Why I Was Denied Tenure


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

HNN: The Case of KC Johnson

I admit that I am surprised (as, no doubt, is the college) with the attention that Brooklyn College's decision to deny me promotion and tenure has received, both from the press and from the national academic community. It is my sincerest hope that such coverage will help correct the injustice done to me and warn the American academic community at large of the risks it runs in allowing such incidents to occur.

My difficulties began on January 5, 2002, when my department chairman denounced as "preposterous, specious, and demeaning" my written argument that we should not tender a job offer to an applicant possessing neither a complete dissertation nor strong teaching evaluations. Immediately thereafter, for reasons still not entirely clear, the chairman began what his predecessor has publicly termed a "campaign of harassment" designed to ensure my dismissal.

Since that time, I have spent at least 700 hours on my defense--preparing memoranda and for-the-record emails, researching curricular data, federal and state law, and college and CUNY guidelines, meeting with union representatives or my attorney. A central element of this defense has been the evidentiary base that I possess, which includes large numbers of retained emails that use my critics' own words to disprove the allegations made against me.

Alone, I never could have overcome the physical, emotional, and financial strain that resulted from this fight. I could mount a defense only because of support from current and former colleagues, old and new friends, and current and former students, some of whom (and one person in particular) stood up for me at considerable risk to themselves. That this backing has increased since news of my denial of promotion and tenure became public affirms that the academic community nationally shares the values that some of my colleagues at Brooklyn and I championed--namely, that academic personnel decisions should be based on a candidate's academic credentials. In this sense, I have experienced "collegial" support in the truest sense of the term.


There are two items that have not yet appeared in the (very good) press coverage of my case. First, I never wanted any of these matters to become public. Who among us would desire historians nationally to know he or she had been denied promotion and tenure? Brooklyn College administrators, up to and including Provost Roberta Matthews and President C.M. Kimmich, were contacted by people supporting me--to no avail--no less than 59 times between January 5, 2002 and my ultimate denial on October 28, 2002 to call attention to the massive procedural violations in my case.

Second, while the college ultimately rested its claims against me on "uncollegiality," it did so only after trying two earlier charges--"manipulation of workload" and "failure to follow departmental rules and regulations"--that I rebutted through curricular and documentary data. Ironically, less than 12 months before, the department chairman had gone out of his way to praise my "collegiality," which he then defined as commenting upon drafts of colleagues' scholarship, working hard on department committees, and appearing when asked in colleagues' classes. By March 2002, however, when the "uncollegiality" allegation was first leveled against me, my continued good performance in even these qualifications was no longer relevant to a determination of my "collegiality." In addition, unlike in 2001--when the chairman mentioned my record of "collegiality" only as an add-on to a complete discussion of my teaching, scholarship, and service--by March 2002 my performance in scholarship, teaching, and service was set entirely aside. Instead, my candidacy for promotion and tenure was evaluated solely on the basis of the redefined concept of "collegiality."

The importance of my case lies in the fact that in determining my "collegiality," the chairman--for reasons he has never explained--polled only those senior faculty members who had disagreed with me on a variety of departmental and political issues over the previous 12 months. At the heart of academic life lies the free exchange of ideas, and the policies for which some senior colleagues criticized me--opposing college sponsorship of a "teach-in" on the Middle East that contained no known supporters of either U.S. or Israeli policy in the region and favoring rigorous standards in all departmental hires--involved issues on which all professors, not simply those with tenure, can and should engage themselves.

My situation is unusual in the backing that I have received from prominent scholars in my field--which began with a letter to CUNY chancellor Matthew Goldstein from 24 leading national professors denouncing Brooklyn's decision. But the issues raised by my denial obviously extend beyond Brooklyn College, and I hope that the publicity generated will have two longer-term effects.

First, academic institutions around the country need to think about how to ensure academic freedom for both tenured and untenured faculty. At Brooklyn, several senior colleagues adopted the same positions that I took regarding both the "teach-in" and the search; tenure afforded them the freedom to speak out. By soliciting feedback from only those tenured colleagues who disagreed with me on these issues and then basing its denial of my promotion and tenure solely on "collegiality," the college, in effect, used tenure as a club to silence a junior faculty member who voiced opinions on controversial issues.

Second, the wholly subjective standard of "collegiality" tempts faculty members, temporarily blinded by the emotionalism of philosophical disputes or interpersonal squabbles, to abandon the academic ideals that scholars have championed for decades. CUNY Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld articulated the point when asked about my case: "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." As for me, I hope that President Kimmich will soon remedy the error of his previous decision, and that I will be able to continue, without this distraction, the scholarship and teaching that I love--to which even those who have opposed me admit I am deeply committed.

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More Comments:

Mike Smith - 1/4/2003

This is in support of the BC Student Government's position on Professor Johnson.
The Promotion and Tenure Committee's unethical and unprofessional procedure and conduct reflects badly on all associated with the Brooklyn College institution.

Jeff kahana - 1/1/2003

I have read with great interest the public record of this case. As both a lawyer and historian the matter is intriguing -- and deeply troubling.

What is of note is that the critic of Mr. Johnson refuses to be identified, choosing instead to lurk in the shadows. This failure to speak in an open and forthright manner casts great doubt on the critic's credibility.

The "critic's" allegations, read closely, reveal no substance. There are no dates, individuals, subject-matter or other objective facts to establish the claims made.

Taken together the absence of identity, in my view, impeaches the author's credibility; and the absence of grievances based on facts amounts to self-serving statements by the anonymous author. These statements, therefore, should be dismissed as lacking the necessary specificity to support their underlying charge.

Bradley Appell - 12/16/2002

It is disappointing to see all of these chairs blindly supporting their colleague Mr. Gallagher. If each and every one of these chairs took 5 minutes of their time just to meet and speak with KC Johnson, they would see what a huge error they have made. Towing the "party line" shows a true lack of courage and conviction, the type that KC Johnson is being persecuted for possessing.
Bradley Appell

Prof. M. Millman - 12/7/2002

LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, is a scandal waiting to explode. You are invited to visit LAGUARDIACORRUPTION.COM to see the effect of administrative corruption on education and, in particular, how political cronyism, racial-bloc voting and anti-Semitism destroyed the Mathematics Department. The website has had more than 20,000 visits during its first 18 months online and aims to inform all colleges, education associations, interested taxpayers, elected officials and news media in the NYC vicinity. Prof. Johnson's case is hardly unique. Virtually every aspect of CUNY is rife with corruption, cronyism and outright stupidity.

Thomas L. Spencer - 12/6/2002

I have to agree. My father was in academia and I saw enough in my years on campus as a student and before that to make me wonder. Once upon a time there was, apparently, something called "Academic Freedom". I saw enough politics in grad school to cause me to leave the field I was in, as the same politics carried over. Oh yes, there were statements about professional ethics and such - worthless statements. The day will come when the American public catches on; when the price for sending someone into an institution of so-called "higher learning" is so high that some sort of alternative will emerge. I may not live to see that day, but academics, by failing to practice what they preach, are slowly but surely undermining the public confidence
and their own positions. If they can clean up their act, fine, but it appears to be such a cesspool, at least in some institutions, that I wonder.

Christine Sciascia - 12/5/2002

Courage is the ability to express one's thoughts and not fear retribution for doing so. Courage is the ability to tell your story because you bear the truth, and then attach your name to that story. KC Johnson bears courage, and you "Concerned" CUNY person do not.

On Wednesday morning 50 students marched on the campus of Brooklyn College in support of Professor Johnson. We did not hide our faces as cameras took our picture. Instead we marched proudly and loudly for a man that has not once backed down in his fight for tenure; he has not been deterred in any way since the beginning of this debacle. Four hundred and forty-five students signed a petition that was presented to President Kimmich; each of those signatories bore courage. We the students of Brooklyn College bear more courage than you have demonstrated thus far. It is no wonder we support such a man and not the lies that your perpetuate.

I fear that you are not in possession of the truth. You therefore cannot reveal your identity. You told my colleague, Mr. Appell that "There is more truth to come, so stay tuned." Apparently you have a distorted notion of what the truth is. Well, that is apparent to your audience because you cannot reveal your identity. Those in possession of the truth such as myself, Mr. Appell, and Mr. Weininger all sign our names to what we write--the truth. We do not fear retribution because we are the ones who will be vindciated in the end when Professor Johnson is a full tenured professor at Brooklyn College.

So "Concerned" CUNY person if you bear courage please sign your name the next time you post. It will lend a modicum of substance to your vision of the truth. Demonstrate to your students that you do not fear retribution the way Professor Johnson, Mr. Appell, Mr. Weininger, and I have demonstrated thus far.

