Professor Keith Fink teaches a popular class on free speech at UCLA. It’s not “progressive,” which is probably why UCLA has decided to restrict enrollment for the course. So a student launched a Change.org petition demanding increased enrollment in the class.
Then something weird happened.
As Campus Reform reports, the signature count went from 3,292 on May 11 down to 1,164 less than 24 hours later. Fink and company suspect UCLA may have engaged in some shenanigans:
Fink … speculated that someone within UCLA was responsible for the fluctuations, calling the situation “unreal” and declaring that the administration “doesn’t believe in American values including the right to petition.”
While they concede the possibility of an internet glitch or rapid withdrawal by supporters, Fink and Litt believe it is more likely that UCLA is trying to make it appear that their support is weaker than it actually is.
Mick Mathis, the student who created the petition, confirmed that the signature count had fallen dramatically over a short period of time, but told Campus Reform that he had received no explanation from change.org.
“All I know is that the signature count went from around 3,100 to 1,100 in a matter of hours. It was devastating to find this happen to our student efforts,” he said. “It seems like it is a hackjob … by someone.
“I don’t know who that someone is,” he added, “but think it through: Who wants to see Professor Fink gone from the school more than anyone else? UCLA. Who has repeatedly demonstrated flagrant disregard for First Amendment rights (including the right to petition)? UCLA. I am not making any claims toward UCLA, but this just seems ominously suspicious. I don’t know who or how this could be accomplished, but it just seems ominously suspicious.”
An expert who spoke with Campus Reform notes that Change.org petitions are very susceptible to such hacking — and that it had been done before.
That’s not to say that UCLA is definitively behind this by any stretch of the imagination. There are numerous people on any college campus that object to free speech, especially a large college in Southern California where progressive and social justice ideologies are common.
However, it’s likely someone is monkeying with the numbers. The question is, will whoever it is get caught? I wouldn’t put UCLA in charge of trying to find them, that’s for sure.