Paul L. Caron

Monday, April 11, 2016

Washington Post:  Law Professors Say Posting ‘All Lives Matter’ Flier Was ‘Incident Of Intolerance'

AUALMFollowing up on my previous posts:

Washington Post, Law School Professors Say Posting ‘All Lives Matter’ Flier Was an ‘Incident of Intolerance’:

Earlier this month, someone left a hand-written flier on the door of a faculty member’s office at American University’s Washington College of Law that read, “All Lives Matter.” It didn’t go unnoticed.

That phrase — to some, code language for a racist rejection of an important cultural wake-up call, for others, an idealistic appeal for a simple, more universal truth — set off a series of reactions.

A large group of faculty were offended, saying the phrase was used by white supremacists. Students held a community forum.

And a couple of professors on a national civil-rights commission asked the dean, incredulously, “What is wrong with your faculty and staff members?”

The variety of responses, and their intensity, illustrated how fraught the topic of race is on campuses across the country, how divisive, and how alert people are to differences. ...

After spring break, Washington College of Law Dean Claudio Grossman wrote to the law school community to tell them of the “very disturbing incident.” The flier was left anonymously on the door of the office of a faculty member “with a national reputation for doing important work on issues of racial justice in the criminal justice system.” Grossman wrote that, “Although the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ may sound benign, it sometimes has been used as a rallying cry by some groups who oppose the Black Lives Matter Movement and seek to silence it.”

Scores of faculty signed a letter decrying the flier, writing, in part, “… the message appears intended by the messenger to be an attempt to silence and intimidate an opposing viewpoint, not an effort to communicate a different perspective. “… The ‘All Lives Matter’ sign might seem to be a benign message with no ill intent, but it has become a rallying cry for many who espouse ideas of white supremacy and overt racism, as well as those who do not believe the laws should equally protect those who have a different skin color or religion.”

Then two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — speaking as individuals, not for the commission — wrote to the dean. “The response of American University faculty and staff was nothing short of Orwellian,” Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow wrote, in part. ...

By phone, Heriot, a professor of law at the University of San Diego, said that when she saw the letter from the professors, “My reaction was that this was — quite outrageous. I just wish that people in positions of authority, like members of a law-school faculty, would try not to make things worse by engaging in name-calling of this kind. “I thought this was an occasion upon which I really needed to say something. If nobody talks back — things just spiral out of control. Lawyers need to be trained to deal with situations with sympathy for both sides, understanding the argument on both sides. And to accuse someone of making such an unobjectionable statement as being allied with white supremacists is over the top.” It’s a sign of the times, she said. “I don’t think this would have happened 30 years ago, or five years ago. The world is getting more politically tribal. It worries me a lot. I’m not just seeing it in this instance but in  many situations,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the law school said in an emailed statement: “Our response to this letter is everyone is entitled to his or her view, including two of the eight members of the Commission. The school has already expressed its view.”

Legal Education | Permalink


I doubt if the AU law faculty knows what a white supremacist looks like, let alone if they've ever met one. And I highly doubt if there are any on their campus.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Apr 12, 2016 6:05:38 AM

I have wrestled for weeks with whether or not I should comment. Being the only openly Christian Conservative on my campus, I fully expect to be figuratively slaughtered for my opinion. If another professor posted a sign that said Black Lives Matter, I would have posted my own sign that says All Lives Matter. Why? Because the slogan BLM really means only those black lives killed by a white cop regardless of reason matter. I called out BLM for not immediately taking up Tamir Rice's case. They finally did. But did they care one bit about Tyshawn Lee? Does that make me a racist that I care about innocent children being killed and I don't care who killed them? Absolutely not. All Lives Matter is an appropriate response to BLM, because it says clean up your own house first before you knock on my door to call me a racist slob.

Posted by: Cheyanna Jaffke | Apr 11, 2016 2:26:26 PM

American University is going to need to get some new law professors. The ones they have now are not up to the job. How embarrassing for AU.

Posted by: Rick Caird | Apr 11, 2016 1:30:42 PM

Note to self: Never suggest to someone that they attend this law school.

Why? Because to know if this was an "incidence of intolerance," these professors must know who did it and why. That they do not know.

There are a host of reasons why a black law student more closely atune to the ideas of Martin Luther King than today's black elite, who are perpetually whining and blaming whites for all black ills, might have made this post.

Is this black protestor intolerant and perhaps even racist? I doubt these far-from-clever law professors have even thought of that. Do they realize that, by condeming an event without knowing its cause, they're displaying the mindset of a lynch mob? I doubt they have the sense to realize that.

With the decline in law enrollment, lawyers-to-be have a wealth of choices for schooling. This particular law school should not be on their list.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Apr 11, 2016 10:45:42 AM

Thank you for posting this. Professors like this need to be called out. They are not teaching students; they are indoctrinating them in lies.

