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Prof Charges BC Dean with Retaliation

At my alma mater, Boston College Law School, the big news this week, widely reported, was that the school would not award its highest honor to U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey when he speaks at its commencement in May (a speech we first noted here on Jan. 28). The BC Law blog Eagleionline rounds up coverage of the story, which was reported yesterday in The Boston Globe and picked up by news outlets ranging from Fox News to The Huffington Post.

But in reading the commentary and debate surrounding the school's decision to invite Mukasey, I was surprised to find this comment posted by my one-time constitutional law professor, Arthur L. Berney. Berney, who retired in 2001. In an effort to provide historical context to the current controversy, Berney accuses BC Law Dean John H. Garvey of retaliating against him, in part because he opposed Garvey's appointment as dean, but also because of an incident that occurred soon after Garvey took office involving two vacant slots on the faculty. After the search committee had narrowed the field, a hiring meeting was held. Normally, the dean's preferences would be given due weight, Berney wrote.

But not this time. The faculty voted for two other candidates. The Dean became very angry and said and I believe this is a quote: This faculty will not hire a conservative or a Catholic. I think that outburst shocked many of us.

Berney was first to speak up, as he recalls the incident, telling Garvey that the religion of a candidate had never been a factor in faculty hiring. As others chimed in, another professor, Peter Donovan, said, "Dean Garvey you had better listen to Professor Berney's words because he is the conscience of this faculty."

That comment may have clinched his fate, if he was not already a marked man, Berney writes. "From my perspective there is no question in my mind that until I retired, and beyond, Dean Garvey retaliated against me." Berney goes on to accuse Garvey of having damaged the school by creating "a state of chronic divisiveness" and undercutting what was once "a very democratic institution."

Needless to say, I know nothing about the backstory here. I do know that, in my days at BC Law, Arthur Berney was one of the few professors who truly inspired and enlightened me. Perhaps he was the victim of retaliation, perhaps not. But merely his belief that it happened should be a source of sadness and concern for the law school, even today.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 6, 2008 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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