When William C. Bradford (pictured) refused to sign a petition supporting the University of Colorado’s (UC) Ward Churchill who compared the victims of the 9-11-01 attacks on the United States to notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann, the Indiana University law school professor was described as “uncollegial” by colleagues.
Ironically, the 39-year old war veteran’s Indian ancestry is as genuine and verifiable as the middle-aged Ethnic Studies professor’s Native American lineage is muddled and undocumented. The petition itself was circulated by left-wing gadfly Florence Wagman Roisman, who is also a law professor at IU. “I don’t know of one American Indian law professor who signed that petition,” Bradford, himself an Apache, observed. The petition itself has gone the college circuit nationally, initiated by Natsu Taylor Saito, a law professor at Georgia State, an Ethnic Studies professor at UC-Boulder, and Ward Churchill’s wife.
Dr. Roisman herself has continuously, and successfully, waged one-woman campaigns on the politically incorrect. Her protests single-handedly got evergreens removed from holiday displays at the law school at Christmas time.
Neither Roisman nor Bradford has been at IU a full decade. But the former was hired with tenure while the latter may never attain it, at least at IU. In addition to rave reviews from students and faculty alike, Bradford has published three times more articles than are needed for tenure. He has also written three books.
Bradford said he tired of Roisman’s pledge drives. Indeed, her column and letter-writing in local papers in opposition to President Bush’s judicial nominees fell within her rights as a citizen. Her use of campus e-mails to achieve the same purpose was legally questionable. Neither Roisman nor the former dean of IU law would return my calls questioning the legality of the e-mail campaign.
Bradford himself met with indifference when he brought up the same question with IU law school authorities. Still, a representative of the state attorney general’s office agreed that Roisman’s electronic efforts were illegal.
Dr. Roisman’s campaign on Churchill’s behalf, although it may be legal, rests on shaky academic foundations, not the least of which is her breathtaking definition of accuracy. “I don’t have to agree with Professor Ward Churchill to support him,” Dr. Roisman told the press. “I support his right to think what he thinks is accurate.” It evidently never crossed the lady’s mind that accuracy must by definition be objectively verifiable.
Here’s how Webster’s online dictionary puts it:
Main Entry: ac•cu•ra•cy
Pronunciation: ‘a-ky&-r&-sE, ‘a-k(&-)r&-
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
1 : freedom from mistake or error : CORRECTNESS
2 a : conformity to truth or to a standard or model :
EXACTNESS b : degree of conformity of a measure to a
standard or a true value — compare PRECISION 2a
The “collegiality” that people such as Dr. Roisman say that Bradford lacks is frequently used in faculty lounges and university departments around the country as a code word for “shared left-wing political views.” “They told me it was a question of collegiality,” affable African-American professor Norman Hurley remembered of his struggle for tenure at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. “It is interesting because before I got there and they knew my political views, they told me I looked fine.” In his free time, Dr. Hurley serves as the faculty advisor to the UNC-Chapel Hill College Republicans.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) itself issued a statement condemning alleged “collegiality” as a criterion for college hiring, let alone the granting of tenure. Although the AAUP statement skirts the ideological question, it should be noted that the group, at least until recently, found more left-wing professors denied academic freedom than conservative pedagogues.
Dr. Bradford himself will be a visiting lecturer at two other universities in the coming school year and is, perhaps not too surprisingly, contemplating a career change, at least to a different Ivory Tower.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.