Paul L. Caron

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Jurors Agree: University of Iowa Law School Discriminated Against Faculty Applicant Due to Her Conservative Views

Wagner 2Following up on my previous posts (links below) about Teresa Wagner's federal lawsuit:  Des Monies Register, Jurors Say They Saw Hiring Bias at University of Iowa; But University, Not Former Law Dean, Wronged Conservative Job Applicant:

A federal jury believed the University of Iowa’s law school illegally denied a promotion to a conservative Republican because of her politics, former jurors told The Des Moines Register.

However, jurors said they felt conflicted about holding a former dean personally responsible for the bias. They wanted to hold the school itself accountable, but federal law does not recognize political discrimination by institutions. “I will say that everyone in that jury room believed that she had been discriminated against,” said Davenport resident Carol Tracy, the jury forewoman.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Teresa Wagner on Tuesday filed a motion for a new trial in the case that scholars agree could have national implications in what some argue is the liberally slanted world of academia.

Des Moines Register editorial:  U of I Needs to Respect Diversity of Thought, Too:  The Claim of Political Bias in Hiring at the Law School Should Not End with the Deadlocked Jury:

The University of Iowa College of Law dodged a potential employment discrimination verdict in a case tried in Davenport last week. But the case could still come back to haunt the university.

Regardless of the outcome, this case raises questions about the hiring policies at the University of Iowa College of Law, and perhaps in the university as a whole. The U of I respects the goal of diversity for race, religion and gender, but it should show the same respect for diversity of political thought. 

This case involves a lawsuit filed by Teresa Wagner against the law school after she was turned down for a faculty position in the legal analysis, writing and research program. Wagner is a Republican who has worked for anti-abortion organizations. She alleged that she was passed over the position not because she lacked the qualifications but because she was blackballed by liberal members of the law school faculty.

The law school denied politics were involved in the decision not to hire her. The university claimed Wagner was turned down because she had performed poorly in an interview. ...

Some testimony in this case was troubling. Wagner was turned down despite enthusiastic praise for her interview performance by members of the faculty appointments committee and members of the law school administration. Not all on the faculty were supportive, however. Carolyn Jones, the law school dean at the time, said she rejected Wagner for a faculty position because of opposition within the faculty. According to testimony, Jones said “she always adopts the faculty’s recommendations.”

Faculty members testified that they opposed hiring Wagner because she had performed poorly in the job interview. But an associate dean expressed concern in an email that Wagner might be opposed by professors who “so despise her politics.”

Whether a new trial is justified for this case, it raises important questions that should ultimately be resolved by Iowa courts.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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"Teresa Wagner hasn't published a single work of academic legal scholarship."

If only she had published a law review article on hip-hop and the law.

Posted by: Steve | Nov 26, 2012 4:16:59 PM

I worked at a west coast Univeristy for a number of years. During a meeting to discuss new construction on the campus the Vice Chancellor told the Project Manager to stop using the phrase , "Conservative Estimate". Yes, the bias was obvious to anyone with their eyes open.

Posted by: tyree | Nov 25, 2012 10:54:23 AM

The 1st comment is spot on...but it's not just law school facullties that are hard left's a problem that's endemic across ALL of academia. When conservative students are persecuted for thier view points (look at Fordham in NY states--Legal Insurrection is covering this), or for inviting a conservative speaker, ti's a problem that needs to be confronted and defeated.

Until conservatives are given an equal representation in faculties, our colleges and universities will be a propaganda force of the 1st order in our society...and a force for the Liberal left...

Posted by: Rich Vail | Nov 25, 2012 10:12:16 AM

To PJacobs (Nov 24, 6:15 p.m.):

Please provide examples.

To Anon (Nov 24, 6:26 p.m.):

Likewise, please provide specific examples.

Posted by: Crowley | Nov 25, 2012 5:31:02 AM

Remember when the "Hollywood Blacklist" revealed the dark specter of right wing totalitarianism during the stultifying conformist Fifties? Yeah, good times, good times.

I'd love an explanation of how this is any different that Damon Runyon losing out on a few screenwriting gigs because he was a Stalin fanboy.

Posted by: iowahawk | Nov 25, 2012 5:24:55 AM

"I would never hire a conservative for an important position.

Most of them are too insulated from objective reality to be trusted with pivotal decisions."

Your inflated opinion of the rightness of your worldview does not insulate you from hubris, or the repercussions of it. Your mental and spiritual deadweight draws you into a karmic swamp that you will regret being mired in when someone takes a similar viewpoint toward your politics, and feels free to summarily pass judgment upon you and your means of living.

Posted by: The False God | Nov 24, 2012 6:51:00 PM

In 1994 the University of Tennessee published a book commerating its bicennteennial as a university. One of the photos included was from 1965 of a professor shown with the cameraman who was using a television camera to record his lectures. Here we are 47 years later, with the Internet, YouTube, and much cheaper and better cameras, and the example of online courses and the Khan Academy. My question is why don't we let students take most of their courses from whereever, via the Internet, and give them credit if they pass the exam? In law school I would have loved to take my UCC courses from Professors White and Summers, who wrote the hornbook. We are at least forty years behind the times. If some students elect online courses from competent conservative professors, why should anyone else complain?

