Tag Archives: Northwestern University

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/7/ 2018: Murder, Fake Journalism, Hatch Act Games, And California Defiance

Good Morning!

1  “A Murder in the Park.” The 2014 documentary about how the Northwestern University “Innocence Project” freed a guilty murderer hours before his execution and framed an innocent man who was eventually exonerated is now available on Netflix. I wrote about the case, which had the unanticipated consequence of causing Illinois to ban the death penalty, in 2014. Then I concentrated on how badly the whole mess reflected on the justice system. As I watched the documentary last night, however, what struck me was the self-satisfied smugness and certitude of the journalism students who participated in selective investigation, advocacy instead of objective reporting, manipulation of witnesses, cause driven conclusions and more. The documentary shows us why journalism has become whatever it can be called now–certainly not journalism. Northwestern has one of the elite journalism schools in the nation, and David Protess, then the professor who ran “The Innocence Project,” was teaching students that corrupt journalism was honorable. Protess at the time was perhaps the most praised journalism teacher in the nation. It seems that he was less the exception than the rule.

2. Real discipline would be nice for a change. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) informed the Trump yesterday that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act twice.  The  findings were referred to President Trump “for appropriate disciplinary action.” The White House promptly denied the charges, so we should assume that Kelly won’t be disciplined at all.

The Hatch Act allows federal employees to express their views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, but forbids them from using their official government positions try to influence elections. Of course Conway violated the Act. On Fox and CNN, she made it clear that voters in Alabama should reject Democrat Doug Jones. The White House ludicrously claims that Conway did not advocate for or against the election of any particular candidate. Nah…she just told Fox viewers last November,

“Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.”

On CNN,  she said in part,
Continue reading

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The FIRE’s Ten Worst Colleges For Free Speech, 2018

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (The FIRE) is the heroic non-partisan, non-profit that does a lot of the work the ACLU should be doing, but doesn’t. The list (those with links are the colleges covered in 2017 Ethics Alarms posts):

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.)

Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)

Los Angeles Community College District (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Fordham University (New York, N.Y.)

Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.)

Albion College (Albion, Mich.)

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)

University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)

Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)

The whole, awful story of each is worth reading, especially in light of yesterday’s “Ethics Quote Of The Week.” FIRE does not rank the unethical colleges, but I’ll say this: Evergreen may be the worst of the worst, but Harvard is the most shameful.

The FIRE is one of the great ethics organizations in the nation, and deserves every citizen’s respect, support, and gratitude.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Government & Politics, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Rights

How About This Solution: Let’s Move Northwestern University To Portland, Ore, Then Let’s Move Portland Out Of The U.S.

Ethics Dunce doesn’t do justice to Portland’s Mayor Ted Wheeler, nor his city’s residents for electing a First Amendment opponent to lead them. Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month comes closer, but describing mayors who refuse to acknowledge the rights of free speech and freedom of assembly as merely incompetent isn’t strong enough either. They are living

Wheeler (Guess his party!)  has asked federal authorities to cancel two upcoming rallies organized by conservative groups in the wake of the recent incident in which two passengers were fatally stabbed on a commuter train last week after confronting a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs. He wants the feds to revoke the permit for a June 4 “Trump Free Speech Rally” in downtown Portland as well as to refuse the requested  permit for a “March Against Sharia” scheduled for June 10.Wrote the mayor on Facebook yesterday,

“Our city is in mourning, our community’s anger is real, and the timing and subject of these events can only exacerbate an already difficult situation…I urge [the events’ organizers] to ask their supporters to stay away from Portland. There is never a place for bigotry or hatred in our community, and especially not now.”

The ingenuity of anti-speech progressives is impressive, but there is no “city in mourning-anger-timing’ exception to the First Amendment. Citizens of the United States, yes, even in Portland, have a right to make statements that the Anointed Arbiters Of What Is Politically Acceptable—you know, like Wheeler—don’t agree with, even if the AAOWIPAs try the neat trick of calling such  statements “bigotry” and “hatred”, or “hate speech,”  which they continue to claim, in a classic use of the Big Lie method, isn’t protected by the Constitution. It is protected.  As the ACLU of  Oregon said in ringing rebuttal to Wheeler,

“The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period. It may be tempting to shut down speech we disagree with, but once we allow the government to decide what we can say, see, or hear, or who we can gather with history shows us that the most marginalized will be disproportionately censored and punished for unpopular speech.”

Oh no, you misunderstand my pure motives! the Mayor protesteth through his office. It is only violence we seek to avoid!

This is another popular anti-speech trick. If leftist thugs threaten violence against non-leftist speech, that’s an excuse to muzzle the non-leftists—Milo, Coulter, Charles Murray, Richard Spencer. As  Reason’s Scott Shackford puts it: Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Leadership, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

When Ethical Causes Are Pursued By Unethical Means: The Anthony Porter-Alstory Simon Mess

What does this picture have in common with the Alstory Simon case and the Illinois criminal justice system? Read on...

