The Mess at Widener Law School

Linda Ammons and Lawrence Connell.jpgConsider the disturbing case of Lawrence Connell, a criminal-law professor at Widener University’s law school who was suspended for a year without pay on Aug. 8 despite having been cleared of allegations of sexual and racial harassment in his classroom lodged by two female black students. The case can be best understood as a story of two clashing law-school cultures, the first represented by Connell himself and the second by Widener Law’s dean, Linda Ammons, who has pushed relentlessly since last fall to get Connell off of the campus. We can call the two cultures Old Law School and New Law School.

The Old Law School/New Law School distinction helps explain why Connell was meted harsh punishment despite his vindication on the underlying charges (Widener says that Connell might have been innocent, but he wrongfully “retaliated” against the complaining students by suing them–along Widener itself and some of its administrators–and by publicizing the charges against him in an e-mail to his other students). The Old Law School/New Law School distinction also helps explain another, truly ominous aspect of Connell’s punishment, also pushed by Ammons: As a condition of reinstatement, he must undergo a psychiatric evaluation and a course of treatment (including “anger management”). The psychiatrist or psychologist is supposed to report to Widener on the treatment’s progress and must certify that Connell is sufficiently cured in order for him to be allowed to return to his classroom. If that seems reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents as mentally ill, or of the reeducation camps of Maoist China, the Old Law School/New Law School distinction again comes into play.

Cultural Conflicts

Old Law School culture revolves around a traditional curriculum—those torts and contracts courses—and the Socratic method of instruction, with its pointed and rigorous give-and-take between professors and students. Old Law School assumes that the process of training lawyers is training them to a centuries-old Anglo-American tradition of lawyerly thought, which rests on the careful crafting of legal arguments and the relentless challenging of those arguments, often by the professor in the classroom. Old precedent-setting cases may be supplanted by newer cases, and legal principles may shift, but the underlying methodology of close analysis of written court opinions and the arguments on which they rest, along with certain assumptions underlying the American legal systems—that human beings are generally capable of exercising reason and free will and thus should be held responsible for their actions—are Old Law School constants.

New Law School culture, growing out of the Critical Legal Studies movement that first surfaced in law schools during the 1980s, is quite different. In New Law School thinking, the law does not embody a rational system of justice—or even strivings toward such a system—but is essentially a political construct that has historically operated to keep the rich and powerful in their places of wealth and power and other groups—women, racial minorities, the disabled, and the poor—in their socially subordinate places. If this characterization sounds Marxist, that is because Critical Legal Studies—and its intellectual progeny, Critical Race Theory and Feminist Legal Theory—grew out of the New Left radicalism of the 1960s, which viewed American governmental and social structures as systems of oppression. It has also been influenced by postmodernist literary theory, with its assumptions that there is no objective truth or reality. In New Law School thinking, reason, free will, and personal responsibility are illusions, for all legal battles are actually struggles of race, class, and gender, in which power, not justice, is the ultimate goal. In New Law School scholarly writing, rigorous analysis of court opinions and the drawing of fine distinctions underlying legal arguments have been supplanted by “story telling": personal narratives typically involving the law professors’ own experiences as members of an oppressed group with the race-gender-class matrix that is the source of their oppression. Since a shift in the power structure, not justice, is the goal, any tactic that coerces the recalcitrant into conforming to the new power regime is permissible in New Law School thinking.

At Widener Law’s campus in Wilmington, Delaware, where Connell is on the faculty (along with, coincidentally, Vice President Joe Biden, an adjunct professor currently on leave), Connell was distinctly Old Law School. A former prosecutor and private-practice lawyer who had been on the Widener faculty since 1984, Widener (until he was put on leave of absence last December pending the resolution of the harassment charges) taught traditional courses in criminal law and procedure using standard textbooks assigned in similar classes. He was by all accounts a popular and entertaining teacher, known for leavening his classroom presentations with real-life anecdotes from his criminal-law career, acting out crime scenes in front of his classes, and reproducing the earthy argot of the criminal defendants his students were reading about in their textbook.

