UPDATED! Well, the jig is up now, re the Guillermo Gonzalez case. I’ve just seen the whack of documents Discovery Institute is releasing.
1. It appears that the decision had been made to turn Gonzalez down for tenure at Iowa State University before he had actually applied for it, and the reason was his advocacy of intelligent design.
Read this story in the Des Moines Register last week by Lisa Rossi
ISU President Gregory Geoffroy said in June that Gonzalez’s advocacy of the “intelligent design” concept was not a factor in the decision to turn down his request for tenure.
Geoffroy said he focused his review on Gonzalez’s overall record of scientific accomplishment as an assistant professor at ISU.
and then this one, after the Register got hold of the e-mails via a public records request:
The disclosure of the e-mails is contrary to what ISU officials emphasized after Gonzalez, an assistant professor in physics and astronomy, learned that his university colleagues had voted to deny his bid for tenure.
[ … ]
In response to a question about why the influence of intelligent design in the physics and astronomy tenure decisions was not acknowledged publicly by the university earlier, McCarroll said, “I can’t speak for every one of those individuals” who voted on Gonzalez’s tenure.
(Clarification December 6, 2007: John West of the Discovery Institute (DI) has written to advise me that the Record did not make a public records request, but was shown the documents by ISU after DI had announced that it had obtained them and that they would be made public. It appears that, by ignoring the embargo, the Register scooped the other media, not DI. Still, to their credit, they know a story when they see one. – d.)
2. The alleged tenure review was in fact a fishing expedition whose purpose was to find any grounds at all for denying tenure to a man who emerges clearly an outstanding scientist (in flat contradiction to some of President Geoffroy’s other claims), and far more so than the colleagues who were doing the fishing. For example, the fact that some of his widely cited papers were cited less often than others was grounds for a focus on the less widely cited ones. The fact that he published a textbook was dinged as an unwise use of his time.
Much of the most damaging stuff won’t make it to Gonzalez’s Regents’ appeal on a technicality, but it’s now going to be out there for all to see.
Anyway, brava! to journalist Lisa Rossi for exposing the vast credibility gap between what President Geoffroy was claiming to the media and the facts of the case. When oh when will administrators learn, do NOT tell stretchers to the media. Even journalists who support you get mad if they think you are lying. As I said, more later.
– Actually, Rossi for the Register scooped Disco on the e-mails business, publishing on Saturday what they were going to reveal at a press conference the following Monday. Both groups had filed public records requests but the newspaper won. But the Disco package is pretty amazing anyway, and brings out a lot of stuff that’s not in the Register.
Here’s Disco’s press release
Faculty involved in the tenure decision were well aware of Gonzalez’s support for ID. More than one year before his tenure evaluation was scheduled, one ISU professor wrote an e-mail that left no doubt that Gonzalez’s tenure application would never receive a fair evaluation.
“He will be up for tenure next year,” wrote the professor. “And if he keeps up, it might be a hard sell to the department.”
Contrary to his public statements, and those of ISU President Gregory Geoffroy, the chairman of ISU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, Dr. Eli Rosenberg, stated in Dr. Gonzalez’s tenure dossier that Dr. Gonzalez’s support for intelligent design “disqualifies him from serving as a science educator
And here is their longer report:
In a particularly damning e-mail, ISU Physicist John Hauptmann admitted to faculty member Hector Avalos that “principle [of freedom of inquiry] has been violated massively in the physics department”21 in its treatment of Dr. Gonzalez.
Other faculty members privately expressed qualms at the unethical and dishonest way they were plotting against Dr. Gonzalez behind his back. Dr. Harmon stated to Kawaler that, “I don’t think talking behind Guillermo’s back is quite ethical.”22 Paul Canfield had similar concerns, stating that they should issue the statement because otherwise it would appear that they were doing exactly what they were doing: secretly scheming about how to attack the viewpoint of a department member who was under consideration for tenure. Canfield wrote:
o “Do we do everything at secret meetings and the hope the Discovery Institute’s Lawyers don’t subpoena our records? If I were Gonzalez, I would prefer my colleagues were honest and forthright in their opinions, as he seems to be with his.”23
I bet Canfield wishes that even more now. There may or may not be a God but there certainly is a Nemesis.
And all this about a guy who was far more productive scientifically than any of them!
