Deans stick with Delahunty

Nine professors wrote a letter disassociating themselves from the deans’ decision.

by Elena Rozwadowski

Despite angry letters, meetings with students and staff and a petition with almost 200 signatures, the Law School deans appear to be standing by their decision to hire professor Robert Delahunty this spring.

The Law School plans to hire Delahunty to teach a mandatory constitutional law class this spring for a professor on leave.

But some have questioned the ethical implications of Delahunty’s presence at the University.

Law School Co-Dean Fred Morrison said the school looked only at Delahunty’s academic track record when making their decision.

“We based our judgment on his credentials as a teacher of constitutional law,” Morrison said. “But if there’s a student who does not want to learn from someone, that’s a problem.”

Those against hiring Delahunty for the temporary position cited a memo he coauthored regarding wartime conduct in Iraq, particularly concerning treatment and trial of detainees.

Nine Law School professors wrote a letter to the Law School community Tuesday disassociating themselves from the deans’ decision and expressing their concerns about Delahunty’s conduct surrounding the memo.

In it, they said the memo was one of many that “facilitated the eventual torture of detainees.” It also said the conduct advised was “in clear violation of international law” and “may be considered by a prosecutor and a court to be a war crime or a crime against humanity.”

Some reports indicated the deans were unaware of the memo.

When asked about the memo, Morrison did not say whether he was aware of it during the hiring process, but said the Law School encourages open debate, a point made in a letter to the faculty Tuesday from Morrison and fellow Co-Dean Guy Charles.

“Debate and open discussion are the hallmarks of true academic freedom,” the letter said. “It is through such frank and unrestricted expression that the University of Minnesota has become an outstanding academic institution.”

But some students say the deans have been evading the issue.

Third-year law student Amy Bergquist said there were some “interesting and icky events” throughout the week that seemed to prevent communication between students and faculty.

In the letter, for example, Morrison and Charles asked faculty to send all students with questions about Delahunty to the deans’ office.

“I interpreted that as trying to erect a barrier between the faculty and the students,” Bergquist said.

She said she attended two meetings held by the deans for students Wednesday, where there were other problems.

Some of the information regarding the hiring process is “accurate but misleading,” she said, accusing the deans of omitting some important information, such as who was responsible for different parts of the decision.

The deans argued at the meeting that retracting the offer would be difficult due to the legal steps involved.

But Bergquist said when the deans discussed this issue they failed to go into specifics about a contract buyout or other legal steps.

“It seemed to me to be a bit of a red herring to raise as this major obstacle – the due process issue,” she said.

Bergquist also said, despite her suggestion, the deans’ office failed to inform all students of the latter Wednesday meeting. She said the office also held the professors’ letter to faculty from the student listserv.

Bergquist said she doesn’t know how long the letter was held, but “they certainly were holding on to it for some time” because students didn’t get the letter until the day after it was sent.

“That, to me and to other students, was distressing,” she said.

Lucas Tomsich, first-year law student and coauthor of a petition against Delahunty, said communication was initially poor, but he doesn’t think it was intentional.

“I think (the deans) were taken by surprise,” Tomsich said. “I think it was just how they always handle this type of thing, in terms of an appointment to fill a spot at the last minute.”

He said the deans were also slow to respond, probably because they didn’t think it was going to be an issue.

“I think we accomplished our main point,” he said. “This probably isn’t going to happen in the future.”