Linda Ammons, on the other hand, has a resume that has “New Law School” written all over it. Her legal scholarship (she taught and was associate dean at Cleveland-Marshall Law School until she became dean at Widener in 2006), contained in a series of law review articles published over the past few decades, features arty postmodernist titles loaded with giveaway references to racial hypersensitivity and feminist ideology. Examples are: “Dealing with the Nastiness: Mixing Feminism and Criminal Law in the Review of Cases of Battered Incarcerated Women—A Ten Year Reflection”; “Mules, Madonnas, Babies, Bathwater, Racial Imagery and Stereotypes: The African-American Woman and the Battered Woman Syndrome”; “What's God Got to Do with It? Church and State Collaboration in the Subordination of Women and Domestic Violence.” As those titles suggest, Ammons’s chief academic preoccupation over the years has been shielding women who claim to be victims of domestic abuse, especially African-American women with such claims, from the consequences of the crimes they commit.

From 1998 to 1991 she had headed a clemency project for Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste that had resulted in the pardoning of 28 female prisoners who claimed to be battered women. They had gone to prison because, under the rules of Old Law School—and of the American legal system in general—merely being a victim of domestic abuse does not excuse guilt for a crime unless the accused can show that she acted in self-defense or that she was literally forced to engage in criminal activity. But in New Law School thinking, where personal responsibility for one’s actions is deemed illusory and crimes deemed to be the result of racial and gender oppression, not the acts of the individual perpetrators, domestic-abuse victims get a free pass just because they are domestic-abuse victims, especially if they are African-American and female.

Egregious Allegations

The two students who launched the complaint against Connell in the spring of 2010, out of more than 200 who had taken his courses that year, fell right into New Law School’s catalogue of societal victims: they were both black females. Their laundry list of allegations, whose accuracy and veracity were clearly doubted by the two committees of Widener faculty and administrators who examined them, stemmed entirely from things that Connell had supposedly said in his criminal procedure class.

According to their numerous allegations, he had referred to African-Americans as “black folks” (apparently verboten, although he also referred to whites as “white folks”); he had said, “Die, bitch” to a female student (according to an affidavit Connell filed, he had actually been addressing no one in particular but acting out a homicide scenario in which an enraged husband kills his wife when he catches her in adultery) he had implied that all black people are criminals; he had introduced racial issues into a class discussion of the case of  Bernhard Goetz, acquitted of shooting four black teen-agers who he thought were trying to rob him on a New York subway in 1984—even though race was a major issue in the Goetz case, tried against a backdrop of an early-1980s wave of violent crimes committed by young blacks that had terrified many New Yorkers.

Connell’s most egregious offense, however, and probably the offense that brought down the full-bore wrath of Ammons upon him, was a series of classroom hypotheticals. The scenarios involved Ammons herself and Connell’s efforts to kill her (hypothetically) after she threatened to fire him (hypothetically) for parking his car in her parking space. In one of the hypotheticals Connell rushed into Ammons’ office with his .357 magnum and shot her in the head—except that the “head” turned out to a pumpkin artfully painted to look just like the dean. The idea was to ask the class whether under prevailing legal rules he should be tried for attempted murder—or not, since no harm actually befell her. Imaginative and macabrely humorous hypotheticals, often pitting professors against deans and other campus authority figures, are a standard feature of Old Law School pedagogy. The idea is that the students will absorb and remember the underlying legal principles better in a context of humorous narrative. Hypotheticals show up not just in law school classrooms but in exam questions and moot-court competitions. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was repeatedly murdered in classroom hypotheticals when she was dean of Harvard Law School.

That’s Old Law School. In New Law School the rules are different, and those who create hypotheticals do so at the risk of offending the thin-skinned and the ideology-driven. As early as 1991 the American Bar Association Journal ran an article detailing the perils awaiting hypothetical-creators who forget that in New Law School political correctness and race/gender sensitivity trump all else. The article described a visiting contracts professor at Harvard who was berated by feminists for using the pronoun “he” with reference to judges and “she” with reference to their secretaries in his classroom and also and quoted Byron’s famous line in “Don Juan” about the woman who “whispering, ‘I will ne'er consent,’—consented” (anathema to feminists who read the line as suggesting that women consent to rape). A legal-writing instructor got into trouble for assigning a problem to his students that involved crafting an argument on behalf of a father trying to wrest custody of his child from his lesbian ex-wife. So it was that Connell’s humorous efforts to illustrate the law of attempts via Ammons and a pumpkin were interpreted by a pair of hypersensitive students, and especially, it is clear, by Ammons herself, as deeply offensive slurs against blacks and women that warranted the heaviest of sanctions.

