UM Professor On Conservative 'Watchlist'
Tobin Miller Shearer teaches history and is director of African American Studies at UM. A couple of weeks ago a colleague emailed him to let him know he’d been put on an online list with dozens of other academics nationwide.
"It’s a list called 'professorwatchlist,' put out by a group called The Turning Point, which is a conservative 'student' group that is attempting to identify professors who are promoting a dangerous liberal agenda in the classroom," Shearer says.
He says the list provides “caricatures” of academics, and that in his nine years as a professor he has always been committed to promoting a free exchange of ideas in his classrooms, and that no students face discrimination based on their points of view.
"I’m on that list, according to them, because I talk about white privilege in the classroom," Shearer says.
The website the list is on says it “is an aggregated list of pre-existing news stories that were published by a variety of news organizations. We only publish profiles on incidents that have already been reported by a credible source.” Turning Point USA says it 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 reason I’m on that list is because I’m talking about ideas of racism and white privilege that have been documented and thoroughly vetted for decades now," Shearer says. "The makers of that list are suggesting that I shouldn’t talk about that, because it’s somehow uncomfortable."
Shearer says he was put on a similar list three years ago, and that as a result he received death threats. He says he’s more wary of being put on a list this time because, he says, of an increase in documented racially-related violence following the election of Donald Trump. This time around he says he’s solicited and received support from his union, the University and the Montana Human Rights Network.
"The strategy that emerged is to give more attention to this rather than less," Shearer says. "It acts as a sort of shield that might be directed at me as a result of being on this list."
While he says he’s concerned that being included on an ideological watch list could lead to hate-related actions, Shearer says he’s reminding himself not to take himself too seriously. One of his adult sons created a meme that’s a picture of him lifting weights in a fitness competition that mockingly celebrates him as a threat. Shearer has posted it on the door of his office on campus.
At this point Shearer is the only academic in Montana who appears on professorwatchlist.org.