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September 15, 2005

Brooklyn CUNY backs off bogus "investigation" of outspoken prof

From FIRE...

In a swift and crucial victory for freedom of speech and academic freedom, Brooklyn College has affirmed that prominent professor KC Johnson will not be subjected to an unconstitutional inquisition into his views. The college surrendered mere days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) came to Johnson’s public defense.

Since May of this year, Johnson has been speaking out against the use of “dispositions” theory by Brooklyn College’s School of Education (SOE). Since this theory requires that education students’ commitment to “social justice” be evaluated along with academic performance, Johnson fears its use constitutes an ideological litmus test and invites viewpoint discrimination.

In response to Johnson’s constitutionally protected statements, dozens of SOE professors demanded in a June 20 letter that he cease his “attacks.” Most chillingly, it was also alleged at an “emergency academic freedom meeting” of the faculty union that Johnson would face an official investigation by an “Integrity Committee.”

Johnson never received any notice of such an investigation, nor did the administration confirm or deny its existence. Since he faced a similar secret investigation during a 2002 tenure dispute—and the administration dissolved the student government last fall for passing a resolution it did not like—he was not overly confident that his freedom of speech would be protected.

“Professors certainly have a right to disagree about pedagogy,” noted David French, president of FIRE. “It would have been both illegal and immoral for Brooklyn College to allow KC Johnson to face another official inquisition. Thankfully, this dire outcome has been averted.”

Johnson angered his fellow professors by writing an article which, among other things, says...

There would seem little or no reason why academic departments would seek to promote social justice, which is essentially a political goal. Though the concept derives from religious thought, “social justice” in contemporary society is guided primarily by a person’s political beliefs: on abortion, or the Middle East, or affirmative action, partisans on both sides deem their position socially just. Literally and theoretically, though never in practice, education programs could define a number of causes as demonstrating a commitment to social justice — perhaps championing Israel’s right to self-defense, so as to defend innocent civilians against suicide murderers; or celebrating a Roman Catholic anti-abortion initiative, so as to promote justice by preventing the destruction of innocent life; or opposing affirmative action, so as to achieve a socially just, color-blind, legal code.

When I was in college professors were constantly citing “academic freedom” as the reason for them to say whatever they wanted. Here we have the professors themselves trying to stifle the academic freedom of a colleague they disagree with. An odd concept of freedom, isn't it.

Posted by Danny Carlton at September 15, 2005 06:32 AM

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