My Brooklyn College Tenure Battle


Mr. Johnson teaches history at Brooklyn College. He can be reached at KJohnson@brooklyn.cuny.edu.

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On February 24, 2003, I received promotion to full professor with tenure by a vote of the Board of Trustees of The City University of New York, upon on the recommendation of Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. Goldstein himself acted upon the advice of a select committee of distinguished CUNY faculty outside of Brooklyn College, one of the senior colleges in the CUNY system.  This is not the usual way in which a candidate with solid credentials in scholarship, teaching, and service receives tenure. In my case, CUNY acted only after Brooklyn College personnel committees as well as President C.M. Kimmich decided against my candidacy on the sole grounds of “collegiality.” The exclusive use of this criterion in evaluating my bid for promotion and tenure, the peculiar definition applied to “collegiality” at Brooklyn, and the indifference to academic principles that characterized the Brooklyn process make my case of interest to scholars and administrators nationally.  

The Background

            After spending the previous four years at Williams College, I came to Brooklyn in September 1999, an untenured associate professor entering a department experiencing a dramatic turnover. Brooklyn’s History Department had gone 25 years without hiring even one new tenure-track professor, and so many of the ideological battles of the previous generation—over open admissions, remediation at senior colleges, even the Cold War—continued to simmer. Eight senior professors retired the two or three years before I arrived, and the following year, the department’s former chair, Paula Fichtner, retired. Despite the heavy administrative load associated with the Brooklyn chair’s position, Fichtner had remained a committed and active scholar, and her departure changed the department’s tenor.

The extent of the change became clear in two searches in the 2000-2001 academic year—one for Latin American history, the other in U.S. social and public history. I had expected the searches to resemble those in which I had participated at Williams, where members of the department read files, attended job talks, and then based an evaluation on the quality of the candidates’ performance. Instead, in both searches, four senior professors—despite having read little or, in one search, none of the dossiers—passionately endorsed candidates the remainder of the department found weak. Chairman Philip F. Gallagher termed three of these people, who seemed to base their personnel preferences solely on candidates’ ideological compatibility, “academic terrorists.” [1]

Since none of these professors served on the department’s Appointments Committee (an elected body of five that submits the names of new hires to the provost, who then makes formal job offers in Brooklyn’s governance structure), their actions or opinions seemed to have no bearing on my own situation. My file was strong: on April 17, 2001, for example, Gallagher concluded, “In every category of measurement—in teaching effectiveness, scholarship, and in service to the department, the college, and the university—KC Johnson has performed in an exemplary manner.” [2] I had published two books with Harvard University Press, another with DTV Press in Germany, and received contracts for two more; had developed a rotation of 13 different B.A. or M.A. courses; and had a good record of service culminating in my election to the Appointments Committee in May 2001.  

Changing Personnel Standards

            By the start of the 2001-2002 academic year, the department consisted of nine senior professors and six untenured members, with a search scheduled for a new position in 20th century eastern and central Europe to replace Fichtner and the department’s Germanist, who had indicated her plans to retire. In addition to the five-member Appointments Committee, Gallagher named a three-member search committee, whose votes had equal weight except with regard to the final hire. He selected an untenured assistant professor who specialized in 19th century U.S. economic history to chair the search committee.    

         In the European history search, conventional differences between right and left played much less of a role than in the previous year’s searches (although one search committee member, during a telephone interview, disapprovingly asked a candidate about his having written for a conservative webzine), but gender issues preoccupied some members of the committee very much indeed. [3] The previous year, when their preferred candidate was a white male, the department’s dissenters had not championed hiring on gender grounds. But now, despite a briefing from the college affirmative action compliance officer prohibiting us from doing so, Gallagher claimed that two members of the joint committee were intent on giving a preference to women they deemed ideologically acceptable. [4] With several other committee members contending that we should use the same standards as in the 2000-2001 searches—hiring on the basis of academic merit—the chair proposed splitting the difference: the department should look for “women we can live with, who are not whiners from the word go or who need therapy as much as they need a job.” [5]

            More ominously, the search revealed a deep split not previously apparent between colleagues who envisioned an intrinsic link between teaching and research and advocates of a “teaching” department. That we were a “teaching” department was news to me: CUNY Bylaws list scholarship and teaching as equally important requirements for tenure and promotion, and my own campus interview had concluded with Fichtner reiterating that despite our heavy teaching load (4-3), all Brooklyn History professors were expected to remain productive scholars. Now, however, one colleague recommended hiring a candidate on the grounds that she was a “wonderful human being”; another contended that we needed not “solid scholarship” from job applicants, but rather “a kind of sensitivity that would soon draw our particular kinds of students.” [6] The similarity between the criterion for membership in a “teaching” department and those used later in a “collegiality-only” college was striking.            

