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Widener Law School goes Soviet, demands law professor undergo psychiatric evaluation

Widener Law School goes Soviet, demands law professor undergo psychiatric evaluation

Lawrence Connell is a tenured law professor at Widener Law School in Delaware.  I have noted in prior posts that Connell was accused of a wide range of racist and sexist conduct directed at students in his classes and at Dean Linda Ammons (because of hypothetical examples Connell used in class).

Connell has sued, and also went through a university disciplinary hearing process.  The faculty committee which heard the evidence found that Connell did not violate any university policy with regard to the allegations of racist and sexist conduct.  The committee report, available exclusively here, while it ultimately vindicates Connell, is a depressing narrative of the sorry state of political correctness and race/sex politics on campus, in which the feelings and reaction of accusers carry as much weight as the objective reality of the statements made.  While Connell was vindicated on a wide range of charges, this case surely will have a chilling effect on academic freedom on campuses as professors now know that regardless of the context, they are at risk of the subjective feelings of those with an agenda.

But on one charge Connell was found to have violated university policy.  The Committee found that Connell’s reaction to the false accusations against him, in which he sought to vigorously defend both his job and his reputation, constituted “retaliation.”  Here’s how the retaliation charge was framed (at page 41 of the Report):

The complainants have made several retaliation claims. In brief, they allege that Professor Connell has retaliated by (1) publishing information to other students detailing what   transpired with his employment status, and describing what  he  termed, “preposterous accusations”; (2) threatening the students with lawsuits in the press and other external data outlets; and (3) serving subpoenas upon them at the beginning of their final exam period.

Items (2) and (3) were undertaken by Connell’s counsel, not Connell himself.  So the only “retaliation” charged against Connell was sending an e-mail to students explaining what was happening and asserting that the accusations against him were untrue.

Since the university code did not define “retaliation,” the committee looked to definitions of retaliation in discrimination laws, and ultimately found that Connell’s actions constituted retaliation because other students were able to figure out who the complaining students were (Report p. 43):

The Committee finds Professor Connell’s e-mail message to the student body to constitute retaliation under the Code. Professor Connell could have explained his situation to his students without using language that would have the foreseeable effect of identifying the complainants. (Report p. 44)

The Committee found that “threats” by Connell’s attorney to sue the complaining students (who have in fact been sued now) constituted retaliation, but that the service of subpoenas did not.  (Report p. 45).

So the only conduct of Connell himself which the committee found violated university policy were emails he sent to the student population defending himself against false accusations of racism and sexism.

In a rational world, the university would seek no or minimal sanctions against Connell since he was completely vindicated of the underlying charges, so that his defense of himself in emails to students  ultimately was proven to be valid.  But Dean Ammons recommended that the university suspend Connell for a year without pay, which the university accepted.

But Dean Ammons recommendation, accepted by the university, went much further, demanding that Connell submit to a psychiatric evaluation, undergo “anger management” counseling, and issue an apology:

1. Professor Connell will acknowledge, in writing, his violation of the Discrimination and Harassment Code and will agree to comply fully with his contractual obligations and all policies of Widener University and Widener University School of Law in the future. Professor Connell’s acknowledgement shall be placed in his personnel file.

2. Professor Connell will undergo a psychological evaluation by a psychiatrist or psychologist of his choice selected from a list of four individuals provided to him by the University. The purpose of this evaluation will be to determine his fitness for his teaching position, particularly in view of his retaliatory response to the student complaints lodged against him. The psychiatrist/psychologist will be advised of the reasons why the evaluation is to be conducted. Once the psychiatrist/psychologist is selected by Professor Connell, Professor Connell will instruct that individual to contact Vice Dean Kelly directly so that he/she may be advised of the reasons for the conduct of the evaluation. Professor Connell will comply with all conditions and recommendations issued by the psychiatrist/psychologist, including, without limitation, appropriate counseling and anger management, prior to the lifting of the suspension and his return to teaching duties. Not earlier than sixty (60) days prior to the end of the term of Professor Connell’s one year suspension, his psychiatrist/psychologist must send to the Dean and Vice Dean an evaluation assessing Professor Connell’s fitness to return to duties, completion of courses or training, if applicable, and a follow-up treatment plan, if any.

