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The Fight for Academic Freedom at UCLA

By Andrew Jones
June 21, 2006

Provided you weren’t living in a cave in mid-January this year, you probably caught one of the headlines.  “Rat Out a Rad Prof for $100,” bellowed the New York Post.  “Rightwing group offers students $100 to spy on professors,” screamed the U.K. socialist rag The Guardian.  Even the Los Angeles Times, which had broken the story, eventually carried a venomous Sunday feature op-ed announcing a “Witch hunt at UCLA.”  On this topic, at least, observers from the left and the right had seemingly reached consensus: the Bruin Alumni Association’s UCLAProfs.com website was a disgusting piece of McCarthyism richly deserving bipartisan condemnation.  But to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, never have so many people been so misled by so many different media outlets.

A witch hunt, by definition, is a pursuit of something that does not exist.  Radical professors, the focus of the UCLAProfs.com website, are very much real.  Indeed, they constitute the greatest threat to the university’s undergraduate education today.  At UCLA, biased professors and courses not only abound, they are actually sheltered by an institutional culture that tolerates and often encourages such professional malfeasance. 

While I was subjected to any number of classes that typified this ugly trend, the one I remember best is a 2002 political science course titled “Can Law Change Society?” a class taught by guest professor Ramona Ripston, none other than the executive director of the powerful Southern California chapter of the ACLU.

Putting hundreds of students in the hands of a full-time political activist seemed an intuitively poor idea, an impression confirmed by Ripston’s classroom behavior.  Rather than providing a forum for studying a wide range of topical issues, the class was solely a forum for airing Ramona Ripston’s views on the issues.  The verdict on every hot-button topic covered in class hewed closely to the ACLU party line.  The result: students learned that abortion was good, racial preferences were better, and the gay/lesbian radical agenda was next to godliness.  By contrast, racial profiling and the death penalty were portrayed as utterly indefensible practices. 

Ripston kept a steely death-grip on class lecture and discussion.  Dissenting opinions, sometimes mine, were quickly dismissed or let to pass without comment, while Ripston highlighted and even repeated ditto-istic comments from a Greek chorus of sycophantic liberal students.  In most classes, guest lectures provide an opportunity to present countervailing views to the students.  Not so in Ripston’s class.  While Ripston did indeed perform outreach to assemble her slate of guest lecturers, the effort was literal: every guest lecturer had passed within an arm’s length of Ripston’s desk at ACLU headquarters. 

As a result, we heard party-line lectures from such radical eminences as Steven Rohde, the immediate past president of the ACLU-SC, Martha Matthews, an ACLU-SC gay/lesbian issues staff attorney, and Dan Tokaji, another then-ACLU-SC staff attorney.  D-list M*A*S*H* also-ran (and Ripston pal) Mike Farrell provided his hard-line anti-death penalty perspective.  And, for a capper, we heard from Ripston’s husband (and Tokaji’s one-time boss), 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Steven Reinhardt, who argued that the Rehnquist Court had turned America into a police state.  This predictable view was in no small part animated by Reinhardt’s personal neuroses, given that the Rehnquist court’s often-contrary reviews of his decisions had made Reinhardt one of the most-overturned judges in the history of American jurisprudence.  Ripston, not to be outdone, poured her own vitriol on the then-Chief Justice, telling not once, not twice, but three times (until students could and did repeat from memory) a venomous anecdote which falsely intimated that Rehnquist was a racist.

Ripston and her class were hardly an anomaly at UCLA.  But I was also confident that in this case the bias was so obvious and extreme that UCLA would have no choice but to act.  At the conclusion of the class, I took my concerns to Political Science department chairman Michael Lofchie.  Placing a tape recorder between us, I recited a detailed litany of Ripston’s outrageous behavior, only to have Lofchie glibly assure me, “a professor will sometimes say things to be provocative, to get students worked up,” and obstinately declare, “We would never monitor a professor’s point of view in the classroom.”  Lofchie closed our fruitless discussion with a final insulting revelation: it was only because of UCLA’s inability to meet Ripston’s high salary, not because of her abusive behavior, that she would not be returning to teach in the future. 

