Ideological Prejudice at Brooklyn College

If Brooklyn College provost, Roberta Matthews (Letters to the Editor, Jan. 9), truly has great confidence that the processes that denied Prof. "KC" Johnson promotion and tenure worked as they were supposed to, then the college is even more politicized than Dorothy Rabinowitz reported in "The Battle of Brooklyn," editorial page, Dec. 20. Based upon my personal experience as a former member of the Brooklyn College History Department and a faculty union grievance counselor, I am not aware of another tenure denial case at Brooklyn College, or any unit of CUNY for that matter, so tainted with procedural irregularities or so corrupted by personal and ideological prejudice as is the case against Prof. Johnson.

One of Provost Matthews's administrative duties is to oversee the college's promotion and tenure review process to insure it is devoid of bias. It is blatantly obvious, however, that the denial of Prof. Johnson's application was doomed from the outset by History Department chair Phil Gallagher, who was determined to purge him.

Accordingly, I'm left to wonder at Provost Matthews's failure to take note of the chairman's animus and to make sure that Prof. Johnson's right to a fair and unbiased process was preserved. One reason appears to be that Provost Matthews was also upset with Prof. Johnson and called him into her office to express her displeasure after he criticized a post 9/11 teach-in because all of the speakers, one a History Department camp-follower of Edward Said, were known opponents of American and Israeli policies.

A talented historian and remarkable teacher is being told that Brooklyn College has no room for him because academic freedom is a scarce commodity there, limited to those with tenure or those who subscribe to the proper ideology du jour.

Jerome L. Sternstein
Professor Emeritus, History
Brooklyn College, CUNY
Hawley, Mass.

Updated January 28, 2003--letters to the editor section, Wall Street Journal