On November 22, 2001, a polarized joint search/appointments committee met to determine which candidates would receive campus interviews, at which I argued for considering the candidates’ scholarship and their demonstrated record of teaching, as did my office-mate, Margaret King, a renowned Renaissance scholar. A flurry of E-mails between Gallagher and a senior colleague, Edwin G. Burrows, followed this meeting. Burrows, who had just been named to the divisional committee handling my promotion to full professor, wrote that King and I had “better be prepared for the repercussions of what [we] have been up to.” Gallagher, meanwhile, termed me “nearly uncontrollable” for having voted against him. [7]

            In retrospect, my opposing tenured members of the department appears naïve or impolitic. But shortly after coming to Brooklyn, I was told by Gallagher that he expected me to take an active role on departmental matters. The chair had strongly praised—both orally and in writing—my having done so during the 2000-2001 searches, when I had advanced hiring criteria identical to those I championed in the European history search. [8] Reflecting on matters, Burrows (correctly) wrote that I seemed “serenely oblivious” to how my unwillingness to go along with powerful colleagues had damaged my tenure chances. [9]  

The Retaliation

On December 31, I stated my opposition to extending a job offer to a candidate whose record, I believed, made it unlikely that she would possess the minimum qualifications in either research or teaching to merit tenure, given the college’s five-year tenure clock and heavy teaching load. Five days later, Gallagher responded, in writing, that my evaluation was “preposterous, specious, and demeaning.” [10] In the following 72 hours, he raised what the Chronicle of Higher Educationtermed “minor complaints that in many cases would have been overlooked or handled with a simple conversation.” [11] But not in this case. Three weeks later, on the Saturday before spring-term classes started, Gallagher purged seven students from my colloquium for failing to meet the prerequisite, an action he had never undertaken in his previous 13 semesters as chair. When one of the students, Dan Weininger, complained to the chair, he received a menacing reply: “Johnson is trouble and those who associate with him will find themselves in trouble, too.” [12] And then, three days before my tenure file was closed, Gallagher submitted a memorandum accusing me of “abuse” and “dishonesty” for waiving the prerequisite for my own course and handling a transfer of thesis advising responsibilities with him orally rather than in writing. [13]

By mid-March, Gallagher for the first time started describing these offenses as “uncollegial,” part of a broader problem of “uncollegiality” which, he claimed, required denying my bid for promotion to full professor. (Under Section 6.2(b) of the CUNY Bylaws, this promotion would have automatically conferred tenure.) The charge initially seemed absurd, both because it contradicted Gallagher’s earlier written praise for my “scholarly collegiality” and because the department hardly enjoys a reputation as a particularly collegial place. [14] But I underestimated the significance of the new claim.

As I later discovered, Gallagher’s embrace of the collegiality criterion reflected broader changes at Brooklyn. First, he had spoken with the college’s labor relations associate, who assured him “that plaintiffs never prevail in academic collegiality cases.” [15] Indeed, courts have—almost without exception—ruled for the institution on collegiality-related matters. The vast majority of these decisions have been narrowly tailored, rebuffing plaintiffs’ claims that because “collegiality” was not formally listed as a qualification for tenure, colleges should not be allowed to employ the criterion. [16] But at least two recent cases involved institutional misconduct on a massive scale: UNLV admitted that a department chair had placed denunciatory letters in the candidate’s file, in violation of the university’s guidelines; and Cleveland State created a “Shadow File,” secret documents of whose existence the candidate was never aware. [17] In both instances, state courts held for the university. Surely, the labor relations associate must have believed, if UNLV or Cleveland State could prevail in such circumstances, so too could Brooklyn.

Second, the “collegiality” criterion received a strong boost from Provost Roberta S. Matthews, who had arrived at Brooklyn in August 2001. In her written work and at “retreats” for the college’s new faculty, Matthews has championed personnel policies to de-emphasize both research and professors’ ability to “transmit foundational knowledge” to students. [18] A supporter of the “learning communities” curricular philosophy, Matthews has advocated inter-disciplinary, team-taught courses that would create “new knowledge” through classroom discussions rather than research. Accordingly, she has contended, colleges need more emphasis on collegiality, a concept she has identified as embodying “features that feminist literature suggest are important, such as cooperation and shared power, development of a personal connection to the material being studied, and an emphasis on the affective aspects of learning.” Essentializing women in a way that would normally arouse skepticism in scholarly circles, Matthews has asserted that “collegialityand ‘community’ are especially attractive to women.” [19]