Having struck out badly with Lofchie, I tossed up a Hail Mary pass with an appeal to UCLA’s highest authority, Chancellor Albert Carnesale.  I sent an email on August 19, 2002 directing Carnesale to my write-up on the class, and requesting a meeting to discuss the problems it highlighted.  What came shooting back that day was a (superficially polite) middle finger from the Chancellor, who tersely stated, “I regret that you have again been disappointed with UCLA; however…I do not find your approach to issues to be constructive.  Accordingly, I do not share your interest in the prospect of our meeting to discuss this matter.”

The responses of both Carnesale and Lofchie were textbook examples of UCLA’s closed-ranks reaction to any suggestion that its undergraduate education was anything but “excellent,” the hollow buzzword used incessantly during the wildly successful Campaign UCLA fundraising drive that eventually netted over $3 billion.  Moreover, both of these high-ranking administrators had failed in their more basic obligation to inform me of my procedural rights as a concerned student.  It was only much later that I learned I was entitled to assistance from the UCLA Ombuds Office and the Academic Senate.  But in a way, perhaps the pair did me a favor.  Since like will always protect like, there was little chance that directing my complaints to bureaucratic entities would lead to any concrete changes.  The massive organizational inertia of such ostensible defenders of student rights functions to protect all but the most grossly misbehaving professors.  Watching the wrist-slaps meted out to outright charlatans like Ward Churchill and others, cynics might be excused for speculating whether anything short of infant-eating would qualify a university professor for termination.

Speaking generally, biased or unprofessional behavior falls into two general categories.  The first and less common type of abuse is the introduction of unrelated ideological material to a given class.  In the archetypal example, a chemistry or English literature professor starts every class session with a political rant about the Congressional corruption or the war in Iraq.  The second variety of biased behavior is one of ideological imbalance, typified by Ripston’s class.  As a political science course, it was right and proper that we covered controversial ideological issues.  The problem lay in the fact that Ripston presented exclusively radical viewpoints on the various issues, without the balance of any countervailing opinion. 

A responsible professor accepts that ideological balance will at bare minimum require teaching students the two major opposing views on an issue.  A responsible professor also understands the difference between major and minor viewpoints, and does not make the disingenuous argument that ideological balance requires professors to present every crackpot theory extant.  In turn, we student academic freedom proponents accept that ideological balance is an ideal measured by good faith efforts rather than a mathematical 50/50 split.  In short, ideological balance is the common-sense expectation that in covering a given issue, a professor will at least present the major pro- and con- arguments – a rather minimal standard that UCLA is nonetheless currently failing to meet. 

Seeing that UCLA was unwilling to police itself, my thoughts turned to addressing external pressure points that could result in the university undertaking this much-needed reform.  In that vein, I couldn’t help but remember UCLA’s roaring success in pulling down alumni donations, typified by Campaign UCLA’s $3 billion in fundraising.  The more I watched and learned, the more I became convinced that if UCLA alumni and California taxpayers truly understood what was happening on campus – the complete and utter dominance of political extremism in the faculty, staff, administration, student body and academic institutions – a third to half of them would support our common-sense reform campaign.  The end result would be a campus environment respectful of all viewpoints and strongly aligned against indoctrination.

This idea compelled me in January 2005 to single-handedly found the Bruin Alumni Association, an IRS-recognized non-profit organization.  Beginning daily operations in May of that year, I rapidly assembled an Advisory Board boasting political and academic standouts like Linda Chavez and Dr. Walter E. Williams, then spent several months consumed by the usual start-up concerns like clerical matters, fundraising and research.

It wasn’t until October, with a small amount of money in the bank and a full Advisory Board in place, that I felt comfortable starting our first major project, the UCLAProfs.com website.  Simple in its conception and purpose, UCLAProfs.com would offer full-length profiles of politically extreme UCLA professors, with a particular focus on those whose politics had direct and indirect effects on students.  By offering extensive portraits of multiple UCLA professors, we could accomplish two objectives.  The first would be offering UCLA students something akin to a Consumer Reports for professors.  In an increasingly information-based world, it seemed odd that UCLA students were still walking blind into most of their classes.  UCLAProfs.com seemed the ideal vehicle to correct this deficiency.  Using our profiles, a liberal student could happily enroll with outspoken Political Science professors known for pushing radical views.  Conversely, a moderate student wanting to hear all sides of an issue would have a good idea of whose classes to avoid.

