From The New Republic, editor's notes, December 30, 2002


HARM SCHOOL: Academics don't often criticize tenure decisions at other universities for fear of having their own, often messy, procedures held up for scrutiny. So it is striking that 24 distinguished historians--including Akira Iriye, chair of Harvard's history department; Alan Brinkley, chair of Columbia's history department; the famed Southern historian Eugene Genovese; and CUNY professor emeritus Gertrude Himmelfarb--have come together to protest Brooklyn College's denial of tenure to Robert David Johnson. Johnson has written three well-reviewed books, two published by Harvard University Press--an extremely good record for a 34-year-old associate professor. His students testify to his energy and intellectual scrupulousness. So why was Johnson denied tenure? According to the protesting historians, because Brooklyn College deemed him insufficiently collegial. And how did Johnson violate this rather novel criterion? Johnson says he offended his colleagues by criticizing a post-September 11 forum that he considered one-sided and anti-American and by protesting a job search geared exclusively toward hiring a woman. The letter-writers called Brooklyn College's rationale "a grave threat to academic freedom." Not to mention a grave threat to Brooklyn College's hope of ever being taken seriously as a scholarly institution.