3. Professor Connell must issue a written apology to the students against whom he has been found to have retaliated. The form and content of that apology must be provided to the Dean of the Law School for approval and will be distributed to the affected students by the Dean’s office.

These conditions are as outrageous as Widener Law School’s underlying conduct in refusing to stand up to false accusations of racism and sexism made against Connell. There was no retaliation or “anger” expressed by Connell except the vigrous defense of what were proven to be false accusations.

Widener’s requirement of a psychiatric evaluation under these circumstances clearly is intended to further damage Connell even though the committee found no conduct which reflected any alleged psychiatric or anger management issues. Connell simply defended himself.

Widener Law School Dean Linda Ammons has done further damage to her law school and her own reputation by using psychiatry as a vindictive tool against a law professor whose worst crime was defending himself against false accusations of racism and sexism.

In Re Connell – August 1, 2011 of Linda L. Ammons

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Comments

Absolutely outrageous. Beyond chilling for (Conservative) academic freedom and for the ability to defend oneself.

I’m surprised that 2., the bit about the psychiatric evaluations, doesn’t include: “All sessions Professor Connell has with his psychiatrist will be conducted in a room with a two-way mirror, for observation by University officials, and will be video-taped for further review.”

This is ghastly, and like the thin edge of the wedge, portents bad things for everybody in academia.

A year’s suspension, without pay, for defending himself from false accusations? The ABA should pull that law schools accreditation.

[…] LEGAL EDUCATION UPDATE: Widener Law School Goes Soviet, Demands Law Professor Undergo Psychiatric Evaluation. […]

Bad enough that they want the totalitarian remedy of psychiatric evaluation–they want to be able to watch. This would, of course, obviate doctor-patient confidentiality; in other words, if Connell were to accept this, and I hope he does not, everything he said would be immediately known to people trying to get him and anything he said they could use would be used. This is a stunning example of the totalitarian mind–and in using this term I use it advisedly–in action.

And of course the “retaliation” is defending himself. But to the leftist or totalitarian (I repeat myself) mindset any defense is ipso facto illegitimate. Note how often leftists claim they are being suppressed when someone ventures to criticize them.

I am not at all happy with a lot of the things my law school alma mater (Michigan) has said and done, but by comparison U of M is a light unto the legal nations.

Unfudgingbelievable.

Connell wasn’t found to be a sexist or racist (and so what if he were- intellectual freedom doesn’t stand a chance against the de facto prior restraint of PC, apparently), and is nevertheless being severely sanctioned as one, and with anger issues to boot. It would seem the Dean and her supporters are hoping to take a falsely accused man who was unhappy with the original slurs and lies against him and stoke his righteous anger at this new outrage so that he might say something in response which they, in turn, will use to justify their “he’s got underlying issues and is unfit for the classroom” meme.

Isn’t there a term for that kind of linear time defying effect and cause logic? My ex used to use it ALL of the time ;{

The Lawrence Connell v. Dean Ammons fight is precisely the free and principled America v. corrupt and controlling Progressives battle, just writ more personal. We can support Connell in his suits and hope that a degree from the school gets downgraded just like the rating of our Prog governnment did.

[…] out the words “on campus” and you’ve got a pretty good description of what ails America right now: A depressing narrative of the sorry state of political correctness […]

[…] as Pathology; Conservative = Crazy and Researchers Find Conservatives Are Indeed Insane. The Widener Law School affair is just the latest example of liberals indulging in a sport of racial politics and sexual politics […]

Is it possible to file a complaint with the ABA re Widener that would challenge their accreditation because this whole case reeks of bad law? How can a school which stifles the right of the defendant to speak of his accusers (no First Amendment at Widener?), dismiss the findings of a “court” and impose a draconian penalty be allowed to remain accredited to teach the law?

