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More on the Widener Law School controversy

More on the Widener Law School controversy

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.


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Any bets that emails will mysteriously disappear before they can be submitted in response to discovery? I would also bet that it will never occur to the Widener administration that there are things called backups that can be used to recover “accidentally” deleted data.

Please keep covering this one. It looks like it will be truly hilarious to watch.

The demand for a psych evaluation touches upon so many issues involving our court systems, due process, our First Amendment and privacy rights, and the public’s unfortunate belief in this snake oil as if it were akin to a secular religion, that I thought I would mention this:

“Let us be very clear about the true state of the psychologist’s art. Psychologists do not know any more about behavior than the average man or woman in the jury box or the judge’s robes. Psychologists do not know what causes behavior and they are entirely incapable of pinpointing some hypothetical event in the past that has led to the present state of an individual. They do not know what got done, how it got done, or whodunit. And not only are they unable to predict future behavior any better than the man or woman on the street, they are actually worse at it, blinded as they are by the illusion of their own expertise. Diagnostic categories are not validly established and diagnoses cannot be rendered reliably. Neither can therapy be reliably used to change the behavior of our citizens, juvenile or adult, violent or simply wayward.

“Psychologists have no special ability to read into the soul-or mind or psyche-of another human with any more accuracy than the rest of us. Upon finishing graduate or medical school they are not given special soulographs or psychometers that let them plumb the depths of anyone’s psychological being. There simply is no mental stethoscope, no matter how much our justice system wishes there were.

“Clinicians are not trained to perform the myriad tasks the legal system asks them to perform because no body of knowledge exists to support such training. It is a sorry state of affairs, but it is the only state we’ve got.”

— Prof. Margaret Hagen, Ph.D. (The book is available for free download at Prof. Hagen’s website)

Nah. Even the idiot administration at Widener isn’t stupid enough to try to destroy evidence. Any of them that still have bar licenses or have any aspirations of doing anything again EVER in the legal realm would be disbarred and would be tarred and feathered by every other law school for lack of ethics. It would be one of those “ethical lapses” that I would be surprised if any Character & Fitness committee of any bar association anywhere would let them live down.

It would be one of those end of the world, career destroying moves.

The Widener Admin will continue to push the “we’re protecting the students” and the “Angry white professor” memes as long as they can, hoping to outlast Prof. Connell and wear him down into submission by fully destroying his reputation. But, at this point, Connell really has nothing to lose. If he wins the suit, he’ll likely be able to get his entire back pay from Widener, possibly some additional mental anguish damages, a punitive damage award (single digit multiplier, but still something) and possibly a full-on apology from Widener Law. At least that would be my guess at this point.

It will be like watching a train wreck as this unfolds further. I would not be at all surprised though if Widener Law requested a gag order on the proceedings in the name of “protecting the students.”

At this point, it seems that the Board of Directors of Widener University and Dean Ammons all should have a psych evaluation. To the untrained eye, they look f’n crazy.

SmokeVanThorn | August 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm

The Widnener decision found that Connell violated unviersity policy, not federal law, when he “retaliated” by expressing his intent to avail himself of his legal rights. Widener continues to disgrace itself.

The problem lies in the inability of those insecure in their authority to admit being wrong.

But all of this will only further entrench the hatred of the leaders of academia for conservatives.

    leereyno in reply to mozzis. | August 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    It will entrench the hatred of LEFTIST leaders within academia for conservatives, a hatred that is entirely mutual. I want them to hate me. I want them to be so consumed by it that it eats away at them from within. I want them to be so blinded by it that they are unable to maintain the facade of sanity. I want their masks to slip and fall and for their true nature to be revealed to all.

[…] last Friday, Jacobson reported on Delaware Law Weekly‘s article on the case. The article states that several other law […]