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Conservative group's 'Professor Watch List' includes local academics

They teach American studies, Religion and Politics, Political Science, Microbiology, and Biochemistry, and they are now the targets of a conservative group's "Professor Watch List."

Turning Point USA published a list of about 200 professors from colleges and universities who it says "discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom."

Turning Point was founded by Charlie Kirk, a 23-year-old conservative activist. The former Eagle Scout was a speaker at the 2016 Republican National convention, according to the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs.

Locally, 10 professors from Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania  are on the list.

For Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education at Temple, the thought of a watch list is nothing new.  She said she has been on similar lists. She was placed on the list for allegedly comparing Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to Adolf Hitler.

"For decades, conservative groups have attacked faculty whose ideas they perceive as threatening," Goldrick-Rab said in an email. "It's ironic that they do so in the name of free speech, as they actually seek to restrict my free speech."

Goldrick-Rab, who called the website's accusation "entirely false," said she likely landed on this list because she challenged "powerful people who don't want college to be affordable or accessible."

Rutgers history professor Norman Markowitz made the list for writing and teaching about communism from a "Marxist perspective," the site says.

"Personally, I regard being included on such a list as a badge of honor — like being on Richard Nixon's 'list,' which existed when I first came to Rutgers," Markowitz said in an email. The faculty union is responding to the issue and he has received strong support from former students, he said.

"I tell students in the first class that I do not expect them to agree with me  and will never reward or punish with grades any student who agrees or disagrees with me in my class lectures," Markowitz said.

The group encourages others to submit tips for professors they think belong on the list.

"Help us expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance propaganda in the classroom," the website says.

"Anyone who cares about the ability of faculty to say unpopular things to protect the rights of taxpayers and students should oppose the shaming techniques used by the list creators," said Goldrick-Rab.