Law Prof’s Job on the Line for Using Hypotheticals Involving Dean’s Murder
Posted Feb 14, 2011 10:54 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Updated: The dean of Widener’s law school has been shot several times, but the wounds are only hypothetical.
Criminal law professor Lawrence Connell used the shooting scenario in classroom hypotheticals. Now his job is on the line after students complained that the scenarios were violent, racist and sexist, Delaware Online reports. The school’s dean, Linda Ammons, is a black woman.
According to the newspaper, “the controversial classroom imagery has left the associate professor fighting to keep his job of 26 years and alleging Widener violated his right to academic freedom.”
Connell is accused of making Ammons a shooting victim in at least 10 hypotheticals, and a drug dealer in another. He was the hypothetical gunman, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. A tenured professor, Connell is also accused of making inappropriate remarks about a female student's appearance in 1996, the Inquirer says.
According to an outline of the charges against Connell, students complained about alleged racist and sexist statements, “cursing and coarse behavior,” and "violent, personal scenarios."
Connell, who is on administrative leave, has circulated a letter to the faculty in which he asserts racism is “contrary to every fiber of my being.” His letter notes he helped uncover racism in jury selection in his representation of a black man convicted of murder by an all-white jury. He has waived confidentiality and wants a public hearing.
Connell’s lawyer, Thomas Neuberger, says Ammons may be targeting his client because he is one of the few conservative professors at the law school. "She's too thin-skinned, and I think she wanted to get rid of a conservative professor," Neuberger told Delaware Online.
The National Law Journal also has coverage.
Updated on Feb. 17 to include coverage by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the National Law Journal.