January 19, 2006

· Politics

image Eugene Volokh is already on this, but I caught a segment on the radio about the UCLAProfs.com, the site founded by some recent political science grad “dedicated to exposing UCLA’s most radical professors,” people who are engaged in “brainwashing” their students, an activity described as “about as hard as shooting fish in a barrel.” The idea that professors exert a vise-like grip on the pliable minds of their students is a dubious one at best. But frankly, the notion that cardigan-wearing lefties can out-compete the cornucopia of brain-cleansing goods and services on offer in the city of Los Angeles strikes me as wholly implausible.

What most irritates me about the site is that it will probably play to the persecution complexes of some of the people on the list, which will lead them to make comments about Joe McCarthy and Fascism, which is exactly the kind of reaction UCLAprofs.com wants. The best thing about this otherwise lame project is its black-fist rating system for the radicalism of professors (three fists out of five shown here). Political Science prof Mark Sawyer had the right idea with his profile—he wrote in to complain, saying “I now have tenure … I have been away from UCLA for 2 12 years at Berkeley and Harvard. I have been active though in the anti-war movement etc. So I feel I deserve 5 fists.”


But apart from the fist innovation, UCLAprofs.com is pretty badly written, poorly designed and completely fails to hit its target, as most of the “radical causes” it cites (disapproval with President Bush, opposition to the war in Iraq) are in fact at present majority positions in the United States. It doesn’t come close to the delicious heights of Discover the Network, let alone Discover the Nutwork. So I’m afraid that on my personal scale of 1 to 5 McCarthys (also shown here), UCLAprofs.com receives a derisive half a McCarthy, a new record low. It would have gotten a zero except for the superb self-parodic line in the article There’s Something About Petitions where the author says “The list also demonstrates that a large number of UCLA professors are ardently in favor of affirmative action, and just as ardently opposed to conservative legal nominees, even opposing fellow alumni like Justice Janice Rogers Brown.” That’d be Judge Brown, incidentally, not Justice, whom we all know and love for her excellent speeches. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to supervise the students who are presently washing my collection of Che Guevara t-shirts as part of an in-class research exercise.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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