Christine Sciascia

Bradley Appell - 12/5/2002

The real truth is, if you weren't "anonymous" you would be subjecting yourself to a libel and slander suit. Give it a rest.
Bradley Appell

Daniel Weininger - 12/5/2002

Fortunately for KC Johnson, the so-called "Concerned CUNY Person," or "Persons," unintentionally makes the strongest case yet for his promotion and tenure since the recent posting by former Brooklyn College history professor and union representative Jerom Sternstein. Johnson is an untenured, junior faculty member who says he is being maligned and persecuted by a small handful of senior, tenured professors with whom he has had a professional disagreement over what he considered an unbalanced teach-in after 9/11 which contained no representatives of pro-US or pro-Israeli viewpoints and a recent search for a modern European historian. (Incidentially, left out in all this discussion was the fact that although I have spoken to two tenured professors who say that they also objected to the lack of balance on the teach-in, Professor Johnson was singled out as the only untenured professor who did so.)

Yet the so-called "Concerned CUNY Person(s)," allegedly supporting the smalled handful of Johnson's senior tenured critics, cannot show himself or herself, but can only strike from the shadows with a barrage of unattributed, undocumented, trash. Simply because certain senior faculty members hold these vile opinons of Professor Johnson does not make him uncollegial.

Even more so, "Concerned CUNY Person(s)" confuses reasonable dissent with uncollegial activity. I can understand why. If I were as confused and mindless as "Concerned Cuny Person(s)," I could easily make the same mistake. Clearly, "Concerned CUNY Person(s)" lacks the clearness of thought or self-esteem (or both), to distinguish between dissent and a personal affront. It can only be hoped that not all of Professor Johnson's critics have as minute a grasp of the fundamental rules of historical scholarship - attribution, documentation, objectivity, and intelligent thought. But sadly, all of these are lacking in these taciturn sycophants that learn, think, and TEACH by rote.

Perhaps this is why the person who originally posted as "Concerned CUNY Person" has been forced to vacate her/his position to a more "seasoned" author. But let us not forget that the ability to write has no bearing on the ability to think for oneself or prevent oneself from spurting out a useless and baseless diatribe.

Nevertheless, any neutral oberver who goes through the voluminous records released by junior Professor Johnson, his beloved students, and the nationally-acclaimed scholars who have rallied to his defense, would know at the very least that the written material, including numerous emails written by those who are now his critics, makes an extremely compelling and unrefuted case for what Professor Sternstein called the most "corrupted" tenure process he ever had witnessed.

In the words of Mary McCarthy in another situation, every word in the so called "Concerned CUNY Person(s)'s" posts is demostrably untrue, including the words "and" and "the."

In summation, unlike "Concerned CUNY Person(s)," Professor Johnson, his numerous supporters, and myself, all respect academic freedom and the freedom of speech. We all know that both of these components are necessary to the functioning of a "legitimate" institution of higher learning, and the discovery of truth. So "Concerned CUNY Person(s)," I encourage you to continue your posts and maintain your closely guarded anonymity. The truth of the matter remains, that all of us do not need to know your name in order to ascertain your true identity. For you are nothing more than a spiteful, jealous, and unthinking scab, whose capacity for logic, and human compassion for that matter, has obviously shriveled up and decayed.

I urge you to continue your posts and raise new "evidence," because it is apparent to all of is who have participated in this discussion, that the more you speak, the more you bury yourself. You can be sure I'll "stay tuned."

Daniel Weininger - 12/5/2002

Fortunately for KC Johnson, the so-called "Concerned CUNY Person," or "Persons," unintentionally makes the strongest case yet for his promotion and tenure since recent posting by former Brooklyn College history professor and union representative Jerom Sternstein. Johnson is an untenured, junior faculty member who says he is being maligned and persecuted by a small handful of senior, tenured professors with whim he has had a professional disagreement over what he considered an unbalanced teach-in after 9/11 which contained no representatives of pro-US or pro-Israeli viewpoijts and a recent search for a modern European historian. (incidentially, left out in all this discussion was the fact that although I have spoken to two tenured professors who say that they also objected to the lack of balance on the teach-in, Professor Johnson was singled out as the only untenured professor who did so.)

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/5/2002

'Concerned CUNY Person' has "proven" in his prior post that Prof. Johnson has "deceptively quoted" an e-mail by, of course, CCP himself selectively quoting from the e-mail. Moreover, it is now claimed, not that the e-mail fails to prove gender bias, but that it "proves" (by its lonesome?) the absence of gender bias. If there is ever an Olympic gold medal given in leaps of logic, we may rest assured that the US will be well represented.

Concerned CUNY Person - 12/5/2002

Bradley Appell writes:

"...tell the world the truth about what has happened in the Brooklyn College History Department."

Mr. Appell,

I have been telling the truth about what happened in the matter of Professor Johnson. There is more truth to come, so stay tuned.

Bradley Appell - 12/5/2002

Anonymous brave spokesman/woman
As I have said before, show some courage and tell the truth about what has transpired. My stomach turns reading this scurrilous diatribe that has less basis in fact that in it does in misrepresenting a true injustice.
Bradley Appell

Bradley Appell - 12/5/2002

To whomever you truly are: how dare you misrepresent an honest man's credentials. The amount of slander, lies, and downright jealousy has astounded me. As a student of KC Johnson in several of his classes since January, 2000, I and all of his other students have found him to be brilliant, intelligent, well-spoken, understanding, and more than all else, a tremendous human being.
I cannot attribute the hate and scorn being heaped upon him by you, "anonymous CUNY member" to anything but jealousy, and a love of the shabby standards we have sadly grown accustomed to at Brooklyn College.
I urge you to reveal who you are, and try to make amends with professor Johnson, because baby, when all is said and done, and the truth is exposed, he will be at Brooklyn College for many, many years to come.
You will not be tossing this brilliant scholar into the garbage.
You will not intimidate the students of Brooklyn College from supporting this man.
You will not punish this man for being fair and equitable.
You will not punish this man for seeking the best standards when hiring a new professor.
You will not punish this man for being a brilliant and accomplished scholar, teacher and writer.
AND You will not punish the students of Brooklyn College by taking away from our midst one of the best professors in the entire country.
Stop the slander. Stop the lies. Stop the petty infighting and bureaucratic wrangling. Admit your wrongdoings, apologize for making this wonderful person's life a living hell. And identify yourself, come forward, show some bravery and courage and tell the world the truth about what has happened in the Brooklyn College History Department.
I have learned a lot from witnessing this sorry episode - that being a just, good, kind and caring person doesn't get you very far in this world. Shame on you, and all who have persecuted this man!
Bradley Appell
Brooklyn, NY

Concerned CUNY Person - 12/4/2002

It is telling that some of the responses to my 12/3/02 post (http://hnn.us/comments/5397.html)-- while they are filled with vitriol, silly speculation, and baseless assertions -- contain no substantive refutation of what was proven therein, namely, that the e-mail exchange between Professors Gallagher and Johnson cited and deceptively quoted in Professor Johnson's Memorandum of Law (p. 13), as well as in posts by some of his supporters, proves that Professor Gallagher had no agenda of gender bias for the European search, and that Professor Johnson completely agreed with what Professor Gallagher had actually said (that the search candidates should be highly qualified, that hopefully the slate of candidates would be gender-representative, and that the successful candidate would be one with whom the department could live). Some respondents merely continue to assert that it was a "search for a woman Europeanist" that was "corrupt[ed] by various personal agendas." However, it has already been demonstrated that such assertions, no matter how often they are repeated, do not survive scrutiny.

The reason for all the vitriol and baseless assertions is clear: a premise essential to Professor Johnson's case has been proven false and, consequently, the case has started to collapse. No longer can Professor Johnson claim that a non-existent "difference of opinion" about the search was turned "into a vendetta" (Memorandum of Law, pp. 14). No longer can Professor Johnson's supporters claim, as one has in this forum, that "the chairman sought to limit the search to a woman historian," and that when "Prof. Johnson resisted ... [t]he chairman then turned on Prof. Johnson with a vengeance." Respondents may desperately grasp for the linchpin that has been lost. But it cannot be recaptured.

In academic life, conscience is obliged to follow the truth as best it can. It is sad to see so many here abandoning that obligation in favor of perpetuating an obviously false case.

Professor Johnson has been reappointed as an associate professor. I wish him well. And I take this opportunity to express my fervent hope that in the coming year he will carefully heed the guidance given him regarding his professional performance, cease to propagate falsehoods, and refuse to allow surrogates to propagate them on his behalf.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/4/2002

Mr. Luker,
you are most gracious, sir. To wax even more eristical, I'd point out that in one sense I did repeat Johnson's reference, in that I too referred to a gender-specific search. In another sense, I did not, inasmuch as his was an assertion, mine a question. It's probably best to say that Johnson and I both made reference to a gender-specific charge, rather than I repeated his reference. There are many ways that an expression can be infelicitous. Looking back, I can now make sense of your comments vis-a-vis Wiener and Derrida -- I had intended to convey the message that Derrida was the exemplar of how postmodernism can distort history, but Wiener as the culprit was a defensible reading, given my syntax.