A second, albeit ancillary benefit would lie in spreading the word about UCLA’s professors to the wider world.  UCLA alumni and California taxpayers visiting the site would get a full understanding of the increasingly extreme political affiliations and activism of the UCLA faculty, seeing, for example, that self-professed Marxists outnumber Republicans in most UCLA humanities and social science departments.  In short, non-student visitors would get a cold-shower understanding of what UCLA has become and what exactly their alumni donations and tax dollars are funding at the most prestigious public university on the West Coast.

I experienced some difficulty in deciding who to profile simply due to the sheer number of low-hanging radical fruit.  I started with a core group of professors with extremely high political profiles.  These professors quickly led to dozens of other extremist professors via common membership in radical faculty groups or via signatures on political petitions.  In the latter example, a radical political petition inked by one professor typically bore the signatures of a dozen UCLA colleagues.  Compiling these names and petition subjects in a spreadsheet, I found that professors who had signed a half dozen or more political proclamations were almost always profitable subjects for a profile. 

The actual research and writing process for the profiles was also not perfectly scientific.  Since the write-ups were intended to give prospective students and interested non-students an exhaustive view of the professor’s politics and scholarship, I reviewed nearly every available Google result, along with the full results for magazine and newspaper databases, supplemented in particular by the Daily Bruin online archives.  The result was research files that routinely ran for dozens of pages, and profiles that in turn often totaled as much as twenty pages. 

With the exception of a few anecdotes from my personal classroom experiences or my proprietary research, everything presented in the profiles is public record.  UCLAProfs.com’s critics, mendacious as they were, never tried to claim that we had fabricated facts.  Though cloaked by a hundred straw-man arguments, their actual resentment boiled down to their anger that a stranger, and a largely critical one at that, had woven a hundred scattered statements and actions into a full, and invariably unflattering, portrait. 

It was little wonder that UCLA professors didn’t like hearing the truth.  Even I was shocked at what I found.  Famous Freirean (read Marxoid) educational theorist Peter McLaren proudly notes, “Most of my doctoral student advisees are getting their Ph.Ds so that they can become professors and transform teacher education institutions. They were radical teachers and/or social activists who now want to help to transform institutions of ‘higher’ learning.”

UCLA Labor Center Director Kent Wong, who moonlights as a professor in a number of extremist undergraduate majors, was close competition for McLaren.  A graduate of the National Lawyers Guild radical training ground known as the “People’s College of Law,” Wong is one of the new activist superstars of UCLA’s academic terra firma.  While Wong and his center’s ostensible purpose is to “study” the labor movement, the Center in truth functions as nothing more than a taxpayer-funded factory churning out activists and scholarship taking a hard-line pro-labor stance, just as its creators in the California Legislature intended.

Despite its #2 ranking in the nation, or perhaps because of it, the Graduate School of Education and Informational Studies boasts a veritable covey of academic loons to accompany their top bird McLaren.  Not least among these is Douglas Kellner, a one-time University of Texas professor and Austin public access television fixture.  Kellner believes with all apparent seriousness in an extensive multi-generation Bush family/Nazi connection (manifesting itself in spittle-flecked denunciations of a “Bush Reich”) and argues in a recent book, “either the Bush administration knew the attacks were coming and exploited them to push through their rightwing domestic and foreign policy” or failed to detect and stop the attacks due to utter incompetence.

On top of the typical anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-Republican agenda common to dozens of UCLA’s radical professors, the site also highlights vicious anti-Israel anti-Semites like Gabriel Piterberg, Sondra Hale and the fork-tongued Saree Makdisi, who has stated publicly, “Israel is a fantasy of the Jews.”  More creative in his misbehavior was (now conveniently deposed) Academic Advancement Program Director Adolfo Bermeo, who was allowed an honorable resignation from his post in 2005.  This, despite a son who stole over $1 million in priceless books, antiques and collectibles while employed in the Special Collections division of the UCLA Library, and despite his own behavior which included an affair with a student enrolled in his class.  Even Chancellor Albert Carnesale, whose circumspection is legendary, was forced to distance himself, declaring that if Bermeo were a Dean rather than a tenured professor, he would have been “out of here” as soon as the affair was discovered.  Carnesale also observed that, given the female student’s tender age, Bermeo didn’t “miss statutory rape by that much.” 

