Peltz charges them with defamation, saying that his comments about affirmative action were used unfairly to accuse him of racism in a way that tarnished his reputation....Suing students! It seems unthinkable. But this is the direction we head when free speech and academic freedom lose their grip on us. Do we feel like blaming the students for trying to suppress the teacher first, or should we blame the teachers who taught them that they are entitled not to hear what to them feels "hateful and inciting"? Or is it just obvious that teachers should never sue our students for even the most horrible things they about us? What a sad, sad story!
The dispute over Peltz concerns his opposition to affirmative action — and how he expressed it. Complicating matters is that no one who was present when the statements were actually made is discussing them....
In a memo sent to Charles Goldner, dean of the law school, the students accuse Peltz of engaging in a “rant” about affirmative action, of saying that affirmative action helps “unqualified black people,” of displaying a satirical article from The Onion about the death of Rosa Parks, of allowing a student to give “incorrect facts” about a key affirmative action case, of passing out a form on which he asked for students’ name and race and linking this form to grades, and of denigrating black students in a debate about affirmative action, among other charges.
The student memo said that the organization had “no problem with the difference of opinion about affirmative action,” but that Peltz’s actions were “hateful and inciting speech” and were used “to attack and demean the black students in class.”
The black student group demanded that Peltz be “openly reprimanded,” that he be barred from teaching constitutional law “or any other required course where black students would be forced to have him as a professor,” that the university mention in his personnel file that he is unable “to deal fairly with black students,” and that he be required to attend diversity training.
I'd like to hear from other law professors and law students about whether classroom critique of affirmative action gets called racism at your school. I have encountered people in law schools who will cry racism when all you have done is seriously present the legal reasoning in the affirmative action opinions of Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and William Rehnquist.
The Peltz story hits close to home for me because of something that you can read about in my old posts with the tag "Kaplan story."