Ammons seems to have gone on the vindictive offense from the very beginning. In August 2010, months before Connell was notified of the charges against him in December, she abruptly pulled him from co-chairing an externship program that he had headed since 1997. Then, on Dec. 20, Ammons’ vice dean, J. Patrick Kelly, delivered a letter to Connell that banned him from the Widener campus so firmly and quickly that he did not have time to pick up a set of final exams that he had just proctored. The letter listed a mishmash of charges that included the Ammons hypotheticals, some anonymous negative student evaluations that Connell had received in years past, and a 1996 incident in which Connell had admitted to making an “inappropriate” remark about a female student’s classroom attire. “Taken together," Kelly wrote, "these alleged incidents appear to establish a pattern" of  "[c]ursing and coarse unprofessional behavior that include demeaning language and depictions of people and groups…[r]acist and sexist statements and characterizations directed at minorities and women…[v]iolent, personal scenarios that demean and threaten your colleagues, administrative officials, and students." The “cursing” reference was to a quotation by Connell of a police officer’s use of the f-word while trying to apprehend a suspect.

Abuse of Power

Ammons and Kelly offered to drop the charges if Connell would consent to the psychiatric evaluation that has been a leitmotif of Ammons’ handling of Connell’s case, with its implications that Connell was at worst suffering from a mental disorder and at best in need of re-education. Connell, who had spent 15 years working in his spare time to win a new trial for a black Delaware man sentenced to death after a prosecutor had excluded blacks from the jury, was incensed at the allegations of racism. He refused the offer and hired a lawyer. In March a committee of three tenured law professors at Widener completely exonerated Connell from all the charges, clearly giving little credence to the students’ garbled allegations. Ammons promptly had the students refile, so that the case against him would be heard by Kelly and another Widener administrator, plus a professor hand-picked by Ammons. The list of charges against Connell shifted its contours: The 1996 incident disappeared, and some of the things that the two complaining students had said about Connell vanished as well.

By this time, however, Connell had amassed affidavits from students in the class in question and e-mails from other students, many of them female, attesting to his effectiveness as a teacher and his fair treatment of members of minority groups in his classes. He also presented an affidavit from Orin Kerr, a criminal-law professor at George Washington University whose credentials included having graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and having clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kerr not only defended Connell’s raising of racial issues in his classroom discussion of the Goetz case but deemed his hypothetical attempts to murder Ammons for the amusement of his students as unexceptionable pedagogy. 

It is not surprising, then, that the second committee likely believed it had no choice but to clear Connell of all the substantive charges. What is appalling is that, despite both exonerations, Ammons appears to have gotten her way in the end after all, exacting sanctions against a tenured professor that are not only costly but humiliating (he is supposed to apologize to the complaining students. The charge of retaliation, based on a vague prohibition in the faculty handbook, seem especially flimsy. Connell’s e-mail to his students in December neither named his accusers nor referred to them in any way. As for the lawsuit, Connell never waived his right to seek redress in court against individuals whose false accusations have already cost him quite a bit of money and promise to cost much more. But that is the way of New Law School. It is perhaps only Old Law School, with its emphasis on fairness, reasonableness, and color-and gender-blind justice, that would find something totalitarian in Widener’s treatment of Connell and accordingly demand Linda Ammons’ resignation. In New Law School thinking, where power is everything, and the claims of grievance-bearing identity groups will always prevail over fairness, it is perfectly fine to strip your perceived opponent of his livelihood and to consign him to the ministrations of your own Nurse Ratched—and there is no such thing as abuse of power.


44 thoughts on “The Mess at Widener Law School

  1. I attended Widener during the “Great Black Face Scandal” where a white student went to the annual Halloween party as Ammons. What was clearly a fun poke at the head of the school was quickly turned into an issue of Racism by Ammons. She tried very very hard to keep drumming the racism drums but when it received little traction because a rock could see it was not intended as a “black face” insult she made the student apologize on the grounds of being insensitive. I guess Ammons never saw White Chicks.
    Since then to me it was clear Ammons was a racist with a bone to pick with “whitey” So, really I am not surprised by all this. And considering the head of security was run out on trumped up and completely bogus racism charges under her watch (yes he was white) really just goes to show a war on whitey has been declared at Widener. As such it has lost ALL Alumni support from me. I find her utterly offensive.
    AS for Connell, I had him for my classes and I have never witnessed anything that can be remotely considered racist ever come out of his mouth. Yes, I have heard the black/white folk come from his lips and since he uses it to generically describe a group of a particular skin color for the sake of examples it is by definition not racist. He is an excellent professor and the only travesty here is he is the latest victim of Ammons war and the “reverse” racism so prevalent in our society.
    This is a joke. These students are playing the race card likely as a form a vengence or simply looking for a payday. Ammons is morally reprehensible and the sooner Widener replaces her the better because as things are now I would not be surprised Widener becomes of the Seminole cases of reverse racism in the US with a nice juicy settlement involved.

