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Crosses, Threats and an Adjunct

In the fall, Sissy Bradford took a public stand -- unpopular with many in San Antonio -- about separation of church and state. She was briefly in the news and her view prevailed. Since then, she has received e-mail threats because of her stance. This month, she told the story of those threats to the alt-weekly in San Antonio, which ran an article about them. And the day the article came out, Texas A&M University at San Antonio told her that she would not be teaching in the fall, despite her having previously been assigned four courses.

Bradford teaches criminology at the university;she has strong student evaluations (which she shared with Inside Higher Ed) and she has been honored for her teaching. She became a public figure when she complained about crosses that had been installed on a tower that was part of the entrance to the campus. The crosses were put there by a developer, not the university, but Bradford maintained that they were inappropriate for the entrance to a public university campus. Americans United for Separation of Church and State backed her -- and after that organization sent a series of letters to San Antonio and university officials, the developer removed the crosses. That was in November.

As the debate played out over church-state issues, Bradford started to receive threatening e-mails. One of the e-mails reflects the tone. It started with: "As a professor, do you have the right to live?" And it described Bradford ending up in a coffin, concluding "After that you will reign with your father Satan." That e-mail message and a series of others were turned over to the university police department, Bradford said.

Bradford believes that the university did not take the threats seriously. She shared her frustrations with The Current, a San Antonio publication, which ran an article in which she discussed the threats, as did some students who backed her. The university police department confirmed for The Current that an investigation into the threats had been opened, and closed, and declined to discuss details.

The day the article appeared, Bradford received an e-mail from William S. Bush, interim head of the School of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M-San Antonio, that said in its entirety: "I'm writing to inform you that the School of Arts and Sciences will not be able to offer you any classes in the fall semester. If you wish to discuss this matter further, please submit a written request to Dr. Brent Snow, provost and VP for academic affairs. Please note that he will be traveling abroad until Tuesday, May 29."

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