The practical effect of Matthews’ “collegiality” criterion is to muzzle academic speech conflicting with prevailing campus orthodoxies, as she attempted to do by reprimanding me for questioning a post-9/11 college-sponsored teach-in whose panel comprised only known opponents of American and Israeli policies in the Middle East—a protest that Gallagher both privately and in my annual evaluation deemed uncollegial. [20]

The Tenure Rebuff

By March 2002, a powerful alliance had formed against my candidacy. As noted by Jerry Sternstein, a retired member of the department, the poisoning of the process began “when a faction led by a leftist Middle Eastern historian, a disciple of Edward Said, and a radical feminist infamous in and out of the department for unvarnished hostility to anybody who disagrees with her, initiated what one of them termed a ‘Reign of Terror’” to deny me tenure. They had identified me “as an independent thinker with high standards and impeccable scholarly credentials who threatened their leftist political agenda.” For the administration, my case would test whether anyone at Brooklyn that a chair viewed as “disruptive,” regardless of the candidate’s accomplishments as a scholar or teacher, could be terminated on grounds of uncollegiality. And these two groups were eventually joined by Gallagher, who Sternstein described as “a person who at times tends to interpret differences over policy as personal hostility,” and by the chair’s two closest allies among the department’s senior faculty. [21]

On March 19, 2002, I interviewed before a five-professor committee chosen by the social science department chairs, a committee that reported to the Personnel and Tenure Committee (P&T), the body of 31 department chairs that makes personnel recommendations at Brooklyn. This interview did not produce even one specific question about either my courses or my scholarship. [22] Instead, an Africana Studies professor chastised me for failing to “cuddle” the institution’s “barely literate” students, adding that perhaps it would be better if I did not remain in a department where some senior colleagues disagreed with me. [23] Burrows performed as expected: several months earlier, he had E-mailed King after a search-related dispute with her, “When it rains on you, [Johnson] gets wet, too. It’s not fair, but it’s the way of the world.” [24]

Gallagher, meanwhile, solicited E-mails testifying to my “uncollegiality” from four senior colleagues who had disagreed with me in the search. He never gave me a chance to respond to these documents—as he was required to do by Article 19.3 of the PSC-CUNY contract, which strictly limits the material associated with the personnel process to which the candidate lacks access. To the P&T in its May 2, 2002 meeting, Gallagher read excerpts from these E-mails, in the process presenting the judgments of those whom he earlier had dubbed “academic terrorists” as the “reasoned considerations” of unbiased senior professors. [25] The P&T voted 28-2, with one abstention, to deny my promotion and the resulting tenure; a few months later, it would vote unanimously against my reappointment. [26]

Fighting Back

One senior department member leaked material from these meetings (despite CUNY guidelines prohibiting him from doing so) in the hopes that I would resign—an action, he said, that would be best for my career and for the health of Chairman Gallagher. [27] Instead, over the summer, I asked a variety of professors to write President Kimmich, discussing both my qualifications and the effect on the college’s national reputation if it started making tenure decisions on the basis of “collegiality.” Eventually, 64 letters crossed Kimmich’s desk, an influx about which he publicly complained. [28]

I also began to build my legal case. Shortly after Gallagher purged the students from my colloquium, a close friend bluntly told me I needed a lawyer; his contacts in legal and academic circles pointed me to Robert M. Rosen, whose Long Island firm specializes in employment law. This was the single most important decision I made in the entire controversy: I knew that I would receive ineffectual representation from the faculty union, whose Brooklyn grievance counselor at the time was a close friend and ideological soulmate of the “academic terrorists.” In September and early October, Rosen and I prepared a 40-page Memorandum of Law supplemented by a lengthy Statement of Facts and 33 exhibits, including E-mails undermining many of the claims against me. The memorandum was submitted to Kimmich and to CUNY’s central office several weeks before Kimmich’s final decision on promotion and tenure—the 59th occasion between mid-February and mid-October in which I or someone representing me had contacted Kimmich, Matthews, or other members of the administration to point out procedural improprieties in the case. Kimmich never responded, and in late October he upheld the recommendation of the P&T, citing my “mixed record of service.” [29]

And so, as most readers of this article know, I went public, where I received overwhelming support. The New Republictermed Kimmich’s action “a grave threat to Brooklyn College’s hope of ever being taken seriously as a scholarly institution,” while to Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal, mine was the story of an untenured faculty member who believed “that the department’s hires should be chosen on the basis of qualifications other than gender, that students should have the opportunity to learn from instructors who had shown some minimal proof of competence in their fields.” [30] I also discovered the importance of sites such as History News Network and blogs like Critical Mass in crystallizing academic opinion.

