History professor to be a thing of the past
By JEROME BURDI
KC Johnson, a popular history professor was denied a promotion to full professor that would lead into tenure (permanent employment) on Nov. 1 and will not be re-appointed to teach in spring 2003 because of bias that his department’s chairperson spawned, he said.
The Promotion and Tenure Committee, a group composed of every department chairperson gave a negative review of Johnson after viewing his files -- which detail a professor’s academic standing and scholarship as a researcher and writer. President Christoph Kimmich’s role is to view the files himself and make sure the Committee’s decision is made from an objective stance. Kimmich could have overturned the Committee’s recommendation but on Nov. 1, the night Johnson returned from a class trip to Boston with students, there was a letter of rejection at his house, he said.
Kimmich told the Kingsman in October; "If the process function’s well and there is a good recommendation, why should I disagree with a good recommendation?"
This spurred Johnson to compose with his attorney a 40-page memo of law, that was sent to Kimmich and City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein in mid-October, outlining CUNY laws defied by the Committee’s process. He has not received a response from Goldstein, and the memo didn’t sway Kimmich.
Johnson said that Philip Gallagher, the history department chairman, ignored his unblemished scholarship and teaching records.
Gallagher and Kimmich would not comment on Johnson’s case or the memo.
(In a class observation memo last October Gallagher stated that he found Johnson’s class "well taught in every way.")
Johnson said that because he had waived prerequisite requirements for his courses, Gallagher accused him of being uncollegial.
The memo points to CUNY’s Board of Trustees Max-Kahn memo that states that CUNY is to consider collegiality in promotion and tenure decisions. But, Johnson’s memo states, the Trustees do not place collegiality above the "two critical qualifications" that is teaching effectiveness and scholarship.
Heading into his fourth year at Brooklyn College, Johnson, 34, has taught 22 courses at BC. His scholarship includes three books, 12 articles, and he is currently working on two more books: "Running from Ahead: Lyndon Johnson and the 1964 Election" and "Congress and the Cold War."
The memo cites another charge of uncollegiality Gallagher made to Johnson in May for speaking "arrogantly" about the "work" of a colleague. The allegation was made by history Prof. Stuart Schaar because Johnson criticized him for speaking at a teach-in on campus last October that explored events in the Middle East. Johnson said there were no known supporters of U.S. or Israeli policy in the Middle East. He said a professor should not be speaking at such a one-sided event. Johnson said this does not warrant a charge of uncollegiality since CUNY defines collegiality as actions taken "for the good of the institution."
When asked in October what he thought about the charges on Johnson, Schaar said, "He certainly is a bright man but there is much more to it than that." He added that he feared commenting more because it would be admissible in court.
Johnson said problems with his department started in January when the history department’s appointment committee, a five-member group that screens potential professors, could not agree on hiring a professor. Johnson, the only member of the committee without tenure, opposed Gallagher’s decision on who to appoint.
"I didn’t feel this candidate was likely to have a book published by the time the candidate was ready for tenure, " said Johnson.
Michael Duchaine, 23, a history senior who took about seven classes with Johnson, said he was having an interview with Gallagher in order to be approved for independent study when he asked why Duchaine took so many classes with Johnson. Duchaine said Gallagher tried to sway him to taking independent study with another professor, but Duchaine wasn’t having it.
"Professors like KC Johnson are the last thing between [BC] being a good academic college and being a mockery," he said.