Academic Freedom Betrayed · 12 March 2006


By Garin Hovannisian--Bruin Standard--March 2006

Andrew Jones took UCLA on January 18, press-gangs, drums, and all. The local newsman blustered, "Controversy in Westwood today, where…" Controversy? Even Bruin Walk's politicos hadn't heard. Jones, formerly of the Daily Bruin, US World & News Report, and Nissan, had manufactured his stardom even so. His Bruin Alumni Association and its first darling, uclaprofs.com, had slithered into national celebrity.

What was chic with the site? "Exposing UCLA's Radical Professors," its bromidic byline, had been the province of Students for Academic Freedom, discoverthenetworks.org, and The Bruin Standard's monthly feature, "The Academian Nut." When he worked for David Horowitz, Jones knew this quite well. It almost sounded like a confession, as he respectfully offered me, The Standard's editor, an intellectual and financial partnership a few months ago. It certainly wasn't the inventiveness.

But Jones's bankrupted imagination is reimbursed by his cutting sense of scandal. Back in college, he was a weekly Daily Bruin ink slinger, protest saboteur, rebel of the student government. He was fastened to a reputation as a Republican thug and controversialist-and he would make sure never to lose it. Out of college and working for David Horowitz, he was still at UCLA, at the meetings of Students for Academic Freedom, driving the right reactionaries, by any means necessary. When some of these means proved illegal and he was fired by Horowitz, Jones slumped for the first time in his life. We never knew what happened to him. Apparently, he took a job with Nissan-the warrior forced into a suit and tie, filled with qualms and jaundice.

Until January 2006, no memory of Jones could be found on campus, save perhaps in the nightmares of a few disgruntled administrators he'd annoyed. He is not immortal-nobody here is immortal-as he might think. Fame must be asserted and borne out again and again.
So, unknotting his tie once more, Jones gives us uclaprofs.com. It has a forgettable name, really, and it's needlessly confusable with uclaprofessors.com, our official professor review site. Why not bruinradicals.com? Why not something catchy or creative? Ahh, yes, yes, Jones has heard all this before. But Jones sees that his alma mater has trademarked the "UCLA" name. Nothing would flatter his fetishes more than the media orgy that will accompany any lawsuit. Forget the Barnumist banter and let's say what we mean: Bad publicity is the best publicity.

And the best it might be for the person of Andrew Jones. His Bruin Alumni Association has sprinted through the circuits and will probably come into a formidable sum of money. And Jones's visage, now posted on refrigerators across the Southland, will stay there, at least for a while, as every grandmother of every UCLA student asks: "So, do you know this Andy Jones?" The answer will have to be no, because (keg parties aside), Andrew Jones no longer has-and wants-anything to do with UCLA students.

Indeed, his site's "Dirty Thirty," profiles of UCLA's most radical professors, was likely prepared entirely by Jones who, with his pundit's mind and a thesaurus, hacked out the nearly 200 single-spaced pages in his apartment. He could have recruited some volunteers from the Bruin Republicans, but not once during his ordeals and not once in his fame did he attend their meetings, which open with a discussion of the week's classroom outrages. That Jones had found only one person (probably a fraternity brother) to record professors' lectures lays bare his cavernous disconnect from the campus academic freedom movement. But it's clear that this was never about the campus; it's about the Times, CNN, Sean Hannity, and a "modest salary" for Andrew Jones, finally (one would think) secure in his job.

But this is fair game. A man's got to make a living and diseased media whoredom is more of a career than a crime these days. But in whose name? Through what cause? The LA Times says that Jones is a "conservative star in America's campus culture wars." By what right? The Bruin Republicans has chosen to condemn the BAA through silence. Most campus conservatives feel distraught, even betrayed by uclaprofs.com. Why? Because in the strong yet subtle balance of our radical tactics and our uncompromised principles, Jones has wrecked the poise and served to the American public the most corrupted and illusory representation of the cause. He has given to the media what no liberal possibly could-the proof that "academic freedom" is newspeak for McCarthyism.

In my pleasantest moments, I would say of Jones what Blake said of an avid preacher. "He is a sent man," Blake observed, "but such men sometimes go farther than they're sent to go." As a stray disciple of Horowitz, Jones has collected the master's tricks (and donor list), but not the erudition. He has abandoned the tidy argument for draining the classroom of needless politics in favor of a primitive opposition to leftist professors altogether. The difference might seem slight-it does to Jones-but it is the yawning difference between right and wrong. In his blog, Horowitz writes, "What's wrong with the Bruin Alumni Association campaign is that it is designed to purge the university of leftist ideas. We do not care whether a professor is a liberal or a conservative. We care that a professor is professional; that he or she does not indoctrinate their students but educates them."

Uclaprofs.com's professor reviews prove aloof, even unconcerned with the politicization of the classroom. Instead we find in the 5,000-word profile of "Radical of the Week" Professor Douglas Kellner, passages from his memoir, website, articles, interviews-in short, every medium except his classroom. Sure, Kellner is a leftist radical-so what? No half-wit of a conservative is disturbed.
But Jones, fanatically tracing the party lines he does not understand, or trading them for a spiteful celebrity he covets more, is beyond disturbed. He lashes out at Professor Richard Abel for signing not one, not two, but (can you imagine?) twenty-two radical petitions. And similar treatment is handed down to Professor Wolfenstein who, though he is a Marxist-behold the hypocrisy!-actually lives in Beverly Hills.

Is this the best a full-time conservative warrior can offer? No wonder the media broke out in hooplas and seismic fits. The New York Times reporter was asking, "So, Garin, what you're basically saying is that if professors have nothing to hide, then they shouldn't mind such attention? Right? I'm just trying to paraphrase here." No! The question was all wrong and it was all wrong because of Andrew Jones.

Because as the media indicted classroom recordings and Jones shot back with examples of professors who'd signed fourteen thousand petitions, the real villains and heroes were forgotten. No one recalled Professor Rod Swanson who said in class, "The only tragedy of the Alamo is that more Texans didn't die." Off the hook fell Professor Mary Corey who recited in class, "Clinton lied, Monica cried. / Bush lied, men died." And the conservative students at UCLA who've been saying, "We don't care what you do outside the classroom. Just be a teacher in the classroom" were snubbed-by a fellow conservative.

For a lavish fifteen minutes and thirty pieces of gold, Andrew Jones surrendered the movement that might one day be recorded to his name-by media too partial to romp and ruckus and students too parochial for fame.