Paul L. Caron

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Unsuccessful Iowa Legal Writing Faculty Candidate Sues, Claiming Discrimination Due to Her Conservative Views

Teresa R. Wagner, Associate Director of the University of Iowa College of Law Writing Resource Center, has filed a lawsuit against the school and its dean, Tax Prof Carolyn Jones, claiming that she was twice rejected for a legal writing faculty position because of her conservative political views.  From the Chroncile of Higher Education and Des Moines Register:

She argues that affiliations listed on her résumé, including stints with groups like the National Right to Life Committee, did her in with a liberal-leaning faculty. To bolster her case, the lawsuit dissects the political affiliations of the approximately 50 faculty members who vote on law-school faculty hires; 46 of them are registered as Democrats and only one, hired 20 years ago, is a Republican, the lawsuit states. Ms. Wagner also says that a law-school associate dean suggested that she conceal her affiliation with a conservative law school [Ave Maria] and later told her not to apply for any more faculty positions.

"She just wants to make it known that conservatives need not apply," Wagner's lawyer, Stephen Fieweger of Moline, Ill., said. "Liberals talk about diversity, except when it comes to bringing in a different, conservative point of view."

UpdateVolokh Conspiracy and Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

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A couple of commentors said something like "That's what happens when faculty hire faculty." Maybe, but if they think having administrators hire faculty would result in conservatives getting hired, they're in for a big letdown. I would guess, in fact, that the administrators are more to blame. They're less in touch with scholarly concerns, and thus a person's personal views will have more weight for them. They also tend not to be as smart as research faculty, and their style is more political-- which is why they are administrators, not professors.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Jan 27, 2009 1:02:30 PM

Posted by: Think It Over... | Jan 25, 2009 12:04:07 PM

"If you conservatives rushing to support this woman are going to go down this route, you have to be intelligent enough to realize that you're undermining your own arguments against other civil rights-based employment decisions."

A lot of us have thought it over and we decided we were wrong. It is okay IMO to make discrimination illegal... ‘We’ (conservatives) had some constitutional issues with government intrusion, but a lot of us have come around to thinking the greater good was served by making discrimination based on race, gender, creed, et cetera illegal. Quotas, on the other hand, still against.

So nail em to the wall!

Posted by: Thomass | Jan 26, 2009 3:03:01 PM

Don't y'all have a torch-lit rally to be getting to? David Horowitz will miss your support for his delusion.

Posted by: Limbaugh Uber Alles | Jan 25, 2009 10:25:48 PM

I was on the job market this past year and had several interviews at law schools around the country. The faculty at the school I graduated from all told me to not reveal that I'm a republican. I was told that could easily be the kiss of death for my candidacy. So, I closeted myself.

Posted by: I believe her | Jan 25, 2009 1:36:27 PM

I seem to recall some discrimination suits that were won, decades back, without a smoking gun. They argued that the result of discrimination was clearly apparent and, thus, the existence of discrimination was undeniable.

Posted by: Thomas Hazlewood | Jan 25, 2009 11:59:17 AM

Maybe it is time for closeted, discriminated-against conservatives to think of uniting their efforts... and found new colleges and universities where conservative views are not held in such contempt and derision. If you can't defeat them, don't join them! Get even with them!

I'm sure a lot of students (and tuition-paying parents) will appreciate the difference.

Posted by: newton | Jan 25, 2009 10:07:02 AM

Most members of my family are quite conservative, I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh for hours each day, and I attended a very conservative college.

One thing that conservatives seem to do without thinking about it, is to assume that anyone who disagrees with positions most people consider extreme - such as a no-exceptions ban on any and all abortions - as "Ultra liberal."

I suspect something like that is going on here. This blog gets almost no comments on any shocking development in the world of legal academics, from the faked employment numbers to the ABA decisions moving entry level jobs out of the country.

Yet one woman claims that people discriminated against her by not agreeing with her, and there's an outpouring of support for interference with employment decisions?

Come on. William F. Buckley Jr. (the author of "God and Man at Yale,") started this whole, "Liberal academia represses other view points" craze, and even he would be ashamed of the illogical lengths to which his ideas have been taken.

You cannot support, on the one hand, truly conservative principles about employer freedom, and on the other complain, "But they don't agree with me and that makes them mean!"

If you conservatives rushing to support this woman are going to go down this route, you have to be intelligent enough to realize that you're undermining your own arguments against other civil rights-based employment decisions.

Posted by: Think It Over... | Jan 25, 2009 9:04:07 AM

Most US colleges and universities are somewhere to the felt of the Soviets these days. Of course most of the university administrators and faculty would be without jobs but for colleges. They certainly aren't fit do do any sort of real work, so they just sit around and feed on liberal pap all year, and tell each other how important they are.

Posted by: JR Wells | Jan 25, 2009 8:02:30 AM

I must say that the idea that at state universities, the faculty should not be the final word on hiring makes a lot of sense. Obviously, they should be consulted, but it seems to me that getting rid of their apparent veto over hires is the first step to more reasonable hiring policies. But how to do it?

This kind of group liberal mindset exists in virtually all our cultural institutions. I've pretty much decided to withdraw my financial support of these people. Nice NPR station, but not on my dime. Great classical music station, but you "celebrated" Obama and lost my annual donation. You guys down at the museum with the "transgressive" art? Nothing from me. You "writers" at the New Yorker like making snide remarks about Bush in an article on trout fishing? Go dig your own worms. Just put the No in Northwestern.

I'm sick and tired of these people and their presumption that everyone is a liberal Democrat. I think all of us conservatives should withhold our contributions to any institution run by liberals, no matter what the overall cultural damage might be claimed. If the studies about how we conservatives are more generous in our charity that liberals is right, they might miss us enough to change their ways.