As weeks grew into months and the research and writing process continued, my consideration turned to the number of profiles appropriate for an initial site launch.  Ten or twenty profiles seemed clearly inadequate, putting the entire project in danger of dismissal as poison-pen cherry-picking.  But it wasn’t until I hit on the catchy phrase “The Dirty Thirty” (my title for the site’s satirical sports-style ranking of UCLA’s most radical professors) that I had an actual numerical goal.

In the last days of 2005, having completed thirty profiles and (accidentally) one more, I set about assembling the actual website.  Besides the profiles, which were the meat of the site, I presented four initial studies focused on (in turn) UCLA employee political donations, UCLA faculty political party registration, UCLA’s anti-Semitism problem, and radical political petitions signed by UCLA faculty.  Each study confirmed that, more than ever, UCLA is a one-party school. 

After arranging the profiles and articles on the new site, I added one final sub-page.  While not exactly an afterthought, I also never anticipated that it would end up as the main media focus for the entire project.  This single page, headlined “Help UCLAProfs and get paid!” offered three levels of compensation ($10, $50 and $100) to UCLA students interested in helping us collect evidence of abusive professors.  The offer, and thinking behind it, were quite simple.  We invited students unhappy with their professor’s biased, unprofessional behavior to contact us.  Then, provided the student’s documentation from the first few sessions confirmed or strongly suggested that the professor was engaged in either off-topic or one-sided teaching, we would sign a $100 contract with the student.  In return, the student would provide at quarter’s end full tape recordings of every class session, companion notes highlighting audience questions and reactions, and copies of all professor-distributed materials.  To earn $50, a student would provide detailed notes and materials but no tape recordings, while a student would earn $10 for alerting us to an ongoing or past class for which the student could offer written testimony about professorial abuse but, for various reasons, lacked proper notes.

While nearly every aspect of the financial offer was distorted by the media and our critics, they did manage to get one thing right: the BAA’s primary interest, just as every headline suggested, was in paying $100 for tape recordings.  This interest stemmed not from our supposed neo-McCarthyite intention to “smear” innocent professors or because the BAA was a collection of “Junior Brownshirts” collating a “hit list.”  Rather, our inspiration for tape-recording professors was spawned from watching, for over half a decade, the student academic freedom movement spin its wheels when trying to prove charges of professorial malfeasance.  No matter how outrageous and well-documented the student’s charges against a professor, the matter invariably descended into a he-said she-said standoff, the student’s word against the professor’s.  Misbehaving professors could, and always did, answer charges of political indoctrination by accusing the student of taking their words out of context, distorting the meaning of their lectures, or most often, simply misquoting them.  In the end, what did a student have?  Notes scribbled on a paper; notes that, unless the student was a trained stenographer, could very plausibly be dismissed as inaccurate for any number of reasons.  Sentences, full ideas, and even entire lectures hinge on single words, and what did the student have?  Notes scribbled on a paper.

The professors’ defense was, of course, almost always rubbish.  Students aren’t stupid.  They typically remember a professor’s comments vividly and with surprising accuracy.  But without reliable third-party evidence, students and professors would continue to vainly pelt each other with mud, getting dirtier with every exchange.  For this reason alone, tape recordings should have been welcomed by both students and professors.  Here was an evidence-collection process which captures a professor’s every word perfectly.  Distortion, misquoting, or decontextualization becomes incredibly difficult, if not, for all practical purposes, impossible.  With tape-recording, students and professors would no longer engage in pointless slap-fights, answering claims of malfeasance with counter-claims of grade-based grudges.  If a professor compared Bush to Hitler, that would be on the tape.  If there was context for the remark, that would also be on the tape.  And much like Biblical axiom about truth, tape recordings would set innocent professors free. 