For similar embarrassment, look at the November 2015 issue of the Journal of Legal Education on Ferguson. From the editors, "In this issue, we are proud to present a symposium collection of articles and essays about the legal academy’s responsibility to address the individual and systemic injustices now connoted by the name Ferguson." The problem is the DOJ and three autopsy reports completely exonerated the officer.To base an entire issue on a lie is a total embarrassment to a journal that has been a leading light in legal education.

Susan Bandes' contribution is especially embarrassing. "The day after the Ferguson grand jury declined to indict was a rare kind of teaching day. We want our students to be open to new information, eager to gain knowledge, passionate about what they learn. On that day my students came to class not just open but vulnerable and in pain, not just curious but needing answers. They were desperate to understand how this sort of injustice could occur, and what could be done to fix it. They were desperate to be reassured that law matters. I have occasionally experienced such teaching days, when it felt as if the students were teetering on the edge of an abyss." Professor Bandes, it didn't happen this way. Michael Brown was charging the officer. The officer was acting in self-defense. Even Obama's DOJ said so. You do not belong in a profession in which the truth is important. You are a fraud. (Professor Bandes posted her article on SSRN on November 16, 2015, over six months after the DOJ report.)

Posted by: pat | Apr 11, 2016 10:30:22 AM

The faculty's joint statement is a clarion call to the world that no one should ever hire one of their students. The market value of an AU law degree, despite its very high cost, is negative, and will only go further into the red. Anyone who is stupid enough to matriculate at AU after this should be avoided like lice.

Posted by: Alec Rawls | Apr 11, 2016 10:00:18 AM

"A spokeswoman for the law school said in an emailed statement: “Our response to this letter is everyone is entitled to his or her view, "

Except, apparently, people who believe that All Lives Matter.

Posted by: Ronnie Schreiber | Apr 11, 2016 9:50:10 AM

Remember: If you can hear a dog whistle, you are a dog.

When the black community starts acting like black lives matter, we will develop some interest in their plaint. That will be the day that they spend more of their time and effort sending black gangsters who terrorize black communities to jail, than they do protesting the police who try, however vainly, to protect the innocent from the gangsters.

Until then black lives matter is the slogan of a deeply racist and deeply destructive movement, that spreads nothing but misery and destruction. It deserves no respect. Any law professor who claims that objecting to the slogan "All Lives Matter" is racist is himself racist and irresponsible. The blood of innocent children like Tyshawn Lee and Jamyla Bolden, who are murdered daily in the black communities of this country by black gangsters is on their hands.

BTW: American University law school is TTT all the way, and is high up on the list of the 100 law schools that need to be closed now. The 60 signees should be the first ones fired, and should receive no severance pay.

Posted by: Walter Sobchak | Apr 11, 2016 9:20:50 AM

If you can hear a dog whistle, you're the dog.

Posted by: AMT buff | Apr 11, 2016 9:03:57 AM

It seems the legal profession has become unhinged.

Posted by: Ron Nord | Apr 11, 2016 9:02:53 AM

This is what legal education has come to? Sixty professors take the time to chide a student about something clearly legal? God help us because we are constantly learning we can't help ourselves.

Posted by: iwillikers | Apr 11, 2016 7:08:11 AM

You can't fix stupid. What has 50-years of self-esteem non-achievement-based education wrought? The Proudly Stupid.

Posted by: Alex | Apr 11, 2016 7:04:32 AM

I love that you put this up here again Prof. Caron. Don't let them sweep their behavior under the rug.

For any law school faculty members who want to catch of glimpse of what normal people feel about this type of conduct, just sort the comments by "most liked" and read the first 20 or so.

Posted by: JM | Apr 11, 2016 6:52:03 AM

Tribal is exactly right. Our entire culture is regressing as it pats itself on the back for being so "diverse". MLK Jr must just be spinning in his grave.

Posted by: Darth Chipmunk | Apr 11, 2016 6:35:21 AM

Gail Heriot says: "I just wish that people in positions of authority, like members of a law-school faculty, would try not to make things worse by engaging in name-calling of this kind."

I'm wrestling with how to apply this wisdom to the decision by two members of the Commission not to write as unaffiliated individuals, but rather to write as "two members of the Commission" (if not on behalf of the whole) and on Commission letterhead, and to call the faculty "Orwellian." The letter's tone also struck me as a little light on the sympathy to both sides, but will re-read.

Posted by: Ed | Apr 11, 2016 6:35:05 AM

That phrase — to some, code language for a racist rejection of an important cultural wake-up call, for others, an idealistic appeal for a simple, more universal truth — set off a series of reactions.

Note the focus switch there-the people to whom it is an idealistic appeal to universal truth are the people who use it. The people to whom it is a racist dog whistle are the people who see it and don't like it.

Posted by: tim maguire | Apr 11, 2016 5:26:59 AM