  2. So let’s get the facts of this case correct as per information that is public.
    1. Professor Cornell was not cleared of the charge of Harassing students. The University Committee found that harassment took place but it did not rise to the level to warrent dismissal.
    2. In violation of federal laws regarding retaliation against students who filed a complaint. Professor Cornell released the names of students who filed a complaint of harassment based on the Professor’s alledged harassing behavior in the classroom. The fact that the professor released the students name is a clear example of retaliation in violation of federal law.
    3. Widener under federal law had no alternative but to take action against the professor.
    4. We are hearing only one side – the professor and his attorney’s version of the story. University’s like Widener in personnel matters must maintain confidentiality under both state and federal laws. Before passing judgement you might want to wait until Professor Connell’s civil claim comes to trial and then we’ll know the whole story.

  3. “Law can no more be taught by the Socratic method than can basic arithmetic.”
    Well, Plato believed that geometry could be taught using the Socratic method. At least, that’s the message of the Meno, in which Socrates uses his method to elicit from a slave boy the knowledge that a square will be half the size of a second square, if the sides of the second square are the length of the diagonal of the first square.

  4. “… perpetuate the image of Widener as a school of whiny underachievers when there are so many professors and students who work so hard to prove otherwise.”
    Working hard? Not hard enough. You; students, alumni, faculty, and staff; all of you have left Professor Connell to twist in the wind.
    Of course no one wants to hire a Widener alumni. How could anyone trust lawyers who would shrug at the injustice done to Professor Connell in their name?
    Or maybe they’re in the Ammons camp and are happy that Connell is getting what he deserves, that claiming not to be a racist is grounds for suspension and psychological evaluation, and this is the attitude they bring to their potential employer’s table.
    Either way potential employers are right to be wary.

  5. That said, it doesn’t suprise me that Dean Ammons, Luce, and the rest of the clan are making much ado about nothing, and yet again appear to be playing the role of psychological experts, despite not having the slightest experience, knowledge, or training in the field.
    This reminds me of a time – not too long ago – where Ammons and her group attempted to withdraw scholarships, awards, and the title of ‘Valedictorian’ from a student who, in addition to being a psychologist herself, was ranked 1st in the class and made several other contributions to the welfare of the school. Yet, because this student had a DUI, Ammons and her group, to the objections of REAL psychologists teaching at the school and elsewhere, felt it ncessary to allege that the student was psychologically impaired and required treatment for alcoholism. Moreover, Dean Ammons lacked the decency and professionalism to speak to the student before stripping her of the title of ‘Valedictorian.’
    Funny how the school now requests alumni donations from this student on a monthly basis now that the student has found success elsewhere…
    Congratulations, Dean Ammons and her group, for continuing to water-down our degrees in the name of your self-righteous crusade for political correctness. Perhaps you might consider working to enhance students’ knowledge of the law instead of meddling in the psychological affiars of which you have no business….

  6. To those of you who vow not to hire the grads of Widener, please keep in mind that Ammons and the few complaining students are not representative of the graduates as a whole. It is unfortunate that these students, and Dean Ammons, seek to perpetuate the image of Widener as a school of whiny underachievers when there are so many professors and students who work so hard to prove otherwise.

  7. “[Connell] had spent 15 years working in his spare time to win a new trial for a black Delaware man sentenced to death after a prosecutor had excluded blacks from the jury, was incensed at the allegations of racism”
    It’s always an eye-opener to become the accused when you’re used to being the accuser, isn’t it?
    Now he knows how the murder victims’ family feels at the spectacle of seeing their loved one’s murderer being treated like a victim of racism for fifteen years, courtesy of Professor Connell. Imagine the heartache he has created for those people — 15 years of it.
    Now he knows how the jurors feel, being accused of being automatically prejudiced merely for existing, no matter how fair-minded their efforts.
    Connell felt comfortable making such claims against others, thus supporting the very mindset that eventually turned on him. How curious that there is no mention of this.