What does this picture have in common with the Alstory Simon case and the Illinois criminal justice system? Read on…

All Americans owe a debt to the many non-profit organizations across the country dedicated to freeing innocent prisoners, some of them sentenced to die, who were wrongly prosecuted and convicted as a result of breakdowns in the justice system or prosecutorial corruption. Their work has served as an invaluable fail-safe, it has focused attention on needed reforms, and it has rescued innocent lives before they were completely destroyed. As a reminder of the corruptive power of good intentions, however, the recent release of a convicted murderer put in prison by one of these organizations serves as an ethics cautionary tale. Apparently one such “innocence project” believed that it was worth sending an innocent man to prison for a murder he did not commit in order to save the man originally convicted of the crime from execution.

In 1998,* Illinois death row inmate Anthony Porter, convicted in the 1982 murders of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard, was apparently proven innocent 48 hours before his scheduled execution. A Northwestern University professor and his students working with the Medill Innocence Project had obtained a videotaped confession by a man named Alstory Simon, admitting that he, not Porter, was the real killer. Porter was ultimately released, in 1999.

The governor of Illinois at the time, George Ryan, a longtime supporter of the death penalty, claimed that he was so shocked by the near fatal miscarriage of justice that he halted all executions less than a year after Porter’s exoneration. Eventually he commuted the sentences of every prisoner on death row, saying the state’s capital punishment system  could not be trusted. The Simon confession leading to Porter’s exoneration drove the shift in public opinion that caused the Illinois death penalty’s demise in 2011.

Happy ending? Not exactly. In 2005, witnesses who implicated Simon announced that they had fabricated their stories in exchange for money and a promise by the Northwestern professor, David Protess, that he would work to free two incarcerated relatives of one of the witnesses. Then Alstory Simon recanted his confession, saying that he had been persuaded by a faked videotape of witnesses implicating him in the crime, and promises of a short prison sentence and a movie deal if he confessed to a crime he didn’t commit. Last week, an Illinois judge ordered Simon released from prison after  prosecutors agreed that he was probably not guilty. He had spent almost 15 years in prison. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

The Ethics of Sex in the Classroom

"All right, Professor, this time you've gone too far!"

Northwestern University Professor John Michael Bailey decided to enrich his course on Human Sexuality by having a man use a dildo to bring a naked woman to orgasm as his students watched. Did the professor do a live play-by-play of the encounter, like sportscaster  Howard Cosell in “Bananas”? We don’t know. (Yes, today is Woody Allen Film Allusion Day, and no, I don’t know why.) Not surprisingly, this caused quite a bit of controversy on campus, and at least one formal complaint was filed challenging the ethics of the exhibition.  Bailey defended the exhibition, which was voluntary (meaning, presumably, that it wouldn’t be covered on the exam—about a hundred students attended) by arguing that such  unconventional demonstration provide “useful examples and extensions of concepts students learn about in traditional academic ways.”  Northwestern president Morton Schapiro concluded that “I simply do not believe this was appropriate … or in keeping with Northwestern University’s academic mission,” and the college has assigned Bailey other courses while announcing that “Human Sexuality”  will not be offered in the coming academic year. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Gender and Sex, Professions, Research and Scholarship

Ethics and Freeing the Unjustly Convicted: A Utilitarian Controversy in Illinois

Northwestern University journalism professor David Protess and his student reporters have been carrying out a heroic and aggressive project aimed at rescuing innocent residents of Illinois’s death row. It was Protess’s Medill Innocence Project that played a major role in influencing former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s decision to halt all executions. Now, however, the Innocence Project’s methods are now under attack by its own university and Cook County prosecutors, who say the students crossed legal and ethical lines while investigating a decades-old murder.

Prosecutors claim that some of Protess’s students used surreptitious taping in an investigation, secretly recording a suspect in violation of Illinois law. Continue reading

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BREAKING NEWS! Blago’s An Unethical Lawyer, Too!

A librarian at Northwestern University found confidential attorney-client files in eighteen boxes of files belonging to Rod Blagojevich. The librarian purchased them at in an auction held by a moving and storage company that sold Blagojevich’s stored possessions after he stiffed the company on his storage bills. The files date from the ex-Illinois governor and current criminal defendant’s days as a prosecutor. Even though Blago no longer practices law (his bar status is inactive), his duty to protect prior client confidences is sacred and perpetual. The relevant Illinois Rule, 1.6, says:

(a) Except when required under Rule 1.6(b) or permitted under Rule 1.6(c), a lawyer shall not, during or after termination of the professional relationship with the client, use or reveal a confidence or secret of the client known to the lawyer unless the client consents after disclosure.

That means that leaving boxes of former client secrets statements, records and confidences in boxes stored in a facility where you’re not paying your bills is recklessly risking the privacy of those documents, and making it possible for them to fall into untrustworthy hands—not that Rod Blagojevich meets the minimal level of trustworthiness either.

Blago told the AP that he had no idea what was in the boxes. Wrong answer: he has a duty to know where his client files are and that they are secure. He also said that he didn’t know he was in arrears at the storage facility. Also wrong: staying current with the bills was his responsibility as part of his duty to protect his clients’ confidences.

That a man who ignored his duty to the public, and tried to use his power to appoint a U.S. Senator for personal gain, was also cavalier with his ethical duties to former clients should come as no surprise.  People who are unethical in one job are likely to be unethical in others.  And Rod…well, I think it’s fair to say that Rod Blagojevich is likely to be unethical no matter what he does, including eating and sleeping.

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