Tuesday, February 25, 2003--Chronicle of Higher Education

                    CUNY Grants Tenure to Brooklyn

                    College Historian in Collegiality Dispute


                    By SCOTT SMALLWOOD


                    When Robert David Johnson was denied promotion

                    at Brooklyn College for being "uncollegial," he

                    fought back, threatening to sue and gaining support

                    from students, other scholars, and the news media.

                    On Monday night, the professor of U.S. history won

                    his battle when the trustees of the City University of

                    New York agreed to grant him tenure.


                    The decision ends a dispute that began last spring,

                    when Brooklyn officials denied Mr. Johnson's

                    application for promotion to full professor, despite

                    his considerable research success and stellar

                    teaching evaluations. He later appealed, but the

                    college's president, Christoph M. Kimmich, upheld

                    the decision.


                    The professor continued to press his case, both

                    publicly and through his lawyer. After negotiations

                    with Mr. Johnson's lawyer in recent weeks,

                    Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the CUNY

                    system, established a special faculty committee,

                    comprised of three CUNY history professors from

                    outside Brooklyn College, to review the case. Last

                    Friday, they unanimously recommended that Mr.

                    Johnson be granted tenure. Mr. Goldstein, who has

                    sought to raise standards at CUNY, also

                    interviewed Mr. Johnson and read one of his books.


                    "Although collegiality is a factor that may be

                    considered in connection with promotion and tenure

                    decisions, I did not find compelling and objective

                    evidence of a major problem in that regard sufficient

                    to trump a truly outstanding record of scholarship,

                    teaching, and other aspects of service," the

                    chancellor told the trustees.


                    Mr. Goldstein said that the case did not set any new

                    precedent and that allowing a "select faculty

                    committee" to review the decision was not unusual

                    because that is one option allowed under the faculty



                    "I'm grateful to the chancellor," Mr. Johnson said in

                    an interview. "This case could have dragged out, but

                    he acted decisively to move the talks forward."


                    Mr. Johnson called his case a "textbook example" of

                    the problems that can develop when collegiality is

                    used to evaluate professors. "I hope this will be a

                    lesson to college administrators to respect academic

                    freedom and make tenure decisions based on

                    scholarship and teaching," he said.


                    The case earned national attention in the fall when

                    21 scholars of U.S. history sent the chancellor a

                    letter in which they asked him to "reverse this

                    disastrous and unjust decision." Denying promotion

                    to Mr. Johnson, they said, reflected a "culture of

                    mediocrity" at CUNY.


                    Mr. Johnson, who has published two books with

                    Harvard University Press, came to Brooklyn in

                    1999 after four years at Williams College. Many of

                    his students take multiple courses from him and give

                    him rave reviews. This fall, when the tenure dispute

                    became public, students held rallies, signed petitions,

                    and marched to the president's office.


                    Mr. Johnson contended that Philip F. Gallagher, the

                    history department's chairman, carried out a

                    "vendetta" against him because of their

                    disagreements during a search last year for a new

                    professor of European history. Mr. Johnson said

                    that some professors on the committee during the

                    disputed search were determined to hire a woman,

                    while he pushed for candidates with the best

                    academic credentials.


                    Mr. Gallagher has declined to comment publicly

                    about the case, and a Brooklyn College

                    spokeswoman has said that college officials cannot

                    discuss details about a personnel matter.