ISU is stuck defending its decision on the mundane argument that Gonzalez' academic work just didn't measure up. And it's a subjective call, albeit by a qualified panel, even then.
But what if the real reason isn't about politics or academics? What if the real reason Gonzalez was denied tenure is actually worse than political? What if it was pecuniary?
Apart from either his academic accomplishments or his support of intelligent design, Gonzalez failed to secure much grant funding.
The Des Moines Register reported earlier this year that Gonzalez had attracted only $22,661 in external research grants since arriving at ISU.
Gonzalez told The Tribune that he's brought in more, including $58,000 he used to write his book, "The Privileged Planet," $64,000 from NASA which he used to pay a doctoral student at the University of Washington, and the promise of $50,000 from the Discovery Institute, just as his tenure documents were due.
But that's still a long way from the $1.3 million average among physics and astronomy faculty seeking tenure.
Is money the dirty little secret about tenure?
It's not even really a secret.
A statement by ISU's media relations department after Gonzalez's tenure case reads "That evaluation was based on an assessment of the excellence of his teaching, service, scholarly research publications and RESEARCH FUNDING in astronomy, using standards and expectations set by the department faculty." (Emphasis added).
The Discovery Institute's representative said this week that research funding was not specifically stated in the guidelines required for tenure and so should not have been a factor in Gonzalez' tenure denial.
Of course, the university is reluctant to make grant funding part of the written criteria for tenure. But it's clear that universities across the nation these days run on money.
Maybe if the Discovery Institute would have given Gonzalez the dollars it's now spending before the tenure decision was made, he'd still have a job.
But then again, it seems the institute is at least as interested in headlines as it is in science. So maybe this is the way the institute wants it, with ISU as the current whipping boy for mainstream science.