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Monday, May 30, 2011

Is This Any Way To Run A Law School?

I previously posted about the lawsuit by Widener Law School Professor Lawrence Connell.  Widener is seeking to terminate Connell after Connell used a hypothetical example in his criminal law class of the Widener Dean being attacked, and a small number of students alleged that Connell made racist and/or sexist statements in class.  A Widener faculty committee has recommended that the charges be dropped, but Widener is pursuing termination proceedings.

Conell has filed suit, but there also is an administrative hearing at Widener on June 6.  Connell will not be attending the hearing because of a death in the immediate family, but has submitted affidavits by a variety of people, including two students.  Numerous students also previously sent e-mails of support.

In the affidavits of Danielle Oppenheim and Samuel Elbardissi, the students take issue and put in context the supposedly racist and/or sexist statements made by Connell.  You can read the affidavits, but the short version is that the complaining students have taken comments out of context, failing to distinguish Connell's explanation of case background (in which racism was a factor) from Connell's personal opinion. 

So when Connell discussed in class how Bernie Goetz's subjective perception of blacks being responsible for crime contributed to Goetz's defense, the students took this as an affirmative statement by Connell that blacks were responsible for crime.  (Oppenheim Aff't at pars. 23-25, Elbardissi Aff't at par. 10)

Equally troubling is that two complaining students repeatedly created confrontations with Connell in class over such misperceptions of racism.  As explained by Elbardissi:
33. Two incidents occurred in the class that required the other students to take notice.
34. The first student, who sat middle of the class in the second row, raised her hand as we had just finished a case. The issue was, as I recall, referencing another note in the casebook that dealt with racial profiling and the latitude that officers have in making their determinations whether to stop or not.
35. Professor Connell had gone over the note and discussed the statistics that pointed to blacks being heavily targeted by police. The student raised her hand. When called upon, the student started her response, in an aggressive tone, with the words "I don't know what you agenda is ... " Her comments lasted about 45 second to a minute, to which Professor Connell replied, "If you can tell me what I have said that makes you think I have an agenda, I will gladly respond to your question." The student continued with her tone and Professor Connell said that we were going to move on.
36. I have been with this student in other classes and her approach, at times, is to take personal the topics at hand. When such a situation arises, her tone and aggressiveness to attack the situation that is very personal to her is similar to what occurred on that day.
37. On a separate day, Professor Connell had opened the floor for a question he had posed. A student, sitting two to three rows behind me, was called on to answer the question. The student asked a question and Professor Connell asked her to answer his.  Her response to this request was "You never answer mine. Why should I answer yours?"' The situation was awkward for the class who had seen tension from these two students build over the semester. Professor Connell did not continue the tirade, but simply stated "That when you answer my question first, I will answer yours." and then moved on to another student on the opposite side of the room.
38 . I am currently in class with this student. Unfortunately, her comments in response to the professor's question or the general topic at hand, tends to start with "1 believe" or " I think." and never addresses the question posed or the topic at hand . I have no issue with this person, but the consistency that a [sic] the train of subtantive learning gets derailed when she participates is too consistent to not notice.
The charges against Connell have a similar feel to a Media Matters or Think Progress story, in which sentences or clauses from sentences are presented without any context or out of context and spun into a tale of supposed racism by people with an agenda.

Widener Law School should not be proud that it has brought the worst aspects of the blogosphere into its classrooms.

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  1. Once again, the "Onion" scoops the real world. "Guy In Philosophy Class Needs To Shut The Fuck Up" at http://www.theonion.com/articles/guy-in-philosophy-class-needs-to-shut-the-fuck-up,1804/

    It sounds very difficult for the professor and the other students to have to deal with students who clearly "have an agenda". Is this a problem brought to us by the kind folks at "Affirmative Action"? (By the way, I meant "kind people" or "nice guys" since "folks" has a connotations of racism.)

  2. It's terribly sad what is happening to higher ed these days. So this student is so dim-witted that she can't understand the difference between an examination of case law extrapolated with an example (intended, I'm sure, to make the case law more clear to the students)? What is she doing in law school? Seriously, do we really need more dim-witted lawyers running around trying to use the law as a political weapon?

    But it's not just in law schools. There are more than a few English professors who simply won't teach William Faulkner (or anyone similarly "controversial") because it's gotten to the point at which people really can't tell the difference between a novel and discussion of said novel's treatment of race before the Civil War or during Reconstruction and RAAAAACISM. Faulkner uses the word "nigger" in some of his works (and no, I refuse to write "the N word" when I am stating a simple fact about a literary text), and people are literally afraid to teach his works (novels, short stories) because if someone sees the word in a novel they will somehow take offense or assume that the person who assigned the text is racist.