[…] Law School goes Soviet, demands law professor undergo psychiatric evaluation Widener Law School goes Soviet, demands law professor undergo psychiatric evaluation Posted by William A. Jacobson Le-gal Ijn-sur-rec-tion blog Saturday, August 6, 2011 at 10:00am […]

What the professor did or didn’t do is irrelevant. His beliefs contradict “official doctrine.” He must be humiliated and then eliminated. All means are acceptable to root out and destroy ideological heresy. Every good Stalinist knows that…

In 1947 the Army made Richard Feynman go through a psychiatric exam. WHICH HE FAILED!

A new book out, QUANTUM MAN, details this story. Page 110. I quote:

“Everywhere [Feynman] encountered what he viewed as nonsense, he rebelled, often independent of standard formalities. An episode with several psychiatrists who performed a second draft physical on [him] in the summer of 1947 was worthy of an Abbott and Costello skit and later became famous. As a result of his eruptions during the psychiatric interview, [Feynman] was declared mentally unfit to serve, a conclusion that caused both he and [Hans] Bethe to erupt in nonstop laughter for half an hour when he returned back to work.”

The education system was lost to the libs a long time ago. If we are to take our country back, we must wrestle this institution back. Otherwise, our battle will forever be uphill.

    Milwaukee in reply to obpopulus. | August 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    My suspicion is that our educational system needs reforming the way Peter the Great “reformed” his army. He sent promising young officer candidates abroad for training, forming a parallel army officer structure. When that structure was large enough he hosted a banquet, where the reform officers sat opposite their old army counterparts. At the end of the banquet the new officers executed their old army counterparts. Voila! New army. There is simply too much baggage from our system of accreditation and credentialing, much of which carries over into our regulatory system of licensing occupations. Law schools must be accredited for their students to get loans. Admission to graduate and professional schools require degrees from accredited undergraduate programs. It’s a rats nest of systems looking out for themselves.

      WarEagle82 in reply to Milwaukee. | August 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      I am not sure our gracious host would approve of a plan to execute law school academics. (Law school administrators might be a different story.)

      Still, executing those who disagree with us, would be at odds with our expressed values. Silly ethics always get in the way…

    kobayashi in reply to obpopulus. | August 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    David Horowitz is a name I’ve used as a “Write-In” for all those GOP who-do-you-really like straw polls.

    He’s been fighting on the University Campus including my own midwestern state Moo-Yoo aggie-engineering school.

    In the context of unrestrained leninism in American Universities
    http://freedomcenterstudents.org/

    David has an interesting bio and “Was There In Detail” in ‘The sixties Left’

    His Bio http://frontpagemag.com/biography/

    Main Webpage is Frontpagemag.com at http://frontpagemag.com/

    His Very-Useful-Resource is the search tool setup at Discover-the-Networks –

    http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=7603

    http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=7645

    http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=7687

    ….I think of the situation we’re in as figuratively analogous to “Bastogne” in WWII and in that sense the web resources of DHFC are extremely useful.

An excellent example of why employers don’t like to hire menopausal women. I think she should be charged with retribution and be examined by a psychiatrist. The next step will be to exile Prof Connell to the Gulag and the Dean should join him there.

    DINORightMarie in reply to Nan. | August 6, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    “…employers don’t like to hire menopausal women.” –@Nan

    Now you tell me!! That explains so much…..I hadn’t heard that one before. 😉

[…] Professor Lawrence Connell, revolving around trumped up charges of harassment and discrimination, gets more and more absurd. Having been almost entirely vindicated by a faculty committee, with the only remaining […]

I see a lack of common sense in the professor’s choosing to use his boss as the subject of hypothetical violence That she is black and female only adds to the stupidity. Only in academia would this be considered a reasonable course of action.

I agree as to the requirement for psychological evaluation. That is wrong, especially since it is written in such a stringent and insulting way.

    Cowboy Curtis in reply to test. | August 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    When I was in law school, it was a very common practice. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t at most law schools.

Connell’s sin wasn’t “retaliation” or a harassment violation. It was BadThink.

The mandated head-shrinking serves as the modern university equivalent of the “box” in Cool Hand Luke: a place “to get your mind right, boy.”

It looks like it’s about time for the Board of Directors of Widener to oust Law School Dean Linda Ammons, who is ruining the good name of Widener.

