Remember how people compared this whole presidential election we just had to the Twilight Zone? Uncomfortable and just overall strange? I think this latest news has bumped things from the Twilight Zone to straight up George Orwell 1984.
While many college students don't agree with some of their professors' politics, I think many would stop short of putting them up on a list (minus that of RateMyProfessor) for their political stance. But a new website, called “Professor Watchlist”, (yeah, because this couldn’t get creepier), publicly names and displays professors with leftist leanings. Yes, that’s right, a website that tracks political affiliations for professors. Many believe this is a deliberate attempt at intimidation and silencing free speech. The website was created by Turning Points USA, a Republican organization, and is meant to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American ideals and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” (I don't know about you, but I'm side eyeing this statement.) Professor Watchlist launched on Nov. 21, and has nearly 200 professors listed so far. The professors seem to have been chosen by tweets, public statements and internet statuses. However, the site is clearly looking to expand through a form where you can report a professor yourself!
While some professors on the list think it's funny that they're included, others believe they could become targets on their own campuses. Several believe the list could eventually be used against them, eventually taking away positions and possibly safety. Some professors listed on the site were prominently open about their politics, such as those who opposed the the Texas Campus Carry Law. They believe the information on the website is partial and inaccurate—not info that people should be using for form an opinion. As there is no fact checking of this list, just submissions, several think it could lead to professors getting in trouble for something that never happened. But while the list itself is scary, some decided to make a joke of the website, submitting Dumbledore and other fictional characters to the list, according to The New York Times.
Charlie Kirk, the founder of the organization, told Slate that his group consists of ordinary conservatives who believe some professors openly discriminate against Republicans. He doesn't consider the group to be part of the so-called "alt-right," a white supremacist movement. Kirk also said that “It’s no secret some college professors are out of control," in terms of expressing leftist politics in the classroom. Matt Lamb, another organizer of the site, dismissed claims that the site is based on intimidation, telling the New York Times that what they're doing is protected free speech. According to Lamb, while professors have to right to say what they want, others have the right to “report” the behavior.
However, while the organizers may not believe this is intimidation, professors on the list are still left open to harassment or violence. While the group doesn’t identify as alt-right, this list aligns with many ideas of the alt-right, including having a list of people who differ from the ideals of the party and labeling them publicly. It also calls into the classic question of the slippery slope. Will it end at professors? Or can ordinary citizens expect to end up on a "watchlist" eventually as well?
Like I said, Toto, we may not be in the Twilight Zone anymore.