Behind Bean’s sudden fall from admired academic to campus Enemy Number One was a cabal of eight radical academics in the SIUC history department. Bean's offense was to have assigned as optional reading for his history class a 2001 Frontpagemag report titled “Remembering the Zebra Killings” by James Lubinskas. The class topic was “Civil Rights and Civil Disorder.” Bean's required readings for the class included the writings of Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, and Stokely Carmichael.This is supposed to be a university, a place of free inquiry.
The offending Frontpagemag article which Bean made optional recounts what have come to be known as the Zebra Killings, a series of murders that took place in the San Francisco Bay area between 1972 and 1974, which left 71 people dead. The crimes shared a distinctive pattern: all the victims were white. The article, which contains facts first exposed in the 1979 book Zebra by crime writer Clark Howard, and subsequent reviews of the book in Time Magazine, reveals that five members the “Death Angels,” a sub-group of the Nation of Islam, carried out the majority of the attacks.
For the offense of making students aware of the existence of this article and these killings, the history department witch-hunters demanded Bean's head. Faced with this vicious, career threatening onslaught, Bean took the same course that Larry Summers had at Harvard, in attempting to defuse similar thought-control attacks by issuing an unwarranted apology to anyone to whom the reference to such an article might give offense.
The ferocity of the crusade against Bean was breathtaking. On April 11, an open letter denouncing Bean appeared in the op-ed section of the Daily Egyptian. Normally intra faculty grievances are aired in committee, not in the pages of the school newspaper. Bean was charged with downloading the article “from a site containing links to racially charged and anti-Semitic Web sites” -- two blatant lies -- and abridging it “in a way that disguised its full context.” Signed by professors Kay J. Carr, Germaine Etienne, Mary McGuire, Rachel Stocking, Natasha Zaretsky, and Robbie Lieberman, the letter expressed the professors’ “disgust with the article that was distributed in a core curriculum American history course.” Not satisfied with this auto da fe, the same professors placed an advertisement in the Daily Egyptian repeating their charges that the reference to the article (and the act of referring it) was racism.