GRAND FORKS -- A UND faculty member is on a watchlist meant to catalog professors who promote “anti-American values” for his writing on open-carry activists, according to the list’s founders.
Jack Russell Weinstein, a UND philosophy professor of 16 years, is the only North Dakota professor on the Professor Watchlist, an online list that “exposes and documents college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” the website states. The professor hosts “Why? Radio,” a public broadcasting program that features discussions about philosophy.
“The irony, of course, is that a website that is calling other people anti-American, is being anti-American by suggesting other (people on its list) are wrong to have an opinion,” he said, adding the website is intimidating professors who make the list.
The list refers to an article posted by CampusReform.com, which links to Weinstein’s blog post titled “How should people respond to open-carry gun-rights activists.” The blog, which Weinstein said millions of people have read, was published in June 2014 and addresses how to acknowledge the fear of being in a business with those who carry weapons and respect the rights of gun activists. It suggests people who fear being shot should leave the business, even if it means not paying the bill.
“Stopping to pay in the presence of a person with a gun means risking your and your loved ones’ lives; money shouldn’t trump this,” Weinstein wrote in the post. “If the business loses money, so be it. They can make the activists pay.”
List of professors
The watchlist is produced by Turning Point USA, a nonprofit founded to promote fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government to college students, according to the Turning Point website.
The long list includes Melissa Click, a former University of Missouri communications professor who was fired after a video showed her confronting a college journalist who was covering protests at the campus. Click attracted national attention after she asked protesters for “muscle” to remove the reporter.
The watchlist also has received media attention in recent weeks.
The list states Weinstein “vehemently opposes those whom he calls ‘open-carry activists.’ He believes their rights are not protected under the Constitution and he encourages people to avoid those who open carry.”
Weinstein said his bio on the watchlist, particularly about him opposing open carry rights, is inaccurate. He said in an August 2014 interview with Fox News gun rights activists are not a protected group in the sense they have been oppressed for centuries like African Americans. Groups that are protected have been defined by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The most controversial thing I said was, If someone scares you, you should run away,” he told the Herald, adding he is frustrated people will believe the information on the website. “If you are going to call attention to someone’s work, and if you are going to call them all sorts of names, the least you can do is be honest.”
‘Worry about crazy people’
The website does not explicitly promote physical harm, with its founders saying Turning Point “will continue to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish; however students, parents and alumni deserve to know the specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”
The watchlist takes its information from third-party news sites, Turning Point spokesman Charlie Kirk wrote in an email to the Herald Saturday.
“If there are any differences between what was reported on, we haven't been approached with that information,” he wrote.
Weinstein said he doesn’t feel threatened by the list itself, but he is concerned people who take the list seriously may act on it.
“The fact that we are living in a time and place where a watchlist could be effective is even more problematic than the fact that there is a watchlist,” he said.
He pointed to a letter he received from a listener after he re-aired an interview discussing “How to think about antisemitism.” Weinstein, who is Jewish, said the letter suggests Jews deserve to be discriminated against because of their ancestors’ actions, with the writer pointing to the death of Jesus.
Weinstein responded to a letter in a post, saying the Romans ordered Jesus’ death and the writer’s insinuation was antisemitic.
The letter may have not caused Weinstein to be named to the list, but he feels the two incidents are reflective of the political climate in the U.S. He added giving permission to hate gives people permission to attack others verbally and physically.
“I don’t worry too much about the watchlist. I do worry about crazy people,” he said. “I worry about people who feel they can attack me, attack my family and do damage to my property to create mayhem to advance their bigotry.”
When asked if Turning Point may promote violence against professors on the list, Kirk replied “absolutely not.”
“Consolidating a list of cited examples of bias does not encourage violence or retaliation,” he wrote. “Every single example we have in our database was previously reported on by third party news sites. We find that question to be completely unsupported by evidence or any factual basis.”
UND administration is aware that Weinstein is on the watchlist, spokesman Peter Johnson wrote in an email to the Herald. He added the website doesn’t encourage physical harm but the safety of UND’s students, faculty and staff is the school’s top priority, and “that includes Jack.”
“All faculty members have a right to express their opinions, though we encourage them to explore a diversity of opinions in the classroom,” Johnson wrote. “Jack has made it clear that the opinions that he expresses on the show and in the blog are his own.”
Making the list is, in some ways, a compliment, because someone has noticed his work and feels threatened by it, Weinstein said. He said he hasn’t received any threats but has seen emails of support, adding he feels UND is supportive of his free speech rights and is concerned for his safety.
“What this watchlist says I matter, my research matters,” he said.