    Neo in reply to Neo. | August 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    “It looks like it’s about time for the Board of Directors of Widener to oust Law School Dean Linda Ammons, who is ruining the good name of Widener.”

    After I wrote this, I began to wonder if Dean Ammons is trying to get out of her contract.

Lubayanka, eh?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lubyanka_Building

What was the difference again between Stalin and say Andropov?

Andropov was more sophisticated and nuanced, sent opponents to Lubayanka for “Evaluation”.

Hmmm – what do you suppose the thinking was for the American version we run into today?

I dunno. Our vaunted educational system was free. Held in schoolrooms that hired spinsters. And, where the basics in reading and writing were taught.

Abraham Lincoln got those basics in school. And, played with the sermons he heard on Sundays … by going out … Tom Sawyer-like … with his friends. And, regaling them with a retelling of the sermon-of-the-week. Making people laugh.

In politics, as in life, the optimist wins.

Good that Mark Twain is remembered. Sad that Philip Wiley is not.

Widener’s diploma (creential) wasn’t worth much going into this hullabaloo.

I’m a physician, as is every psychiatrist. We adhere to time-honored and legally supported doctor-patient confidentiality rules. Countless federal and state laws severely restrict the right of the employer or his agent (who pay for the health insurance) to gain knowledge of what goes on in the exam room due to the potential for the employer to form an opinion that is not based on medical knowledge. When an employer (or a policeman or a court) asks for a psych eval they are NOT present in the room lest they draw their own conclusions. They are paying for the doctors opinion and only the treating psychiatrist is able to form one, viewers behind a wall who don’t have the ability to ask questions cannot.

In court, a doctor may read from the chart, may answer questions based on the encounter, using the opinions he or she has formed by examining and testing the patient. We have to state our credentials and how we formed the opinion (it’s based on education and experience that an observer would not have). I would be supported by the law if I refused to permit the employer or their agent, the person who purchased the insurance, in the room (or on the other side of the mirror) during an exam.

It ought to be common sense the actions of both the doctor and the patient will be different knowing your employer is on the other side of the wall. Professor Connell may have been compelled to agree to this, if it was a workers compensation exam the doctor would also have no choice, but for a psychiatric examination of this sort the doctor should refuse.

Doctor-patient relationships are based on trust, even though this case is so unbelievably not about Connell’s mental state, you can’t make an accurate diagnosis without trust. You’ll never have trust when your employer and accuser are right on the other side of the wall. Bah!!!!

    Chicklet in reply to Chicklet. | August 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    oops. I read the first comment as if he was required to have an observed examination. Funny how given the nature of this whole thing I just figured it had gone that far.
    I’ve read the actual letter and see that is not the case, so the Dean must be pissed she didn’t think of throwing that in, too. Apologies.

LukeHandCool | August 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Is there any such thing as “Totalitarian impulse management”? If not, there should be. And I know the first deserving patient.

If anyone knows the identity of the students who falsely accused the professor, tell us their names so they can be publicly shamed. They don’t deserve anonymity and we should make others who would make scurrilous accusations think twice before they do so.

    gs in reply to hadley. | August 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Revealing their identities would make it harder for the students to find employers whom they can sue for sexism and racism.

    I don’t believe you’re unaware of that, hadley. Hmmm…can it be that (ominous music) you’re racist and sexist yourself?! (ominous music crescendos into abrupt, shattering silence)

My first thought when I read the remarks about “retaliation” was to ask “Who is retaliating against whom?”

It certainly appears on the surface of this as thought Dean Ammons is retaliating against Professor Connell, and is doing so with the full cooperation, nay, even approval, of the school administration and board. All for the grievous mistake of defending himself vigorously.

When defense of yourself becomes a crime the institution descends into totalitarianism. Thank the Lord that I am many years out of college.

I cannot imagine the lawsuit that could result from this action on the part of Dean Ammons.

Theater of the absurd, indeed.

Ken

DINORightMarie | August 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm

This needs to be added to the law suit(s), as appropriate, to show the punitive actions, the vindictiveness of the Dean and Widener Law administrators – or whoever he is specifically suing.