Here’s Discovery boss Bruce Chapman on the “iceberg” unearthed in Iowa:
Readers may suspect that I am overstating the problem at ISU, but they should look more closely. For openers, it might be asked how many of Gonzalez’ critics–the people quoted in the emails and the President and other Administration officials and Board at ISU who have ruled on this matter have ever bothered to read The Privileged Planet, the co-authored book that seems to have agitated Gonzalez’ enemies? Are they even aware of the internationally prominent scientists who praised Professor Gonzalez’ work? Is this failure of curiosity not then a clear indication of the faculty’s and University President’s prejudice–literally their “pre-judgment”?
What emerges is that the Iowa profs are a bunch of hicks, actually. Why would they have read the book they were dissing? Bad for their eyesight I am sure.
– Shouldn’t Geoffroy resign and take his chief witch hunters with him?
– Shouldn’t Gonzalez sue these people?
– What about the fact that they were using public funds to conduct their nasty little war against a superior scientist?
But now here’s the really amazing thing: The Regents, to whom Gonzalez is appealing, are refusing, on a technicality, to examine the damning e-mails. (He should have known about the e-mails, you see … ) That way they can turn Gonzalez down despite what has happened.
No, I am not making this up. I couldn’t, honestly.
By the way, ISU tried to sue the Discos to get them to drop their public records request. As it happens, the Des Moines Register was making one anyway, so it would have been usesless. And THAT, by the way, is what newspapering is supposed to be about. Not a cushy lifestyle for the feeble sonsbergers of wealthy men.
How productive was Gonzalez? I can’t use sidebars in a blog, so this quote from Disco’s memo will just have to be long:
He has published more peer-reviewed journal articles than all but one of the faculty members granted tenure this year at ISU – across the university as a whole, not just his department. In fact, Gonzalez has more peer-reviewed journal articles to his credit than all but five faculty members granted tenure at ISU since 2003. In addition, he exceeded his department’s own tenure standards, which define “excellence” in terms of publications in refereed science journals, by more than 350%.
Yet ISU president Dr. Gregory Geoffroy has attributed his rejection of Gonzalez’s tenure appeal to matters having nothing to do with intelligent design. The astronomer simply “did not show the trajectory of excellence that we expect,” Geoffroy has said.
His department chairman, Dr. Eli Rosenberg, claims in Gonzalez’s tenure dossier that the astronomer failed to show an “overall positive trend” in his research record of late. Yet in 2006, the year he was up for tenure, Gonzalez published more total articles than all other tenured ISU astronomers. Moreover, Dr. Gonzalez has more per-capita citations in science journals and per-capita scientific publications than any other tenured astronomer at ISU since 2001, the year he joined ISU. In other words, Gonzalez outperformed the very astronomers that voted against his tenure, negating any basis for their complaining about the “trend” of his research while at ISU.
Meanwhile, his work has been featured in the world’s most prestigious science journals, Nature in 2002 and Science in 2004. He co-authored the cover story for Scientific American in 2001, and he is also co-author of a 2006 peer-reviewed Cambridge University Press textbook, Observational Astronomy. He is clearly impacting the next generation of scientists, as his ideas about the Galactic Habitable Zone have even been incorporated into two astronomy textbooks by other authors.
With all this going for him, and being well-liked personally by his colleagues, getting tenure at ISU should have been nearly automatic. The university has struggled to explain the reason for his rejection, offering explanations that fall far short of being convincing. The claim is advanced, for example, that Gonzalez failed to secure enough funding for his research. But observational astronomers are not heavily dependent on sumptuous grants to support their research. They only need an already existing telescope, enough money to fly or drive to the facility, and an inexpensive computer to analyze the observational data they obtain.
In any event, Gonzalez received more grant funding than 35 percent of faculty members who were granted tenure at ISU in 2007 and who listed their research grants on their curriculum vitae. Indeed, of the utmost importance is the fact that grants are not even listed in the tenure guidelines for his department. Of the nine review letters that gave recommendations regarding Dr. Gonzalez’s final tenure decision, six strongly supported his tenure promotion and gave glowing endorsements of his reputation and academic achievements. (Even Dr. Gonzalez’s tenure dossier admitted that “five of the external letter writers … including senior scientists at prestigious institutions recommend his promotion” and that only “[t]hree do not.”) One reviewer observed that ISU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy does not consider grants as a criterion for gaining tenure, and stated that “Dr. Gonzalez is eminently qualified for the promotion according to your guidelines of excellence in scholarship and exhibiting a potential for national distinction. In light of your criteria I would certainly recommend the promotion.” ISU chose to ignore the advice of these senior scientists at prestigious institutions.
As before, more later.