Facult release evidence against Bean

By Gus Bode

History faculty who have challenged the veracity of an article a colleague used in a large American history lecture say e-mails between the professor and his teaching assistants before he apologized April 10 show he tried to intimidate them.

The eight history faculty members have been reluctant to share evidence they say shows professor Jonathan Bean’s angry, skeptical and unremorseful behavior after both his teaching assistants and colleagues had confronted him about an “inappropriate” article.

The professors say they would never deny any professor his or her right to academic freedom and that the debate has been hijacked by Bean’s argument that his freedom of speech was violated. Several of the professors said the real debate is about Bean’s use of what they call a shoddy source and his insistence that his teaching assistants and students read the material as if it were objective fact.


Bean said the professors angry with him have lost in the “court of public opinion.” He said the e-mails he sent to the teaching assistants were taken out of context because there were more than just two e-mails sent between him and his assistants, but he would not release the others. He said he did not think he was patronizing or intimidating in his e-mails, but he would not comment on whether they were inappropriate.

For the past month, the History Department has been trying to sort out the details of an incident involving Bean’s use of an article taken from frontpagemagazine.com about the Zebra Killings. The article details a series of murders in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1970s where it says there were 71 cross-racial murders.

A 1981 Supreme Court ruling about the Zebra Killings states, “Between December 1973 and April 1974, 12 persons were murdered and 6 others were wounded,” a direct contradiction to the article. The article also calls the murders a “set of serial killings” that was carried out systematically by a group of blacks. The court called the killings a “series of vicious random killings.”

Bean also removed a paragraph and a link within the article to the European American Issues Forum, a group that has been criticized both nationally and by the history faculty as being racist and anti-Semitic.

A review of the book “Zebra” by Clark Howard, upon which the article is based, called the rhetoric used as “fact” within the book and in the article to be understood with “caution” because “many descriptions of acts of sex, violence and mutilation are sickening and somewhat speculative.”

Sharon Joseph, teaching assistant in the Black American Studies program, said Howard’s book is a work of fiction and not historical by any standards. Joseph said the debate should revolve around the credibility of Bean’s “historical” handout.

“This is not about academic freedom,” Joseph said. “This has gone into an academic freedom debate, and it has been left out that this article is totally erroneous.”


Bean said he has read the book and was aware of the discrepancies. Bean said, however, he talked to a reporter who covered the murder and told him estimates on the number of victims varied.

The rest of the faculty’s evidence against Bean, which has not been released until now, comes from e-mails he wrote to teaching assistants, history professors and the department chair, which are written with a sense of “cynicism,” they said.

The DAILY EGYPTIAN obtained permission from history faculty and the teaching assistants to publish the e-mails.

Bean has said the handout was “optional,” but the faculty and the teaching assistants say the handouts were discussed as a regular reading assignment in two sections.

The initial e-mail to his teaching assistants tells them how to present the material in the classroom and discussion sections and does not mention the optional nature of the reading.

Two days before he apologized, Bean wrote an e-mail to his teaching assistants that read:”Forget Louis Farrakhan and his branch of the NOI [Nation of Islam] ever existed. It didn’t happen. The white racist lynchings I discussed (and showed). Forget that I mentioned them. Holocaust? Nanking? Insensitive photos. Eldridge Cleaver:a Boy Scout. Forget about the rape thing. Radical feminists:never said a bad thing about men.

“I’m revamping my whole way of thinking:History was happy, very happy.”

The liberal arts dean told Bean’s three teaching assistants they could choose to continue with the course if they wanted. Two of the three assistants, both black, decided to remove themselves from the course. Dean Shirley Clay Scott is remaining silent on the issue as she tries to collect all of the relevant information surrounding the incident to make a judgment.

The Rev. Joseph Brown, director of the Black American Studies program, said he asked both black teaching assistants to keep quiet so they would not be dragged into the middle of the debate. Other graduate assistants have refused to comment about the situation as well.

The professors say they sent both a letter to the editor and paid for an advertisement in the DAILY EGYPTIAN because they wanted to protect the teaching assistants. The letter and the advertisement appeared after Bean had apologized. Bean said the faculty tried to smear him. The professors say Bean did not understand what he had done wrong.

The incident has polarized much of the campus and the Carbondale community. Many faculty members and students alike have come out in defense of Bean for what they say was breach of the professor’s right to academic freedom. But the faculty members who are trying to distance themselves from Bean say he has reframed the debate away from academic responsibility to freedom of speech.