Having given Brooklyn every chance to resolve the situation fairly, CUNY intervened in mid-December. CUNY’s general counsel, Frederick Schaffer, requested the college’s response to my Memorandum of Law, which, ironically, only strengthenedmy case. Undated and addressed to no one, the college’s legal memorandum claimed no author, discussed an “early promotion review process” that does not exist at CUNY, and consistently misspelled Gallagher’s name. [31] It conceded most of the Memorandum of Law’s claims, and the sole evidence produced for those it did challenge was highly suspect: the “Shadow File,” a collection of the denunciatory E-mails solicited by Gallagher in February and early September letters solicited by an unknown member of the Kimmich administration. Brooklyn never revealed the “Shadow File” to me, and thus I had no chance to refute its scurrilous charges.

Concluding that the college probably would not survive a grievance, Schaffer then had my entire file turned over to a committee of three CUNY faculty members selected by Chancellor Goldstein, which unanimously decided in my favor. [32] Both Goldstein and the Trustees accepted the recommendation. As the New York Daily News remarked, “The chancellor has been striving to upgrade CUNY and its reputation. His actions in the Johnson case are testimony to that, sending the right message: Scholarship and teaching ability come first. And academic freedom is worth fighting for.” [33]

Brooklyn and Beyond

Jerry Sternstein, who also had served as a longtime union grievance counselor, termed mine “the most corrupted tenure review process I have ever come across”—and he wrote those words before learning of the Shadow File’s existence. [34] While the potential for such abuse exists at any institution of higher learning, two factors increased the likelihood of such a development at Brooklyn.

            First, the college personnel structure, dominated by department chairs chosen primarily for their willingness to undertake administrative tasks, contains a strong disincentive to challenge the recommendation of a candidate’s department chair, in the expectation that the committee will defer to its member with the greatest personal stake on the issue. Tenure thus becomes less a matter of merit than a quid pro quo for supporting the chair on departmental issues, and obviously unjust decisions can occur when a chair elects to retaliate for departmental disagreements. Before my case, for instance, the last major personnel scandal at Brooklyn had occurred in the Philosophy Department, where four junior faculty members were fired the year after they backed the unsuccessful candidate in a closely contested election for department chair. [35]           

  Second, Brooklyn possesses an unusually permissive attitude toward procedural violations. Kimmich, for instance, informed the Chronicle of Higher Educationthat the college’s “very solid process . . . worked in this case” when it produced the negative recommendation on my promotion and tenure. [36] Yet the college’s own legal memorandum had failed to challenge:

·         That Gallagher six times significantly misrepresented my record (on matters such as the propriety of a proposal that I made in the search, departmental policy regarding prerequisite enforcement, and untrue claims of complaints from senior colleagues);

·         That Gallagher eight times manipulated evidence in my personnel file, in an attempt to ensure that my promotion to full professor would be denied (on matters such as excluding actions of mine that he previously had termed “collegial,” failing to poll chairs of college and university committees that he knew would testify positively about me, and ignoring the questionable behavior of other department members during the search);

·         That the process went forward in bad faith, with six affirmations from the college’s associate provost that procedural violations had occurred (on matters such as improper lobbying, selective enforcement of departmental rules, and improper questions asked by the divisional subcommittee).

That such a procedure could be described as having “worked in this case” is extraordinary.

Broader Lessons

Despite the structural and cultural phenomena peculiar to Brooklyn, my experience resonates nationally in two important ways. First, most colleges utilize the collegiality criterion—although Brooklyn clearly represents an extreme case. In the 2002-2003 academic year alone, the school’s 31 chairs voted to deny either reappointment or tenure to three junior faculty members (including me) solely on the basis of “uncollegiality”; in a fourth case, a senior professor was removed from the classroom in part for “uncollegiality.” (Interestingly in light of Matthews’ gendered conception of the criterion, all four were white males.) Kimmich has written that collegiality—or “collaborative and constructive cooperation with members of the faculty and the chairperson”—is the “essential” criterion for promotion and tenure at his institution, a position that he maintained even after contrary public statements from Chancellor Goldstein, Trustee Randy Mastro, and Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld. [37] Perhaps because the criterion plays such an important role in its personnel process, Brooklyn offers important lessons about the profound dangers of using collegiality to evaluate untenured faculty.