    I am sick to death of people who actively search for reasons to take offense. All too often, there's no reason, so they just make one up (and lately have taken to "decoding" "coded racism"--which apparently only a select few can discern, including of course the rube RAAAACIST using this super-secret code that needs really really smart leftists to "decode." Contradiction? What contradiction? Back to our regularly scheduled sentence . . . so these people who need to feel insulted or offended don't have a real reason, so they make one up or locate it in some secret code known only to themselves and the coder RAAAACIST). Then the department/college/university feels that it must "take a stand" against racism or sexism or whateverism even if it's patently clear there is no ism there. It's absurd. Truly, deeply, sadly absurd.

  3. A case of "students-from-hell"? I never noticed such when I was in kolledge. I had one professor who, just about every lecture, would use 'Republicans' in some hypothetical and completely disparage them as he did so. I also had an econ professor, Ingrid Rima, who would do the same, yet her rants usually had nothing to do with the topic at hand. She would issue them by surprise.

    I often challenged professors when they began interjecting personal biases into lecture materials. I saw it as my obligation to other students, actually, perhaps they were unaware of competing points of view. If I hadn't done so, no one else would've.

    Of course, I'm a white male, and couldn't rely on the warm shielding of minority protections afforded to favored students at modern universities. I took my chances anyway. I would like to say that I was rewarded by having other students come to me and telling me that they were glad somebody said what I had said. That never happened though.

  4. When I heard the law school audience laugh at Christine O'Donnell when she (correctly) noted "separation of church and state" is not in the US Constitution, I decided that this is not a law school worthy of certification, or for issuing credentials; at the very least, they need to be examined to determine if they meet standards.

    How sad. These two students are looking for ways to attack a professor, to force an agenda. And the faculty, the administrators are siding with the students - regardless of the evidence.

    It is time to reform our higher education system, as well as public education, in our country. Long overdue, IMHO.

  5. Unfortunately this is typical of the "Social Justice" undergraduate majors who are churned out by Colleges and University 'African American Studies' departments.

    These students are usually completely ignorant of actual history, their heads having been filled with the rants of Socialist-Statist Liberals who believe that only the power of the State can overcome the "inherent white power and privilege" that they claim exists. These students then take ANY perceived opportunity to attack that structure and try to influence their fellow students with strong words over weak arguments. It works all too often at the College level where these students become "leaders" of radicalized groups whose sole purpose is to PROMOTE racism under the guise of "equality."

    Fortunately, it doesn't usually work in Law School, because most individuals (unfortunately not all) who have gotten there already have some grounding in critical thought and analysis. These "social justice" types who rant and rave are usually put into their place by a well-positioned question from the professor that says "show me your reasoning," and when the ranter is unable to say other than "it feels right," the ranter loses all credibility with any of their peers. But, it also opens the door for a Law School Dean with an agenda to use "complaints" about that professor to attempt to dismiss them, which is a travesty.

  6. Well, you'll be happy to know (I guess) that I spent about an hour reading all that, including the testimonies of the two witnesses.

    I had no comment because it stinks and I get really depressed about the state of education today. It seems like all that crap Glenn Beck rants about is really true.

  7. Both the Widener dean and the accusers should be named and shamed. All are adults. All should be held accountable for this nonsense.

  8. Duke Lacrosse (2006) is written all over this one.

    Lemme guess here. The “complaining students” were minorities who likely are the beneficiaries of affirmative action, and who for reasons that go beyond normative reasoning abilities carry incredible shoulder chips. And it will come as no surprise that these students wear prescription glasses which allow the entire world to be seen through racism lens. Given the manner in which Dean Ammons (undeniably an AA selection) describes herself as well as seeing the focus of her writings,
    those with a racism axe to grind will feel right at home at WUSL. The direction in which Ammons wishes to take the school must be supported, indeed encouraged. As a country we simply do not have enough grievance-minded lawyers willing to sue at the slightest perception of offense.

    Of course Lawrence Connell is being railroaded, with the administration bending over backwards to fulfill its scripted role in this unfolding liberal stage drama. The school will predicably demonstrate its commitment to “diversity” and the “common good,” and as a result,

    Goodbye, Prof. Connell.

    To get an idea of the liberal mind set that grips Widener University School of Law, the school devotes two web pages to its liberal commitment (with all of us knowing full well what liberal means in the context of the modern day, [cough], “academy”),