Wheeling High graduate behind conservative 'Professor Watchlist''

A Wheeling native is the driving force behind a new website that identifies professors from Illinois and around the country and claims they “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

The Professor Watchlist is part of Turning Point USA, founded by Charlie Kirk, a 23-year-old Wheeling High School graduate. “It's no secret that some of America's college professors are totally out of line,” Kirk wrote in a recent blog post, adding it is “time to expose them.”

The website describes itself as “an aggregated list of pre-existing news stories that were published by a variety of news organizations.” Most of the listings, which include professors' names and photos, give as attribution, which is run by the conservative Leadership Institute.

The Professor Watchlist says it will “continue to fight for free speech and the right for​​ professors to say whatever they wish​” but states “students, parents, and alumni deserve to know the specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.”

Kent State history professor Julio Pino, among those named on the site, told The New York Times the site is “a kind of normalizing of prosecuting professors, shaming professors, defaming professors.”

According to the list, Darwin Pagnac, an instructor at Des Moines Area Community College, required students to write about climate-change skeptics and address their motivation and who funds their efforts. Dr. David Pook, a professor at Granite State College in New Hampshire, is listed for saying he helped write Common Core standards in order to end white privilege and “that as a white male in society I am given a lot of privilege that I didn't earn.”

Professors from Northwestern University, DePaul University, Columbia College Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola University Chicago are on the list.

The Professor Watchlist says Columbia College chemistry and environmental science Professor Keith Kostecka called for the demise of the Tea Party and commented that House Speaker Paul Ryan should go kill himself.

Kostecka told the Daily Herald “this all came about due to someone stealing my identity (from Facebook) several years ago and posting some terrible thing supposedly stated by me that I had and have no part of. I am on this list due to that very unfortunate series of events.”

Northwestern University engineering professor Alan Butz is on the list for statements he made denying the Holocaust took place. Northwestern officials pointed Tuesday to a statement made by University President Henry S. Bienen in 2006, which noted, “There is no question that the Holocaust is a well-documented historical fact,” but Butz, a tenured professor, “is entitled to express his personal views, including on his personal web pages, as long as he does not represent such opinions as views of the university.”

Kirk was an Eagle Scout and multisport athlete at Wheeling High School, becoming the varsity basketball team's captain. He got accepted into Baylor University.

In 2012 he was spotted by Bill Montgomery, then a Tea Party-backed legislative candidate from Lemont, at an event at Benedictine University in Lisle where local high school students debated the Occupy Wall Street movement. Taking Montgomery's advice, Kirk deferred his acceptance to Baylor.

Instead, Kirk enrolled in general education classes at Harper College in Palatine as he founded Turning Point USA.

The group is described on its website as having a mission of working “to identify young conservative activists, build and maintain effective student groups, advertise and re-brand conservative values, engage in face-to-face and peer-to-peer conversations about the pressing issues facing our country.”

Turning Point USA did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Spokesmen from Loyola and DePaul universities did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

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