PEOPLE — ESPECIALLY LAW STUDENTS AND EVEN MORE ESPECIALLY LAW SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS — NEED TO GROW UP: The Controversy Over Quoting Racial Epithets, Now at UC Irvine School of Law.
Prof. Carrie Menkel-Meadow—a distinguished scholar for more than 35 years, and very much a woman of the Left—was teaching a class on lawyer problem solving; her main field is dispute resolution (focusing on outside-the-courtroom resolution), a field that she basically helped found. (Note that she was a colleague of mine at UCLA, but I never got to her know well then.)
In the class Prof. Menkel-Meadow had a unit that discussed “hate speech” filtering on Facebook. . . .
Talking about this, she quoted the word “nigger,” which later led to an outcry. The Dean has now publicly condemned Prof. Menkel-Meadow’s actions, and barred her from teaching first-year classes. (She isn’t teaching any first-year classes this year in any event, but she sometimes teaches a mandatory 1L International Legal Analsysis class.)
Several administrators also released a public letter of condemnation, which said “We condemn without qualification the classroom utterance of terms, such as the N-word, that are loaded with histories of pain and oppression.” No exact list of condemned terms was given, but the “such as” makes clear that there would be others as well.
The condemnations didn’t mention the professor’s name, but to her credit, Prof. Menkel-Meadow e-mailed the faculty a letter that began, “I have no need to hide behind any anonymity of the Dean’s letter to you all,” and then defended her position. She remains unrepentant.
As well she should. (And yes, there’s some irony in that she’s been a big champion of “hate speech” regulation for years). But law students will become lawyers, and will have people depending on their lawyerly brains and judgment for their lives and liberty. If they can’t hold it together in the face of a bad word, they need to find another job. So too do administrators who throw their faculty members under the bus at the least threat of complaint. Deans are supposed to stand up for their faculty members, not betray them in the face of mass hysteria, and the proper response to this sort of student complaint is a teaching response, explaining to them why they are wrong, and aren’t entitled to what they’re demanding. Instead, we get abject surrender to obvious silliness. If you want taxpayers to think that academia is a silly place that is unworthy of their continued support, just keep this up.
Related: Randall Kennedy & Eugene Volokh , Quoting Epithets in the Classroom and Beyond.