Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

No Left Turn: New Studies Show Academics Do Not Influence Their Students' Politics
by Joanna Walters
The Guardian (U.K.)
November 17, 2008

False allegations of attacking professors who criticize Israel
False allegations of suppressing free speech
Falsely alleged dossiers on professors

Campus Watch Responds:

In an article (excerpted below) celebrating a recent study purporting to demonstrate that left-wing professors have no influence on their students' political views, Joanna Walters of the Guardian newspaper proves her own inability to engage in basic research. For in just three sentences in which she mentions Campus Watch, she makes three factual errors.

Her first error emerges from her failure to study CW's history: she claims falsely, and with no evidence, that CW was founded to "report perceived anti-Israel bias" in Middle East studies. In fact, CW was launched to monitor the politicization of academic discipline of Middle East studies in toto, whatever form it may take. Many errors in Middle East studies have nothing to do with scholars' treatment of Israel.

Walters makes her second error not by ignoring CW's mission and history, but through incomplete research and sloppy thinking. Quoting our mission statement correctly, she notes that we "are a forum for reporting 'the mixing of politics and scholarship,'" before going off the rails to claim that material submitted to CW is "used to build dossiers."

As we've noted before, CW does not maintain dossiers on professors (dossiers posted at CW's launch--in September 2002--stayed on the site for two weeks after which, having served their purpose, they were removed). Since Walters managed to find our mission statement, one wonders why she didn't notice that there are no dossiers on our site?

Her third error stems from her assumption that any primary source material used at CW is necessarily submitted from external sources, and that such material constitutes the work of "academic spies." In fact, as a casual glance at the archives of our research or blog would show, our published material normally flows from research conducted by CW staff and our authors.

Moreover, why should someone exercising his free speech rights to critique a professor or program be called a "spy"? Does Walters consider sources for her own work "spies"? I rather doubt it.

Academic spies

In 2006, most academics at the University of California Los Angeles were horrified when a conservative group began offering students money to tape lectures and turn over materials distributed by professors who they felt focused more on political issues than their course subjects. UCLA student Ben Shapiro had previously caused uproar when he wrote a book, Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth, in 2004, accusing faculty of evangelising their liberal politics. The book claimed that only 9% of Ivy League academics vote Republican.

"I'm a conservative who studied political science at UCLA at around the same time, and I have no idea what Shapiro was talking about," says Woessner.

But the UCLA pay-to-spy body followed similar (non-paying) monitoring bodies set up at other institutions - and the creation in 2002 of Campus Watch. Campus Watch was set up as a forum to report perceived anti-Israeli bias in Middle Eastern studies on US campuses. But it is also a forum for reporting "the mixing of politics with scholarship" and submitting material used to build dossiers against academics and institutions accused of proselytising.

(Posted by Winfield Myers)