I concur that there was no good attacking the judges before the judgment was rendered. I say that despite my doubts (since confirmed) that Gray and Katz, and even Emory, had the stomach for a hanging (based on my knowledge of their politics). I don't see that as a bar to forthrightly stating one's opinion of Bellesiles' work and, as his work revealed it, his motives. Reasonable people can disagree on whether other prohibitions should preclude that, I imagine.

Little differences can mean a lot. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Yet we all must make judgments at some point in our lives. Perhaps we should take solace in the fact that that small piece of Gospel is an "orphan passage", now found in John 8:7, but the most ancient sources lack it altogether, or variously insert it after 7:36, or after 21:25, or even after Luke 21:38 -- and the texts don't even match!! Talk about dubious!! As you can tell, I don't subscribe to the Johannine concept of sin as a deficit of the Spirit, which in contemporary times has been watered down to I'm OK, You're OK, let's not make judgments, but sit around the fire, hold hands, and sing Kumbayah.

As my philosophy mentor beat into me (metaphorically speaking), assumptions are an adjunct to thought, not a substitute for it. Presuppositions are not assertions (all attempts at a semantic analysis of presuppositions having failed, they've been relegated to the field of pragmatics). To be more explicit, I'm not an attorney, and I've taught Con Law -- usually there are ways to escape between the horns, if one examines one's assumptions. Hell, in California anyone can take the bar exam, and passing it doesn't require one to join the bar and suffer the stigma that attaches. Is this a great country, or what?

Ralph E. Luker - 12/4/2002

Mr. Morgan, As you point out, you repeated K. C. Johnson's reference to a gender specific search. I stand corrected on that detail. If you care to associate yourself with "Bellesiles and Co.," as associates of my scrutiny, that is your choice. As an attorney, I assume that you have no objection to my position that there was no good served by attacking the judges before the judgment was rendered.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/4/2002

Mr. Luker,
you seem much tougher on me than you are on Bellesiles and Co. It most certainly was not I that "introduced" the charge of a gender-specific search, but Prof KC Johnson himself. Nor did I assert or suggest that you, Mr. Luker, "introduced" the charge. I pointed out (via a question, but correctly, I think) that a gender-specific search would be facilitated by the appointment of untenured faculty to head the search committee (drawing on Concerned CUNY Person's charge that KC Johnson tried "to intimidate untenured junior faculty members who have understandably come to fear for their professional futures" -- which I take as evidence that untenured faculty, a fortiori, can be cowed by the administration.

I got the impression from your previous post, that you took the department chairman's e-mail as sufficient evidence that a gender-specific search was intended. If I've read your post incorrectly, let me know, and I'll apologize. My other observation still stands. During my trek, as an undergrad and grad student, through four colleges and universities, I can't remember an instance where the search committee was chaired by untenured faculty. I don't propose my memory as a universal rule, or even as prevailing practice, so I'd be curious to hear from others on this topic.

Margaret King - 12/4/2002

KC Johnson’s anonymous assailant, the so-called “Concerned CUNY Person,” unintentionally makes a towering case for his promotion and tenure. She or he reveals the basement-level standard of collegiality, and the shameless tone of bilious invective that had become routine among some members of the department that turned on a brilliant, young, wholly professional, and exceedingly polite scholar who, unwisely, took public stands against a conspicuously one-sided panel on post-9/11 events and against the corruption by various personal agendas of the history department’s search for a European historian. In these public statements, he joined other department members in protest; but only he, an untenured junior faculty member, has been demonized, isolated, and punished.

In contrast to Johnson’s courage, the so-called “Concerned CUNY Person,” writing in support of the handful of Johnson’s senior tenured critics, cannot show himself or herself, but strikes from the shadows with a barrage of unattributed statements and unendingly harsh adjectives seemingly taken from a thesaurus of vilification.

Any neutral observer who reads the voluminous dossier released by Professor Johnson would know that the written record, including numerous complete and unexpurgated emails written by those who are now his critics, makes an extremely compelling case against those who have engineered what Jerry Sternstein, Brooklyn College professor of history emeritus and experienced union representative, called “the most corrupted tenure review process I have ever come across.” (http://hnn.us/comments/5224.html)

This so-called “Concerned CUNY Person” has done well to seek the coward’s shield of anonymity. Otherwise, he or she would be wholly discredited by the uncontrolled vitriol of this diatribe.

Margaret King, Professor of History, Brooklyn College

Ralph E. Luker - 12/4/2002

Mr. Morgan should re-read the second sentence of his own post on 3 December at 10:45. That it is a question makes no difference. He introduced the charge of a "gender-specific" search, not I.

Leonard A. Gordon - 12/4/2002

I was involved as anyone in the European history search and know a good deal about it and the candidates. I don't know whether it is worth hacking over that ground now. But I do know that for the first two years of his stay at Brooklyn College that almost every faculty member and the chair thought him one of best new members in two decades. Now the so-called "Concerned CUNY Person" is retrospectively making up all kinds of rubbish that is untrue, dishonest, and reprehensible, and doesn't even have the guts and integrity to put her/his name at the end of all that anonymous tripe. Let the person stand forth and put her/his name down and document these charges and then those of us who know how to write history with a critical understanding of sources will answer and put our names down.
Leonard A. Gordon, Professor Emeritus of History, Brooklyn College

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/4/2002

Concerned CUNY Person writes:
"If you had read all of the documents and knew all of the facts--which you clearly have not--you would know what an utterly ridiculous claim you've made."

But I made no claim about a gender-specific search, just pointed out, via a question, that such a goal would be more easily achieved via the appointment of untenured faculty to head a search committee. I'm not as familiar with others in this forum on current practices, but when I was hanging around the university setting, I never heard of such a thing. Interestingly, Mr. Luker, with whom I share little when it comes to opinions, seems to detect, and articulate, the specific charge which is imputed to me.

Jerry Sternstein - 12/4/2002

Since the thrust of the anonymous "concerned person" is that the history department's chairman's e-mails have been quoted out of context, and since anonymous seems to have full access to them, then I will suggest anonymous post the complete, unedited e-mails for our edification. And while "concerned person" is at it, why not also post the unedited e-mails in which the chair warns Johnson to wear "bullet proof vests" against the expected assaults upon him by one of the "academic terrorists." I'm certain anonymous knows who the chair is referring to. And why not post the entire e-mail in which the chair uses that term.

And while anonymous is at it, let's also read the full e-mail in which the chair calls one of the "academic terrorists" Johnson should protect himself against, an "unscrupulous and unprofessional mole," yet who the chair nevertheless deliberately assigned to observe one of Johnson's courses just before he came up for tenure, hoping no doubt she would prove as "unscrupulous and unprofessional" in writing her evaluation as he asserted she was.

Moreover, since anonymous earlier talked about Johnson's supposed "humiliating treatment of the untenured colleague who chaired" the disputed search for a woman Europeanist, anonymous might also want to post the unedited e-mail that chair wrote which was "laced," we are told, "with demonstrable falsehoods about (male) candidates that she did not prefer and mocking comments about three (male) junior colleagues who did not prefer her selected candidate."

But, then again, anonymous might feel uneasy about publishing this e-mail since, informed people have just told me, anonymous appears to be the chair of that committee Johnson is accused of "humiliating," and not the "academic terrorist" and "unscrupulous and unprofessional mole" who is her mentor and who I earlier guessed was anonymous.

If so, I think, this would easily explain why anonymous wants to remain, well, anonymous, and defend not only the chairman -- after all, she will soon be coming up for tenure too -- and the contrived search she was overseeing. I can thus understand why she is "concerned," and not only about Johnson remaining at Brooklyn College.

Concerned CUNY Person - 12/3/2002

It has been repeatedly alleged, most recently in a post by Jerry Sternstein, that the chair of the history department was pursuing an agenda "to confine a new hire" to a female candidate. It has also been repeatedly alleged that because Professor Johnson would not go along with this "agenda," he became the innocent victim of a hostile and vindictive department chair. Unfortunately for those who repeatedly make these allegations, repetition cannot make true that which is false. And these allegations are just that: false.

Those who falsely allege the aforementioned "agenda" quote selectively and entirely out of context a line from an e-mail exchange between the department chair and Professor Johnson. The full e-mail exchange demonstrates a number of things. First, the e-mail demonstrates that the department chair was primarily concerned that the search would produce the best qualified candidate. The chair clearly stated that the legitimacy of the search depended on a "tight relationship" between what had been advertised and the qualifications possessed by a successful candidate. The chair further stated that the "key issue" was whether candidates "fit [the job description] or do not." And the chair said that he wanted "a table full of serious candidates." These are not the words of someone pursuing an agenda of gender bias. Rather, they are the words of a responsible department chair who was pursuing the proper object of a search, namely, hiring the best qualified candidate.

Second, no where does the e-mail demonstrate that the chair, to use Mr. Sternstein's language, had a desire "to confine a new hire" to a female. The chair did express his hope for "slate that is balanced for gender." And he did mention finding "some women that we can live with, who are not whiners from the word go and who need therapy as much as they need a job." One might object to the phrasing. But concern about awkward phrasing aside, when read in context the chair's words clearly demonstrate that he hoped for a gender-representative slate of candidates, and that the female candidates--undoubtedly like the male candidates--would be ones with whom the department could live if they were hired.

