ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Collegiality, Ideology, Job Security

June 27, 2005 by ACTA

Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson reports that a law professor at Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis has been denied tenure for being "uncollegial". William Bradford is a beloved teacher, an accomplished scholar, an Apache Indian--and a decorated veteran who supports the war in Iraq. According to the Indianapolis Star, Bradford's problems stem from his politics, which run counter to two of the law school's most vocal anti-war faculty, professors Mary Harter Mitchell and Florence Wagman Roisman. Mitchell and Roisman have apparently voted "consistently" to deny him tenure, and Bradford has been informed that "someone" in the school has been calling him "uncollegial."

The Star does not connect all the dots there, but it does document Bradford's ongoing difficulties with Mitchell, an anti-war activist, and Roisman, who proudly describes herself as "a person of very progressive politics" who is "the most to-the-left person" on the law faculty. Bradford appears to have gotten on her bad side when he refused to sign a letter Roisman wrote defending Ward Churchill; he also appears not to have endeared himself with certain of his colleagues when, in the wake of 9/11, he wrote a defense of the flag and hung it in the school lobby. The defense came down when other faculty complained about it.

The Star does not document Bradford's case, so much as it serves as a vehicle for floating Bradford's own thesis about why his tenure case has gone south. At the same time, though, it does sound an alarm, citing senior law professor Henry Karlson as saying that Bradford is "perhaps the finest young man we have recruited," and that "Some members of the faculty, for reasons I cannot ascertain, are trying, for lack of a better term, to drive him away." The Star also reports a fact that is suggestive of the law school's ideological climate--when law professor Susannah Mead was recently appointed interim dean, Mitchell and Roisman threw a party for her. Only women faculty and staff were invited.

Johnson, who knows better than most how accusations of uncollegiality can be used to sink the careers of junior faculty who disagree with departmental power-brokers, has promised to investigate Bradford's case and to publish what he finds.

UPDATE 6/28: InsideHigherEd.com offers some clarification about Bradford's situation: Bradford has indeed been accused of being "uncollegial," he does have different politics from some of his senior colleagues, he has been warned that there is a sizable faction of senior colleagues who oppose his tenure, and it has been whispered to him that his politics have a lot to do with that opposition and with the characterization of him as "uncollegial"; however, he has not been denied tenure. In fact, he hasn't even come up for tenure yet--a point the Star article unforgivably elides. Bradford, who has published more during his first three years as an assistant professor than many publish during Indiana's six-year probation period, is looking for work elsewhere.

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