            In the end, an independent collegiality criterion undermines the intellectual values associated with quality scholarship and a free university. First, it allows no measure of the moral or practical merit of the events with which the junior faculty member declines to engage in “constructive cooperation.” For instance, in the days when “faculty and chairpersons” conspired to keep women, blacks, or leftists out of a department, it was precisely “collegial”—in the sense of working for the best interests of the institution—not to collaborate in such an endeavor. Moreover, the category has a profoundly anti-intellectual flavor: as Trustee Wiesenfeld memorably concluded, “Collegiality is an appropriate criterion if I wanted to join a prestigious country club and play well with the other children, but it is not that which is necessary to determine whether someone is a good professor.” [38] Finally, elevating collegiality’s importance risks stifling the unfettered exchange of ideas central to the intellectual life of any college or university, to be replaced by subservience to the dictates of the department “chairperson” or powerful senior colleagues.  

          Defenders of the criterion might reply—not unreasonably, at first glance—that they desire not to suppress academic freedom but to preserve a department’s ability to remove a rude or uncooperative member. Indeed, according to the Chronicle, my critics argued that “collegiality remains a vibrant criterion in tenure decisions. It’s a character or attitude that pervades one’s work.” [39] Yet the Shadow File shows how easily an assault on academic freedom can occur under the guise of personality issues.

One senior colleague was at least candid, writing Kimmich that I should be fired for disagreeing with him over the Latin American search, a curricular matter, and union politics. [40] But others used terms that seemed, superficially at least, to describe unacceptable behavior: I was accused of having engaged in “immoral” and “corrupt” practices, “thoroughly unprofessional, not to say unethical” conduct, and “dishonesty.” [41] Yet when the letter-writers described what offense had produced such evaluations, it became clear they were not describing behavior at all: each senior colleague denounced me for having disagreed with their opinions or votes in the European History search. Surely few accusations of uncollegiality are so transparently fraudulent. But behavior that seems unobjectionable from those with whom one agrees on curricular, personnel, or political issues suddenly can seem “uncollegial” when it comes from an opponent on departmental matters.

In a 1999 resolution opposing collegiality’s use as an independent criterion for faculty evaluation, the American Association of University Professors spoke directly to the types of arguments made in the Shadow File. “A distinct criterion of collegiality,” the organization noted, “holds the potential of chilling faculty debate and discussion. Criticism and opposition do not necessarily conflict with collegiality. Gadflies, critics of institutional practices or collegial norms, even the occasional malcontent, have all been known to play an invaluable and constructive role in the life of academic departments and institutions. They have sometimes proved collegial in the deepest and truest sense. Certainly a college or university replete with genial Babbitts is not the place to which society is likely to look for leadership.” [42] Ironically, one Shadow File contributor seemed to desire just such an institution, writing Kimmich that at Brooklyn College, “Crusades—ideological, cultural, or political—along with the personalities that breed them, are best checked at the door.” [43]

My case offers another important lesson for the academy. In The Shadow University, Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate argued that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” for exposing academic wrongdoing. [44] Kors and Silverglate focused on violations of free speech on campus; my situation suggests that their formula applies to tenure matters as well. In the end, I prevailed because I had an overwhelming legal case. But the willingness of national scholars to publicly censure the Brooklyn administration accelerated the outcome. The historical community would do well to see in this experience a reminder that we can police ourselves. While the Brooklyn administration might have been willing to stand outside the scholarly consensus, CUNY—especially under the current Chancellor and Board of Trustees—has striven to improve its academic reputation, and so took notice of what prominent national scholars thought about Brooklyn’s decision.

In addition, publicity itself can serve as a deterrent: hopefully, fear of suffering the same public skewering as that experienced by Gallagher and Kimmich will deter future senior faculty who might be tempted to corrupt a junior colleague’s tenure process or administrators who might be inclined not to intervene to correct abuses. Brooklyn’s national reputation has undoubtedly suffered as a result of this publicity, which in some ways is unfair: most of the chairs—presented with inaccurate, incomplete, or manipulated evidence—no doubt voted as they did in good faith. And the willingness of the college’s students to devote enormous time and effort to ensuring academic quality at their school contradicts what many might expect from an urban, public institution.

Still, within the last two months, two first-rate junior professors at Brooklyn have resigned, citing their concerns with the institution’s flawed tenure process. I can only hope that, in time, either the college itself or—if necessary—the CUNY leadership will make changes to ensure that Brooklyn can continue to attract and retain quality faculty, and that what happened to me is remembered as an unfortunate aberration rather than the beginning of a troubling pattern.