Third, the e-mail demonstrates that Professor Johnson agreed with the chair's remarks. Conveniently, those who repeatedly and falsely allege that the chair was pursuing an agenda of gender bias never mention this fact. Why? Because it would demolish their case. Professor Johnson wrote in response to the chair's e-mail, "Phil, I agree with you completely."

If, as Professor Johnson claims in his Memorandum of Law (p. 13), the chair was being "brazenly sexist" and acting in a way that "violated the law," then Professor Johnson's response ("I agree with you completely") constitutes equally brazen sexism and shows that Professor Johnson was willing to violate the law. But Professor Johnson and some of his supporters repeatedly assure us that he would not countenance such an "agenda." So what exactly was Professor Johnson completely agreeing with? The only answer is that Professor Johnson was completely agreeing with what the chair had actually said: that the search candidates should be highly qualified; that hopefully the slate of candidates would be gender-representative; and that the successful candidate would be one with whom the department could live.

And so the story told by Professor Johnson and perpetuated by some of his (one hopes not fully informed) supporters is entirely false. It withers under scrutiny. It relies on a selective, out-of-context and, indeed, slanderously presented quotation from an e-mail with which Professor Johnson completely agreed. If Professor Johnson was fighting the chair's true agenda, then Professor Johnson was fighting against finding the most qualified candidate.

This is yet another example of the deception and misrepresentation offered by Professor Johnson in support of his promotion and tenure. It is no wonder that the college would have none of it.

Jerry Sternstein - 12/3/2002

The comments about KC Johnson’s case by “Concerned CUNY Person” and Timothy Gura are quite interesting for several reasons, not least of which is that they both clearly demonstrate how poisonous the atmosphere at Brooklyn College has become towards Prof. Johnson in the past year.

Let’s take Gura’s comment first. He admits that he did indeed make remarks which I quoted accurately about some of Johnson’s colleagues in the History department whom Johnson defeated in a departmental election which made him a delegate to the Professional Staff Congress (PSC). Gura called Johnson’s opponents in the department and at the college “the lunatic fringe,” “fanatics,” and “tin-horn rosebuds,” and said he hoped they would not “get you down,” and praised Johnson’s future at Brooklyn as “extraordinarily bright, rock solid, and full of potential.” But fourteen months later he signs a petition which casts Johnson in an entirely different light, one which was originally held by the very “lunatic fringe” and “fanatics” that Gura signaled to Johnson were ideologues he should be very wary of. Who those lunatics and “fanatics” are Gura doesn’t say, but I will hazard a guess that they are the same departmental radicals who early on initiated what one of them described as a “reign of terror” against Johnson and whom the department’s chair called ‘academic terrorists” before he began to participate in their terrorism.

Nor does Gura tell us why he changed his mind other than to say he was persuaded by “reasoned discourse” and “scrupulously authenticated evidence” prepared and argued by whom? Obviously by “evidence” deliberately concocted by a department chair animated by growing personal hostility because Johnson would not go along with his desire to confine a new hire, as the chair made clear in an e-mail to Johnson, to “some woman we can live with, who are not whiners from the word go or who need therapy as much as they need a job” [Philip F. Gallagher to KC Johnson, E-mail, 29 Oct. 2001]; and “discourse” participated in by those the chairman appointed to the College tenure review committees precisely because they were biased and could be counted on to convince Gura and others that Johnson wasn’t fit to remain at Brooklyn College. And Gura wants everybody to believe that the process he took part in was fair and above board and not in the least bit affected by the activities of the “lunatic fringe” and “fanatics” he intimated Johnson should watch out for.

As far as being careful in citing evidence, I would like to know where I said that department chairs “were somehow intimidated into submission.” What I did write is that “collegiality” no doubt motivated some of the signatories and that others, particularly department chairs, were simply defending themselves. And as far as Gura and others “rigorously scrutinizing” evidence in this case, I find that laughable when the “evidence” presented before the tenure committee Gura sat on was largely made up of the spurious materials the department chair put together to destroy Johnson’s reputation. Did Gura read any of Johnson’s scholarly works and papers? Did he read all of the superlative evaluations of Johnson’s teaching? Did he read all of the chair’s glowing annual evaluations of Johnson that preceded his break with him? Did Gura read what Johnson’s former colleagues at Williams College said about his career there? Or did he only hear the false rumors that one of the “academic terrorists” and the chair and co-chair deliberately spread to defame him, that Williams would also have denied him tenure for “collegial” reasons had he remained. Leaks from a May 2, 2002 meeting of the College Promotion and Tenure Committee suggest that the chair repeated those slanderous rumors to that group instead of the truth, that Williams College regarded Johnson’s decision to take a position at Brooklyn College as a great loss. Was Gura or other department chairs aware of this? I doubt it very much, so let me quote from a letter a former chair of the Williams College History department, Prof. Charles Dew wrote to Brooklyn College’s president, Christoph Kimmich, about Johnson and his tenure at Williams:

“In all of my years at this college, now numbering twenty-six, I can say without question that losing KC was the most serious loss of a junior member my department has experienced, and this opinion is shared by countless others here. I held him in the highest regard then, and I hold him in equally high regard now. If I could bring him back to Williams, I would do so without a moment’s hesitation. He is a masterful teacher, a brilliant scholar, and a thoroughly kind and decent human being. He was also a wonderful colleague who did everything we asked of him, and more. On the basis of my experience with KC, it is inconceivable to me that anyone could ever charge him with “uncollegiality.” That is simply not the sort of person the young man was, is, or ever could be. One can be in a room with KC for only a matter of minutes and you will know that he is the soul of integrity, incapable of committing a dishonorable act. His character is above reproach, and I would stake my life on that assessment.”

Another former Williams College History chair, Dennis Dickerson, wrote a similar letter much earlier, when Johnson resigned from Williams, a letter the Brooklyn History department chairman had in his possession but kept private. Does Gura realize that instead of telling people how highly regarded Johnson was at Williams, the History department chairman is reported to have said otherwise, and a co-chair sat down at a lunch with a former History department chairperson and repeated the rumor, one that I also heard? Is that part of the “reasoned discourse” and the “scrupulously authenticated evidence” he is now defending which supposedly helped him change his mind about Johnson? Perhaps we will find out when all the department chairs might be forced to testify under oath about what they heard about these matters from the History department chair at the College Tenure and Promotions Committee meeting.

As for the “concerned CUNY Person” who refuses to come forward but hides behind a cloak of anonymity, one can only wonder what motivates him or her in unleashing this vicious assault upon Johnson’s character. It’s always easier to say something nasty about a person when you don’t identify yourself and leave the impression that you are an objective observer. But I’ll take a stab it and guess that the hidden accuser is a mentor of the person who chaired the search committee whose job it was to choose “women who were not whiners from the word go or who need therapy as much as they need a job,” and therefore was not particularly happy with Johnson’s refusal to go along with that agenda. Like her mentor, a radical feminist whom the department chairman once labeled an “academic terrorist,” the search committee’s chair was so passionate about appointing a woman, that, according Johnson’s legal memorandum of law from which the following is taken, she “delivered a 13 page memorandum laced with demonstrable falsehoods about (male) candidates that she did not prefer and mocking comments about three (male) junior colleagues who did not prefer her selected candidate [“name redacted” to Appointments Committee, E-Mail, 13 December 2001].

I’m not naming who I’m guessing is that “Concerned CUNY Person” because that person claims “circumstances” require anonymity. What those circumstances are, other than the desire to defame Johnson while remaining faceless doing so, is hard to tell. If I’m correct, she has tenure and has no need to hide her identify. But it really doesn’t matter. All one has to do is read the comments quoted to see how blatantly hostile and vindictive she is and what animus Johnson had to face once she and other radicals identified him as a threat to their ideological agenda. Indeed, if I’m correct about who the “concerned CUNY Person” is, even the Department Chairman once warned Johnson that because he disagreed with her early on during a search in U.S. Social History, he would have to wear “bullet-proof vests” to protect himself from the inevitable personal attacks that were sure to come his way in the future [Philip F. Gallagher to KC Johnson, E-Mail, 16 February 2001].

The “person” writing this post mentions a certain “document” that purports to support the charges against Johnson, as if deliberate misrepresentations put on paper by people intent on destroying his reputation and standing have some independent authority. What that person doesn’t mention is that the “document” she cites was probably the “document” written by the chairman after he decided Johnson must go, a document that is privileged and private. In manufacturing that spurious “document,” it is clear that the chairman “consulted with figures he had labeled ‘academic terrorists, [but] he failed to consult three other senior colleagues -- Professors David Berger, Leonard Gordon, and Margaret King -- who could comment on Professor Johnson’s teaching, scholarship, and collegiality.” Yes, I’m quoting here from Johnson’s legal memo, but the facts, as I’ve personally ascertained from several people I’ve spoken to, are correct.