  8. Until Widener fires Ammons, any serious, non-extreme leftist, law firm, should steer clear of their graduates. It is pretty obvious this college, under Ammons, no longer teaches law, it teaches Stalinism.

  9. All know is that if this is what Widener calls justice, none of their graduates need apply at my firm because I’m not hiring them. They can’t have any objective perspective of the law.

  10. What the hell does any of this have to do with learning how to write a brief or conduct a cross examination; the skills that lawyers actually need and use to be good lawyers?
    If law schools actually taught people how to practice law instead of wasting their time, there wouldn’t be room for any ideology. Coincidentally, it would also vindicate Critical Legal Studies since it would be obvious that litigation is ultimately just knowing how to make a good sales pitch to the judge or jury. Law schools should teach how to make that pitch effectively.

  11. That Dean Ammons was part of the Gov Celeste myth of concern for battered women explains a lot. The women who were released, or had their sentences reduced, under Celeste were either minorities or paid for their release with cash. The program might as well hung out a sign that said “poor or white, don’t waste our time”

  12. What kind of an idiot would you have to be to go to this “law” school? In the future, I’ll be sure to throw any candidate’s application with the word “Widener” on it straight into the trash. I guess I’m just an “old law” guy, but I do the hiring…

  13. “… the case of Bernhard Goetz, acquitted of shooting four black teen-agers who he thought were trying to rob him on a New York subway in 1984 …”
    You appear to be misinformed about the Goetz case. His attackers were armed. Whatever Mr. Goetz thought they were trying to do to him, they were indisputably trying to do it with weapons.

  14. When the courts and the law become little more than lotteries, the Law and the Courts lose the respect of the people.
    There are not enough police or jails to find and hold those who choose to play the lottery rather than face the swift, sure and certain hand of justice.
    When the public sees public order breakdown and produce situations such as we see in England, and other places in the U.S. become ripe for vigilante justice.
    Sad that such bad results can come from such “good” intentions. Sad that the true criminals will be free to prey on society with actual deeds while the politically incorrect clog the courts and jails asserting their thoughts are not crimes.

  15. A time when good is seen as evil and evil is seen as good.
    Traditional law instruction? Racially insensitive. “Thou shalt no offend any minority.”
    1% of his students took exception? He must change his ways!
    He defends himself against such charges? He must be insane and needs psychological counseling.
    Exonerated in all cases? What does that have to do with anything? He clearly needs help!
    What I want to know is who hired the Dean? And after this, why does the Dean still have a job? And doesn’t the guy have tenure? Isn’t this exactly why tenure was invented?

  16. “…based on a vague prohibition in the faculty handbook.”
    Excellent essay. The distinction between the Old traditional law school and the New critical law school is very helpful. The Soviets in Easter Europe made laws that could be broken by everyone, categorized law-breakers as criminals, and killed millions in the brutal prisons in Siberia.
    Linda Ammon should be fired immediately in order to preserve the school’s reputation.

  17. What we have here is an affirmative action, black soviet Dean punishing an old white guy professor.
    He is going to win a law suit; the school will pay; but this third rate Dean will retain her position.
    Why would anybody wish to attend a law school with this despicable person as dean?

  18. I started reading about this case fairly late into the affair and didn’t have all of the back story (who was offended and what he had said that was sexist and racist). All I really knew was that the administrator seemed to have a personal agenda against the professor. This is the first time I’ve seen a picture of the two and the instant I saw it, I knew immediately why she seems so hell-bent on doing away with this guy. Sexism and racism, indeed. Being a white male conservative is now, apparently, a mental disorder.

  19. Basically, you confirmed what I and many others have thought. Dean Ammons is basically a Marxist, with the intolerance and fanaticism that come with it.
    Once the hard-left takes over an institution, the goal becomes ideological purity and the crushing of all dissent. Those of us not on the far left see this incident as vindictive and even damaging to Widener, while Ammons believes that a purge of all non-believers is a good thing, in order to “purify” the school, to drive out all evil, racist/sexist/homophobic dissenters, and thus, make it better. Watch for Widener to now try and market itself in a certain activist, far left niche as a means of trying to distinguish itself from other third-tier and fourth-tier law schools.
    The problem is that this can spin out of control as it did at Antioch, making a school so ugly that even “normal” liberals are repulsed by it, thus destroying the institution.
    But what makes this worse is that this is not a process limited to colleges. After the 2010 election, once it became clear that California was an unalterably liberal-left Democratic state, the left-wing legislation started coming hard and fast, on both the economic and cultural fronts – anything from the Amazon tax to the enforced teaching of gay history. The purpose of the legislation, above all else, is to purify the state – to drive Republicans and conservatives out. The legislators know that the Amazon tax will not raise money; but that’s not the point. The point is to drive out small business people that they see as sympathetic to Republicans.
    In both cases, the goal of the left is the consolidation and the permanent maintenance of power.