So why the vociferous attack on the UCLAProfs.com website, and in particular, our small financial token for cooperating students who had put in an extraordinary effort on our behalf?  It was because biased, malfeasant professors liked the stalemate, liked the fact that in the end, it was always their word against those of an accusing student.  Taping was dangerous precisely because it would end all of that.  If the student academic freedom movement was not an utter sham, then we would finally have irrefutable proof of pervasive bias and indoctrination.  Likewise, if UCLAProfs.com was pursuing phantoms or was engaging in a baseless “witch hunt” as a thousand Internet Einsteins claimed, then we would be driven from the field of public debate, tarred and feathered with irrelevance and falsehood…if the tapes we would purchase would show no misbehavior. 

Our approach offered vindication to the innocent and well-deserved exposure and punishment for the guilty.  That no UCLA faculty members would accept this righteous premise speaks volumes about their fear of a future in which the entire world would finally hear or read exactly what was being taught, and how, at UCLA.  Without putting too fine a point on it, radical UCLA faculty knew that taping would be the end of them.  As a result, the agenda formed almost instantly and spread with lightning speed: stop the taping at all costs, and destroy the messenger.

I was not surprised that UCLA and its radical defenders should attack me red of blood and black of passion.  The real shock was the cowardly betrayal I suffered from a number of BAA Advisory Board members I considered my closest allies.  On January 15th, within hours of my first interview with Stuart Silverstein of the Los Angeles Times, whose article three days later would launch UCLAProfs.com into national and then international prominence, I received emailed resignations from UCLA emeriti professors and BAA Board members Stephan Thernstrom and Jascha Kessler.  Both emails, besides expressing a (to me bewildering) sense of disgust and revulsion with our well-intentioned financial offer, accused me of imaginary sins.  I had failed, Thernstrom and Kessler chided me, to ask for the board’s advice on the financial offer to students.  Problem was, I had very much advised the board of the plan in a pre-launch email on January 8th, and had even asked them for advice and help in promoting the site.  These two resignations, with their false accusations that I had not even consulted the BAA board, were part of the story-breaking January 18th Times article, and functioned as so much bloody chum to the radicals desperately seeking a weakness in our project.  ‘Look,’ they crowed triumphantly, ‘this Andrew Jones fellow is such a raving lunatic that even his Advisory Board won’t stick with him!’

For a time, it looked like the critics were right.  Craven conservatives resigned one by one, each planting a knife in my back before exiting stage right.  Jim Rogan was perhaps the toughest resignation to swallow.  While long ago cast out of office and past his political prime, I was still an admirer, and had even helped his (failed) Congressional campaign in 2000 against Adam Schiff.  But I quickly learned that, while a Board member, a Bruin, and a lawyer, Jim Rogan was one thing above all others: a cowardly, self-interested politician.  And like a politician, Rogan had a predetermined limit of how much political heat he was willing to take before getting out of the kitchen.  It turned out that Rogan reached his limit within a day of the Times story break, resulting in a blistering Times article on the 19th in which Rogan took what felt like every knife in the block and methodically planted each of them in my back.  Rogan snarled that he didn’t need my “website to learn there is an overabundance of liberal faculty” at elite universities; he already knew and acknowledged this as an inalterable and natural state of affairs.  What’s more, Rogan noted archly, the dominance of radicals in the faculty of his alma maters UC Berkeley and UCLA “doesn’t seem to have hurt me.” 

This disgusting pair of lowest-common-denominator arguments could have been cribbed from a posting at the ultra-radical DailyKos.com site.  But coming as it did from the mouth of a supposed conservative – one of the House managers of the Clinton impeachment! every news article breathlessly reminded readers – its effect was downright deadly.  But Rogan, a self-professed man of “regulations and laws,” would have done well to stop for a second and realize that the gross political imbalance of UCLA’s faculty (the 24 Democrats to a single Republican in the Political Science department is one example) is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, and that just because he didn’t dislike radical indoctrination doesn’t invalidate the fact that it is still an injustice and one that ought to be resisted.  Rogan’s smug, condescending attitude, if applied to crime, would have us tell a mugging victim that so long as his pistol-whipping wounds heal, his attacker won’t face prosecution, since, after all, the crime doesn’t seem to have hurt him permanently. 

