Montclair State University boasts an inclusive campus, where students and faculty have the opportunity to come together to exchange of ideologies and minds. Montclair State’s mission statement boosts that “all the university programs will develop in students the ability to discover, create, evaluate, apply, and share knowledge in a climate characterized by tolerance and openness in exploration in ideas.”
These are the values that Montclair State students and faculty have come to expect within higher education. While many other institutions of higher education hold similar values of inclusiveness and openness, there are organizations, like Turning Point USA (TPUSA), trying to destroy these important values.
The conservative organization for young people, TPUSA has created a Professor Watchlist. TPUSA claims that they have created the watchlist in order to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” By collecting the names of professors and their quotes, TPUSA has created a lengthy list of professors teaching around the country.
While TPUSA’s website claims to “fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish,” they are doing the complete opposite. Through the Professor Watchlist, TPUSA hopes to spread the names and incidents involving professors who advance radical agendas in lecture halls.
One of these Watchlist professors from Rutgers University told the Star Ledger that while he has his own views and style of teaching in the classroom, he allows all of his students to voice their own ideas, regardless if they contradicted his, with impunity.
The list in itself undermines the encyclopedic union of minds that higher education has strived to promote since its inception. It picks out professors who vocalize controversial ideas within their own classrooms, opinions TPUSA deems erroneous and discriminatory, and makes it seem as though the professors impose their ideas on their students.
As the one professor demonstrated, that is not the case at all. While there are professors with extremely controversial values and ideas on the list, there are some whose views are much more mild and simply contradict conservative views. Singling them out for their views goes against the freedom of speech. It makes it seem like the professors are not allowed to have these opinions because they are not in line with conservatives.
Universities, colleges, academia, all revolve around discourse. That is how ideologies are exchanged. Discourse can happen in a classroom with people, faculty and students, of different opinions and views. The professors’ opinion do not have to align with that of the students and that is the beauty of higher education.
That is where students have the chance to learn of a different view point, and defend their own. This Professor Watchlist threatens that space that many universities have worked to create, and might foreshadow a much darker academic climate for higher education in the future.