  20. This is yet another example of political correctness run amoke in our university system, in particular and our society as a whole. Ms. Ammons has defamed, harrassed, and will I suspect, ultimately cost her university/college a huge sum of money when he wins his law suit.
    Richard A. Vail, Ph.D.
    Pikesville, Maryland

  21. This grievance obsessed dean has brought the school to it’s knees. It’s already a third or fourth tier school and now this. Who in their right mind would attend such a school and be a laughingstock for their entire professional career?

  22. Though it began years before I entered law school, over 60 years ago now, a major contributing factor to the “shift” in the academic (not practice) training of students to engage in the legal system has been in the evolution of the legal system itself.
    That evolution, with its changes, particularly in the functions sought and expected by the general public has changed the make-up of the “legal class,” to match what the public seems to want from the system; basically, “operators” of a system to achieve group and individual objectives.
    Not surprisingly, those with group objectives will strive to train their particular cohorts.
    However, some constraints from the origins of Common Law and Equity (the latter almost extinct form codifications, etc.) remain in the ajudication processes of the system, and to some extent continue to ameliorate the effects of “objectives” training in legal education.

  23. I am a 2003 graduate of Widener University School of Law. I studied under Professor Connell in several courses and found his method of teaching, especially the hypotheticals in which other faculty and administration members as well as students committed or were the victims of the crimes being discussed helped to make learning and remembering the lessons much easier than the tired Socratic method of teaching.
    Professor Connell is an excellent law professor. To take his hypothetical teaching method and stretch it to the point of claiming it is racist or sexist is the same as calling all those who oppose President Obama racist. I guess it was OK for Professor Connell to use similar hypotheticals when Dean Ray was in charge because he is a white male. But when the Dean is a black woman, it is now racist and sexist? Any student who twists Professor Connell’s methods to this extent does not have the common sense or tolerance to be attorneys. And Dean Ammons, to ignore the findings of two faculty boards and continue her unfounded quest to destroy an educator she should be proud to have on her staff shows she does not have the ability to lead the school.
    Widener’s reputation rose from their beginning as “the law school to go to if you couldn’t get into law school” to a national powerhouse capable of beating the Ivy League schools in competition and stocking the Judicial benches of this nation with well qualified judges. For Dean Ammons to continue her unsubstantiated pursuit of an issue twice found to be unproven is a disgrace. For her to add allegations of racism and sexism is the reason this country still has race and sex issues. Something that never encroached on racism and sexism becomes a racial and sexist issue when the perceived victim cries racism and sexism.
    Dean Ammons needs to immediately resign. President Harris need to rescind any and all actions taken against Professor Connell and restore him to his full position with compensation for the damage done. And the students who initiated this debacle must be expelled as they clearly do not have the qualities the field of Law requires and the proud alumni of Widener Law expect.

  24. With all of the study of race relations and the African-American experience in America, there is still a taboo subject that is yet unexplored that this case illustrates. That is that those folks who grew up in African-American neighborhoods seem painfully oblivious to the lessons that the sixties taught us about abuse of power by the established political structure.
    I hate the idiotic philosophical underpinnings of sixties-era political thought as much as the next conservative. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and you have to hand it to sixties, they got it right that entrenched power is sometimes a bad thing. Whether it’s Tennessee representative Joe Armstrong removing “Disappoint Mints” critical of the president or Dean Ammons pursuing Connell’s re-education, folks in the black community seem to simply not perceive how ironic their actions are to those who lived through the sixties. We stand aghast that these folks, now in positions of some power, make the very same abuses of power that were the targets of sixties-era radicals.
    Let’s not forget that the sixties never really made it into some neighborhoods. And those who were not exposed to the philosophical underpinnings, now powerful themselves, practice without apparent awareness the self-same boot-to-neck exertion of political force that the sixties tried to end.

  25. This isn’t just in law schools. State universities practice this Ministry of Thought psychiatry on their students as well

  26. Add to the Critical Legal Studies spawn the nightmare of deconstructionism, by the use of which pellucidly clear, utterly innocent statements can be reshaped into whatever the deconstructionists wish. It’s more evident in literary studies and the associated faculties, but it’s had effects on the law as well.

