McNally on Kingsfield:
Kingsfield was the fictional version of a real-life Harvard law professor who instilled such icy terror in the hearts of his students that one of them turned the experience into "The Paper Chase," a best-selling novel and popular film in the 1970s.Actually, according to Osborn, Kingsfield wasn't a real professor. He was a fictional concoction, to provide drama. Osborn's own contracts professor was quite lovable.
Here's McNally on the Kaplan controversy:
... Madison law professor Leonard Kaplan... somehow finds himself having to defend a lecture that apparently unintentionally offended some Hmong students who may or may not know what was really said.I think McNally has carefully phrased this, but do want to call attention to two things that might be a little hard to see. First, the concession that the email reporting supposed quotes "wasn't well-informed" doesn't mean that their complaint lacks substance. Second, the university has taken an interest in what really happened. While "distorted rumors" may have inflamed emotions, there are still real students who had sat through the class who are talking with administrators about what they had perceived.
What prompted the uproar was an e-mail circulated by a Hmong student who wasn't in the class. The student later admitted her e-mail "wasn't well-informed," but that she still found whatever was said in the class offensive.
Other minority students, who actually did hear Kaplan's remarks in the class, said the e-mail took portions of Kaplan's lecture out of context. They said Kaplan had described racial stereotypes that had been used against Hmong people in a discussion of how the law can conflict with different cultures.
In a letter to the dean of the Law School, Kaplan said: "Had I made the hateful comments strongly attributed to me, I would repudiate them without hesitation. I did not make them."
But apparently it doesn't matter that the complaint against Kaplan "wasn't well-informed," as his accuser now says.
The Law School is scrambling. The university is scrambling. We hear the sort of vacuous apologies that have become familiar in recent years. If anyone was offended, all sorts of folks are officially deeply sorry. What's really offensive is a university that worries more about how students react to distorted rumors of what a professor might have said instead of what was really said or what he was trying to teach his students.
There is no way to go back and see what happened in a situation that wasn't recorded. In a sense, you could say that anyone's report of what was said in the past is somehow "rumor," but that's not very helpful. Indeed, the students' first-hand reports of what they heard in class are not even hearsay in the legal sense of the term (because it is not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, only to prove what was said).
I'm not looking to restir the pot here myself, just linking to McNally because I've been linking to the mainstream media's coverage of this story all along. McNally is saying something very close to what I've been saying, which you can read by clicking the "Kaplan story" label below. There is a serious conflict and a lot of well-intentioned individuals attempting to resolve it right now. I wish them well.