Certainly, there are people in the History department at Brooklyn College who don’t like Johnson and, it’s quite clear, the “concerned person” has extracted quotes from all of them saying how much they despise him. But that is precisely the issue. Despite his superb scholarship, his extraordinary teaching ability, and his tireless committee work, some people, especially those with an ideological agenda, regard him with distaste, feeling he’s “uncollegial.” And why? Because he obviously disagreed with them on appointments and other things, such as a post 9/11 Israel and America-bashing teach in, and not being a simpering wallflower, he openly stated his positions and refused to be intimidated out of them. In other words, unlike the cowardly anonymity of the “Concerned CUNY Person” he was open and aboveboard about what he believed in. And for that, the record and these comments show, he’s being punished and slandered anonymously.

paula sutter fichtner - 12/3/2002

Paula Sutter Fichtner
3 Dec. 2002 4:29 pm

Despite the high regard expressed by "Concerned CUNY" for the City University of New York, he/she is remarkably ignorant of its personnel practices. CUNY categorically forbids depositing anonymous materials of any kind in files that bear on appointment, tenure, and promotion, let alone using them. Unsigned denunciations of Professor Johnson should have no more weight in public settings than they do in CUNY's confidential deliberations--i. e. none.

One can, of course, applaud "Concerned CUNY's" call for further investigation of the affair. His/her cause would have been substantially furthered had he/she identified the authors of the testimonials scattered through the posting.


Paula Sutter Fichtner

Ralph E. Luker - 12/3/2002

Despite the sexist assumptions in the oft-quoted e-mail from the department chairperson to Professor Johnson (that senior members of the department wanted to hire "some women we can live with, who are not whiners from the word go or who need therapy as much as they need a job."), it seems evidence sufficient that they intended to conduct a gender-specific search. How humiliating for any woman who happened to be hired! Even if she were the best qualified candidate!

Concerned CUNY Person - 12/3/2002

Mr. Morgan, your post demonstrates the effectiveness of Professor Johnson's malicious campaign of mendacity and misrepresentation. There was no attempt to "ram through a gender-specific choice" for that search. If you had read all of the documents and knew all of the facts--which you clearly have not--you would know what an utterly ridiculous claim you've made. For sure, Professor Johnson, in yet another example of his maligning the institution and faculty with which he claims to want a lifelong professional association, has feverishly worked to perpetuate the lie you repeat here. One would expect that among intelligent people, he would not have found such a gullible audience.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/3/2002

Wow!! I had no idea that they put untenured faculty in charge of a search committee at Brooklyn. It certainly makes it easier to ram through a gender-specific choice, doesn't it?

Timothy Gura - 12/3/2002

Inasmuch as Assoc. Prof. Sternstein chose to misrepresent a message I sent KC Johnson on Sept. 13, 2001--a scant fourteen months ago--it seems wise to correct the record. Sternstein claims I characterized what he calls "two department radicals" as "the lunatic fringe," "fanatics," and "tin-horn rosebuds." True, all those terms appear in the item I sent Prof. Johnson, but someone has chosen to re-align them in a form contrary to the original, and then weave the result into a fabric never designed by its author. In fact, the entire e-mail reads:


First, congratulations on wrenching the departmental PSC delegate slot from the lunatic fringe. At last, some sanity among the fanatics. All of us owe you-big time.

In other, unrelated, matters: your future here seems to me extraordinarily bright, rock solid, and full of potential. Don't let the tin-horn rosebuds get you down.


Had Johnson shared this entire document with Sternstein, perhaps one of them would have seen that no specific individual is named as part of the "lunatic fringe," that the "fanatics" are not designated as within the Department of History, and that the "tin-horn rosebuds" refer to "unrelated " matters. They would also note have noted that this message came in collegial support of a colleague I clearly valued and whom (I then thought) could benefit from words of support.

What changed between the time I sent this cordial message and the time I signed the statement supporting the College's procedures in the matter of Prof. Johnson's unsuccessful attempt for early promotion to Full Professor? Not even Sternstein would try to argue that I was swayed by administrative pressure: no one familiar with my career at Brooklyn College would characterize me as a "compliant shill for the administration." Typically, open minds change when they encounter reasoned discourse bolstered by carefully considered, scrupulously authenticated evidence. The assertion that all the chairs who signed the statement supporting the College were somehow intimidated into submission, or hoodwinked by "an insecure chairman increasingly anxious to mollify" hostile forces is, though vivid, preposterous on the face of it. Sternstein's carelessness with evidence and misleading editing--especially in such a minor matter--should alert us all to scrutinize rigorously any materials supplied by partisans and ideologues. Dumb me--I thought that was what historians did.

Concerned CUNY Person - 12/3/2002

I write to you as a concerned member of the CUNY community. Alas, circumstances require me to remain anonymous. But I assure you that I have extensive personal knowledge of Professor Johnson’s case. It has been alarming to see the inaccurate, incomplete, and exceedingly negative reports that have appeared in the press and on the Internet about this matter. I am confident that you would want to know all the facts of this case.

When Professor Johnson arrived at Brooklyn College in September 1999, there was reason to view his appointment with excitement. However, because of Professor Johnson’s egregiously poor behavior, that excitement has turned into extreme disappointment. Equally disappointing and, frankly, embarrassing are CUNY’s efforts to prevent the college from ridding itself of such a poor employee. It is shameful in the extreme that this great university cowers at the actions of a man who has done so much damage to one of its colleges.

Professor Johnson’s actions have created and perpetuated extremely hostile and abrasive relationships within the history department. His astounding arrogance, astonishing antagonism, oppressive hostility, aggressive dishonesty, and utter lack of collegiality have functioned to paralyze the department in significant ways, publicly to besmirch the professional and personal reputations of senior faculty members, to intimidate untenured junior faculty members who have understandably come to fear for their professional futures, and to place Brooklyn College in the worst possible light in the press. Ultimately, the students—to whom CUNY and the college have a primary duty—have been poorly served by it all.

The relevant documents in this matter bring into relief a picture far different from the one Professor Johnson has attempted to present. They carefully detail disturbing things, including, but not limited to: Professor Johnson’s harassing, intimidating, and vicious behavior during a recent history department search, including his blatantly humiliating treatment of the untenured colleague who chaired that search (it should be noted that since Professor Johnson sat on the department’s appointments committee, he occupied a position of power vis-à-vis this untenured colleague); his improper manipulation of workload compensation, as well as his violations of policies regarding course prerequisites and the overuse of independent study—matters about which Professor Johnson attempted to deceive his chairperson and other college officials; and his profoundly negative relationships with senior colleagues. As one document states, "[Professor Johnson’s] behavior has had a devastating impact on the department’s ability to conduct personnel and curricular business in anything resembling its normal way….” And this was “precisely because such a large percentage of the department found it difficult, unpleasant, and miserable to work with [Professor Johnson] and to deal with his arrogance, deceit, and misrepresentations.”

Written assessments by Professor Johnson’s colleagues include the following comments: “[Professor Johnson] has created an atmosphere of terror within the department”; “experiences with [Professor Johnson] seem best summarized by the view that he must dominate relationships and win on issues”; “I have never encountered a faculty member whose inability to get along with his colleagues is exceeded only by his determination to blame others for the trouble he creates”; “his mocking contempt for those who disagree with him … [has] sown so much anger and indignation among his colleagues that most [are] not even on speaking terms with him.” No employer could reasonably be expected to keep such an employee, much less grant him virtually permanent employment.

Only the surface has been scratched here. I urge you to investigate this matter thoroughly. Such investigation will compel the conclusion that the real story here is what a detriment Professor Johnson has proven to be to the college.

Thank you for taking time to read this.


A Concerned Member of the CUNY Community

Carey E. Stronach - 12/2/2002

We at Virginia State University have had extensive experience with horror stories similar to that experienced by Dr. Johnson. Reading his exposition, I was struck with the similarity of his case to those of Drs. Fathy Saleh and Jean Cobbs at VSU. The administration here at VSU seems to be willing to risk being held in contempt of court in its determination to rid the campus of these two "politically incorrect" faculty.

No matter how much the state loses in damages (in Saleh's case it's about $6M and counting), and no matter how tarnished the university's reputation becomes, the politicians in Richmond continue to support the VSU administration. What's going on? To me it appears that the bottom line is control. The state will go to any lengths to prevent the University from falling into the "wrong" hands.

I hope your case is resolved quickly in your favor, and does not turn into a siege. The 1864-65 Siege of Petersburg lasted ten months. The current siege has lasted for almost ten years.

milton rosenberg - 12/2/2002

As one who took his BA at Brooklyn in the post war years before "open admissions" I have long been saddened by its decline into a politicized, now second-rate institution. But, despite the transformations that fortune and political correctness have worked upon a once great college, it has managed to retain many accomplished and serious scholar-teachers.
The Johnson case can only do the college great harm by further diminishing its already mediocre reputation in the academic world. And how particularly bizarre that a highly accompl;ished young scholar should have brought his status superiors to punitive rage by opposing the mounting of a "hate Israel" session disguised as a symposium!