The issue has also made its way onto the front pages of Web sites such as frontpagemagazine.com, a page formed by David Horowitz, who is leading a campaign for a new Academic Bill of Rights to replace what he has called an atmosphere at “American universities” that “are less intellectually free today than they were in the McCarthy era.”

In a recent article, Horowitz wrote that there has been a cleansing of conservative professors “so that by now libertarians, conservatives and religious Christians are a dwindling remnant in any university department.”

Bean is the adviser for both the College Republicans and the Libertarian Society. He has said he is libertarian and the sole voice of conservatism in the department.

In recent weeks, the faculty members leading the charges have been swamped with hate mail. The article that appeared on frontpagemagazine.com referred to the faculty members challenging the article as witch hunters and has singled out history professor Robbie Lieberman. Accompanying the article, a photo of Lieberman was placed in front of a background of someone being hung from the gallows.

Lieberman and her colleagues have also received many e-mails cursing their actions and denouncing their beliefs. The most graphic example of hate mail sent to Lieberman ends with a rant that reads:”You want to cover for a bunch of American-hating, murdering, depraved, racist CRIMINAL vermin like the Nation of Is-SLIME murderers. You identify with them, doncha? I guess it’s because you’re too UGLY to EVER get a decent white man to pay any attention to you at all. … Joe McCarthy was ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. Move to Communist China BITCH – it’s the only place you’ve got LEFT.”

Bean said he has been smeared on the message boards on the Web site for the Big Muddy Independent Media Center. One message reads:”His questions had no basis and neither did the article. It was not something worth viewing, and it could not be compared to the torture that the KKK has and still continues to this day in different forms put African Americans through. Dr. Bean has perpetuated the stereotype of small towns that they are racist and they have a lack of diversity. Diversity meaning people of color and ethnic backgrounds, not a lack of conservatives.”

Bean has remained steadfast in his defense, saying his use of the article was a method to promote a different perspective to the civil rights movement in the late 1950s and 1960s.

In the April 8 e-mail, Bean mentions to the teaching assistants that the reading was “supplementary” for the first time. In an April 6 e-mail to his assistants, he does not call the handout “optional” or “supplementary” but does tell them how to present the article in their discussion sections and what questions to raise.

“Did the civil rights movement lend an aura of innocence (or moral immunity) to all black actions, however heinous?” Bean asked his teaching assistants in the April 6 e-mail. “If we study the ugliness of the KKK, should we look at other forms of racism? Someone once wrote that the oldest story known to man is that of the former oppressed becoming the oppressor.”

The faculty and the outgoing chairwoman of the department say Bean’s actions fly in the face of sound history teaching. Marjorie Morgan, chairwoman of the History Department, nominated Bean for the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year award, which he won this year.

According to the American Historical Association’s statement on standards of professional conduct, good teaching entails accuracy and rigor. The association states that factual information should always be placed into “context to convey its larger significance.” The professors say Bean violated several of the association’s standards. The department uses these standards in its teaching practices.

The collective bargaining agreement signed by the Faculty Association describes under its section on academic freedom and responsibility what boundaries and responsibilities professors have in the classroom.

“Academic freedom is accompanied by the obligation of faculty members to exercise intellectual honesty, critical self-discipline, and judgment in using, extending and transmitting knowledge,” the contract reads. “Faculty members shall respect students as individuals, evaluating them for their academic performance, and avoid any exploitation of students.”

Bean responded to charges by the teaching assistants that the handout lacked appropriate context for analyzing it with remarks in his April 8 e-mail that called the teaching they wanted him to employ faint-hearted.

“Apparently, we are to inculcate a teaching philosophy of timidity and be sensitive to covering events that cross some ‘lines’ but not ‘others’ (you tell me where they are located),” Bean wrote.

After Bean apologized, the professors said he tried to redirect the debate away from what was turning into a “hostile environment” for minority students, he sent an e-mail to another graduate assistant saying the faculty was out to get him.

“They want a pound of my flesh!” Bean wrote on the Monday after he apologized. “I’ve talked to the ACLU, and they think this is outrageous. They’ve been waiting to lynch me. I made the mistake using this particular source (sort of).”

Reporter Moustafa Ayad can be reached at [email protected]

Pullouts (Possible):A 1981 Supreme Court ruling about the Zebra Killings states, “Between December 1973 and April 1974, 12 persons were murdered and 6 others were wounded,” a direct contradiction to the article that says 71 people were killed.