Delaware Law Weekly on Widener’s Suspension of Prof. Connell

The Delaware Law Weekly has an interesting story filling in the details of the recent resignations at Widener law school over the university’s suspension of Professor Lawrence Connell. (Hat tip: Legal Insurrection) It begins:

Robert Taishoff has resigned from his position as chairman of Widener University School of Law’s Campaign Committee in protest of the university’s suspension of controversial law professor Lawrence J. Connell. The resignation is seen as a major loss for the law school because Taishoff was one of its most active alumni and had donated millions to the university.

Taishoff is not the only person affiliated with the law school to resign in recent weeks. Philip Trainer Jr., a corporate litigation attorney with Ashby & Geddes in Wilmington, also resigned this month from the law school’s Board of Overseers. However, it is not clear if Trainer’s resignation is related to the Connell suspension. Trainer declined to comment on the resignation.

In his resignation letter, submitted earlier this month to Widener Law Dean Linda J. Ammons, Taishoff indicated that he felt the sanctions the school imposed against Connell were excessive, especially after a university panel exonerated the professor of all but one of the charges against him.

“There was not a nexus between the remedy and the findings,” said Taishoff in an interview with Delaware Law Weekly. “I’m not sure Dean Ammons’ and President [James T.] Harris’ recommendations matched the findings of the committee. The committee found that he did not commit sexual or racial harassment.”

Taishoff later added, “The punishment they doled out did not match the offense he was found to have committed.”

Here’s more about Taishoff’s $1.2 million gift to Widener in 2009. For those wondering about the political element here, Taishoff appears to be a Republican: According to the FEC’s records, he gave $1,000 to the McCain campaign in 2008 and gave more recently to the Republican National Committee.

Coincidentally, the AALS 2012 Annual Meeting in January will focus extensively on threats to academic freedom:

The theme for the 2012 Annual Meeting centers around academic freedom and academic duty – including threats to tenure and to academic freedom, and the concomitant academic duty obligations that arise out of our status as tenured professors. There have been many serious threats to academic freedom arising from the environment and the polity: a law faculty member arrested in Rwanda for his pro bono representation of an opposition candidate in an election matter there; a law faculty-journal editor sued for criminal libel in France for publishing a book review; law school clinics reviled for their work as well as threatened legislatively and in the courts in Maryland, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and in several other states; a law scholar sued for her research on family law, whose university chose not to indemnify her; a law review that pulled a piece from publication, following threats from the company criticized in the article; and other law faculty and non-law faculty punished for their views.

I wonder if the Connell suspension will become one of the case studies examined in detail during the AALS Annual Meeting.

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