[1] Philip F. Gallagher to KC Johnson, E-mail, 16 February 2001. All documents and E-mails are in the possession of the author.

[2] Philip F. Gallagher, “Annual Evaluation Conference—Professor Robert David Johnson,” 17 April 2001.

[3] Sean McMeekin to KC Johnson, E-mail, 20 Nov. 2002.

[4] Philip Gallagher to Margaret King, E-mail, 26 Oct. 2001.

[5] Philip Gallagher to KC Johnson, E-mail, 29 Oct. 2001.

[6] Jocelyn A. Wills to KC Johnson, E-mail, 13 Dec. 2001.

[7] Gallagher and Burrows E-mails quoted in Edwin G. Burrows to C.M. Kimmich, 10 Sept. 2002.

[8] Philip F. Gallagher, “Annual Evaluation Conference—Professor Robert David Johnson,” 17 April 2001.

[9] Edwin G. Burrows to C.M. Kimmich, 10 Sept. 2002.

[10] Philip F. Gallagher to Appointments Committee, E-mail, 5 Jan. 2002.

[11] Scott Smallwood, “Tenure Madness,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 May 2003.

[12]Harvard Crimson, 19 Nov. 2002.

[13] Philip F. Gallagher, “Memorandum re: Robert David Johnson,” 11 Feb. 2002.

[14]Philip F. Gallagher, “Annual Evaluation Conference—Professor Robert David Johnson, April 17, 2001.”

[15] Donald F. Gerardi quoted in Paula Fichtner to KC Johnson, E-mail, 13 June 2002.

[16] Mary Ann Connell and Frederick Savage, “Does Collegiality Count?,” http://www.aaup.org/publications/academe/01nd/01ndcon.htm.

[17]New York Times, 12 July 2002.

[18]Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College (Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2002), pp. x, 47; Roberta Matthews and Jean McGregor, “Collaborative Learning: Higher Education, Interdependence and the Authority of Knowledge,” Change 26 (1994), pp. 52-53.

[19] Roberta S. Matthews, et. al., Learning Communities: Creating Connections Among Students, Faculty, and Disciplines (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990), p. 74.

[20] Philip F. Gallagher, “Annual Evaluation of Robert David Johnson,” 28 May 2002; Gallagher undated E-mail to Edwin G. Burrows, quoted in Burrows to C.M. Kimmich, 10 Sept. 2002.

[22] Egon Mayer to KC Johnson, E-mail, 22 March 2002, confirming my recollection of the list of questions asked.

[23]New York Sun, 19 November 2002.

[24] Edwin G. Burrows to Margaret King, E-mail, 15 Nov. 2001.

[25] “Read to the P+T, 5/2/02”; “P. Gallagher’s Commentary,” p. 22.

[26] Donald Gerardi quoted in David Berger to KC Johnson, E-mail, 6 May 2002. Gerardi demanded anonymity when speaking to Berger, but later revealed his identity as a leaker to Fichtner.

[27] Donald Gerardi quoted in David Berger to KC Johnson, E-mail, 6 May 2002; Paula Fichtner to KC Johnson, E-mail, 13 June 2002.

[28]Wall Street Journal, 20 Dec. 2002.

[29]Wall Street Journal, 20 Dec. 2002.

[30]The New Republic, 30 Dec. 2002; Wall Street Journal, 20 Dec. 2002.

[31] C.M. Kimmich(?), Response to Robert David Johnson’s Memorandum of Law, n.d., p. 1.

[32] Frederick Schaffer memorandum, http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/johnson/shaffermemo.htm, visited 20 May 2003.

[33]New York Daily News, 28 Feb. 2003.

[35]PSC/CUNY and BHE (A. Rosenthal), AAA #1339-0581-76, 18 July 1977, George Nicalou, arbitrator.

[36] Smallwood, “Tenure Madness.”

[37] C.M. Kimmich to Robert David Johnson, 26 Nov. 2002; C.M. Kimmich to Michael Cholbi, 1 March 2003.

[38]Harvard Crimson, 19 Nov. 2002.

[39] Smallwood, “Tenure Madness.”

[40] Stuart Schaar to C.M. Kimmich, 7 Sept. 2002.

[41] Bonnie S. Anderson to C.M. Kimmich, 6 Sept. 2002; Edwin G. Burrows to C.M. Kimmich, 10 Sept. 2002; “P. Gallagher’s Commentary,” p. 7.

[42] AAUP, “On Collegiality as a Criterion for Faculty Evaluation,” http://www.aaup.org/statements/Redbook/collegia.htm.

