Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Thong protection for UCONN law students

So the Hartford Courant has editorialized in support of the UCONN Law School’s coerced leave for Professor Robert L. Birmingham.  According to the Courant,  Birmingham had crossed a line when he exposed unprepared studentsto a film clip of a woman dancing in a thong. I guess that the Courant holds that a public exposed thong represents a clear and present danger.  After all, if Bill Clinton, a Yale law school graduate, was driven to the edge by Monica’s exposed thong then it becomes obvious that protecting vulnerable UCONN law students from thong exposurebecomes mandatory.  Academic freedom be damned! 

To get some additional input on the UCONN fiasco, check out the Volokh Conspiracy blog; the associated forum merits our attention.  The following commentary from the forum particularly merits our attention-


UCONN 3L (mail):

Perhaps some context would be useful. I’m a 3L at UCONN and former student of Prof. Birmingham. I was not in Remedies or Nuremberg but I do have a good sense of the feelings on campus about the issue. I’ll attempt to fill in some gaps and am happy to answer any other questions if I’m able:
-Birmingham’s Remedies course is taught immediately before and in the same classroom as Nuremberg. That may explain how it became of interest to the Nuremberg class.
-Many students take multiple Birmingham classes. There were no doubt students from Remedies still discussing the film when Nuremberg began.
-Birmingham’s classes are non-traditional to say the least and he’s generally either loved or hated. He’s not going to teach anything out of a casebook. He’d much rather use (often contemporary) cases, provocative questions, and media aids (movies but more frequently oral arguments) to make his point. And it’s not clear what his point is until late in the semester. It can also be a bit of a culture shock to be in a Birm class for the first time with other students familiar with his methods. It’s a lot like being on the outside of an inside joke for a few weeks until you catch up with the schtick.
-UCONN you may remember is still “recovering” from the negative publicity surrounding the “bullets and bubbly” party last January in which black students on campus were offended by conduct at an off campus party (google uconn law bullets and bubbly). At that time the school was close to making everyone take sensitivity training and profs were encouraged to consider race issues in the classroom to promote diversity. Dead Paul is still wet behind the ears (on the job less than a year) and is eager to be seen as a strong leader. The perception among most students is that he acted as harshly as he did in this case because he wanted to show that the school was “tough on racism” in light of the negative publicity last year.
-The consensus from people in the class and Prof. B’s story is that the interview concluded while the scene faded into the scantily clad woman. The choice was either to show that for a couple seconds or cut off the interview before it concluded.
-Prof. B is notorious for easy grades in classes small enough to permit grading off a curve. Remedies does not count but his other courses (and he teaches 4/semester) do. An interesting undercurrent in the debate on campus is that most students think what the admin did was wrong, but they have a hard time feeling bad for students whose schedules are messed up because many of them are not in the classes to learn about nuremberg or energy or admiralty, but rather for an easy A.

10.11.2007 8:16am

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submiited for consideration to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor.


October 14, 2007 - Posted by | academic freedom, ethics, higher education, political correctness, Uncategorized, University of Connecticut

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