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When Law Schools Ignore Naughty Profs

"Do you know a faculty member who propositions students?" asks Bridget J. Crawford, a Pace Law School professor, at Feminist Law Professors blog. "If you’ve spent any time in academia, my guess is that the answer is 'Yes.' Does that faculty member think he (or she) is propositioning students? My guess is the answer is, 'Probably not.'"

Say you are a law school prof who does know of colleagues who proposition students. Do you report them? Unlikely, Crawford says. "Profs tend to respect wide zones of privacy in personal matters." If you do report them, does the school investigate? Again, Crawford says it is unlikely. "Everyone is an adult here," she hears law schools say.

Crawford raises these questions in light of news this week of a lawsuit by five former and one current student against East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Their suit alleges that university officials did nothing to prevent a former vice president from making unwanted sexual advances toward male students even after repeated reports of his misbehavior. The suit says that the university covered up complaints about the VP even though his "inappropriate and unlawful sexual conduct toward plaintiffs and other young African-American ESU students was blatant, open and notorious."

When law schools overlook professors who pursue students, they are guilty of "willful ignorance of power differentials," Crawford believes. In light of this new lawsuit, perhaps law schools should reconsider their inaction. "Deans and directors, listen up," Crawford urges. "Looking the other way now means looking at a subpoena later."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 19, 2009 at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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