When I get the phone calls asking for money, I simply say "I don't give money to left wing causes."

Posted by: punditius | Jan 25, 2009 7:13:24 AM


I write about veterans and diversity all the time. I'd very much like to get some more details about your dean's position on veterans, and call around... including to your dean. Anonymity can be assured.

You can email me at iraqnowblog(at)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk | Jan 25, 2009 6:03:22 AM

The single most closeted group of workers in this country are conservative, non-tenured faculty and administrators at most any college or university in this nation.

Google "Crystal Dixon" and "the University of Toledo" if you are inclined to dismiss the possible truth of Professor Wagner's claims. Ms. Dixon was fired ... fired ... merely for expressing a conservative political viewpoint; and one held by a large number of African-Americans at that.

Universities are interested only in cosmetic diversity. When confronted by genuine viewpoint diversity they react like ideological Bull Connors.

Posted by: WS Hancock | Jan 25, 2009 4:07:10 AM

Like anthropogenic global warming, the matter has been settled. There is no room in the academy for rightward deviation and heresy.

Praise Him!

Praise The One!

Praise Obama!

Allahu Akbar!

Posted by: Yes We Did | Jan 25, 2009 1:36:28 AM

This is pretty much standard operating procedure. And since the process is anything but transparent, it's very hard to prove that this is what is actually happening.

I've seen it happen three times now at my present university, but I don't say anything, because I want to keep my job.

Yet I don't know what can be done about it, because we also strive to churn out future professors who are ideologically identical to the department. To break this cycle would take a great deal of effort by a great number of individuals. I do what I can--I teach more traditionally than my colleagues, and I find ways to introduce students to different ways of thinking without damning their current ways. And I keep a low profile.

Posted by: John Drake | Jan 24, 2009 11:44:47 PM

It's likely illegal since it's a 'tax-exempt' state university, and not a private one. If it's on the taxpayer's dime, they are simply not allowed (supposedly) to refuse candidates based on political points of view.

Posted by: Neale | Jan 24, 2009 9:04:02 PM

Is this illegal? I know you can't discriminate based on sex, race, sexual orientation, religion. I wonder about the economics departments of many universities.

Posted by: David | Jan 24, 2009 7:47:26 PM

Goodness, what could happen next? For God's Sake, next we'll be letting politicians choose politicians, doctors decide if other doctors are good enough, and (forfend!) having a rule about who can be a lawyer.

Posted by: fishbane | Jan 24, 2009 6:16:16 PM

Well, I am a professor at the University of Iowa and my Dean has set flat out that former military people are unsuitable for any kind of position in his college (not the law college). So it is entirely believable for me that this occurred. Being former military, it sort of leaves me in the lurch, and I believe that the Dean has taken active steps against me.

Posted by: Bill | Jan 24, 2009 5:33:44 PM

As a conservative Northwestern Univ. alum, I can attest to the fact that while in school everyone was subjected to liberal indoctrination. What I find amusing is that now, twenty years later, almost all of my friends from college have "seen the light" and are conservative or libertarian.

Posted by: Wayne K | Jan 24, 2009 3:08:06 PM

Anyone seen any writing samples, and compared them to industry standards?

Posted by: David Weisman | Jan 24, 2009 3:08:05 PM

Good point, bobby b. Let's see those lefty-liberal ideologue professors campaign for separation of school and state.

Posted by: Micha Elyi | Jan 24, 2009 2:25:01 PM

This is what you get when you allow faculty to choose faculty.

Maybe this could be an acceptable practice and outcome for a private school that publicly prided itself on its ideological focus, and sold itself honestly as a school having one specific overriding political philosophy.

For a state school, there ought to be applicable felony charges somewhere in this story. But that's an issue for the conservative Iowan taxpayers to address, should they care.

Posted by: bobby b | Jan 24, 2009 2:15:29 PM

as a former student in IU i think she is telling the truth.

Posted by: barquisam | Jan 24, 2009 1:52:52 PM

i live in evanston il. a town which prides itself in its diversity and tolerance. i am one of the ten per cent who voted for bush in this city which is dominated by northwestern university and white liberal professionals. at DINNER PARTY i was having a conversation with two political science professors. i was stunned when they told me i was the first conservative they had held a conversation with in 15 years of living here. my daughters who went to depaul and marquette have been called bigots and homophobes and are constantly baited into arguments where it is five against one. you are so right to point out the left is for diversity in color and gender only. diversity in political and economic thought is not to be tolerated or promoted. it is meant to be shouted down the true agenda of this administration has yet to be revealed and when it is it is not going to be pretty. good luck to you. you are going to need it.

Posted by: r monahan | Jan 24, 2009 1:28:49 PM

Suprise! Surprise!

Posted by: G. Pyle | Jan 24, 2009 1:02:20 PM

Don't expect this lawsuit to be successful unless she can find a smoking gun such as a memo or e-mail that specifically addresses the exclusion of conservative writers. The best bet is, of course, the pattern of hiring, but it's a stretch. Legal writing is, in the end, quite subjective. It would be easy for liberal ideologues simply to point out what a terrible legal writer Oliver Wendell Holmes was, while at the same time pointing out the beauty and coherence of the legal writing of Harvard Law Editor Barack Obama (if such a thing existed). Obviously, this writer could never reach the level of the latter.

Posted by: LawHawkRFD | Jan 24, 2009 12:57:27 PM

Brava, Ms. Wagner. Hope it turns out well for you.

Posted by: cris | Jan 24, 2009 12:50:02 PM