Thursday, November 30, 2006

Trouble in Minnesota

A controversy has erupted at the University of Minnesota Law School about the hiring of Robert Delahunty, currently an associate professor of law at the University of St. Thomas. An article in the November 29 issue of Inside Higher Ed summarizes the controversy surrounding Delahunty, which "stems from a memorandum drafted in 2002 by Delahunty and a Justice Department colleague, John Yoo, a conservative scholar and professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall." This is the infamous memo that "concluded that the Geneva Convention did not cover Al-Qaeda suspects captured in Afghanistan, and helped lay the foundation for the Bush administration's handling of prisoners captured during the war on terror." When one considers the damage that our treatment of prisoners has done to our standing in the world community, it is easy to understand why some members of the Minnesota community would object to Delahunty's presence at their law school.

A first-year student is circulating a petition requesting that the dean reconsider bringing Delahunty to Minnesota. The administration at Minnesota has stated that the students' objections were a "gross violation of academic ethics and academic freedom." But the students respond that their objections do not stem from ideology, but rather from legal ethics. The faculty has also become involved in the controversy. Nine Minnesota professors who objected to Delahunty's hire stated in a "sharply worded letter" that "Mr. Delahunty's role in the Torture Memos was not academic and we object to hiring someone of his credentials rather than to anything that he may say in class should he be so hired..." It is shocking to think that an individual who twisted the Constitution in order to make it fit what Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were intent on doing should be entrusted with teaching constitutional law at one of the top law schools in the United States.


Jim Milles said...

There's an excellent comment on this controversy at Accidental Blogger.

Joe said...

Thanks for the link and kind description, Jim!

Just a point of clarification: Professor Paulsen is quoted as calling the objections to the hiring a "gross violation of academic ethics and academic freedom," and while he is Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship at UMN Law, I'm fairly certain he was not speaking for the administration there, but merely as an individual. The Co-Deans, in a meeting with students, did not frame this as a question of academic freedom but rather an issue of contract.

Jim Milles said...

I thought your analysis made a lot of sense. That's the great benefit of blogs: the newspaper stories always oversimplify and paint issues like this in black and white, while blogging gives people who know about the issues the opportunity to explain in a more nuanced way. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

counter petition: