Two UMass professors named to list of ‘radicals’

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus Courtesy photo

Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2016 12:26:35 AM

AMHERST — A professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts and a UMass professor of communications are among nearly 200 professors who represent a threat to academic freedom and are trying to “advance a radical agenda in lecture halls,” according to a nonprofit conservative organization.

Richard D. Wolff, who last taught at UMass in 2008, and Sut Jhally, founder and executive director of the Media Education Project, are both on professorwatchlist.org, a website developed by Turning Point USA, an organization that claims to focus on promoting the principles of free markets and limited government on college campuses and at high schools.

Wolff said in a phone interview from New York City Tuesday that he isn’t fazed by his presence on the list.

“It’s a sad misunderstanding of what education should be and what the job of a professor is,” Wolff said.

In a narrative posted to the website, Wolff is described as “the most prominent Marxist economist in America… an activist for Marxist economic policy for decades.”

Jhally’s narrative states he is “infamous for his politically loaded Twitter account.”

But neither write-up offers any indication of why they are on the list.

Wolff said he was never contacted by Turning Point USA.

“The first I heard about this is when some of my friends called me up and laughingly said ‘you made another list,’” Wolff said.

He said he has seen similar lists come out three or four times, usually targeting professors who are left-of-center on the political spectrum.

“This kind of thing is a sad commentary on American culture,” Wolff said, adding that he worries that it could cause collateral damage by scaring younger professors.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski released a statement issued by UMass faculty that expressed support for freedom of speech and continued debate in classrooms from various perspectives.

“Freedom of speech and discourse are at the heart of the American educational system and academic freedom is one of the core values of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Through their scholarly research and teaching, faculty members share their expertise on a broad spectrum of disciplines that enrich the educational experience of students, who benefit from discussion and debate of divergent views and are encouraged to develop their own ideas and beliefs.”

The professor watchlist website says that it “will continue to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish; however students, parents, and alumni deserve to know the specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”

The list has come under fire from others, including Julio C. Pino, a professor of history at Kent State University, who told The New York Times that the list is part of the normalization of “prosecuting professors, shaming professors, defaming professors.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




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