Palumbo-Liu placed on TPUSA ‘Professor Watchlist’

May 28, 2018, 9:58 p.m.

The conservative youth organization Turning Point USA (TPUSA) added Stanford professor David Palumbo-Liu to its “Professor Watchlist,” a project intended “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

TPUSA added the following statement to Palumbo-Liu’s profile page on the watchlist website:

“According to Stanford Review, an antifa ring-leader, David Palumbo-Liu, holds court on Stanford’s campus. Palumbo-Liu, a professor of Comparative Literature, is certainly no stranger to controversy, as he is one of the most prodigious anti-Israel academics in the country. Palumbo-Liu is a staunch advocate of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel and has praised the website ‘If Americans Knew,’ a site extensively associated with Holocaust deniers and white supremacists.”

Palumbo-Liu placed on TPUSA 'Professor Watchlist'
(LINDA CICERO /Stanford News)

In an email to The Daily, Palumbo-Liu wrote that he had not received any notice regarding his addition to the watch list. However, he noted that he had asked to be placed on the watchlist several months previous by signing an open letter by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), shared by the organization on Dec. 13 as a stated effort to “support and stand with our colleagues whose academic freedom [TPUSA’s] list threatens.” Over 12,000 college professors have already signed the letter.

Alison Weir, executive director of If Americans Knew, refuted TPUSA’s claims about the organization, deeming them “scurrilous and inaccurate.”

“If Americans Knew is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that provides factual information on Israel-Palestine to the American public,” she wrote in a statement to The Daily.

In January, The Stanford Review’s then-editor-in-chief Anna Mitchell co-wrote an article with Stanford College Republicans president John Rice-Cameron accusing Palumbo-Liu of aligning himself with Antifa, a conglomerate of militant groups that aim to suppress alleged fascists through violence. Palumbo-Liu denied the authors’ claims in an op-ed in The Daily, further refuting claims that he discriminates against conservative students.

“Even after the Stanford Review did a hit piece on me (“Stanford’s Most Radical Professor Strikes Again”), when they contacted me for another story I did not ‘discriminate’ against them,” Palumbo-Liu wrote. “I agreed to be interviewed. I acted professionally and expected they would as well. The email exchange has been published in Stanford Politics, and I invite [The Daily’s] readers to see if I ‘discriminated’ in any way. It is certainly true that after they published another hit piece, I reacted critically, but would one consider that to be discriminatory? If so, the word has lost any real meaning.”

Both Mitchell and SCR maintained their position in a January segment of conservative news and talk program Fox & Friends. The Review’s Editorial Board also published a response to Palumbo-Liu’s op-ed in The Daily.

When The Daily asked whether Palumbo-Liu thought TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk and director of urban engagement Candace Owens would discuss the controversy in the upcoming SCR-sponsored “Make Stanford Great Again” event, Palumbo-Liu wrote, “I don’t think they have any choice.”

“They have a free, pre-fabricated media campaign already provided for them,” he added, referring to what he sees as The Review’s inaccurate coverage of himself. “But I am largely irrelevant. They just need to have at least one professor who is outspoken in their advocacy to be able to get an invitation from a conservative group to come and say ‘Charlie Kirk spoke at Stanford about the dangers it faces when professors like X can say anything they want.’ The key word here is ‘Stanford,’ not ‘Palumbo-Liu.’ They want to use the Stanford name to boost their stock.”

Last November, conservative author and commentator Robert Spencer wrote blog posts accusing Stanford students of fascism for protesting his own SCR-sponsored event. In posts preceding the event, Spencer targeted specific student protestors at the University, also referring to them as fascists. Palumbo-Liu gave advice to students concerned about taking part in political protest.

“I would say that everyone has a choice to make, and I am not going to make it for them,” Palumbo-Liu wrote. “Students in particular are in more vulnerable positions, I understand that.  But I would say the minute we start second-guessing our right to express an idea, no matter how controversial or unpopular, we have just given away one of the most precious freedoms we have.”

“So with these points in mind: think of the more than 12,000 professors who have asked to be put on [TPUSA’s] watchlist,” he added. “Individual vulnerability is lessened tremendously through acts of solidarity.”

Finally, Palumbo-Liu added that he feels adequately protected in his activist efforts by the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the AAUP — despite a video in which Kirk advocates for censorship of professors and elimination of free-speech zones on college campuses (see 18:24 in video).

“[AAUP members] reasonably expect our university administrators to stay true to those documents and so far Stanford has done so with regard to me,” Palumbo-Liu wrote. “But the much more important issue … is that we need to decide what kind of academic community we want to be. We must protect free speech for all, but also be aware of and fight against campaigns that are not based on actual fact, but rather on innuendo and untruths. And [we must] be especially attentive as to how the Internet has been instrumentalized to frighten and silence people.”

Rice-Cameron has not responded to The Daily’s request for comment.


Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’

Holden Foreman '21 was the Vol. 258-59 chief technology officer. Holden was president and editor-in-chief in Vol. 257, executive editor (vice president) in Vol. 256, managing editor of news in Vol. 254 and student business director in Vol. 255.

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