Frankly, I would have had no problem had Rogan chosen to depart quietly and privately as others did.  Conservatives can and do have respectful and legitimate disagreements on political strategy, tactics, public relations, and a hundred other considerations. The real betrayal by Rogan and others was not their resignations, but their vicious, self-interested denunciations on their way out the door. 

Admittedly, things had become politically touchy because the story narrative had been wholly consumed by lies.  Radicals and a keening UCLA faculty had established the official story-line as one of “spying,” with the BAA “bribing” students to “rat out” their professors.  But the truth was on our side, if only the departing Board members had cared to see it and speak it.  The argument was simple: taping would definitively convict the guilty and spare the innocent.  In fact, had anyone kept a level head and looked at the project with a modicum of emotional detachment, they would have realized the taping effort was no more “spying” than is a motorcycle police officer using a radar gun to time vehicles traveling down a street.  Even law-abiding drivers may wish that this practice weren’t necessary, but ultimately, if you’re not breaking the law, you’re not going to get ticketed.  So it was with our taping.  We could only expose an abusive professor if we had actual documentation of the professor being abusive.  That’s not bribing, that’s not spying, that’s whistle blowing.  That our critics managed to change the public understanding of the program from one of whistle blowing to one of “ratting out” professors is a testament to their tenacity, though not their honesty.

Conservatism is a belief in reality over appearances, in fact over emotion.  The fact that so many BAA board members caved in to public perceptions and visceral emotion led me to seriously question their conservative credentials.  Al Rantel was the last but not the least hyperbolic resignation that followed this line.  While claiming that there had been no change in his “outlook or desire to combat the institutionalized persecution of conservative students and beliefs by leftist university professors at UCLA and beyond,” Rantel tendered his resignation to me through the media, informing the New York Times of his decision many hours before bothering to email me a statement.   I had forced him into this decision, he insisted, because I “came up with the [payment] plan and [legally] vetted it later,” with the result, he claimed, that “the project is discredited and tarnished.”  I had “done more harm to [my] organization and to the movement for academic freedom than any left wing professor could hope to do.”

It was quite a masterful sandbagging, but none of it was true.  From the moment I created and aired the financial offer, legal precautions were foremost in my mind.  That is why, on January 5th, before launching the site, I consulted a preeminent 1st Amendment expert in the UCLA School of Law who confirmed exactly what my own research had indicated: the financial offer was a clear-cut case of 1st Amendment-protected newsgathering, with the students acting essentially as stringers, a common practice in the news media.  We had no plans to post full-length audio clips or written transcripts onto the site, nor did we plan on selling anything on the site.  UCLA or an individual professor might have had a justiciable complaint had we been a commercial, for-profit enterprise, had we taped private conversations in offices, or had the individuals taping not been registered students in the class.  But none of those concerns applied.  Everything about UCLAProfs.com (run by a non-profit organization, no less) fell solidly under the protections of the 1st Amendment.

Despite knowing we were on firm ground, I still took the precaution of making a call to the Pacific Justice Institute within 48 hours of the Wednesday story break, and received immediate assistance from their very best talent, Chief Counsel Kevin Snider, who appraised the situation exactly as I and the UCLA expert already had: we were very much on solid ground.  Within the day, Snider sent a stiff reply to UCLA Legal Counsel Patricia Snider’s legal nasty-gram, and wrote another letter to Board members explaining our legal defense and assuring them that PJI was standing by to answer any legal challenges.  As with the accusations of Thernstrom and Kessler, Rantel’s recriminations simply don’t match facts.  What part of pre-launch consultation with a 1st Amendment scholar, followed by the prompt enlistment of the PJI after the story break, could be characterized as coming up with the plan and legally vetting it later?  But I forget myself.  As with every other public board member resignation, it was my supposed wrongdoing that had forced their resignation – the truth be damned. 

