Selected documents obtained through discovery

"D" denotes documents provided by the American Institute of Physics.

"S" denotes documents provided by Jeff Schmidt.


Political scrutiny by American Institute of Physics

(D384) Note put into Schmidt's personnel file by his supervisor, Physics Today editor Stephen Benka, on the occasion of the resignation in disgust of Schmidt's coworker Graham Collins, now at Scientific American.
(D16) Note on Schmidt's political beliefs put into his personnel file by his supervisor at the time, Physics Today editor Gloria Lubkin: 'He believes in revolution in all countries.' Lubkin's source is University of California, Irvine, physics professor (and science fiction writer) Gregory Benford, as explained in Disciplined Minds (page 255 and note 86 on page 263).
(D554-561) Fax from Schmidt's supervisor Stephen Benka to American Institute of Physics director of human resources and high-ranking executive Theresa Braun, transmitting information about the content of Schmidt's book, Disciplined Minds.
(D563) AIP downloads bookseller's web page for Schmidt's book Disciplined Minds a few days before firing Schmidt.
(D565-D568 are not posted, to preserve privacy) Psychological profiles of Physics Today staff members, written by their supervisor, Physics Today editor Stephen Benka, presumably for higher management. Jeff Schmidt's entry says:
Competent articles editor (used to be the best on the staff, in recent years has been mediocre). Often works from home. Has some good ideas, but they are coupled to a strong political agenda: Distrusts all forms of authority, including, of course, AIP and PT management. A committed malcontent. Can be confrontational, always tenacious, never raises his voice. Has extremely strong rhetorical skills and therefore can be very persuasive. Has influence over some staff members and can use that influence to promote discontent when it serves his purpose. Beware particularly of him (i) setting up a fabricated "straw-man" target to then knock down, and (ii) putting words into your mouth to his advantage. Productive and quality had been allowed to slip; when pressure was applied (by me), he stirred up great trouble. When pressure remained, he went on a 6-month sabbatical, returned at 2/3 the workload for 2/3 the salary. His latest editing effort (Berg article for January 2000) is the best I've seen from him in a long time. I complimented him on it.

Schmidt protests Physics Today's 'Whites Only' hiring practice

(D1454) Notes by AIP CEO and Executive Director Marc Brodsky on a telephone conversation with Schmidt about discrimination in hiring at Physics Today magazine.
(D1457-1458) Memo from Schmidt to Brodsky describing discrimination in hiring at Physics Today magazine. Schmidt refers to a "de facto 'whites only' hiring policy at Physics Today."
(D1453) Notes by Brodsky from a meeting with Schmidt about discrimination in employment at Physics Today.
(D1452) Notes by Brodsky detailing his plan to tell Schmidt that Physics Today's hiring practices are "sound and fair."

Repression 1: AIP plans reprisal through annual preformance review

(S1326-1327) Schmidt's 1997 performance review. His overall rating is 4, which means 'Exceeds job requirements'.
(D320-321) (highlighted) Schmidt's 1997 performance review, with notes added eight months later by his supervisor, Physics Today editor Stephen Benka. The notes show that AIP plans to punish Schmidt for speaking out ('disruptive behavior') by finding fault with the quality and quantity of his work. Benka put most of his added notes in parentheses. The added notes are highlighted on this copy.
(D320-321) (not highlighted) Same as above, but without highlighting (in case highlighting would make the document hard to print). For a detailed discussion of this document, see the section Rotten business.
(D348) Benka notes instructions from top AIP executive Theresa Braun on how to punish Schmidt in a way that Schmidt can't use in 'whistle blowing.'

Repression 2: AIP gags Schmidt

(D681) Copy of gag order given to Schmidt, with note by Benka about delivery of the order.
(D682) Rescission of gag order by Physics Today division head Charles Harris and Physics Today editor Stephen Benka. (AIP later fired Harris and replaced him with Randolph Nanna.)

