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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Law Prof May Lose Tenure For Classroom Hypos on Shooting His Dean

Chronicle of Higher Education, Widener Professor Could Lose Job for Hypothetical Talk of Dean’s Shooting:

Connell A tenured professor at the Widener University School of Law has been placed on administrative leave and is fighting to keep his job after students complained about his frequent hypothetical references in class to the school’s dean being shot, according to the News Journal of Wilmington, Del. The newspaper reported today that the students had complained about the professor, Lawrence Connell (right) partly because they regarded his hypothetical discussions of the shooting of Dean Linda L. Ammons, a black woman, as violent, racist, and sexist. Administrators there have responded by accusing the professor of a pattern of inappropriate speech and behavior. Mr. Connell’s lawyer says his client refused an offer by administrators to let him back on the campus if he recanted the statements that had offended students and underwent psychiatric evaluation. The lawyer accused Ms. Ammons of going after Mr. Connell because of his conservative views.

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Comments

I don't know what happened here, but I find it interesting that it's only conservatives who seem to need psychological counseling or similar treatment. I also remember being told by a Widener dean, a couple of years back, that "well, we want to get rid of people, but we need to have something to pin it on." It's certainly not going to help their reputation any to behave this way.

Posted by: mike livingston | Feb 15, 2011 6:16:09 AM

I think we should lynch him - no, wait, that's what the white folks said about Clarence Thomas...

Posted by: Ed | Feb 15, 2011 8:43:00 AM

I wonder if he changed it to "George Bush", if they wouldn't give him a raise and a special plaque for his boldness and courage?

Posted by: Ohio Granny | Feb 15, 2011 8:45:20 AM

Shit, when I was in law school in the Bay Area 1994, every goddamn class for the entire academic year had hypotheticals about killing Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. (Remember this was the year the Republicans won a majority in the House and Senate for the first time in 40+ years). Hypos about shooting the president of the campus chapter of the Federalist society, sodomizing Scalia, lynching Clarence Thomas, the whole bit. Especially lovely were the long rambling discussions where the professor would fantasize about aborting all the male babies and re-writing the Constitution according to her proggy dreams, all in order to rid the world of "prejudice" and "hate."

Enlightening, really. In a "Wizard of Oz" kind of way.

Posted by: Luke | Feb 15, 2011 9:18:56 AM

Hard to tell with the he-said-she-said account here.

I'll note that if you swapped the genders/races, either there would be no suspension, or we'd be hearing all about how the suspension was 'racist and sexist'. This in addiition to a claim of persecution for political beliefs. In too many instances, it is no longer 'what' is said, but 'who' is allowed or not allowed to say it.

We've decended into a racialist hall of mirrors.

Posted by: Vinny Vidivici | Feb 15, 2011 9:22:42 AM

We don't know exactly what this professor said in class, but if he essentially called for the murder of a dean, it should be understood that neither tenure nor academic freedom protects his right to do that. It is conceivable that the administration is going after him because of his conservative views, but it may also be true that the professor engaged in a firing offense.

Posted by: Engram | Feb 15, 2011 9:47:06 AM

He was an idiot, though. Repeatedly saying something like that is just tacky. That might not be enough to lose tenure but it's certainly enough to wonder what he was thinking.

Posted by: kcom | Feb 15, 2011 9:47:24 AM

Wow. You conservatives surely are a persecuted bunch. I had no idea how hard it was to be upper class, rich, and white in America today.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 15, 2011 9:59:25 AM

but if he essentially called for the murder of a dean, it should be understood that neither tenure nor academic freedom protects his right to do that.

Apparently the writer has yet to learn what 'hypothetical' means.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive | Feb 15, 2011 10:33:54 AM

Wow. You conservatives surely are a persecuted bunch. I had no idea how hard it was to be upper class, rich, and white in America today.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 15, 2011 9:59:25 AM

Oh, most whites--conservative or liberal--are not rich and living high in the hog. It's blacks, hispanics, and 'anti-racist' whites who are the privileged ones. They can make the most hateful, nasty statements about whites and conservatives, and nobody will blink an eye. It's blacks and white liberals that are whining and bitching all the time. If whites are so privileged, then why are we not allowed to hire and associate with only whites? Why do we get sued for not having blacks and women, etc, on our staff or renting from us?

Posted by: whiteman | Feb 15, 2011 10:36:17 AM

"Wow. You conservatives surely are a persecuted bunch. I had no idea how hard it was to be upper class, rich, and white in America today."

Actually, anon, you know all to well. Don't lie and pretend you're other.

Posted by: rrr | Feb 15, 2011 11:08:31 AM

I didn't realize using hypos for a crim law class (he DOES teach crim law) was out of bounds.

About two years ago, a student was nearly expelled for dressing up as the dean for a halloween party.

I also heard through the grapevine that the dean herself veto'd the hiring boards' recommendation for a highly qualified candidate to teach wills & trusts because said candidate was not a minority - and instead she chose a comparatively unqualified applicant who happened to be a minority. - apparently that choice was forced to resign after students complained of her absences and tardiness as well as her inability to get the law (or the facts) right during lecture.

Posted by: vz | Feb 15, 2011 11:40:33 AM

kcom:

Wait a minute, I thought conservatives were backwoods rednecks clinging to their guns and religion.

So they are really upper class, rich and white? See how much I learn here at TaxProf!

Posted by: David Jenista | Feb 15, 2011 12:10:39 PM

White male.v.Black female

Some are more "equal" than others.

Posted by: DANEgerus | Feb 15, 2011 12:30:55 PM

"Hypothetical, people. Hy. Po. Thetical."

Posted by: mojo | Feb 15, 2011 12:30:56 PM

David Jenista, I believe that anon said that.

Posted by: Mike H. | Feb 15, 2011 12:33:24 PM

That shirt may be a firing offense.

Posted by: Jojo | Feb 15, 2011 1:43:06 PM

The correct course of action would have been for the Dean to report the incident to the police and have him arrested. Regardless of the race or sex of the individuals involved, this is a violent threat and how is one to know he is not a dangerous person about to pull a Columbine? If he had used "the President of the US" instead of "the Dean", the Secret Service would have paid him a visit. What sort of tenured moron would do such a thing, and then refuse to take the apology/counseling deal?

This is exhibit of the problem with tenure -- in what other job would there even be a question this is a firing offense?

Posted by: Kyle | Feb 15, 2011 7:39:00 PM

Um, no, Kyle, there is no crime here, not even if he'd used the President's name instead of the Dean's. The Secret Service might have thought him worth a friendly visit, if they were feeling particularly bored, but it would be a polite one because they know the meaning of "Section 1983"

Posted by: Milhouse | Feb 15, 2011 11:48:13 PM

He sounds like he has a strangely psychopathic sense of humor, or he is a psychopath who tries to mask his psychopathy with what he considers humor.

Either way, he doesn't belong in the classrooom.

Posted by: Yammons | Feb 16, 2011 9:48:20 AM

He can seek employment elsewhere-if he think it is funny perhaps a comedy club. Oh no-now he has to look for a REAL job!

Posted by: Nick Paleveda MBA J.D. LL.M | Feb 16, 2011 11:33:54 AM

If I had a dollar for every instance in which a professor used a hypo that referenced a Dean or faculty member I'd be able to retire immediately. Since I don't, I guess I'll have to work for another 30 years.

Posted by: suckitup | Feb 16, 2011 11:40:00 AM