[43] Donald F. Gerardi to C.M. Kimmich, 27 Sept. 2002.

[44] Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses (New York: Free Press, 1998), p. 355.

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JT Faraday - 6/25/2003

Exuberantly quoted, then. So much for the put upon Dr. Johnson.


Jerry Sternstein - 6/6/2003

To further clarify what FT Faraday obviously misread and Thomas Gunn explained to him:

Prof. Johnson did not initiate the phrases "academic terrorist" or "Reign of Terror." "Academic terrorist" was the term the Brooklyn College history department chairman, Phil Gallagher, used to characterize at least two of Prof. Johnson's colleagues whose departmental behavior on many issues reflected that term. Gallagher uttered the phrase (as well as many others, including describing one of the "academic terrorists," a radical feminist, as "an unscrupulous and unprofessional mole") in an an email to Prof. Johnson before he joined hands with them in attempting to drive Prof. Johnson out of the department.

As for the phrase "Reign of Terror," it was originated by one of the "academic terrorists," a historian who teaches Middle Eastern history, to indicate how he and those allied with him were going to behave in the department towards Prof. Johnson and anybody else they viewed as antagonists, meaning those who questioned their agenda in any way, shape, or form. The Middle East historian exploded with outrage when a new Master's course of his on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict went before the curriculum committee for approval. The committee, of which Prof. Johnson was one member, voted 3-1, to ask him to beef up the course readings to include solid academic studies rather than relying largely on brief newspaper op-ed pieces. That historian regarded the committee's action as an attack on his scholarly integrity and held Johnson solely responsible for it. He then vowed a "Reign of Terror" against Prof. Johnson in the future.

All of this, as well as much more, is documented in the sources Prof. Johnson cites for his article. I have read virtually all of them and can vouch for the accuracy and care with which Prof. Johnson employs them.

Steve Gordon - 6/6/2003

Professor Johnson, you're a hero for standing up for principle against that cabal of back-stabbers! I only just read of your case in the Chronicle and now have found so much about it online, including your own "offical" account above. Many universities will now be more aware of the departmental tactics used against you.

I fear though that your victory was possible because of fortuitous circumstances that will not occur everywhere else.
For example, some of your colleagues put their ill-advised remarks in e-mail that you preserved, court-ready evidence as it were. And the fact that your academic field is politically relevant made it easier to find allies like the conservative trustees and alumni, while an allegedly "non-collegial" astronomer or Italian language professor would not attract off-campus support and publicity so readily. And you had one additional level of appeal, the systemwide administration available to overrule the local campus.

It must be an interesting, probably uncomfortable, atmosphere on that campus now. (I'm a sociologist and would enjoy studying the revised social system there). Your self-serving colleagues and martinet administrators have had their hands slapped for their cynical plot, with their own words published for us to see and judge.

Thomas Gunn - 6/6/2003

06-06-03 ~1040


After reading this post, click the hot link which follows it and you will be taken back to the article by KC. After it completely loads, press the 'ctrl' key and the 'f' key, a search box will appear. In that box type 'reign'. The term 'reign' will be highlighted in KC's article, followed by the words 'of terror'. If you are capable of following the footnote it will take you to where the quote "reign of terror" originated.

Hopefully you will have gained enough experience to follow the same procedure for "academic terrorists".

KC was reporting the words of others, that is why those words appear in quotation marks.

As a curiosity, how would you characterize the treatment afforded professor Johnson?


JT Faraday - 6/5/2003

I fully support decisions based on scholarship and quality teaching. Still, Johnson's exuberant use of language like "academic terrorists" and "Reign of Terror" give me pause.


Thomas Gunn - 6/5/2003

06-05-03 ~1440


Best of luck to you. I'm glad the good guys won one.

I hope there is something that can be done about the quality of your union representation. I hate to think there is no one left who will do the right thing just because it is opposite their political persuasions.

These people need to know that what was done to you could easily be done to them in the same manner.


KC Johnson - 6/5/2003

Thanks again for the words of support; and I thought I might respond to a few of the questions raised in the comments.

1.) The role of the union. My case was a peculiar one in that one of the figures urging my dismissal was a member of the union's campus executive board. In addition, the teach-in against which I protested was put together by the union. Our union doesn't have a very good record for vigorous representation of faculty on personnel matters anyway, but in my case, my critics claimed that the union grievance counselor assigned to handle my case last spring was actually leaking material to them. So I kept my distance from the union.

