Sunday, January 01, 2017

Professor Watchlist Is A Slavic Hoax

Olga García Echeverría

"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese 
in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." 
--Guess who? 

Isn't the idea of climate change as a “Chinese hoax” outrageous and offensive? It's problematic on so many levels. For starters, it came out of the mouth of the soon-to-be President (#NotMyPresident). How embarrassing/frightening for a “leader” of the modern world to not believe in global warming. And “Chinese hoax,” really? Are we in the 1880's? I've titled this blog “Professor Watchlist Is a Slavic Hoax” to add sarcasm and further my point. Doesn't it sound ridiculous?

It's not entirely a hoax, though. I mean, the Professor Watchlist is an actual website and its very existence is creepy. We've heard about the possibility of a Muslim registry, but there already is an extreme right-wing registry underway. Here's a description of the Professor Watch List from the NEA Higher Ed Advocate: 

Professor Watchlist, a website launched shortly after the presidential election by the right-wing organization Turning Point USA, asks college students to report and “expose” faculty who “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.” Its founder wrote, “It's no secret that some of America's professors are totally out of line.” 

Hundreds of professors, including NEA Higher Ed members, have been named to the site. Rodolfo Acuña, a CSU Northridge professor of Chicano Studies, was reported for telling students that Chicano people have been oppressed. Frank Barajas, of CSU Channel Islands, was written up for suggesting to students that they write to California state legislators about how rising tuition affects their lives. Meanwhile, Des Moines Area Community College instructor Darwin Pagnac made the blacklist because he asked students to write about climate-change deniers.

In short, Professor Watchlist is trying to spy on and bully professors across the country. At its core the call to report professors who are "out of line" is a scare tactic used to silence academic freedom and promote a fascist agenda.  Remember Frank Navarro, the Mountain View High School teacher who drew comparisons between Trump and Hilter? Oh, what a crime! And in a classroom of all places! As my good friend Persephone would say, the extreme right totally “got their chonies in a wad” over that one.

So, wait, let me get this right. The president-elector-elect (#NotMyPresident) can prance around and call climate change a Chinese hoax, say women like to be grabbed by the pussy, label Muslims terrorists, equate Mexicans with rapists and criminals, terrify immigrants and the children of immigrants, cheat university students (Trump University), select queer-fearing-queer-hating White Supremacists as his cabinet, so many things that this man is doing and getting away with, including forever ruining Cheetos for all of us, but Mr. Navarro, a hardworking teacher of 40 years and an expert on the Holocaust and genocide, was put on leave and scrutinized/criticized for drawing historical connections between two people and two time periods in his high school classroom? And professors such as Acuña, Barajas, Des Moines and at least 160 others are put on a “Watchlist” and deemed “dangerous.” Wow, talk about upside down and bogus. Talk about a hoax!

I'm not the first or last to say it; this Professor Watchlist reeks of Witch Hunt, McCarthyism, George Orwell's 1984. But professors have been responding and fighting back. At the beginning of December, Notre Dame professors signed an open letter asking that their names be added onto the Professor Watchlist. Since then, more than 12,000 professor have joined this resistance via various platforms.

DeWayne Sheaffer, president of NEA's National Council for Higher Education has also issued a call out. “Let's invalidate the madness,” he says, “Let's make this list null and void by putting all of us on it.”

There are many ways we can do this. You can read the Notre Dame letter here and sign your name to the growing list of supporters of academic freedom.

From Advocate: You can “go to, click on 'submit a tip,' and report yourself. Let them know that you, as a higher educator, encourage students to think and speak, to challenge their own assumptions, to investigate the world around them, and to become curious, thoughtful, critical citizens in their communities.”

You can have people you love and who love you report you (so that there's joy in the resistance). This is what I did and it really was the best way to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in the New Year, which will no doubt be a year that will push us to extremes and require, among other things, a lot of creativity on our part.

As our first act of resistance of 2017, I and my two lovely goddaughters, Gladys and Leonor, (both college students, one of them my ex-student) visited the Professor Watchlist and laughed aloud (LOL for reals, you all) at some of the descriptions of these “dangerous” professors. If you haven't done so already, check out the website and judge for yourself.

Here is a picture of my goddaughters entering my information and asking the “Watchers” at Watchlist that I be added. My goddaughters may be laughing, but they're not messing around. They are fierce daughters of Oaxacan immigrant parents, one of them an ex-teacher. They are the youth that make this country great, and as indigenous trilingual mujeres who grew up in Huntington Park, they are as American as they come; they give me hope.

Under “Please describe what this professor did that may justify adding them...” my goddaughters and I brainstormed and came up with the following:

1. Does not believe global warming is a Chinese hoax.
2. Teaches about systematic oppression of people of color in the United States and around the world.
3. Brings political art into the classroom.
4. Has been known to chant/sing, “Gay is natural! Gay is good!” (George Michael inspired, of course).
5. Has a feminist agenda.
6. Believes there are political prisoners in the United States.
7. Supports Black Lives Matter.
8. Encourages students to think critically and participate in community/grassroots organizations and movements.
9. Claims to believe more in flying unicorns than reverse racism and “White genocide.”
10. Has spoken out against Professor Watchlist and called it “bogus” and “a scare tactic to silence free expression and promote a fascist agenda.”

It was easy and fun to generate this list that may or may not render me worthy of being watched. There is truth in Alice Walker's words, "Resistance is the secret of joy." Here are my goddaughters joyfully pressing submit on my "application" for the Professor Watchlist. 

Dear Bloga readers, teaching colleagues, community organizers, artists, students, friends, parents, pranksters, Chupacabras, La Llorona, Lucha Libre fighters, cholas and social justice warriors of the world: will you  please join me and thousands of educators across the country in this small but significant act of resistance? Let's throw so many "dangerous" professors at them that they don't know what to do with us. NEA Higher Education Advocate sums it up with, “Report Yourself! Render useless the 'Professor Watchlist.'” It's a great idea, but we need your help.

Thank you in advance, amig@s. Happy New Year, and may the force of resistance be with us.


Here are a few articles on the Professor Watchlist and on resistance from scholars from across the country:

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