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Heterodox Academy, PEN America Condemn Professor Watchlist

November 29, 2016
 

The executive committee of Heterodox Academy, a group of scholars dedicated to viewpoint diversity, is taking a stand against Professor Watchlist. The watch list, which seeks to “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” could chill free speech, the committee said in a statement. The list poses problems similar to those posed by campus bias response teams, which investigate various report of bias, and which have been heavily criticized by those on the political right and free speech purists.

“Whether the reporting is done to a campus authority, setting in motion weeks of time-draining bureaucratic procedure that is often far removed from common sense, or whether the reporting is done to the internet at large, triggering public shaming campaigns and a cascade of threatening tweets and emails, such reporting systems encourage everyone to walk on eggshells,” the committee said. “This kind of fearful climate deprives everyone of the vigorous debate and disagreement that is essential for learning and scholarship.”

Rather than seeking to discourage certain voices on campus, it said, “we think the better approach is to encourage a variety of voices -- heterodox voices -- so that bad arguments can be answered with good ones and scholarly ideas can be tested by the strongest minds on both sides.” This is the committee’s first public statement. Heterodox Academy is a group of scholars who advocate for a more intellectually diverse professoriate and who reject various orthodoxies that “forestall scholarly inquiry.”

PEN America, which works to advance literature and free expression, on Monday also criticized Professor Watchlist.

"While no credible university administrator will take seriously a website so clearly intended to bait and sow divisions on college campuses," Suzanne Nossel, the group's executive director, said in a statement, "PEN America condemns the so-called Professor Watchlist. While claiming to stand up against bias, this list is a noxious purveyor of precisely what it claims to deride: the intimidation and ostracization of those who express controversial views on campus."

 
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