On January 19, the London Guardian published an article on a right-wing organization at the University of California-Los Angeles and its project to monitor and profile “radical” professors.
The group’s website, www.uclaprofs.com, explains what is required of spies for a $100 payment:
Full, detailed lecture notes, all professor-distributed materials, and full tape recordings of every class session, for one class: $100 (Note: lecture notes must make particular note of audience reactions, comments, and other details that will properly contextualize the professor’s non-pertinent ideological comments. If the class in question is ongoing or upcoming, UCLAProfs.com will provide (if needed) all necessary taping equipment and materials.)
Cruise the website and you find that what targeted faculty have in common is a questioning of the status quo. All “Dirty Thirty” are in the humanities with most in law, history, and women’s and minority studies -- areas most likely to support multiculturalism.
Clearly the Right is out to destroy K-12 public education. Their attacks on public schools and teacher’s unions has become a drumbeat. The goal is a system of schools operated by private companies with absolute control of course content and exams. According to press accounts, Neil Bush, brother to the President, and William Bennett, Reagan’s Education Secretary, both high profile rightists, have geared up in anticipation of the coming world of privatized education by founding their own corporations: K12, Inc. by Bennett and Ignite, Inc. by Bush.
But the Right is gunning for the academy too, and the UCLA situation is unusual only in its being so crudely conspicuous. Efforts to move universities rightward have been in effect for years. In 1995, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) was established with funds from the Bradley and Olin foundations. In years since, funding has also come from Castle Rock, Earhart and Sarah Scaife foundations. All are central players in a collective of right wing foundations that for 40 years have coordinated efforts to abolish governmental regulation of industry and to privatize all aspects of society, including education. ACTA’s claim of devotion to academic freedom is as twisted an Orwellian doublespeak as the Fox News claim of “fair and balanced.”
ACTA was founded by a duo the identity of which is an eye-opening comment on our two-party system. One was Lynne Cheney, wife of the Vice President and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The other was the powerful Democrat Joe Lieberman.
Alumni donations, billions of dollars annually, are the largest private sources of funding for higher education, and ACTA is dedicated to seeing such money applied according to its conservative philosophy. Toward that end it works with alumni and trustees to influence university policies, standards, budgets and hiring. Wealthy donors are urged to create endowed chairs.
ACTA’s Council includes some of the most influential rightists in the country, including neo-conservative Irving Kristol, William Bennett, and Chester Finn, Jr. a leading proponent for the privatization of public education. Likewise the Advisory Board which, among many others, includes the presidents of the Discovery, Hoover, and Hudson foundations, all enmeshed within the immense network of right wing foundations.
ACTA garnered attention following the 9-11 attack, when American campuses were convening seminars to discuss why such hatred was directed toward the U.S. -- an activity perfectly appropriate to universities. Inevitably, deeper reasons than the official “because we’re free” were being explored.
At that, ACTA reacted with publication of the 52-page “Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America And What Can Be Done About It”. In it, ACTA claimed the nation’s campuses are awash in “moral relativism” and “the weak link in America’s attack [of 9-11].” 115 examples of “unpatriotic” views and more than 40 academics were identified. Some listed statements were as mild as: “We need to think about what could have produced the frustrations that caused these crimes” and “[We should] build bridges and relationships, not just bombs and walls.”
But that is only one of a barrage of publications and press releases from ACTA as a trip through their website www.goacta.org reveals. And while the relatively insignificant UCLA profs gets plenty of attention, the vast, national, multifaceted efforts of ACTA go relatively unnoticed.
Bill Willers is an Emeritus Professor of Biology at University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.