They need to feel it in their wallets – both the individual and college. Then maybe – maybe! – they will reign in this totalitarian Kabuki.

Also, if I were this professor, I would also sue for defamation, as this has to have tarnished his credentials and ability to pursue employment at another law school.

This is a play taken out of the book written by the hospital bar lawyers for hospitals who want to get rid of physicians who will not look the other way when hospitals cut quality of care corners, and increasingly used by hospitals to eliminate physicians who will not sign employment contracts or whom are deemed to be “competing” with hospitals.

A physician is labeled as being disruptive, based on highly subjective criteria regarding his or her behavior or patient outcomes, then put through a kangaroo court proceeding. Because of a law written in the 1980’s, there is little room for judicial review, and the physician can be reported to a national practitioner data bank and lose hie or her career.

Hoist by your own petard, it seems.

David R. Graham | August 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

“It’s a rats nest of systems looking out for themselves.”

Yes, so quit the nest. Who wants to be a rat?

I often wonder why chaotics so love to live in moral and even material squalor, of which opulence is one kind. But they do. I wonder if they have ever been otherwise. Grandeur is in the heart or it be not present. To defeat the designs of chaotics, be grand, be self-confident, be happy.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | August 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I slogged through the Formal Committee Report and I was stunned by the amount of resources the Board allowed to be thrown at this case. That’s your tuition and endowment dollars at work, Widener students and alumni. Then to find Professor Connell was exonerated of the allegations of sexual and racial harassment by the Committee only adds insult to injury.

It’s simply amazing to me that the Board accepted the Dean’s recommendations to punish Professor Connell at all, let alone including as part of that punishment a mandatory psychiatric evaluation. Talk about retaliation.

Hopefully, he will win his lawsuit in a very big way and the Board will regret ever going down this ridiculous path. The Board has presented Widener in a very bad light. They ought to be ashamed.

Were the students whose accusations proved unfounded or outright lies expelled or at least suspended for a year and asked to undergo psychiatric evaluation? Have they been told they are to write apologies to the professor and school as a condition of being allowed back?

I suspect this latest salvo will give Connell an excellent retaliation claim of his own against Widener, its board and Dean Ammons. IMO, either the dean and her school are not listening to advice of counsel or counsel is giving them bad advice.

First Amendment and civil rights advocacy organizations should be supporting Connell to the hilt. This kind of highhanded vindictiveness is coming from a ABA accredited law school is outrageous.

[…] Legal Insurrection: Lawrence Connell is a tenured law professor at Widener Law School in Delaware.  I have noted in […]

Here’s an interesting little example of Connell’s teaching method. The student was obviously concerned because she was simply a member of the “PC police”:

From the Report:

“The Formal Complaint reads in pertinent part (FC3):One day, during class, students were giving their opinions about a legal matter.Every student who commented agreed with Professor Connell’s opinion on the matter.Eventually, Jennifer raised her hand and respectfully disagreed with Professor Connell’sopinion. Right after Jennifer disagreed with him, Professor Connell developed ahypothetical where Professor Connell decided to shoot Jennifer (of all people). Hewalked in front of Jennifer’s seat, pointed his hands (in the shape of a gun) at her face,and screamed “Die Bitch!” One could here [sic] students in the class gasping at what hehad just done. At the end of class, people came up to Jennifer and shared that the thought it was inappropriate. This kind of cursing and intimidation was a regular occurrence in the classroom, especially the terms “fuck” and “bitch” and “shit.””

    Nemo's omen in reply to Commenter10. | August 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I’ve never understood how the usual suspect screamers about freedom of speech and academia square their “Dissent is patriotic” and “Speaking truth to the Man” gone to hyperbolic extremes with “You’ve hurt my feelings and will pay for it.”

    Hunch is, their idea of free speech isn’t so much content-neutral as it is a staked claim to cosmic truth as homage to Beautiful Liberal People and their Oppressed (because they’re told they are) Minion Masses Supporters.

    Crawford in reply to Commenter10. | August 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    One of my favorite memories of college is of the professor running the engineering lab’s hardware “cage” walking into our lab and saying, “One thing — have a complete list of what you need before you come up to the cage! None of this piece-by-piece shit!”