Prof. M. Millman - 11/29/2002

LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, is a scandal waiting to explode. You are invited to visit LAGUARDIACORRUPTION.COM to see the effect of administrative corruption on education and, in particular, how political cronyism, racial-bloc voting and anti-Semitism destroyed the Mathematics Department. The website has had more than 21,000 visits during its first 18 months online and aims to inform all colleges, education associations, interested taxpayers, elected officials and news media in the NYC vicinity.

Jerry Sternstein - 11/27/2002

Prof. Burrows is correct when he writes that many of those who are “most indignant” about the way Brooklyn College handled KC Johnson’s tenure application have not been personally involved in the process and thus have no “access to the actual record.” And a good thing too. At least they haven’t gotten their hands dirty corrupting that record and that process, as some of the signers of Brooklyn College’s statement most certainly have. Nor does one need to have “access to the actual record” produced by the History Department to undermine Prof. Johnson’s tenure candidacy to realize how contrived it is, no more than anyone needed “access to the actual record” to know that Ronald Radosh was being denied promotion by Queensboro College and CUNY because of his then radical politics.

Moreover, I wonder how many of those at Brooklyn College who signed this statement know what the “actual record” really consists of, as opposed to the “record” the History Department chairman manufactured in order to undermine Johnson and what he and those aligned with him have told others about their concoction.

The fact is that according to the “rules” the statement says Brooklyn College abides by, only department chairs and members of division and college-wide tenure review committees have legal access to “confidential personnel information” it claims would support the tenure denial. That means that such names on the statement as Profs. Anderson, Bridenthal, Gerardi, Papayanis, Schaar, Hainline, Uctum, and Zukin, not being members of the various tenure review committees passing on Prof. Johnson, also did not have “access to the actual record”, which however does not seem to bar them from giving soothing assurances that Prof. Johnson was treated fairly.

And what about other signatories? What inside information are they supposedly privy to that Johnson’s “indignant” supporters are not? Indeed, because Johnson provided his supporters -- which he has every legal and moral right to do -- with extensive documentary evidence such as his resume, list of publications, teaching evaluations, reports of annual evaluations, and copies of extensive e-mails between him and the chairman and others in the History Department, his supporters undoubtedly have far more information with which to judge and evaluate him and the fairness of the tenure review process than those who signed the statement, most of whom know virtually nothing about the History Department, its ideological and personal cross currents, Prof. Johnson’s many published books and articles, his superb teaching, and his extensive committee work.

For example, several days ago I received this e-mail from a friend of mine in New York City, referring to one of the signers of the petition:

“We ran into [X...] at a concert this evening and she asked whether I know anything about the Johnson story. I hope you don’t mind but I promised to email her the explanation you gave me.”

That this signatory, usually a person on top of everything taking place on campus, clearly knew little about what was happening and asked my correspondent -- someone with absolutely no connection with Brooklyn College other than her friendship with me -- for an explanation, should give everyone pause. I do not doubt that others whose names are appended to the college’s statement are in the same boat, signing on because interested colleagues on campus, many of them department chairs defending themselves and faculty from the History Department hostile to Johnson, simply asked them to. This is called “collegiality”, and if what happened to Prof. Johnson illustrates anything, it is that not going along to get along in a highly charged politicized atmosphere is not healthy for one’s academic career at Brooklyn College.

But not everybody who was asked to sign the petition did. A retired former colleague of mine, a distinguished historian, was walking across campus the other day and was approached by one of Johnson’s chief tormentors, with the statement in hand. He was asked to sign it. My friend demurred not because he is “uncollegial” -- far from it -- but because, as he told me before I filled him in on the details of the Johnson case, he was in the dark about what was going on. But he was urged to sign the statement nevertheless.

The Brooklyn College petition speaks about “suspending judgment” of Prof. Johnson’s tenure denial “until all the evidence has been produced”, which it asserts, “it will be, in due course.” Forgive me, if I question whether those involved in denying Prof. Johnson tenure would be happy to see “all the evidence” in this case testifying to their animus revealed. Let me provide a case in point, contained in a legal brief Prof. Johnson’s lawyers prepared. It touches on Prof. Burrows, and I’ll quote from it:

“. . . the college’s failure to follow its own procedural rules tainted Professor Johnson’s promotion process. The starkest example of this pattern came in the divisional subcommittee, when a biased member refused to recuse himself, as college guidelines required. Professor Edwin G. Burrows, the History Department’s representative on the subcommittee, had no doubt that Professor Johnson ‘plainly deserve[d]’ the promotion. [quoted in Edwin G. Burrows to KC Johnson, E-mail, 8 November 2001]. But Professor Burrows had another agenda in his subcommittee service. He admitted that, despite Professor Johnson’s qualifications, he ‘perceived’ Professor Johnson as ‘a package’ with Professor Margaret King, a longtime departmental rival of Professor Burrows. ‘When it rains on you,’ Professor Burrows warned Professor King, ‘he [Professor Johnson] gets wet, too.’ [Edwin G. Burrows to Margaret King, E-mail, 15 November 2001]. By refusing to recuse himself after making this statement of prejudice, Professor Burrows. . . violated the university’s own procedural guidelines on a promotion matter.”

The problem Brooklyn College is going to face producing “all the evidence” in this case is that a lot of the evidence is of a similar nature. There are many more e-mails, teaching evaluations -- indeed one by Prof. Burrows himself, in which he praised a class of Prof. Johnson’s he sat in on as “one of the best classes I observed at Brooklyn College,” [Edwin G. Burrows, “Observation of Prof. KC Johnson,” 12 Dec. 1999], memos of annual evaluation conferences, and other documentary materials Prof. Johnson has provided supporters that do not reflect well on the impartiality and fairness of the History Department and others towards his candidacy for tenure. Indeed, they exhibit just the opposite: a chilling degree of bias and animosity towards him that arose suddenly only because Prof. Johnson would not go along with the agenda of two department radicals (once termed “academic terrorists,” by the History Department chair [Philip K. Gallagher to KC Johnson, E-mail, 16 February 2001, and “the lunatic fringe,” fanatics,” and “tin-horn rosebuds” by a Speech Department chair [Timothy Gura to KC Johnson, E-mail, 13 Sept. 2001] who signed the petition), and an insecure chairman growing increasingly anxious to mollify those same “academic terrorists” by limiting the search for a new faculty hire to a female candidate.

But like everybody else interested in “the search for truth”, I’ll be looking forward to the evidence the petitioners claim the college promises to provide in the Johnson case to demonstrate its “commitment to the very highest standards of academic integrity and intellectual honesty. . . ” But like many others who have parsed the evidence so far, I will not be holding my breath waiting for it. Nor are the students at Brooklyn College who have experienced Prof. Johnson’s teaching. Just recently, both the student governments of the College of Liberal Arts and the School of General Studies, unanimously passed resolutions supporting Prof. Johnson and condemning the college’s decision to deny him tenure. But, of course, they too don’t have precious “access to the actual record.” They only know him as a brilliant and compassionate teacher, so their indignation, by the lights of Prof. Burrows, shouldn’t be taken seriously

Robert E. Mensel - 11/27/2002

Anyone who truly believes that academe is about the free exchange of ideas really ought to be denied tenure, on the grounds of imbecility. The truth is that the academy is about the repeated chant of fashionable ideas. For a junior faculty member who does not hold fashionable ideas, the most important survival skill is cowardice. As a matter of fact, cowardice is almost indispensable to anyone who wishes to remain in academe in relative peace. That is the world you all have made. I'm sure you would all prefer to change it, but there is the small matter of your ............ cowardice.

Yehuda Katz - 11/27/2002

Professor Burrows' statement, that we must suspend judgment in this matter until the college releases exculpatory evidence for their position makes a mockery of our academic duty to seek out the truth, and doing so in a forum visited by students neglects the pedagogical duty of an academic institution. In fact, it is reminiscent of the US government's insistence, during the Vietnam War, that the war was winnable, and that forthcoming evidence would bear that "truth" out.

In seeking the truth, we must evaluate all evidence provided by those willing to provide it, and conjecture that for which evidence is being withheld. Had Professor Johnson failed to vigorously challenge the actions of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, there is no doubt that "all the evidence" would never have been produced, as is the practice of personnel committees. The claim that we should accept, on faith, that evidence exists which would "clear the good names and reputations" of those who have denied tenure to Professor Johnson, defies credibility.

In evaluating the evidence available to the Student Government, including published accounts of the situation, a memorandum Professor Johnson has provided, the repeated refusal of Professors to defend their actions (including Professor Thomas' statement that he had nothing to say regarding his published comment that Brooklyn College students are "barely literate" and need to be "cuddled."), the Student Government has found that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of Professor Johnson's "tale of persecution." Further, we believe that the decidedly weak argument that waiting for the evidence will bear out the truth of their claims (likely more a pacifistic delay tactic than a true attempt to promote the search for truth), is specious and not representative of the facts.

