Jonathan Bean, a self-described "libertarian-conservative" who teaches in the history department at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has gotten into hot water with some members of the administration, as well as some of his departmental colleagues. In a course that he teaches on the civil rights movement, Bean thought he’d generate discussion by having his graduate student assistants hand out an optional reading assignment--excerpts from "Remembering the Zebra Killings", an article that appeared at FrontPageMag.com, about a series of 71 murders of whites by black men that took place in San Francisco in the early 1970s. Things haven’t gone well for Professor Bean since:
"It sparked what I called "handout hysteria," he said. "I handed it out on Tuesday. On Friday afternoon I’m called into the department chair’s office, with a hysterical department chair waving the handout at me."
Bean quickly backed off, issuing an apology and withdrawing the assignment (although it had always been optional). Alas, it wasn’t enough. Bean’s teaching assistants were told that they no longer had to work for him (although, presumably, they will continue to be paid), and eight of his colleagues signed a public letter accusing the professor of distributing "racist propaganda" in his class. Another of his liberal colleagues, Jane Shaw, has come to his defense:
"I think this is a really serious breach of collegiality," Adams said. "One of the things I am appalled by is his (Bean’s) reputation has been publicly smeared. That is all we have as professors."
More on this as it develops. Full disclosure: Jon Bean is a longtime acquaintance of mine, and an outstanding scholar and teacher. He does not deserve this.