    The other words featured prominently in the “music” listened to by many on campus.

    None of us felt our widdle psyches were harmed, but, then, I didn’t know any law students. Perhaps they’re more fragile?

So let’s see if I get this straight — this so-called educational institution has determined that the man needs a psych exam because he reacted negatively to a false accusation, publicly defended himself, and through his legal counsel asserted his right under the US Constitution to engage in litigation to clear his name. Frankly, most normal folks would argue that he needed a psych exam if he did not follow that course of action.

And isn’t it odd that a school devoted to training students for careers in the field of litigation would argue that those who avail themselves of the services of those in that field are to be presumed to be mentally unbalanced until they prove themselves sane?

I think that the faculty should use this as an opportunity to whittle back the administration potatoheads. They sould announce that they will not be teaching classes in the upcoming year until the Dean resigns or is fired. Of course, they could fire the faculty members who signed on, but finding good replacements (especially now) will be much harder than replacing one bad Dean.

Well, ok, executing incompetents really is over the top. The problem though, is we have an education and accreditation system which refuses to change in a meaningful way. We do need a system to educate, and to certify competence and the system we have is inefficient, ineffective and unfair.

Culture eats change for lunch. Our culture of accreditation needs reforming, whether it be in law schools and the practice of law or schools of education and teaching on the K-12 levels. The systems in place are incapable of changing themselves.

Carol Herman | August 7, 2011 at 1:01 am

No one I know knows a lawyer with a Widener credential.

And, no dean sits in a chair where he or she can’t raise money. Deans are like politicians. Every day, they are dialing for dollars.

Either Ammons has money coming in supporting her. Or not. Why Ammons has used this approach … and not just put Connell’s classes up on the roof. Or down in the basement. Or scheduled for 5:00 AM, I have no idea.

As to menopausal … you take take a 30 year old woman and give her a hysterectomy and she’s immediately menopausal.

Employers once looked at a woman’s ring finger. And, if she was young, she was bypassed for a woman who was single. Because a man didn’t want a pregnant secretary, who would leave. Putting him in the same position, again, to have to hire someone else.

Now, does InstaPundit’s link bring blowback? As I said, I never heard of anyone who had actually gone here … and then gone out to practice law in my neighborhood. Or county. If you’ve heard of such a lawyer, please report.

[…] by dropping the whole matter and apologizing profusely to Connell, instead browbeat the committee into demanding this of Connell for too-vigorously defending himself against a bogus charge designed to destroy his […]

If I am not the first to suggest this, then I apologize. Dean Ammons is the one who need a psychological examination. She has given this bastion of liberal and political correctness a black eye. Pun intended.

    From another blog, the names of the students are:

    Meanwhile, I hope prospective employers Google the names “Jennifer R. Perez” and “Nadege Tandoh” before they make any hiring decisions. Jennifer R. Perez and Nadege Tandoh were the two thin-skinned, grievance-prone students who filed the absurd complaint against Professor Connell, and whose assertions of racism and discrimination were found to be entirely without merit. In my humble opinion, any company or law firm that hires either Jennifer Perez or Nadege Tandoh is essentially taping a “KICK ME” sign to its own metaphorical back.

[…] host of sanctions against Professor Connell for the retaliation charge. The blog Legal Insurrection carries the news as well, reporting that Dean Ammons recommended that Professor Connell be suspended without pay for […]

[…] host of sanctions against Professor Connell for the retaliation charge. The blog Legal Insurrection carries the news as well, reporting that Dean Ammons recommended that Professor Connell be suspended without pay for […]

[…] Widener Law School has decided to double down after a faculty committee determined that a couple of students — Jennifer Perez and Nadege Tandoh, to be precise — falsely accused law professor Lawrence Connell of engaging in racist and sexist conduct.  The school is requiring Connell to submit to a psychiatric examination before it will reinstate him.  Professor Jacobson has the details. […]

[…] filed an affidavit in the case in Connell’s support.) And like David, I was rather astonished by the latest news that the University has ordered that Connell will be suspended for a year without pay, must be […]

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