The Widener School of Law Ethics Train Wreck: Political Correctness and Its Carnage

I have posted twice this year about the persecution of  Prof. Lawrence Connell, a tenured associate professor at Widener University School of Law in Delaware, but let me summarize the story for you, lets you missed the original post.

Connell is a criminal law professor, and is adept at concocting memorable hypotheticals to illustrate principles of law, often using celebrities and other people well-known to the students as characters. In one class, he illustrated the dilemmas in determining the crime of attempted murder with this hypothetical:

“The Dean has threatened to fire me if she comes to school one more time and finds that I have parked in her designated parking space. Upset about the possibility of losing both my job and the parking space, I bring my .357 to school, get out of my car, put the .357 into my waistband, walk to the top floor where her office is located, open the door to her office, see her seated at her desk, draw my weapon, aim my weapon, and fire my weapon directly into what I believe to be her head. To my surprise, it’s not the Dean at all, but an ingeniously painted pumpkin — a pumpkin that has been intricately painted to look like the Dean. Dick Tracy rushes in and immediately wrestles me to the ground. I am charged with the attempted murder of the Dean.”

Good hypothetical. But some of Connell’s students complained that the hypo communicated violent attitudes towards women and blacks, since the Dean, Linda Ammons, is both female and black. Continue reading

“The Strange Case of the Threatening Hypothetical”, Continued: The Verdict Is In!

The Victim

Lawrence Connell, the Widener School of Law criminal law professor placed on administrative leave for using the school Dean in a “violent scenario” to illustrate legal principles to his class, has given a revealing and clarifying interview to the National Association of Scholars website.

This section is most relevant to his current plight, and the fairness of complaints leveled against him by some of his students. It’s also about one of my favorite topics in criminal law, attempt law, which has a significant ethical component, as you will see. But the main point of interest is that includes one of the supposedly racist, sexist, threatening hypotheticals he used.

Q: Can you give me an example of a hypothetical you might have used in class, to which the students who complained might have been referring? Can you describe the context in which you would have used it? Continue reading

The Strange Case of the Threatening Hypothetical

Lawrence Connell, a tenured associate professor at Widener University School of Law in Delaware, is fond of using famous or familiar people in the hypotheticals he presents to his criminal law class.  One of his imaginary scenarios involved him as a murderer, and the school’s Dean as his victim. Now he is on administrative leave from the school, as administrators investigate  him for using “violent scenarios” that some students complained violated the school’s discrimination and harassment codes.

Widener University spokesman Dan Hanson, meanwhile, has declined to provide more details on the matter, but insists that Widener is committed to academic freedom.

Right. Continue reading