As you know, I have been following the case of Widener Law School Professor Lawrence Connell for several months.
Connell claimed that he was singled out by two students for false accusations of racism and sexism, and that the Widener administration backed the students without bothering with a thorough investigation, because Connell was one of a very small number of openly conservative professors on the faculty.
I can’t speak to Widener’s alleged anti-conservative motives, but the facts of the case are pretty outrageous. Rather than repeating everything, see my post Widener Law School goes Soviet, demands law professor undergo psychiatric evaluation.
Delaware Law Weekly has a good article out on the dispute, in which your humble correspondent is quoted:
Several law school professors contacted by Delaware Law Weekly said they believe the punishment was too harsh and have rallied in support of Connell, especially since the university cleared him of most of the charges. Several law professors have posted messages on their blogs and Twitter pages blasting the school’s decision.
“The whole concept of the psychiatric evaluation seems to go against the panel’s decision,” said William A. Jacobson, an associate clinical law professor at Cornell University Law School who blogs at the website Legal Insurrection, in an interview with the Delaware Law Weekly. “There is no allegation that he did anything that reflects mental illness, an anger management problem or that [Connell] is a threat to his students. Yet, Dean Ammons still imposed this bizarre psychiatric evaluation. Maybe she has an explanation for it, but as an outsider looking in, it seems vindictive.”
The article goes on to make clear that Widener is standing by its position, and not backing down, couching its position in terms of protecting students:
“The students who filed those complaints are protected from retaliation by federal law and [Connell] retaliated against them by threatening to sue them in the news media before they had a chance to present their complaints to the formal hearing committee,” said Mary Allen, public relations officer for the Widener School of Law.
Remember, Connell initially was removed from campus and not even allowed to grade finals before being given a chance to present his side of the story; the alleged retaliation (sending an email defending himself and his lawyer issuing a press release) came only after Widener’s administration had backed the students and taken punitive action against Connell. Widener did not wait for a formal hearing to take the action against Connell.
Connell has a lawsuit pending against Widener, Dean Ammons, and the two students. It will be interesting to see if Widener’s position can be sustained once Connell’s lawyers get access to e-mails and testimony regarding Widener’s interaction with the two students, and the school’s internal deliberations.
I’m betting that Connell’s lawyers are going to have a field day; just call it a hunch having handled lots of employment cases in my pre-law school career.