It's academic (freedom)
When Brooklyn College history Prof. Robert
(K.C.) Johnson was turned down for tenure last fall, it was not
for lack of teaching ability. Put simply, he didn't work well
with others. More precisely, certain others. It was politics
that trumped his academic credentials.
Johnson's offense? An alleged lack of
collegiality. That is code. Johnson had criticized a campus
teach-in on the Middle East because it included no participants
who favored U.S. or Israeli policy. That's not a teach-in,
that's a propaganda-in. More recently, Johnson challenged a
faculty search that appeared to be based on gender rather than
merit. For that, he was accused of arrogance and
There was not one legitimate reason for
denying promotion to this Harvard-educated professor who, at 34,
has authored several books on Congress and foreign policy and
has another in the works. He also edited Lyndon Johnson's
presidential tapes. And he draws raves from students. In fact,
some Brooklyn professors and 24 professors from leading
universities around the country backed Johnson as he tried to
save his job.
Saved, it now is. Thanks to CUNY
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who has overturned last year's
decision by Brooklyn College President Christoph Kimmich.
Courageously, Goldstein had named a high-octane panel to review
Johnson's case and, on its recommendation, promoted him this
week to full professor, with tenure.
The chancellor has been striving to
upgrade CUNY and its reputation. His actions in the Johnson case
are testimony to that, sending the right message: Scholarship
and teaching ability come first. And academic freedom is worth
Originally published on February 28, 2003