2.) Collegiality in the department/college. I agree that, ideally, it would be nice to see a more (truly) collegial department and college. Inspiration for that, however, has to come from the top--Kimmich, Matthews, Gallagher--and there's no sign of any movement. My broader point, however, is that since there is no way to enforce "collegial" behavior on people with tenure (as the willingness of my critics to pen denunciatory secret letters amply demonstrated), this criterion, in effect, becomes a club that tenured faculty can use on the untenured to force the untenured to conform.

3.) My state of mind. Simple answer: the two possible outcomes to this case were that I would be (a) fired or (b) tenured. In that sense, I'm very, very happy with the outcome!

More broadly, the positives outweigh the negatives. Because of the publicity my case received, I think I helped other untenured faculty who wouldn't have been able to generate such press coverage. I also benefitted from extraordinary support among the BC student body and several members of the department. And while I have no doubt that other BC junior faculty face a risk of suffering through the same misconduct that I endured, I believe that CUNY will intervene much more quickly the next time around to invalidate any faulty decisions.

Thomas Gunn - 6/3/2003

06-03-03 ~1955


See Here:

[http://hnn.us/articles/691.html ]


Gaudeamus - 6/3/2003

Abuse of collegiality criteria by uncollegial faculty and administrators is a good argument for more collegiality not less.

dan - 6/3/2003

So what do YOU think your 2nd Amendment rights are?

mark safranski - 6/2/2003

Professor Johnson deserves a commendation for standing his ground and fighting, when with his credentials, he could have been snapped up by a far more prestigious university than the one trying to fire him. In the process he stood up to two types of academic fascists - the aging NewLeft gender/race ideologues and the infantile personality type that seems to gravitate to all levels of the education profession in order to create little kingdoms for themselves.


Bill Maher - 6/2/2003

I have been following your battle through http://www.erinoconnor.org It led to my interest in http://www.thefire.org The end result is that every professor on my campus is aware of your fight and, more important, many have joined FIRE. Finally, I hope that your victory brings you great personal satisfaction. You certainly deserve it.

Jim Lindgren - 6/2/2003

I have taught at 6 universities and been an Associate Dean at 2 of them.

I think that collegiality should be taken into account in tenure decisions, at least as a threshhold question whether the person participates in the intellectual life of the school by attending workshops, commenting on papers, and being in the building enough to interact with faculty and students. I would not vote to tenure someone who never attended or participated in faculty workshops or was never there except to teach classes. In my opinion, beyond reaching that minimal standard, collegiality should play no further role. With a 7 course annual teaching load (if I understand K.C. Johnson's article accurately), being in the building should rarely be a problem at Brooklyn. At my law school, the teaching load is usually 3 courses a year, which does offer more room to avoid going into work.

The odd thing is that, if Brooklyn were really interested in collegiality, it would immediately remove from positions of responsibility every person who was so uncollegial to Professor Johnson and his supporters. That the Department Chair tried to foist off the Chair's own reckless uncollegiality as protecting collegiality is an irony. That a department that was trying to diversify should try to silence the one voice in the department offering the most diversity is another irony.

It is easy to be collegial if everyone thinks alike, but the idea of having different voices is that they would sometimes say something that you don't want to hear. I think that Brooklyn's idea of diversity is to promote different voices as long as they always say a version of the same thing.

James Lindgren
Professor of Law
Northwestern University

Thomas Gunn - 6/2/2003

05-02-03 ~1030


I'm happy that you've won your case, but will you be happy? Does the animosity directed at you remain and will you be allowed to function at a level which will make a difference.

I took an interest in your situation b/c of the 'union' involvement and a situation that I also recognize as happening universally.

I am a union steward and I represent fellow employees exclusively at investigation over company charges of wrong doing.

I have sucessfully represented employees that "need to be fired" and have been criticized for it. My position has been, and fortunately is supported by our chairman, that the company must prove its case based on the merits of the evidence which supports their charges and not on "the information that 'everyone' knows" outside the scope of the charges.

I have the sense from your trials that your union may not have supported you with the vehemence the 'process' demands, due to political/personal considerations. What goes around, comes around, and those most surprised by this little shibboleth are those first in line to bastardize the process when it eventually bites them on the arse

My impetus for being on HNN is my support of the BOR with emphasis on the Second Amendment. It is amazing to me to see the surprise of those who would deny an individuals Second Amendment right for reasons of 'security' and squeal loudly as their individual right of free speach is denied for reasons of security. The pendulum appears to be swinging the other way as more and more individual 'people' see the result of giving up freedom for the illusion of security.

Only by remaining true to the process can we hope to avoid repeating our history. Best of luck to you, as you continue to make a difference. I hope you are allowed to.