The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 29.0°F | Partly Cloudy

UCLA Alum Withdraws Offer to Buy Lecture Tapes

By Cindy Chang

A 24-year-old conservative alumnus who announced earlier this month that he planned to pay students at the University of California, Los Angeles, to tape-record the lectures of left-leaning professors backed down after U.C.L.A. officials informed him on Monday that he would be violating school policy.

The alumnus, Andrew Jones, said he abandoned the plan to save his student supporters from possible legal action by the university, even though he believed they would be engaged in a “newsgathering” effort protected by the First Amendment.

Mr. Jones says he is confident that students will volunteer to tape lectures or take detailed notes in an effort to expose their professors as liberal partisans who do not tolerate dissent in their classrooms.

But a U.C.L.A. official said Monday that even without the monetary incentive, students who passed tapes of lectures to Mr. Jones would be in danger of sanctions by the university and possibly the professors who were recorded without permission.

The university sent Mr. Jones a letter last week stating that the taping of lectures for political purposes violated school policy and could be subject to claims of copyright infringement by professors.

“The only thing he’s rescinded is the offer of money and not in any way the statement that students are encouraged to consult him,” said Lawrence H. Lokman, assistant vice chancellor for university communications.

Responding to the university’s statement, Mr. Jones said, “We will take whatever future action in consideration of U.C.L.A.’s regulations and in consideration of our and our students’ First Amendment rights.”

Mr. Jones started a nonprofit group called the Bruin Alumni Association to combat what his Web site terms “U.C.L.A.’s continued slide into political partisanship and indoctrination,” enumerating a “Dirty Thirty” list of professors whose liberal leanings he considered egregious.

The plan to pay students for documenting what those professors said in their classrooms generated national news media attention last week and prompted accusations of “witch hunting” from opponents.

Mr. Jones, a 2003 U.C.L.A. political science graduate and former president of the campus Republican group, had offered students $100 for tape recordings and lecture notes from a full quarter, $50 for just the handwritten notes and $10 for course handouts.

At least three members of the Bruin Alumni Association’s advisory board have resigned since Mr. Jones posted details about the plan on his Web site.

Opponents of the plan, which include some conservatives, said that while the monetary incentive was one of the most offensive aspects of the plan, its essential nature remained intact.

“He had gone over the line legally, but in terms of the repugnance, the sorts of things he said, the attempts to engage in character assassination and defaming people who have earned positions as tenured professors, that really hasn’t changed,” said Sondra Hale, a U.C.L.A. anthropology professor who is No. 6 on Mr. Jones’s “Dirty Thirty” list.