In keeping with the above, the CLAS (day) Student Government has passed a unanimous resolution to "condemn the actions of the Promotion and Tenure Committee" in relation to the decision to deny Professor Johnson tenure. The SGS (night) government has passed a unanimous resolution with nearly identical wording (simply replacing CLAS with SGS in most cases).

Any suggestion that few students support Professor Johnson is simply factually false, but supporters of Professor Burrows' position have been perpetuating that view. So much for the search for the truth.

The resolution passed by the CLAS Student Government follows.

-- Yehuda Katz
Chief of Staff to the President, CLAS Student Government



Introduced by the President (Ms. Abraham)

to condemn the actions of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, and the subsequent upholding of those actions by President Kimmich.

Be it resolved by the Assembly, and the President, as follows:

WHEREAS, Professor Robert David "KC" Johnson is an accomplished scholar, and has written three books, and multiple papers; and

WHEREAS, the CLAS Student Government constitution states, "nor shall any person be denied admission to Brooklyn College or its campus, nor be dismissed or denied employment on account of his/her ideas or beliefs"; and

WHEREAS, the CLAS Student Government constitution states, "every student has the right to quality education"; and

WHEREAS, the CUNY bylaws state that tenure decisions should be based upon the candidate possessing "an established reputation for excellence in teaching and scholarship in his/her discipline"; and

WHEREAS, Professor Robert David "KC" Johnson has been denied tenure, according to the college, for reasons of "collegiality," including the claim that he has waived prerequisites, disagreed with a department search that seemed predetermined to hire a woman, and disagreed with what he called a one-sided event that followed the events on September 11; and

WHEREAS, the CLAS Student Government believes that as part of the right to a quality education, tenure decisions should be made in accordance with the written standards of the bylaws, and that the opinions solicited during the tenure process should include the full gamut of opinions available; and

WHEREAS, the CLAS Student Government believes that the tenure process followed in the case of Professor Robert David "KC" Johnson did not meet that standard; and

WHEREAS, President Kimmich stated, in a Kingsman article, that he would not overturn the actions of the Promotion and Tenure Committee if he concluded that "the process functions well"; and

WHEREAS, the process clearly did not function well; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, that the CLAS Student Government strongly disagrees with the process followed by the various committees involved in the tenure of Professor Robert David "KC" Johnson; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the CLAS Student Government believes that the flawed process followed in this tenure case
violates Section 1 and Section 9 of the Bill of Rights outlined in the CLAS Student Government Constitution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the CLAS Student Government calls upon President Kimmich to reverse his decision with regards to this tenure decision; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the CLAS Student Government affirms its commitment to a quality education and a tenure process that grants tenure of the basis of academic quality, at Brooklyn College; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the CLAS Student Government may pass additional legislation in the future to ensure that the rights of the students in this matter are not violated; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the CLAS Student Government, seeing this denial of tenure as a larger pattern of abuse and violation of students' rights, affirms its commitment to enforcing the Student Bill of Rights in the CLAS Student Government Constitution.

I hereby certify that the forgoing resolution is a true and accurate copy of a resolution passed by unanimous vote of the CLAS Student Government Assembly.
Phil Goldfeder, Speaker, CLAS Student Government Assembly

I hereby approve the forgoing resolution, and certify that it is a true and accurate copy of s Presidential Joint resolution.
Yael Abraham, President, CLAS Student Government

I hereby certify that the forgoing Presidential Joint Resolution, numbered P.J. 46-6, is the true and accurate copy of Presidential Joint Resolution 46-6, that it was approved by unanimous vote of the CLAS Student Government Assembly, and signed by the President of the CLAS Student Government.
Clerk, CLAS Student Government Assembly

Thomas Gunn - 11/27/2002

11-27-2002 1625

Hi Ralph,

I am afraid I'm giving too much away. You now know that besides the fact I can't type, I don't proof too well either.

Maybe it was a Freudian slip. ;-o)

How goes the research? On schedule?


Ralph E. Luker - 11/27/2002

Careful about your spelling, Thomas. I always suspected that you gun-huggers were "huns."

Chriistine Sciascia and Daniel Weininger - 11/27/2002

As students of the Brooklyn College history department, we believe that Professor Burrows has completely misrepresented the views of the student body. We are ACTIVELY engaged in support of Professor Johnson's candidacy for tenure. The very fact that Professor Burrows has selectively chosen faculty members who support his distorted vision, simply displays the lack of support for the chairman of the history department and Professor Burrows' position. His blatant distortions of the record, which appear in his posting, are merely a continuation of the misrepresentations that have scarred Professor Johnson's bid for tenure.

Many students partook in the Eastern European candidate search, including the authors of this posting. Ironically, Professor Burrows never surveyed the opinions of the countless STUDENTS AND FACULTY who support Professor Johnson. Once again Professor Burrows has subverted the truth and has undervalued the intelligence of all those who value academic ideals.

Professor Burrows seems to have lost sight of the fact that the most important responsibility of a professor is to teach us. Professor Burrows and those who agree with his skewed position instead seem to want professors who support them on departmental matters and tote the line, whether or not these professors are good teachers.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/27/2002

Others may find this letter re-assuring. I, for one, do not. The authority structure has called in its chips and gotten signatures from many department chairs. That's only knowing where the rewards for good behavior come from. At worst, this letter only raises the possibility that Professor Johnson must be prepared to face a smear.

G. Swanson - 11/27/2002

To be fair, you make one good point that those outside academics might not realize. While Johnson is not bound by confidentiality on most issues, the administration is. Just because the administration has not mounted an effective defense in the press doesn't mean that it doesn't have one.

But a private letter could have pointed this out as well as a public one; having such narrow public support from the history faculty might have suggested the wisdom of another course of action than writing and posting the public letter.

G. Swanson - 11/27/2002

These academic letters of support or censure are getting increasingly silly. So you got only 5 current members of the history department (and one "emerita") to sign a letter of support for the Chair and you still published it.

Probably there were other members of the department who agreed with you but failed to sign, but such a dribble of support for the Chair would have been better left as individual letters.

As these academic letters get more numerous, the readers of these letters get more sophisticated. As letter campaigns go, this is pretty pathetic. From reading your weak letter and looking at the signatories, I guess the faculty really doesn't support the Chair as much as I thought they would. Your plan to help the Chair seems to have backfired.

Thomas Hunn - 11/27/2002

11-27-2002 1330

I really hate to be the one to say, BUT aren't we gonna wait on the process? I mean we waited fer near six years for the Bellesiles scandal to approach resolution. It is progressing, glacially, OAH and Columbia still to resolve.

My views on Mr. Johnson are available elsewhere, b/c of the union angle. I am fascinated though by the strange bedfellows I see above. I knew if you guys tried you could get along.

Should Mr. Johnson elect to depart Brooklyn College, I have it on good authority there is an opening at EMORY beginning January 2003.

BTW A happy and safe Thansgiving to you all. May the bird be moist, the dressing plentiful, the yams sweet, and the punkin pie set.


Edwin G. Burrows - 11/26/2002

I wonder if others have noticed that the most indignant comments on Johnson's situation seem to come from people who do not have access to the actual record. Indeed, there is little or no controversy about him at Brooklyn College, where 39 senior faculty -- among them 28 chairs and program directors, 6 named professors, and one distinguished professor -- have recently signed the following statement:

"We, the undersigned members of the faculty of Brooklyn College, want to assure our colleagues within the City University of New York–and around the country–that Robert David Johnson’s tale of persecution must not be taken at face value. Brooklyn College has not yet responded to Johnson’s allegations because it plays by the rules, and the rules do not permit the public airing of confidential personnel information–not even to defend the good names and reputations of the people Johnson has impugned, among them the widely-respected chairman of our History Department. As scholars, moreover, we have not forgotten that the search for truth often requires a suspension of judgment until all the evidence has been produced, which you may be certain it will be, in due course. Brooklyn College’s commitment to the very highest standards of academic integrity and intellectual honesty remains as strong as ever.