Posted by: LibertyJim | Nov 24, 2012 5:51:51 PM

Teresa Wagner hasn't published a single work of academic legal scholarship. She published a propaganda pamphlet for a think tank and edited a collection of political opinion essays. That's not legal scholarship.

This is a clear example of an unqualified candidate refusing to face the truth about her own limited capabilities. Apparently it's easier to file a frivolous discrimination law suit than to put your nose to the grindstone and actually publish.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 24, 2012 3:26:12 PM

I would never hire a conservative for an important position.

Most of them are too insulated from objective reality to be trusted with pivotal decisions.

Posted by: PJacobs | Nov 24, 2012 3:15:39 PM

I wasn't aware that conservatives were a protected class. I hope this doesn't lead to quotas.

Posted by: Gustopher | Nov 24, 2012 2:58:52 PM

ACLU should jump in at any moment to lend their support.

Posted by: Ken James | Nov 24, 2012 12:52:54 PM

Chinese proverb - a fish rots from the head.

Posted by: @PurpAv | Nov 24, 2012 12:04:14 PM

Academia and the MSM did not become monolithically Leftist by accident. Of the two, it is the MSM that has been the most damaging to the country. Back when Carter faced Reagan, the press favored Carter, but now the bias has risen by a whole order of magnitude. Now it's not "spinning;" it is outright lying. It is focusing on the mote in one candidate's eye, and ignoring the log in the other's.

They used to insist that the media couldn't be biased because "it's a business, and ultimately it's all about the money." Well, if you look at the sorry state of the NY Times, Newsweek, Time, MSNBC, etc., you can only conclude-- it's not about the money.

What really kills me is that these outlets are all parts of publicly traded companies, with real, honest, Mom & Pop shareholders. Who is ever going to point out that these shareholders are getting screwed (a scandal every big as Enron) by a boardroom that is consciously making decisions that can only result in lower share prices?

Posted by: mike | Nov 24, 2012 11:22:51 AM

It seems a bit unfair to hold an individual responsible for the hive-mind that is academia and government bureaucracy. But only a bit. The Empire will fold in and find a way to protect future individuals from the actions and will of The-Many.

On the other hand, I would relish more individual punishment for corporate bad actions. I believe that those who screw-up should pay for their actions. Before the Federal Reserve arrived banks were run by shareholders and carried a double-liability for failure. IOW, they lost not only their share investment but owed an equal amount to the estate.

In my modern version, all C-level employees would owe a triple amount of their compensation (including bonus and sign-on pay) to the estate. the rest of the executive and directors would owe a double liability. Personal liability would bring more diligence and greater care to the details of serving the customers.

I doubt a similar scale could be applied to the Hive-Mind of academic decisions, but it might.

While I am wishing, I would like union employee contracts for academic and government workers be voted and approved by those who bear the burden of increased tuition, taxes, rates and penalties. The employees vote on their contract. Why can't we-who-pay have a say-?

Please pass along my wishes to Santa.
Thank You.

Posted by: Andy Johnson | Nov 24, 2012 10:52:00 AM

It would have been overturned on appeal. The idea that conservatives would push a Constitutional claim of ideological or political discrimination is also somewhat ironic considering it would be a novel claim. It would have to fall under state law, and perhaps Iowa should consider a law if it is going to ask citizens to support its institutions of higher learning.

Posted by: Holmes | Nov 24, 2012 10:17:34 AM

It'd be nice to get some non-leftist viewpoints in academia, but I'm not holding my breath. We all knew this was happening, and the prospect of even getting parity after 50 years of leftist subversion of higher education is pretty much impossible without forceful affirmative action or simply dismantling a university system that isn't working.

Posted by: Unbelievable | Nov 24, 2012 9:42:38 AM

Time for the application of Title IX baby. At least 50 percent conservatives or no fed funds.

Posted by: K | Nov 24, 2012 9:33:50 AM

Why would a University see diversity in thought? Isn't diversity in epidermis enough?

Posted by: Michel | Nov 24, 2012 9:32:37 AM

Just wait until the patient advisory board of Obamacare is staffed with liberals.

Posted by: nan231 | Nov 24, 2012 9:32:22 AM

Having represented a conservative law professor in his (successful) fight to teach Constitutional Law, I can tell you this kind of thing is pervasive in the academy. I hope Ms. Wagner does not give up.

Posted by: Gregg Smith | Nov 24, 2012 9:30:51 AM

I hope that there will someday be a time when people (particularly in juries) finally recognize that the persecution of and discrimination toward conservatives is a direct threat to everyone's liberty. Unfortunately, after having read "federal law does not recognize political discrimination by institutions", I can see it is not today.

Posted by: Mr_Write | Nov 24, 2012 9:23:43 AM

I hope people will start to take this issue seriously now. Everyone knows this happens; the issue has always been proving it. Now someone has.

Posted by: michael livingston | Nov 24, 2012 3:08:17 AM