Freedom or harrassment?
UCLA Alumni Group Is Tracking 'Radical' Faculty
By Stuart Silverstein and Peter Y. Hong, Times Staff Writers
A fledgling alumni group headed by a former campus Republican leader is offering students payments of up to $100 per class to provide information on instructors who are "abusive, one-sided or off-topic" in advocating political ideologies.
The year-old Bruin Alumni Assn. says its "Exposing UCLA's Radical Professors" initiative takes aim at faculty "actively proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom, whether or not the commentary is relevant to the class topic." Although the group says it is concerned about radical professors of any political stripe, it has named an initial "Dirty 30" of teachers it identifies with left-wing or liberal causes.
Some of the instructors mentioned accuse the association of conducting a witch hunt that threatens to harm the teaching atmosphere, and at least one of the group's advisory board members has resigned because he considers the bounty offers inappropriate. The university said it will warn the association that selling copies of professors' lectures would violate campus rules and raise copyright issues.
The Bruin Alumni Assn. is headed by Andrew Jones, a 24-year-old who graduated in June 2003 and was chairman of UCLA's Bruin Republicans student group. He said his organization, which is registered with the state as a nonprofit, does not charge dues and has no official members, but has raised a total of $22,000 from 100 donors. Jones said the biggest contribution to the group, $5,000, came from a foundation endowed by Arthur N. Rupe, 88, a Santa Barbara resident and former Los Angeles record producer.
Jones' group is following in the footsteps of various conservative groups that have taken steps, including monitoring professors, to counter what they regard as an overwhelming leftist tilt at elite colleges and universities around the country. He said many of these efforts, however, have done a poor job of documenting their claims. As a result, Jones said, the Bruin Alumni Assn. is offering to pay students for tapes and notes from classes.
"We're just trying to get people back on a professional level of things. Having been a student myself up until 2003, and then watching what other students like myself have gone through, I'm very concerned about the level of professional teaching at UCLA," said Jones, who said he is supporting himself with a modest salary from the organization and is its only full-time employee.
He said he plans to show what he considers biased material to professors and administrators and seek to have teachers present more balanced lectures or possibly face reprimand.
UCLA administrators say they are planning no immediate legal action, other than to notify Jones and to alert students that selling course materials without the consent of the instructor and Chancellor Albert Carnesale violates university policy. Patricia Jasper, a university lawyer, said UCLA would reserve the right to take legal action if any students engaged in unauthorized selling of materials.
Adrienne Lavine, chairwoman of UCLA's academic senate, agreed that the university could do little more at this point. She said she found the profiles on the alumni group's website "inflammatory" and "not a positive way to address the concerns that Mr. Jones has expressed." Still, she said, "I certainly support freedom of speech and that extends to Andrew Jones as much as it does to every faculty member on campus."
The group's recent campaign has upset a number of targeted professors and triggered the resignation last weekend of Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, a prominent affirmative action opponent and former UCLA professor, from the advisory board for Jones' organization.