Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Update on Professor Robert L. Birmingham and his suspension by the UCONN law school

Many thanks to the UCONN law student who emailed me the most recent copy of the UCONN law student publication PRO SE.  This October issue of Pro Se has three articles on the Professor Birmingham suspension that merit reading in their entirety  One article deals with an overview of the controversy often relying on students first hand reports; the second is how the Law School dealt with the suspension of the professor’s classes and how students dealt with said disruption.  The third article is by Dean Paul who comments on the suspension and its aftermath.

Of major importance to everyone concerned is that Professor Birmingham is now scheduled to return to teaching, teaching 3 classes in the Spring semester.  Also, reaffirmed is that no student complaint was ever filed against the professor.  Students who were interviewed who were in the class indicated that one student during a discussion on the racial reparations issue made inflammatory remarks and then another student attempted to leave class; Birmingham then attempted to calm the student.  Dean Paul in his column does not explain why he suspended Birmingham indicating that now is not the time to do so and indicating an explanation may be forthcoming at a later time.

Following is an excerpt from the overview article focusing on observations made by students who were in the class. 

“A prominent professor at the School of Law has taken a leave of absence after moderating a contentious discussion on slavery and pausing a film on an image of a stripper while conducting a recent class. Robert L. Birmingham, a professor at the School of Law since 1971, stepped away from the law school for the remainder of fall semester after showing a clip of an interview from a film called “Really, Really Pimpin’ in Da South” in his Remedies class on Sept. 21. According to media reports, he showed the same clip later in another class upon a student’s request. According to a composite of information gathered from a number of students in the class, Prof. Birmingham presented an interview clip from the film relevant to United States v. Pipkins, a case involving an Atlanta pimp busted under racketeering statutes for running a prostitution ring. After Birmingham showed the clip, he halted the film shortly into the next scene, freeze-framing a stripper clad in pink lingerie posing suggestively on a stripper pole. Prof. Birmingham then commenced discussion about the interview while the image remained on the screen. The incident followed a racially charged discussion earlier in the same class. In Farmer-Paellmann, et. al. v. Brown and Williamson, a group filed a class action against a series of prominent companies seeking restitution for slavery descendents. Birmingham moderated a debate on the case discussing whether slavery descendents are better off now than if they had remained in Africa, according to several students in the class.  One student attempted to walk out after another student suggested African-Americans are better off because they are in America and not disease ridden in Africa. Birmingham implored the student to stay.  School of Law Dean Jeremy Paul learned of the incident from a faculty member in the days after the class and asked Dean of Academic Affairs Paul Chill to investigate. Paul said he had no official complaints from any students.  “The fact of a complaint would not lead to a decision,” Paul said.”

October 30, 2007 - Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, sexual politics, Uncategorized, University of Connecticut

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