Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bounty hunting 

A website of conservative UCLA alumni has been created to expose radical professors at UCLA. And it's decided to offer cash to students who help get the goods on liberal faculty. This organization is the brainchild of Andrew Jones, a UCLA graduate who wrote about his own experience with a UCLA professor who was, in another student's words, most close-minded professor I know, which affects the grading a lot!"

We have means already for students to discuss issues of bias, and to have someone independently evaluate the claims. is one such place (and has five entries for UCLA). I certainly support paying someone for providing something of value, but alas the payment in this case will be seen by those who oppose any openness of classrooms to be a bribe to engage in a witchhunt, no matter how many disclaimers this alumni group offers. A Chronicle of Higher Education article (subscriber link) shows the line of attack taken:
The association has already drawn criticism from some UCLA faculty members, including Peter McLaren, a professor of education who ranked No. 1 on the group's "Dirty Thirty: Ranking the Worst of the Worst" list.

"This Web site offers nothing but name-calling," said Mr. McLaren, who insisted that he is tolerant in the classroom. The Web site says that he "teaches the next generation of teachers and professors how to properly indoctrinate students."

"This is a McCarthy-like kind of smear," said the professor. Asking students to "serve as spies," he said, is not only antagonistic and pernicious, it's also "un-American."

Lawrence Lokman, a UCLA spokesman, said the university supported Mr. Jones's right to free expression. However, the university plans to contact Mr. Jones to let him know that students who sell course materials without the consent of both the professor and the campus's chancellor are breaking university policy. UCLA plans to communicate that policy to students as well.

UPDATE: I mostly agree with Kieran Healy and Eugene Volokh. Bainbridge agrees that the payments are unpleasant and unproductive.