UCLA’s response to our website and financial offer was (not surprisingly) swift, well-coordinated, and like any political attack, focused on winning, not respecting the truth.  While Chancellor Albert Carnesale cried crocodile tears of “anger and frustration” and decried our “reprehensible” methods, UCLA’s legal pit bull Patricia Jasper led a more substantive charge.  Jasper insisted tirelessly to media sources far and wide (including the all-important Daily Bruin) that any student found to be working with our organization faced severe punishment, up to and including expulsion.  From a legal perspective, a number of shaky state laws and campus student regulations apparently gave UCLA at least an opening to persecute cooperating students.  But UCLA might have benefited from remembering that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  Because while Jasper and Co. were working ardently to stifle any criticism of its poor, beleaguered professors, they were busily neglecting and outright threatening a far more vulnerable campus constituency: students beset by radical professors refusing to cover both sides of controversial issues, or introducing them when not pertinent to the class topic. 

Our legal defense was clear and undeniable.  Provided we could receive a fair hearing, we would have ultimately been vindicated.  But being in the right and proving it are two different things.  To even pursue a lawsuit against UCLA required a plaintiff with standing, which in this case meant a UCLA student who had worked with us, announced this publicly, and had been punished by the university.  Only once we had such a martyr in place could we then begin an expensive and time-consuming adjudication process sailing into what a number of legal experts saw as largely uncharted, precedent-setting territory.  In truth, few if any students want to be the next Alan Bakke.  Even I (had I still been a student) would almost certainly have declined to make such a sacrifice – expulsion from UCLA, my life turned upside down for years, the media poking and prying into every crevice – merely to assert my right to tape-record an abusive professor’s lecture.  UCLA realized its advantage and pressed it home: no student was sufficiently interested in exposing an abusive professor when it risked inviting such agony.

Thanks to UCLA’s ferocious legal attack, students who had sent me early initial feelers simply disappeared, while new leads and contacts dried up altogether.  That is not to say that I stopped receiving tips or stories altogether, rather, they now came by the dozen from folks like me – UCLA graduates with incredibly horror stories who were no longer subject to administrative persecution.  Meanwhile, UCLA’s lies and slander continued to belch forth from the campus newspaper and from administration mouthpieces like UCLA Today and the UCLA Alumni Association website.  Not only were we encouraging students to break sacred campus regulations, Patricia Jasper gasped, we in fact had no right to even use “UCLA” in our “UCLAProfs.com” domain name.  As Jasper told it, the situation was clear cut, and we were in the wrong.  But, as Jasper conceded in a Daily Bruin article, UCLA wasn’t planning on taking legal action on the situation, choosing rather to “keep [its] options open.”  The reason legal action did not come then,  has not in the intervening four months, and never will, is because (as any visitor to WalMartMovie.com or a similarly critical site will see), it is entirely legal to use a copyrighted term in a domain name provided the site is informational, non-commercial, and clearly states that it is not affiliated with the criticized entity.  Jasper knew this quite well, but, ever the pit bull, she didn’t hesitate to smear us shamelessly with the innuendo that we were doing wrong.

On January 23rd, after extensive consultation with the BAA Board and other informal advisors, I brought the UCLAProfs.com story in large part to an end by withdrawing the financial offer.  But while we no longer offered the small financial incentive (which was never the point), we maintained our commitment to consulting with students and providing them assistance in documenting, publicizing and confronting abusive professors.  In truth, the decision was not difficult to make.  I was reluctant to expose students already beset by radical professors and an administration in complete denial to the horror of a kangaroo court session with the justifiably notorious Dean’s Office.  I could also see that UCLA’s groundless but all-too credible threats had very effectively poisoned the well of student willingness to participate.  Yet while I had seemingly been outmaneuvered by UCLA, the withdrawal was hardly a defeat. 

From a wider view, UCLAProfs.com was an utter triumph.  Without paying out a dime for publicity or advertising, I forced UCLA to address my agenda: student academic freedom and the university’s pervasive problem of professorial indoctrination.  Some 500 media outlets across the country and around the globe had covered the story, giving me a gold-plated Rolodex for future exposes, while driving over 80,000 unique visitors to the website in a matter of weeks.  The global attention had yielded dozens of useful tips, hundreds of new members and donors, thousands of colorful hate emails, and most encouraging of all, scores of alumni from other schools expressing interest in founding similar groups at their own alma mater.  At the end of the longest week of my life, I could finally take a deep breath and smile.  If this was defeat, I’d be hoping to suffer more of the same very soon.