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Campus Activist Goes Right at 'Em

Andrew Jones, who enjoys tweaking liberals, draws national attention with his plan to pay students to report on UCLA professors.

January 22, 2006|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

As the leader of UCLA's student Bruin Republicans three years ago, Andrew Jones often made it his mission to ridicule and antagonize campus liberals.

To mock supporters of affirmative action, he organized an "affirmative action bake sale" that sold cookies for prices ranging from just 25 cents apiece for minority women to $2 for white males. To needle protesters staging a march against the Iraq war, he proudly recalls positioning himself at the head of the line and displaying a banner reading, "Saddam Loves Walkouts."

Jones is now cranking up a far more controversial effort -- or stunt, skeptics say -- to zing his philosophical opponents, and he is capturing a national media spotlight in the process.

His new tactic is to offer students bounties of up to $100 per class for providing tapes and notes of classes taught by certain UCLA instructors. Outraging some faculty who liken it to a witch hunt, the campaign targets are teachers who, Jones says, should be exposed for turning their courses into forums for left-wing indoctrination.

As the lanky 24-year-old son of two schoolteachers emerges as at least a momentary conservative star in America's campus culture wars, Jones remains essentially a provocateur and one-man band. After an erratic start to his post-college career -- he was fired from at least two jobs and is suing a third former employer -- Jones has created an independent alumni organization with influential advisors but only one employee, himself. And he has managed to roil academics from coast to coast even before buying any information from students.

Jones said he has a personality streak that thrives on "pushing the envelope.... You've got me, on one side, being the kind of campus activist who will be out there, and he'll be a firebrand and will get in people's faces."

His conservatism, Jones said, blossomed in his years in Westwood, spurred by "simply being around the leftist enthusiasms of a certain portion of my UCLA classmates -- especially their hero-worship for ghouls like Che Guevara."

Some classmates don't have fond memories of him, either.

"I think he got off on being inflammatory," said Brian O'Camb, who edited columns Jones wrote for the campus' daily student newspaper and who now is working on a doctorate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin.

"He made it a point to attack anything that resembled affirmative action or anything that, in his eyes, might serve students of color before other students," said Anica McKesey, a former UCLA undergraduate student body president who is a district representative for Assemblyman Joe Baca Jr. (D-Rialto).

At the same time, Jones can be reverential toward his personal heroes. When Ronald Reagan died, he and a friend drove to the former president's home in Bel-Air. They waited outside until the hearse with the flag-covered casket pulled away.

The boyish-faced, clean-shaven Jones also professes a fascination for Baseball Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, whose trademark was his flamboyant handlebar mustache.

Jones, who says he has collected thousands of items of Fingers memorabilia, said he admires the pitcher's bravado and described the mustache as "a big provocation to hitters."

Since graduating from UCLA in June 2003 with a bachelor's degree in political science, Jones has endured a string of setbacks in the working world. He acknowledges being fired from two researcher jobs, one with conservative activist David Horowitz and the other for U.S. News & World Report columnist John Leo. Jones also left a third employer, Nissan North America, and filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that it illegally refused to pay for his overtime work in customer service.

U.S. News and Nissan declined to comment on their differences with Jones. But Horowitz, who heads the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, called Jones "uncontrollable." The trigger for the firing, Horowitz said, was a complaint by UCLA students that Jones had pressured them to "file false reports on leftist students."

Jones explained that he had observed student demonstrators "using amplified sound and trying to block us from moving across campus" and asked some students to file police reports.

In his return to campus activism, Jones initially demonstrated unusual skill. To raise what he says is $22,000 in contributions, Jones stuffed 4,000 envelopes with solicitation letters and pamphlets at his Culver City apartment last year. Largely though e-mails and phone calls, he assembled an advisory board for his Bruin Alumni Assn. that has included such conservative heavyweights as onetime Reagan administration official Linda Chavez, former Republican Rep. James E. Rogan, ex-California Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel and Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom.

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