The Volokh Conspiracy

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Demands that Cornell Fire Clinical Law Prof William Jacobson for Criticizing Black Lives Matter Movement


Prof. Jacobson, best known as the founder of the Legal Insurrection blog, has the details here.

The good news is that he reports that Dean Eduardo Peñalver "properly has defended my writings as protected within my academic freedom, although he strongly disagrees with my views." While protecting faculty's academic freedom is indeed proper, and in fact the perhaps the most important task a dean is charged with in regard to his faculty, nowadays such action cannot always be assumed, so good for Dean Peñalver.

The bad news, reflecting the current toxic environment for faculty dissenters from politically-correct progressivism:

My clinical faculty colleagues, apparently in consultation witht the Black Law Students Association, drafted and then published in the Cornell Sun on June 9 a letter denouncing "commentators, some of them attached to Ivy League Institutions, who are leading a smear campaign against Black Lives Matter." While I am not mentioned by name, based on what I've seen BLSA and possibly others were told it was about me. The letter is absurd name-calling, distorting and even misquoting my writings, to the extent it purports to be about me. According to a document I've seen, the letter was shared with these students before it was published in the Cornell Sun.

None of the 21 signatories, some of whom I'd worked closely with for over a decade and who I considered friends, had the common decency to approach me with any concerns. Instead they ran to the Cornell Sun while virtue signaling to students behind the scenes that this was a denunciation of me. Such is the political environment we live in now at CLS.

And Prof. Jacobson has an appropriate response:

I challenge a representative of those student groups and a faculty member of their choosing to a public debate at the law school regarding the Black Lives Matter Movement, so that I can present my argument and confront the false allegations in real time rather than having to respond to baseless community email blasts. I ask the law school to arrange an in-person live-streamed debate during fall term, or if for some reason the law school does not have in-person instruction, to arrange a 'virtual' format.

This would be the right way for an academic institution to handle such a dispute. The wrong way was demonstrated by UCLA, as discussed by Eugene Volokh yesterday.