Metro

Mass. professors make group’s watchlist for alleged ‘leftist propaganda’

The Harvard Law Library.
Charles Krupa/Associated Press/ File
The Harvard Law Library.

Both former and current Massachusetts professors are featured on a new website created by a conservative-leaning organization that tracks and documents what it calls “radical” ideas espoused by educators.

The “Professor Watchlist,” a website launched by Turning Point USA last week, names professors it says discriminate against conservative students and “advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Matt Lamb, director of constitutional enforcement and transparency for TPUSA, a nonprofit that says it aims to educate students about “fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government,” said the website has been in the works since summer.

Advertisement

The group’s goal is to provide a resource to students, parents, and alumni so they have a better understanding of what’s happening at their schools, Lamb said in an e-mail to the Globe. He said for professors to make the list, there has to be “documented proof of radicalism.” The group bases its information on news stories.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“It’s important that students be aware of what they are going into if they’re taking a class with a professor,” he said. “It’s good to know what views your professor has so you can be ready to challenge them and share your views, which is the purpose of college.”

Mark Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor, has landed on the list. The website, quoting reports published by The Washington Times and the Independent Journal Review, wrote that Tushnet “asked liberals to begin treating Christians and conservatives like Nazis.”

Tushnet told the Globe on Thursday that the reports the group relied on are “misleading both in framing the concern, and in the characterization” of a blog post he wrote.

He said critics took what he said “essentially out of context.”

Advertisement

Although Tushnet, who has been teaching at Harvard for 11 years, has seen a spike in negative e-mails since the website launched on Nov. 21, he is unfazed by his inclusion.

“They are at some level wrong in what they have to say, but so what?” he said. “People say and do wrong things all of the time.”

Boston University Professor Saida Grundy is also listed on the website. She stirred up controversy last year when she posted a series of tweets that disparaged white males.

The messages shared in her Twitter account included, “Every MLK week i commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.” And “can we just call st patrick’s day the white people’s kwanzaa that it is?” the Globe reported.

The group pegged its decision to include Grundy on the website by citing a news story that said she had “blasted whites on social media.

Advertisement

Grundy did not immediately return a request for comment.

Many have come out against the list, calling it a way to harass professors, while others have been using the hashtag #TrollProfessorWatchlist on Twitter to mock its existence.

Richard D. Wolff, who once taught economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is also among those on the website.

He said he retired from the school in 2008, but he is identified by the website as being a current employee.

Wolff told the Globe that it’s the “third or fourth time” in his career that such lists have been brought to his attention, but it’s the first time his name has appeared.

The website described Wolff as the “most prominent Marxist economist in America,” quoting a website called discoverthenetworks.org. That website describes itself as a “guide to the political left.

“This is an ugly attempt to shut down free academic inquiry for teachers and students alike; it does no credit to the ideological perspective from which it comes,” Wolff said in an e-mailed statement.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.