  27. The first two paragraphs of the section, ‘Culture Conflicts’, is a pithy and superb summary of the differences between the Old School and the New School, and not just in law. A genuine keeper.

  28. I feel like I lost the last page of this commentary.
    So, what’s happening? Does it all now rest on his lawsuit against the school? If so, at what stage is the lawsuit? Where is it venued? Any reaction from his fellow faculty members? Any idea how the student body perceives all of this?
    Presumably, the court handling his lawsuit isn’t run on the New Law School paradigm. Is this New Age Dean about to experience some Old School Reality?
    Hopefully, Widener students are going to pick up on the idea that the empowerment sought by this new-age garbled Law As Revenge philosophy is many times as arbitrary, sexist and racist as what it hopes to replace. Or, do these students go to Widener knowing this is the reigning philosophy, intentionally seeking it as a law school experience? I can’t tell from the story.

  29. A good analysis as far as it goes. But one bad and foolish mistake ruins it for me. That mistake is to view the conflict between Old Law and New Law as some kind of “cultural conflict”. But it follows from the roots of New Law, ie from the “New Left radicalism of the 1960s”, that New Law is part of an aggressive revolutionary agenda. The heroes of the New Left radicals after all were Che Guevarra, Fidel Castro, Ho Chih Minh, in addition to Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin, and others. Political “struggle” was and is revolutionary struggle. It is not a matter of culture it is a matter of brute power in the service of establishing the dictatorship of the grievance groups! … Hmmm … but who wants to hire grievance group lawyers … apart from Leftist governments?

  30. What is happening at Widener Law School is a classic example of what happens to our educational system when hard-core leftists gain control: remove all conservative and non-conforming viewpoints because we don’t want the delicate sensibilities of our Marxist indoctrinated students “offended” by psychiatrically deranged conservative professors.
    Personally, I am offended every time Obama shows his face on television, and utters his boring and ignorant leftist nonsense. But the pencil neck geek has a right to speak even if he is an ignorant fool. As an aside, how does someone who doesn’t know how to pronounce “corpseman” get into Harvard Law?

  31. The next phase is here. The “Old Law School” you describe never existed. The “New Law School” was always the inevitable product of the “Old Law School” (the real one).
    You mention “justice” falsely, as the “Old Law School” was never about justice. How many lectures did you give over to discussion of what justice IS, or how it was to be achieved? Mentioning justice in Law School (yes, even your “Old Law School”) was simply not done. It was in poor taste. A sign of inferior breeding and intellect, as it were. A loud fart at a haute dinner party.
    You mention torts and contracts but not the Constitution. Not merely the farce that is Constitutional Law, but the actual Constitution and, more importantly, the principles upon which it was based. Judicial “precedent” is all that mattered but neither the Constitution nor its philosophical underpinnings counted as “precedent”. Both justice and the rule of law were destroyed by Justice Marshall in 1803. All thereafter has been injustice, unravelling of the Constitution, dismantling of the Civil Society, and “Judge-made-law” as the highest law of the land.
    And YOU pushed it and profited by it.
    In the “Old Law School”, students are taught only ONE thing: “How to THINK like a lawyer” — i.e., how to reject justice, the Constitution, the form of government created by said Constitution, and the rule of law.
    It’s the only place I know of where they tell you they’re going to brainwash you, and everyone nods their heads full of succotash and says “oh, o.k.”, and then they go ahead and brainwash you, and everybody’s happy because they go on to lucrative careers gnawing away at the foundations of justice and society.
    YOU not only pushed, but DEMANDED acceptance of unreasonable, wrong-headed, unjust, and unconstitutional Judge-made law from a court system never intended for that purpose. All “precedent” (with the exception of the Constitution itself or ITS precedents) was “right”; all other views were “wrong”. Forced (by grade-hostage-taking) acceptance and compliance was the rule of the day.
    In the “Old Law School”, morality and law were separated. Reason is right out.
    The “Old Law School”, being a denigration and degradation of individual rights, the Constitution, and a just civil society, was SOCIALIST.
    Now you complain because the road of socialism has reached its destination — communism.
    Sorry, YOU did this. (and if it wasn’t YOU, specifically and individually; then you were a rare exception)
    p.s. I don’t think you know what the Socratic Method IS. Law can no more be taught by the Socratic method than can basic arithmetic.

