outside the classroom -- petitions they've signed, organizations they've belonged to or spoken at, conferences they've attended, contributions they've made, etc. The real target is critical thinking and dissent on campus. And it is part of a broader right-wing agenda aimed at destroying the richness of academic life, ruining careers, and inciting official and unofficial persecution against the targeted professors.
This fascistic hatchet job against UCLA professors is in line with the methods and program of David Horowitz—the founder of the online FrontLineMagazine.com and self-styled "battering ram" in the service of extreme right-wing politics with ties to the Bush White House. He is the major architect of the so-called "Academic Bill of Rights," which aims to purge universities of radical and progressive thought in the name of "academic freedom." Versions of this bill have been introduced by Republican politicians in a number of state legislatures. Along with this, Horowitz has promoted a network of Republican youth on some 200 campuses, called Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), who spy on and demand the firing of liberal and leftist professors.
After a week of outraged reaction against uclaprofs.com, Horowitz distanced himself from Jones, who once worked for Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Horowitz and his SAF complain that what Jones is doing is an example of "how not to run an academic freedom campaign," because it "played right into the hands of its detractors." In other words, Horowitz is criticizing Jones for using tactics that are too crude, in contrast to Horowitz's campaign under the banner of "academic freedom."
Whatever Horowitz's reason is for distancing himself from Jones, they are on the same reactionary mission. The Bruin Alumni Association is simply a more blatant version of Horowitz's campus agenda. The Bruin Standard, the newspaper published by the UCLA chapter of the SAF, targets progressive faculty and calls on students to identify others. The SAF Handbook includes a chapter entitled "How to spy on progressive professors and force them to resign."
Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and comparative literature and one of those targeted by the campus brownshirts, wrote in an L.A. Times Op-Ed piece (1/22/06): "Members of the hard right — who currently control all three branches of government and yet seem irrationally convinced of their own disempowerment — are seeking to impose their worldview on our university system through crude intimidation and 'big government' intervention that reactionaries normally grumble about when it's taking care of the poor, the ill or the elderly. Their success would almost certainly guarantee that what gets taught would be determined not according to scholarly criteria but according to political pressure."
As we have pointed out (See "David Horowitz: Battering Ram for Bush Regime," at revcom.us.), "There is far too little critical thinking and dissent in society as a whole. That is the criminal situation. And critical thinking and dissent must not only be defended in the colleges and universities but spread in society. This is what the reactionaries want to prevent. And it is why a major assault on academia is emanating from and connected to the highest office in the land.
"A counterrevolution is gathering speed and momentum. It matters to the whole direction of society and to millions around the world who hate U.S. domination and oppression whether the campaigns of David Horowitz and his backers triumph or are trounced. They will be forced to back off only if powerful opposition is built on campuses and spills out and intersects with the broader battle in society--as two worlds more and more collide."