Bradford, Horowitz, and Professor X
An e-mail from David Horowitz yesterday caught my attention with the accusation that I had published"a scummy little slander" of him."When?""Where?""Often enough?""Surely not!" I thought, but anyone like David who specializes in them ought to know what he's talking about.
It turns out that David was talking about my call for him or his"Professor X" to tell the readers at Front Page Rag that Professor William Bradford of the Indiana School of Law at Indianapolis has resigned and that misrepresentations of his military experience were at the bottom of that resignation.
As usual, discussion with David exploded into diffusing side-bursts of counter-accusation – in this case, about the credibility of an Indianapolis Star columnist, the identity of"Professor X," my incivility, etc. Like, David's calling me"snotty" and"scummy" teaches me to be civil.
I have to admit that I am curious about the identity of"Professor X." He (or she)initially identified himself (or herself) thusly:
I am a full professor of History (since 1994), with 25 years experience at the flagship campus of a major state university. I have served on numerous promotion sub-committees at my institution (cases both of promotion to associate professor with tenure, and of promotion to full professor), and I have personally chaired three such sub-committees. I have won awards from the LGBT organization on my campus for my public championing of gay rights, and from the Asian-American faculty on my campus for my public championing of the rights of minority faculty (especially in promotion cases). I voted for Kerry in 2004."Indian Hunt in Indiana," Front Page Rag, 10 August 2005.
Subsequently, between 12 August and 28 September,"Professor X" published six articles at Front Page Rag in defense of William Bradford and critical of the review process at the Indiana School of Law. Then, the voice of Professor X fell silent. It fell silent just as Bradford's own case began to come apart, as Bradford was forced to admit to the use of sock puppets on the law school's private listserv and to misrepresentation of his military service. For all we know, then,"Professor X" might have been just another of Bradford's sock puppets and all the identifiers of him or her just made up.
I disagree with both of my colleagues at Cliopatria, Tim Burke (and scroll down) and KC Johnson, about what conclusions we draw from the Bradford case. KC seems unchastened by Bradford's subsequent resignation and the reasons for it. He does not back down from his earliercriticism of Bradford's colleagues and the process at Indianapolis. On the other hand, Tim suggests that we ought to be chastened by it – that we ought to acknowledge the possibility that Bradford's senior colleagues had some intuition of his duplicity and that the confidentiality of the process prevented them from a public defense of their actions.
I disagree with KC because I do think that we ought to be chastened by the Bradford case. We didn't know all the conditions that led to this result and should be cautious about uninformed pronouncements. On the other hand, I disagree with Tim because there isn't the slightest bit of evidence, even now, that Bradford's colleagues had any more intuition of those conditions than any of us did. Moreover, if Bradford's colleagues were bound by confidentiality, they certainly didn't abide by it. His most prominent critics were quoted at great length in the articles at Front Page Rag. Although I'm sure that there are academic people as deeply ethical as Tim, who observe claims of confidentiality, I am in general skeptical of such claims. I suspect that they are often cited only when it is advantageous to the person citing them. After six months of loud accusations, Bradford, for instance, is now citing claims of confidentiality.
Which brings me back to the point of my e-mail exchange with David Horowitz. Front Page Rag devoted at least seven articles to Bradford's case in August and September. Its readers still have not been told that Bradford has resigned. Horowitz, himself, denies that the resignation had anything to do with Bradford's misrepresentation of his military service. If"Professor X" is a historian, he or she should demand that Front Page Rag's readers be told the truth. If he or she doesn't set the record straight, it's another embarrassment to historians.
HNN - 12/19/2005
test reply to Luker
HNN - 12/19/2005
test reply to Dresner
Ralph E. Luker - 12/19/2005
Could be Bradford.
Hiram Hover - 12/12/2005
I took Tim's point about what Bradford's colleagues "picked up on" a little differently--not that Bradford's colleagues knew specifically that he was lying about his military career, but that the compulsion to lie about such a thing is rooted in deeper personality or character flaws--which would likely find expression in other ways as well, and which his colleagues may well have picked up on.
Jonathan Dresner - 12/12/2005
It happens. Brickbats, and all that.
Could be nervous about going up for deanships, or department chair?
Could prefer to keep scholarship and partisanship separate?
Or could be a raving coward. Hard to tell, of course.
Chris Bray - 12/12/2005
Why would a tenured full professor feel the need to hide behind a pseudonym?
Robert KC Johnson - 12/11/2005
Right. But the allegation (and fact) in this case was that Bradford lied about his resume. The Indy Star found out about it after a retired military officer called to express skepticism about Bradford's background, once B's story went public. Maybe the anti-B profs had contacts in the military who shared with them this information before anyone on the outside knew who B was (since the vote took place in the spring). But these were profs who have taken, in public, very strongly anti-military positions, so it's hard to believe that they had many ex-army officers on their Rolodexes. And, if they had this information, why didn't they bring it to the attention of the administration anytime over the summer, when the administration's public statements about B remained quite positive? From what I can tell from the press coverage, it was the Star that revealed this, not the anti-B profs.
Oscar Chamberlain - 12/11/2005
"But it would be a remarkable coincidence that the only people to have had such an inkling were those with whom Bradford clashed ideologically."
Why would that be strange? If I remember correctly, most of the early critics of Bellesiles did not share his ideology. An ideological distaste for someone may lead a person to see real problems earlier than people who share that person's ideology. Likewise, an ideological distaste may lead someone to see problems where none exist.
Robert KC Johnson - 12/11/2005
I agree with Ralph that, given the revelations that Bradford posted "anonymously" in other forums, the assumption has to be that "Prof. X" was in fact Bradford unless FPM reveals otherwise. It's possible that if Prof X were Bradford, FPM was taken in by this as well, although it's hard to see how the publication of these articles isn't a black mark on FPM, since before publishing the pieces, FPM should have checked to ensure that the anonymous prof was who he said he was. If, of course, Prof X really exists, FPM should reveal his/her identity.
I see Tim's point about the need for circumspection in commenting on tenure cases, and indeed it is possible that Bradford's colleagues had some inkling of his duplicity, which explained the five votes to dismiss him. But it would be a remarkable coincidence that the only people to have had such an inkling were those with whom Bradford clashed ideologically. The problem, as Ralph points out, is that the anti-Bradford faction, especially Prof. Reisman, repeatedly violated confidentiality in (a) revealing their votes and (b) describing their thought process in making the vote. So I don't think they get the benefit of the doubt when claiming "confidentiality" to refuse to answer questions on why they voted no if ideological factors were not paramount.
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