Students at Cal State Long Beach are launching a campaign against a faculty member known for his anti-Semitic writings and, most recently, for his leadership of a white supremacist political party.
Aiming to force Kevin MacDonald’s departure from the university, student activists this week began urging their peers to boycott classes taught by the longtime psychology professor. “We feel that Professor MacDonald brings a very racist ideology into his teaching,” said Marylou Cabral, a senior art education major at Cal State Long Beach who’s helping spearhead the anti-MacDonald efforts. “We believe that his personal biases are going to affect his teaching no matter what he’s teaching, and we believe that he brings a political force to our campus that we need to counter. … He’s not just an individual with hateful beliefs. He’s someone who’s making an effort to organize and promote those beliefs, and we feel that’s dangerous.”
The impetus for mobilizing students was MacDonald’s new position as director of American Third Position (ATP), whose stated mission is “to represent the political interests of White Americans.” According to in-depth reporting by O.C. Weekly, ATP is partnering with Freedom 14, a local neo-Nazi group, to establish itself as a party dedicated to the deportation of non-whites. ATP’s chairman is hard-line racist William D. Johnson, a Los Angeles-based lawyer who once proposed repealing the 14th and 15th Amendments, which made freed slaves U.S. citizens, granted equal protection under the law, and prohibited race-based denial of voting rights. Instead, Johnson proposed the Pace Amendment, which would essentially allow only non-Hispanic whites to become U.S. citizens. The group is planning to run political candidates nationwide, and the Southern California branch has handed out hundreds of anti-immigrant flyers and other materials, according to ATP’s blog.
Until ATP’s founding last October, MacDonald’s bigotry found expression mainly through academia rather than activism. His widely discredited research purportedly shows that Jews are driven by a genetically programmed group evolutionary strategy to undermine and harm Western civilization. In his academic works, MacDonald has suggested taxing Jews or restricting their access to universities as ways of protecting white society.
The student-led campaign against MacDonald began on Tuesday, the first day of his spring semester classes. Student activists affiliated with the groups Students Fight Back and the Party for Socialism and Liberation attempted to get those who’d signed up for MacDonald’s upper-level psychology courses — child & adolescent development, developmental psychopathology and social personality development — to drop them and join the boycott. The activists entered MacDonald’s three classes before the professor had arrived and distributed flyers detailing MacDonald’s bogus research and far-right political affiliations, along with a supplemental sheet listing alternative courses students could take. When MacDonald got to class, the activists confronted him about his white supremacist views, which he tried to deny, according to Douglas Kauffman, a senior English literature major who’s involved in the effort. But MacDonald did not disavow his association with ATP. “He was completely silent and tried to evade the topic each time by claiming he only wanted to talk about school issues,” Kauffman said.
MacDonald did not address his views or far-right advocacy in a brief E-mail to Hatewatch. “Students have disrupted my classes and encouraged students to drop my courses,” he wrote. “I suppose these are exactly the sorts of thuggish behavior advocated by the SPLC. Disrupting classes is illegal and it is unfair to students who are simply trying to get an education in difficult times.”
Department chairman Kenneth Green also took issue with the students’ tactics. “Those students were not registered for his class, and they had no legal right to be there,” he said. “There are more appropriate ways to protest.”
But the students defended their methods. “That was the most direct, efficient way to reach those students who are encountering him twice, three times a week,” Cabral said. And most students were receptive to their message, Kauffman said; despite a budget crisis that has limited their enrollment options, about half a dozen students immediately walked out in the three classes combined.
Provoked in part by an SPLC investigation, controversy has dogged MacDonald since at least 2006, when faculty members began expressing serious concerns about his research methods and the use of his writings by extremists to justify a racist agenda. In April 2008, the psychology department approved a statement disassociating itself from MacDonald’s work. “We respect and defend his right to express his views,” it stated in part, “but we affirm that they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the Department of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach.” Other academic departments have issued similar statements. While defending his academic freedom, the Cal State Long Beach Academic Senate also voted in October 2008 to disassociate itself from MacDonald’s writings.
University Assistant Vice President Toni Beron said she hadn’t heard about the student campaign against MacDonald and didn’t immediately have any comment.
The students will circulate a petition next week calling for MacDonald’s removal from the faculty and for students to stop taking his classes, Kauffman said. (They plan to present a copy, along with a letter explaining why students want him dismissed, to a psychology department committee conducting senior faculty reviews.) They’re also planning a campus meeting to discuss MacDonald and their efforts to get him ousted. They hope to work with faculty members who have pressured MacDonald in the past and would like to get the unions on campus to join their cause, including the California Faculty Association.
“Our campus is one of the most diverse in the country, and that really flies in the face of having a Nazi as a professor,” Kauffman said.