Professor sued school for tenure in 1970s

by Beacon Staff • February 11, 2009

Emerson has had no tenured and promoted black male faculty members in its 129-year history, according to professors in the journalism department, the office of Academic Affairs and an archived copy of iThe Beacon/i from 1979.

Professor Mike Brown was the first black professor to get tenure after he filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission against the school, according to the May 16, 1979 issue of iThe Beacon/i. However, Brown has never been promoted from assistant to associate professor, according to Emerson's Web site. a href="http://www.berkeleybeacon.com/media/paper169/documents/1s414192.pdf"Click here to view the 1979 article in .PDF format./a

"At the time, the requirements for tenure and associate professor were the same but I was never promoted and I haven't applied since," Brown said.

When Brown, a political science and law professor, was up for tenure, the standards hinged on whether a professor had an advanced degree. To ensure he would receive tenure, Brown attended law school. Then-president Gus Tuberville told him in writing that a Juris Doctorate would equal a Ph.D.

Brown finished law school and applied for tenure. When he was rejected, the administration's claimed a J.D. was not, in fact, the same as a Ph.D., according to an archived copy of iThe Beacon/i. When Brown later looked into his application file, he saw that the contract he'd signed with the dean was not there.

Two years of legal action later, despite opposition from the faculty committee and the college's administration, the Board of Trustees approved Brown's tenure.

There are currently two black female professors at Emerson who have been tenured, film professor Claire Andrade-Watkins, who is Cape Verdean, and performing arts professor Robbie McCauley.

Former Emerson film professor Andrew Millington was not as victorious. Millington left Emerson in 2003 after he was denied tenure because of a negative review of his work from an anonymous outside reviewer appointed by the school. Millington said he never saw what derailed his application.

"I'm still not even clear on that," he said in a telephone interview from Howard University, where he is now again up for tenure.

After his rejection, he joined Howard's faculty.

"You can't ask for cultural diversity and then make the evaluation criteria something out of reach," he said.