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April 07, 2013

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soon-to-be former SLU Law Prof

Thanks for posting Annette's essay. I found it both sad and inspiring. The lack of a public voice of the tenured faculty is, for the most part, indicative of a lack of a SLU Law voice. The overwhelming majority of tenured law faculty did not utter Annette's name after her departure, let alone speak to the merits of her resignation. The silence within the ranks of the tenured law faculty was deafening, and was a motivating factor for many junior faculty to seek jobs elsewhere.

The latest SLU drama is, perhaps, equally as telling. See here:
https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/30149/slu_legal_threat_040113

Biondi the dictator, I mean president, is attempting to censor a faculty survey by threatening a copyright infringement case against a tenured member of the faculty. Law School faculty (who know a thing or two about copyright, and sham litigation) have not said a thing to support the faculty survey or contradict the the nonsense of the Biondi regime. I, for one, am so grateful to be leaving this abusive and disruptive environment, and I know for sure than many of my colleagues look forward to leaving as well.

SLU Law faculty would be well served to read carefully what Annette has to say, and adjust their actions accordingly. I was proud to have her as my Dean.

SLU Alum

Soon-to-be former SLU Law Prof,

Are there additional lateral moves that have not yet been reported on the lateral list? How many professors did SLU lose?

Brian Tamanaha

"First and foremost is the harm being done to the faculty’s reputation, which
flows from the fact that they are being publicly perceived as operating
strategically and expediently, but at the cost of the law school’s integrity. If the
faculty believes that the description of the conduct I outlined in my letter of
resignation is an accurate representation of what actually occurred over the
course of the past year, then it is reasonable to ask how those who hold the
protection of tenure can not speak up, even if speaking comes at some risk. I
obviously believe that there are principles at play here that are worth defending."

Clark acted courageously under trying circumstances and deserves praise, but this essay is questionable (the theme is captured in the above quote). She charges the tenured faculty, by remaining silent, with failing to stand up for academic principles (a charge echoed by "soon to be former SLU").

Clark knew at the time she resigned that she had an escape option ready in hand (footnote 36), and thus would not face long term retaliation. The tenured faculty were in a different position--having to decide what the best course of action was for themselves and the law school going forward under a notoriously difficult president. Silence is justifiable if speaking up would do little or no additional good (Clark's action was widely applauded at the time and the SLU president was discredited), and might provoke a backlash that would harm individuals and the law school.

Clark says the tenured faculty's silence diminished its reputation because it acted "expediently" at the cost of "integrity." But a more sympathetic perspective would have seen their silence, not as a reason to question their integrity, but as prudent under the circumstances.

soon-to-be former SLU Law Prof

Brian: that same rationale would say that an abused person in an abusive relationship should not take a stand, for fear of backlash or because of no escape route. I don't find that line of reasoning convincing. You say that silence is justifiable if speaking up would do little or no additional good: yet, the events at SLU over the past year (votes of no confidence, ousting of the VP, etc.) all happened because of a lack of silence. However painful the lack of silence has been, and whatever short or long-term harm it has caused the University, in my opinion, it will be worth it because it will rid the university of a presence that hinders true academic advancement. One can't predict how a lack of silence will play out, but one's integrity can unquestionably be harmed by silence.

As to SLU alum's question, I'm not sure of the final numbers, but at least 6-8 have accepted lateral offers elsewhere, and a few more are visiting (with the hope of leaving).

Howard Wasserman

Unless remaining silent also is the way to help the school move forward. As Brian said, Dean Clark had an escape route; an individual faculty member may not. For that faculty member, the principled move is to not take a stand, and thus piss off the president, thus giving herself the opportunity to, for example, influence or control the dean search process.

AnonProf

Based on what I have heard about Biondi, it is unlikely that any law professor is going to have much influence on the dean search process. It sounds like Biondi needs the open criticism from as many angels as possible. Then, perhaps, he will step down or be removed, which sounds like the only way forward for SLU.

SLU Law Prof

Brian & Howard: I think the problem is that the senior faculty early on adopted the policy that there would be no institutional response, but if faculty members wanted to engage in an individual response, then they should feel free to do so. That pushed the untenured faculty, people who justifiably feared retaliation from the president's appointee as dean, as well as the staff, under the bus. Why was it prudent for high-ranking members of the tenured faculty at the law school to do nothing when the faculty at the School of Arts and Sciences did a huge amount. When leaders on the faculty urge silence, that tends to silence others. It particularly impacts the untenured faculty and those who work in the clinic without tenure, who in many ways felt the brunt of the new regime, and were left without cover or a voice, and justifiably felt abandoned by the tenured faculty. Unlike Wash. U., SLU had a rather large untenured faculty and clinical program. Four untenured professors are now leaving. At least one other is visiting next year. Others are arranging research leaves. The people who waited out the president at the expense of untenured faculty and the clinical and LRW folks are still the people running the show. Many of the people left are bitter at the lack of leadership shown by those most in a position to dictate faculty policy. The influence on the President is a complete red herring. It is the impact on the rest of us that is (still) so poisonous.

Another SLU Law Prof

Howard, your comment is indicative of the 'culture problem' that Annette Clark identifies at SLU Law. Upon Clark's resignation, Tom Keefe was immediately appointed by the SLU President. And he immediately started making horrific comments to the press. Soon thereafter, a meeting of the faculty was called, and even though outrageous things were already being said by Tom Keefe, and even though he was promising - literally - to engage in an anti-intellectual binge session, senior faculty praised Tom Keefe and strongly urged everyone to keep quiet. Perhaps they were doing so to get leverage over the dean search process. But note what was at stake: 'Getting dean search leverage' was more important than protecting colleagues and students from outrageous, bigoted comments by Tom Keefe. This ultimately resulted in Pantygate at SLU, where Tom Keefe asked women about their undergarments, and other horrible things which cannot be repeated here. Does anyone else think that this situation is not crazy, and not indicative of a deep, deep problem in the SLU Law faculty and the way it has conducted itself?

Brian Tamanaha

To the several anon SLU profs supporting Clark's piece, I should make clear that I have absolutely no knowledge of what happened and why the tenured faculty chose not to speak up. My comment was merely to point out that to charge the tenured faculty with betraying integrity is a harsh characterization of their decision to remain silent. Perhaps I am too soft or unprincipled, but I am merely saying that what they did was understandable. I'm uncomfortable with demanding that people (even when protected by tenure) expose themselves to a real threat of retaliation, and then calling them cowards lacking in principle when they choose not to (it's easier to be brave with one foot out the door). Besides, as Clark acknowledges in the essay, it is possible that their silence was not based upon fear, but on thinking that the more positive course for the law school would be to move forward as constructively as possible, and some faculty members might have been unhappy with her very explicit public resignation. These strike me as legitimate reasons for silence, even if one might disagree.

That said, this is not my fight and I now regret making any comment at all. Obviously this has been traumatic time for SLU and I hope the faculty can get past it.

Orin Kerr

soon-to-be former SLU Law Prof, that link to the dispute over the survey is nuts. But it was dated 4/1; is it serious?

Another SLU prof

Yes, it's serious--the letter from Kauffmann was dated March 28 and has been posted online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/133519581/AAUP-Coppyright-Notice. It was also reported in the CHE (on April 2) as well as a variety of other outlets. Prof. Harris distributed a one-question supplemental survey in place of the one he initially drafted. The due dates for responses to both surveys have passed, so there should be more news on this soon.

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