Paul L. Caron
Dean




Monday, November 29, 2021

Koppelman On The Yale And UIC Law School Controversies

Following up on my previous posts:

Chronicle of Higher Education, The Review: 'Many Administrators Are Cowards':

Faculty susceptibility to administrative sanction is at the center of the highly politicized culture wars playing out across universities in the last five years or so. Law schools are no exception. In the last year, Northwestern Law’s Andrew Koppelman has emerged as a sort of monitor of what he sees as flagrant instances of administrative overreach. “Many administrators,” he told me, “are cowards who are pre-disposed to grovel before student demands. The way to make cowards behave appropriately is to give them fears in the other direction.” I spoke with Koppelman about recent events at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Law and at Yale Law School. Here’s some of that conversation.

You’ve written two pieces for the Review in relatively short order, the first about the Trent Colbert affair at Yale Law, and the second about Jason Kilborn at UIC. Both cases involve members of the law school, students or faculty, getting in trouble for putatively racist speech — speech which elicited great distress among other students. I’m reminded of a somewhat different but not unrelated dilemma, what Jeannie Suk Gersen at The New Yorker has described as new challenges around teaching rape law because of student sensitivity. What’s happening?

There are two different sets of sensitivities. There are the sensitivities of students, and there are the sensitivities of administrators. It’s important to keep them apart. There are always going to be some students who take offense at things. A teacher always needs to keep that in mind. Part of a teacher’s job is not to lose the room. So teaching is an exercise in rhetoric; rhetoric has a moral dimension. It forces you to learn about your audience, to get outside your own head and into the heads of other people. This is the morally attractive aspect of rhetoric. ...

What I thought happened at Yale was that the administrators were so rigidly attached to a particular narrative that they misunderstood the situation and they made horrible mistakes. The impression I get is of quite possibly well-intentioned people who made really bad judgments.

What you are are seeing at UIC is much worse. It’s positively malevolent — there’s just no excuse for it. ...

We are going into punitive damages territory here, where you have outrageous intentional infliction of emotional distress. There’s no excuse for it — it’s just insane.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage of Yale's email controversy:

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage of UIC's response to student complaints about a tenured professor:

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2021/11/koppelman-on-the-yale-and-uic-law-school-controversies.html

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