Three S.C. professors — two from Clemson University and one from Coker College — have been added to a new website that says it lists college professors who discriminate against conservative students and “advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Clemson assistant communications professor Chenjerai Kumanyika and American literature professor Susanna Ashton are among some 200 professors listed on the Professor Watchlist, a site that first appeared last week. A third S.C. professor, Coker assistant sociology and criminology professor Todd Couch, also is on the list.
The website is run by Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit that says it promotes fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government to students. It encourages former students to submit tips to build the list.
Professor watchlists can do more harm than good, according to Brandon Inabinet, a Furman University associate professor and president of the American Association of University Professors’ S.C. conference.
Some professors are added wrongly because of misinformation, he said. Regardless of their accuracy, Inabinet said, professor listings can result in threats or students choosing only professors who do not challenge their views.
“It’s a terrible way to go about your education,” Inabinet said. “Students should be exposed to new viewpoints. If lists like this are used to find professors that agree with a student’s viewpoints, it really defeats the purpose of what a university is about.”
The watchlist cites Kumanyika’s involvement in the 2015 Ferguson, Mo., protests and Ashton’s 2014 tweet calling on others to “collectively shame” Clemson students who participated in a gang-themed “Cripmas” party. Ashton later apologized for the tweet.
The website also mentions a letter, signed by both professors and dozens more, that called for Clemson to build a new multicultural center, support underrepresented groups, hire more minority faculty members and provide diversity training for school employees.
Clemson and Coker defended its professors Tuesday.
“Clemson University consistently has supported the rights of individuals to express a full spectrum of views, in accordance with the free speech rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution, including those some may see as controversial or offensive,” Clemson provost Robert Jones said in an emailed statement.
The website says Couch, the Coker professor, teaches “racial oppression” was central to the United States’ founders’ philosophy and lectures on white supremacy, racial oppression and the “evilness of conservatives.”
“At Coker College, we pride ourselves on our ‘round-table’ approach to education, which uses the Socratic method of open discussion to support learning,” the school said in an emailed statement. “We believe that engaging differing viewpoints is part of the learning process, and is necessary to help students develop critical thinking and communication skills. The academic and intellectual freedom of our faculty is of the utmost importance in these efforts, and we encourage all members of our campus community to participate in the respectful exchange of ideas.”
Efforts Tuesday to reach the three professors were unsuccessful.