  32. It is amazing how effective this Critical Theory is in capturing minds. In grad school for English in the early 90s, I encountered it for the first time. My refusal to get with the Critical Theory program cost me any hope of an academic career. I had though old-school liberal notions of fairness, open-mindedness and tolerance of differences would prevail, and I was shocked when they did not.
    I’ve always had a nagging fear that if critical-theory based hermeneutics ever made it to law school, the Republic was all over. That is, I figured the Liberal Tradition could possibly surrender the English Department, but not the Law Schools.
    Because once one side of a debate says the purpose of the debate is power, not rational resolution of disputes, the only solution eventually becomes to settle it in the streets, imposition of one person’s will on another.
    BTW, to this day, I don’t understand how anyone could seriously buy-in to Critical Theory. How could anyone believe these things about themselves?

  33. So — should some Connell person ever offend me in a classroom — then such a person is responsible for and strictly liable for my feelings? Ammons seems to be arguing the law gives unique primacy and authority to particular Hegelian groupings over others because the members of same were offended.
    This seems more a confession of gross immaturity being expressed by the offended party. That Ammons would take malicious action based on the complaints of grossly immature student reactions not only raises questions of transference and projection, but malignancies of personality.
    All parents have known the tyranny of a child demanding their parent is responsible for how the rampaging child feels. I don’t know what to think about a “law school” that teaches students they are not responsible for their feelings; that the the purpose of jurisprudence from its historical origins to today is to ensure that each person feels good about themselves and shall be rescued by the law should they find themselves offended.
    Connell does not appear to be the party demonstrating malignancies of narcissism or some tyrannical need to use institutional authority to hold others responsible and punish them for “things” that he “feels.”
    History is replete with examples of murderous despots and malignant souls who have risen to institutional or governing authority; that self-justifiably kill or destroy the lives and livelihoods of others merely because they have been offended.
    To encourage such behavior in university students seems insane on its face. If there is a psychiatric evaluation indicated, it should be forensic. By virtue of what I have read about the relative advocacies in this controversy, Connell does not seem the appropriate target of a forensic inquiry. Connell does not appear to be the one plagued with malignant vanity or a desire to harm others so they may conceal or otherwise defend it.

  34. I hope to hell Connell sues this commissar and her fellow Marxists for everything they’ve got and will ever have.

  35. If Gloria is correct then the good professor should file an age discrimination lawsuit, and ask that the Dean be re-educated as recompense.

  36. Very interesting and informative article. You make the point that Dean Ammons being a graduate of Cleveland-Marshall’s law school is an indication that she is trained in the New Law School philosophy. In addition to Widmer and Cleveland-Marshall can you list any other law schools who’s graduates are trained in New Law? It would seem that list would be quite useful to potential clients who might want to avoid those graduates.

  37. Charlotte hits the bulls-eye with this article. It appears to be the only rational explanation for what has happened to Connell. There have been plenty of attacks levied against the student body and the professors at this school…when the real villain is Ammons and her, as Charlotte writes, “New Law School” delusions.
    What troubles me is that, despite her abhorent actions towards Connell and the great damage she has done to this school’s image, she will probably retain her role as Dean. After what I have read so far, I do not have great confidence in the Widener admin responsible for hiring/firing the law school dean to do what is clearly necessary in this case.

  38. As an outsider, I see a white/male versus ethnic/female conflict here.
    In the old law school, those with the biggest man-parts (even if they were female) won, while in the new law school, such displays of “maleness” will be forbidden?

  39. Ammons and her ilk are destroying a nation of laws and replacing it with a nation of covetousness and raw power dressed up in post-modern gobbledygook. But why do they think they will be the ones in power? Given liberals’ typical coddling of criminals while attempting to control only the law-abiding, in the end liberals such as Ammons are more likely to be prey than predator.
    The sad thing is, even as they eat the bitter fruit of their ideologies, they will still not realize they have brought it upon themselves.

  40. Insightful analysis. Besides existing in law schools, the Old Tradition versus New Critical Tradition is prevalent throughout the university.
    Also, as more white professors age, I think you will see increasing demands for psychological evaluations of them whenever they disagree openly about the politically correct or Marxist policies imposed upon them. Younger professors, less familiar or unfamiliar with Soviet practices during the Cold War, will not remember this tactic being used on dissidents, but will assume the senior professor is suffering from senile dementia.

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