Notre Dame Profs Flood the other Watchlist

In solidarity with two Notre Dame faculty named to the scurrilous watchlist (which will not be linked to here), the Washington Post reports, more than 100 Notre Dame professors have asked to be added to that list:

Here’s a twist regarding a controversial new website called “Professor Watchlist,” which has the names of some 200 academics deemed by a conservative group to be advancing “leftist propaganda” in classrooms and discriminating against conservative students.

While most teachers at any level education would generally prefer to remain off politically motivated lists,  more than 100 faculty members at the University of Notre Dame say they want their names added to Professor Watchlist, a project of the nonprofit organization Turning Point USA. The group’s website says it is a national movement that seeks to “educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” Critics call it an assault on academic freedom.

The signatories of the letter wrote that those on the list are actually “the sort of company we wish to keep.” They are also the company that this Watchlist Redux wants to keep. So in solidarity with the Notre Dame faculty, the two targeted faculty are honored here. They are Gary Gutting and Iris Outlaw.

A philosopher with broad interests in continental as well as analytic philosophy, Gutting has done much good for the profession, serving as an editor of the well-regarded Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews and having written a series of articles for the New York Times opinionator blog. In one of those New York Times pieces, he noted just what a teacher should aspire to do:

Teachers need to see themselves as, first of all, intellectuals, dedicated to understanding poetry, history, human psychology, physics, biology — or whatever is the focus of their discipline.  But they also need to realize that this dedication expresses not just their idiosyncratic interest in certain questions but a conviction that those questions have general human significance, even apart from immediately practical applications.

Iris Outlaw runs the multicultural student program at Notre Dame. The scurrilous watchlist was offended that she talked about white privilege. Apparently the young man running that site never noticed that he had any. (Funny how that happens.) In any case, it is hard to see anything but wonderful work that Outlaw is doing, helping students of various backgrounds succeed in college. What audacity she has. Yes — and brava!

Gutting and Outlaw are now on this list! Hats off to them and to Notre Dame.

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Eva Feder Kittay’s wisdom

The Watchlist Redux got covered in today’s Inside Higher Ed. One of our favorite radicals was interviewed,

Eva Feder Kittay, a distinguished professor of philosophy at the State University at New York at Stony Brook, was named to the Redux list of contemporary scholars for “teaching us a lot about what it is to be human.” Much of her work centers on disability and moral status. She isn’t on the original watch list but said via email that it’s “appalling and contrary to everything we want this country to stand for. Teaching — especially, but not only — philosophy (my intellectual home) must wake us from our slumbers, must provoke, excite, cause us to reflect and, when possible, to act to make the world a better place. If not, then what is love of wisdom for?”

Kittay said she worried about current political rhetoric and cited Eugène Ionesco’s The Rhinoceros. In the play, a rhinoceros charges through a town, causing residents to argue about how it got there. One by one, the villagers all transform into charging beasts. “If we don’t speak up against watch lists, we might all become raging rhinoceroses,” she said.

Agreed! Let’s not charge. Let’s just ridicule so we don’t become rhinoceroses ourselves.

If only satire could be like anti-matter. Come up against something evil, make fun of it, and poof it goes away. We can only hope.

Haters Dialing it Back

That other site, which this one is spoofing, keeps dialing it back. Too bad we didn’t take some screen shots. At first they were watchlisting those who were supposedly

  • un-American
  • discriminating against conservative students
  • spreading radical agendas in the classroom

Then about a week ago, that first criterion dropped out. (Maybe someone explained to the young man running that site that it is, in fact, quite American to speak up for one’s principles.) So then we had just these two grounds for being on the list

  • discriminating against conservative students
  • spreading radical agendas in the classroom

But as of this afternoon, that one about discriminating against conservative students is gone. Maybe someone pointed out that their site didn’t actually offer any evidence that anyone on their list had done any such thing.

So now their only charge is this:

  • spreading radical agendas in the classroom

Well, hooray for that! Bravo to all those teachers working with their students to get to the root of problems.

Except the word “agenda” is troubling. Is it unusual, meaning remarkable, that a teacher would want to do that? So let’s note that the word “agenda” is still trading in intimidation and silence.

Maybe tomorrow that word will disappear.

ARISTOTLE, Macedonia, Greece (384–322 BCE)

Born in Macedonia, Aristotle immigrated to Athens to study philosophy and ended up questioning the authority of his teacher, Plato. In Athens he lived without citizenship and was subjected to anti-Macedonian sentiment. After Alexander’s death, Demophilus and Eurymedon accused Aristotle of impiety, and he fled North to his mother’s place of birth because he didn’t want Athens to put another philosopher to death.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, United Kingdom (1872-1970)

Logician and social critic. A founder of analytic philosophy and a communist sympathizer, religious skeptic, advocate for women’s suffrage, free love/known philanderer, sex education, contraceptive access, easy divorce, married four times, homosexual law reform, racial equality (eventually), inter-racial marriage, and nuclear disarmament. Winner of Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. Threatened national security by protesting UK involvement in nuclear arms race.

HANNAH ARENDT, Germany, France, and the United States (1906–1975)

Hannah Arendt was a political philosopher, a student of Heidegger’s who came to question his anti-semitism, a refugee from Nazi Germany who taught and wrote that there are no foundations or everlasting truths to ground our political practices. She dared to name “the banality of evil,” the way evil emerges when people just do their jobs and don’t think about whether their jobs should be done at all.