Repression 3: AIP bans private conversations at work

(S788-791) Schmidt's contemporaneous account of the imposition of the ban on private conversations in the workplace (the rule that all conversations have to be open to monitoring by management). The account is in an excerpt from a letter from Schmidt to coworker Graham Collins, who is vacationing in New Zealand.
(D331-332) Physics Today editor Stephen Benka's contemporaneous account of the imposition of the ban. The second sentence reveals that the ban was ordered by top AIP management.

Repression 4: AIP objects to AAPT's invitation to Schmidt to speak at AAPT'S 2004 Winter meeting

(S1231) Invitation to Schmidt from the American Association of Physics Teachers to speak at its 2004 annual meeting.

AAPT members who were informed of AIP's objection to Schmidt's talk -- and of AAPT's refusal to cancel the talk -- are available to discuss the matter.

Butt kissing behind the scenes: Members of the physics establishment automatically assume that AIP is right

(D888) Xerox Corporation executive Charles B. Duke, without doing any investigation, assumes that the charge that AIP engaged in repressive behavior is 'inaccurate'.
(D1033) University of Maryland physicist Virginia Trimble, without doing any investigation, assumes that AIP's critics are "wrong."
(D728) After reading material from Schmidt's book, as provided to him by AIP CEO and Executive Director Marc Brodsky, MIT physicist Daniel Kleppner tells Brodsky that AIP is 'totally justified' in firing Schmidt.
(unnumbered) The physics establishment was not undivided in its support for AIP, as illustrated by this behind-the-scenes e-mail message from University of Pittsburgh physicist Edward Gerjuoy, at the time a member of the Council of the American Physical Society (APS). Gerjuoy mentions the APS Committee on International Freedom of Scientists (CIFS) and the APS Forum on Physics and Society (FPS).

Rotten Business: Document D320, AIP's roadmap for firing Jeff Schmidt

Prior to 17 October 1997: Jeff Schmidt raises the issue of workplace diversity in increasingly strong ways, but feels that management doesn't take the issue seriously. So he goes to the Physics Today Advisory Committee, an independent group that is outside of the AIP hierarchy.

Immediately after Schmidt complains to the Physics Today Advisory Committee about Physics Today's discriminatory hiring practices, his supervisor Stephen Benka pulls out Schmidt's previous annual performance review and makes an angry note next to Schmidt's rating of 4: "drop to 2-2.5 for disruptive behavior." (D320, line 8.)

The timeline

17 Oct 1997 Schmidt complains to advisory committee about discrimination.
22 Oct 1997

(D320, line 2): Benka makes angry note on Schmidt's performance review. Benka makes his note on Schmidt's performance review about five months before the review is due to be given to Schmidt.

24 Oct 1997 Brodsky accuses Schmidt of making "a very, very serious charge" about Physics Today's hiring practices.
Oct 1997-
Mar 1998

Documents produced by AIP show that during those five months, Benka and Harris and top AIP officers Brodsky and Braun struggle to figure out how to give Schmidt a lower job performance rating while hiding their real motivation for doing so (Schmidt's speaking troubling truths at meetings). The problem is that Schmidt's work remains at the level they had previously called "Exceeds job requirements." At the end of the five months, Schmidt receives a downgraded performance review (dated 12 March 1998) -- but the review does not contain a word of criticism about his speaking out at meetings. Rather, it puts a new, negative spin on his WORK. ('Rotten business' -- what Noam Chomsky said when told that Schmidt had been fired.) And it sets Schmidt up for missing his work quota (by increasing his work quota and by changing the long-standing work accounting method). Schmidt immediately senses that management is setting him up for dismissal.

So Schmidt submits a detailed appeal, spelling out AIP's real reasons for downgrading his performance review, emphasizing his activity concerning equal employment opportunity -- even though that isn't mentioned in the downgraded performance review. The content and timing of document D320 show that Schmidt accurately sensed management's motivation and that his appeal was right on target.