Bonnie Anderson (Broeklundian Professor, Department of History)
H. Arthur Bankoff (Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology)
Robert Bell (Professor of Management and Chair, Department of Economics)
Renate Bridenthal (Professor Emerita of History)
Edwin G. Burrows (Broeklundian Professor, Department of History)
Nehru E. Cherukupalli (Professor and Chair, Department of Geology)
Malgorzata Ciszkowska (Chair, Department of Chemistry)
J. Roger Dunkle (Professor and Chair, Department of Classics)
Hershey H. Friedman (Professor of Business and Deputy Chair, Department of Economics)
Vincent Fuccillo (Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science)
R. H. Gavin (Professor and Chair, Department of Biology)
Donald Gerardi (Professor of History and Director of Religious Studies)
Timothy Gura (Professor and Chair, Department of Speech Communication Arts and Sciences)
Nancy Hager (Professor of Music and Director of the Conservatory of Music)
Louise Hainline (Broeklundian Professor, Department of Psychology)
Lindley P. Hanlon (Professor and Chair, Department of Film)
R. Glen Hass (Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology)
Barbra Higginbotham (Professor and Chair, Department of the Library)
Hal Himmelstein (Professor and Chair, Department of Television and Radio)
Leslie S. Jacobson (Professor and Acting Chair, Department of Health and Nutrition Science)
Jerry Krase (Murray Koppelman Professor, Department of Sociology)
Régine Latortue (Professor and Chair, Department of African Studies)
Samuel L. Leiter (Broeklundian Professor and Chair, Department of Theater)
Michael Mallory (Professor and Chair, Department of Art)
Egon Mayer (Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology)
Emily Michael (Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy)
Nicholas Papayanis (Professor of History)
Maria E. Perez y Gonzales (Acting Chair, Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies)
Sara Reguer (Professor and Chair, Department of Judaic Studies)
Virginia Sanchez Korrol (Professor of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies)
Stuart Schaar (Professor of History)
Carl Shakin (Distinguished Professor of Physics and Chair, Department of Physics)
Deborah A. Shanley (Dean and Chair, School of Education)
William Sherzer (Professor of Spanish and Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures)
Aaron Tenenbaum (Professor and Chair, Department of Computer and Information Science)
Charles Tobey (Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science)
Ellen Tremper (Professor and Chair, Department of English)
Merih Uctum (Associate Professor and Deputy Chair, Department of Economics)
Sharon Zukin (Broeklundian Professor, Department of Sociology)

William J. Stepp - 11/26/2002

Bravo to Richard Henry Morgan for his suggestion that Prof. Johnson decamp for greener pastures if he receives tenure, and that the Brooklyn College history department be put into receivership and then cleaned up. Unfortunately, CUNY, being a taxpayer-financed institution, cannot be cleaned up simply because the resources that support it (taxes) are by definition money stolen from taxpayers. Therefore the receivership that matters here is the collegiate equivalent of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding, in which a bankrupt firm is shut down and the assets distributed to creditors/shareholders. As a nonacademic, taxpaying member of the private sector and resident of New York City, nothing would gladden the cockles of my card-carrying libertarian heart more than to see the parasitic and mostly leftwing faculty/administration of CUNY have to find a real job, i.e. work in the private sector. I hear that Columbia and NYU have some openings.

Another point to bring up here is that the institution of tenure is inherently corrupt and should be abolished. In the real world of the private sector, there is no such thing as tenure and you either produce or leave. I believe that there is a professor at Columbia who refuses to accept tenure for this very reason. Somehow he has retained his job anyway.

Richard Henry Morgan - 11/25/2002

After reading Prof. Sternstein's post, I'm reminded of John Gardner's maxim: the politics of academia are so dirty because the stakes are so small. I hope Prof. Johnson vindicates himself, gets the promotion and tenure he deserves, and then announces his departure to greener pastures (where he won't have to remove knives from his back), resulting in a department put in receivership with a strong hand chosen and empowered to clean house.

Jerry Sternstein - 11/25/2002

I've now been in communication with Prof. Johnson and two supporters of his, both former members of the Brooklyn College history department and both at opposite ends of the political spectrum, as well as others associated with Brooklyn College, and I have reached a completely different understanding of his case than I formerly held. I'm embarrassed that knowing what I did about the department and its various ideological and personal factions, I was taken in by the propaganda campaign Brooklyn College's history faculty launched against Prof. Johnson. I no longer believe that questions of "collegiality," whatever that term might mean, has anything at all to do with Prof. Johnson's problems at Brooklyn College.

As a long time member of the faculty union at CUNY, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), who once handled grievance matters for faculty on questions of promotion and tenure, I thought I had seen everything there was to see but the mistreatment accorded Prof. Johnson far surpasses everything I've ever experienced or heard about.

Left wing ideology entered his case very early on, 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" against Prof. Johnson because he questioned, as head of the Curriculum Committee, a course on the Middle East that struck him as highly dubious from an educational standpoint. Immediately, they identified Prof. Johnson as an independent thinker with high standards and impeccable scholarly credentials who threatened their leftist political agenda and set out to deny him tenure. Then their campaign against him intensified when he publicly took issue with a teach in, organized by the Middle Eastern historian, after 9/11, saying it was an unbalanced panel heavily tilted against the United States, Israel, and our current policy in the Middle East.

Their hostility to Prof. Johnson soon intersected with a simmering dispute that arose between him and the department chairman over an Appointments Committee search for a European historian. The department chairman is not an ideologue. Far from it. He is probably apolitical. But he is also a person who at times tends to interpret differences over policy as personal hostility. And he is also keenly aware of the ideological currents around him and the threat they pose to his own position as an elected chairman, often a bitterly contested one.

Thus, in order to propitiate the leftist ideologues in the department and acceed to hints emanating from the administration for the appointment of a favored female candidate, the chairman sought to limit the search to a woman historian, which Prof. Johnson resisted, calling instead for the choice of the best available Europeanist regardless of sex or race. The chairman then turned on Prof. Johnson with a vengeance. Whereas previously he had praised Prof. Johnson as probably the best appointment in the department in two decades and wrote glowing yearly evaluations about his scholarship and his contributions to the department, he now began to manufacture issues of "collegeality" in order to undermine Prof. Johnson's tenure candidacy. He bombarded him with memos asserting that Prof. Johnson was allowing students to take his courses without the proper prerequisites, when many other professors, including myself before I retired, rarely if ever questioned students about such matters. He complained that Prof. Johnson was manipulating his workload to his own benefit, when in reality Prof. Johnson was taking workload requirements off the shoulders of others and placing them on his own in the most "collegial" fashion. And he placed these contrived "disciplinary" statements in Prof. Johnson's personnel file so that they would be available to the various review committees considering Prof. Johnson's tenure application.

Working in tandem with the tenured radicals in the department, the chairman and his deputy chairperson, deliberately poisoned the tenure review process for Prof. Johnson in every division and college wide committee, even to the extent of spreading patently false rumors -- rumors that I even heard in retirement miles away from New York City -- that Prof. Johnson had "collegial" problems at Williams College which would have denied him tenure there. But unbeknowst to those considering Prof. Johnson's tenure application in the various college review committees, the chairman had letters in his possession from people at Williams, including a former History department chairman, saying the exact opposite, that Williams would have granted Prof. Johnson tenure on the spot if he had wanted to stay there. The chairman consciously and dishonestly kept that information from the various tenure committees in order to further torpedo Prof. Johnson's candidacy.

All in all, it is clear to me that Prof. Johnson is a victim of the most corrupted tenure review process I have ever come across -- and in my years as a union grievance officer handling such issues, I have seen my full share of corrupted processes. But nothing on this scale and with this level of duplicity.

Consequently, I predict that in the end Prof. Johnson will eventually get tenure and promotion. The procedural and other irregularities associated with Prof. Johnson's tenure application are so gross, that upon review by authorities and committees outside Brooklyn College, it is hard for me to imagine that they will uphold the college's decision. What surprises me is that the President of Brooklyn College, Christoph Kimmich, hasn't overruled the decision by now. But, I think, in the end good sense and fairness will prevail if for no other reason that not to overrule the tenure denial will bring nothing but ridicule to Brooklyn College and CUNY.

PS. After posting this, I still hope to have my mail forwarded but some people tell me I shouldn't count on it.

John G. Fought - 11/25/2002

Forgive me for saying so, Mr. Luker, but you are entirely
correct. I agree wholeheartedly with your posting. I applaud
Prof. Johnson's courage in refusing to accept this injustice.

Steve Johnson - 11/25/2002

Collegiality is a relevant factor in tenure, but only at the most minimal threshhold level. It is not a lack of collegiality to take principled positions (whether you agree with them or not) that anger your colleagues.

If people agreed with Johnson on the merits of his claim, there would have no one to take offense. In other words, any faculty noncongeniality is the fault of the department, not Johnson. It stems from having a history department so out of touch with the mainstream American public that it is viewed as divisive merely to express majority views on affirmative action or the wisdom of having a one-sided teach-in.

Many historians still think there is no problem with a professoriate with no real political diversity. How many historical scandals will it take before the history profession cleans up its act and commits itself to a diversity of ideas, not just of anatomy?

Clayton E. Cramer - 11/25/2002

A university history department is more interested in being PC than in having the best possible faculty members. You could have knocked me over with a feather! :-)

The history profession needs to get its act together, now. The Bellesiles scandal and this both demonstrate the extent to which scholarship is evaporating under the intense heat of leftist political conformity.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/25/2002

The history department at Brooklyn College has presented little, if any, substantial justification for this decision. Barring the introduction of more evidence in the public discussion of this decision, it is quite simply an outrage. It is the integrity of the department rather than the qualifications of Professor Johnson which seems to be at stake here.