Ethics Hero: Dave Chappelle

I know: just a week ago, I began the last section of the  day’s warm-up with “He’s not exactly an Ethics Hero, but…Dave Chappelle’s new concert video, now streaming on Netflix, is thought-provoking, brave, and full of ethical insights and analysis. I could do a two hour ethics seminar using just his material.” Several things have changed since then, however…

  • I am desperate for ethics heroes. We all are. If the Democrat candidates debate proved anything, it was that.
  • Chappelle is being attacked, hard, by the very same cancellation culture and political correctness dictators he has been willing to  challenge.
  • There is an organized effort to try to discourage the public from watching his Netflix special “Sticks and Stones,” not because it won’t be funny to anyone still capable of finding things funny, but because it will inspire people to think. Can’t have that…
  • Only one reader, the usually intrepid and culturally aware Humble Talent, commented on the issue last week. Sometimes I think that including a topic in the warm-up rather than devoting a whole post to it causes some Ethics Alarms readers to gloss over the issues involved, or maybe miss the item itself, as if each warm-up topic  is only 20% of a serious ethics topic because there are typically five in a post. The benefit to me of this format is that it saves time (you would not believe how long it takes to set up an individual post after the text is written) and helps me avoid an ethics backlog, but sometimes whether a particular issue is covered in a warm-up item or in a full post is arbitrary, a matter of timing, what else has occurred and my mood at the time.
  • Upon further reflection, I have concluded that Chappelle is an Ethics Hero.

Continue reading

Fairness To Incompetent Lawyers?

To be fair, Tamara can blame the fact that she thinks this is a good law  suit on her cognitive problems..

To be fair, Tamara can blame the fact that she thinks this is a valid law suit on her cognitive problems…

Why this story didn’t make my head explode, thus rating the KABOOM! label, is a mystery. My theory is that the truly idiotic and ignorant exclamations on Facebook by my usually rational friends about guns in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack have gradually strengthened my skull’s tolerance to internal pressure.

Once again, I have encountered a news story that required me to check and see if it was a hoax.

Tamara Wyche is a 2013 Harvard Law School graduate who is suing the New York State Board of Law Examiners. She claims she twice failed the bar exam because it refused to provide the same kind of testing accommodations that the law school did for her in her exams there, in recognition of her various cognitive problems. The fact that she flunked while being forced to take the exam under the same rules as everyone else resulted in the large Boston law firm Ropes & Gray terminating her employment. You can read her complaint here.

I confess that I didn’t read all of it: I didn’t want to press my luck with the old cranium.

The 29-year-old Wyche says she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a first-year law student at Harvard, and also  suffered several head injuries (?) that resulted in permanent memory problems and cognitive issues, requiring her to take several leaves of absence from her studies. She finally earned her law degree in 2013 thanks to Harvard granting her several doctor-recommended accommodations, including 50% extra time on tests, a separate testing room, and extra break time. She also was exempt from being called on in class, because of a propensity for anxiety and panic attacks.

Allow me to cut to the chase for a second, again in the interest of my dangerously bubbling brains, and perhaps yours. Continue reading

Observations On The George Mason Law School Renaming Debacle

Scalia Law School

Summary: On March 31, George Mason University announced that it was changing the name of its law school, which has rapidly risen from marginal status into respectability in the last few years, to the Antonin Scalia School of Law. The reason: a 30 million dollar contribution from the Charles Koch Foundation, a.k.a. the Koch Brothers and an anonymous donor, who made the name change a condition of his or her generosity. This occurring while the various controversies over Scalia’s legacy and the Supreme Court’s deadlock since his passing were still raging guaranteed indignation from many quarters, including many students and graduates of the law school. The internet and social media communities, meanwhile, having the emotional maturity of fifth graders, concentrated its efforts at snickering over the new school’s acronym, which could be ASSoL, and the Twitter handle, #ASSLAW.

The resulting embarrassment led the school’s Dean to announce  that the name of the school was being altered to “Antonin Scalia Law School.”

Comments:

1. Ethics Alarms had a recent post expressing dismay at the willingness of baseball teams to sell the identity of their ballparks to corporations. This is much worse. George Mason is perhaps the most unjustly forgotten of all the Founders, as he was largely responsible for there being a Bill of Rights in our Constitution The fact that George Mason University and its law school has been slowly rising in prestige and visibility had helped to remedy the unjust obscurity of a historical figure to whom every citizen and the world owes a debt of thanks. George Mason’s honor, however, was considered expendable once the school’s leaders knew the price that using the law school for ideological propaganda could bring at a time of sharp partisan division.

2. Rich people have a right to use their money to make others do things that they shouldn’t or normally wouldn’t want to. The issue is whether there are ethical limits to the kinds of actions and conduct money should be used to buy. Rich families have used their assets to defeat true love, paying  unsuitable suitors to leave without explanation. Desperate celebrities have accepted checks to debase themselves on reality shows. Judas was paid to betray Jesus Christ. Where does using one’s millions to induce a university to betray its duties to alumni and students, as well as other donors and the memory of a crucial American patriot, fall on the spectrum?

3. Was George Mason University obligated to accept 30,000,000 dollars under these conditions? Should money supersede all other considerations for an educational institution? No, and no. Allowing the school to be turned into a billboard for conservative jurisprudence did more than simply alter the name. It altered the perception of the law school, the meaning of its degrees, its public image and its ability to attract a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds. If the school’s leadership didn’t comprehend that, it was a stunning example of institutional incompetence and irresponsible decision-making.

4. If the school’s leadership did comprehend the gravamen of the name change and allowing partisan tycoons to bend the school’s management to their will, then the decision was even less defensible. There was an absolute obligation to consult with the stakeholders in this trade-off: students, alumni, and donors. Failing that obligation constituted a stunning breach of trust. Continue reading

How Can Schools Teach Students About Citizenship And Rights When They Don’t Know What Rights Students Have?

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can't suspend ME...

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can’t suspend ME…

Today’s example of totalitarian school tactics committed by administrators who should be attending classes rather than overseeing them comes to us from Memphis, Tennessee. Highland Oaks Middle School suspended three students for posting a teacher’s mugshot on Instagram. Eighth grade teacher Tiffany Jackson had been arrested for driving with a suspended license, and a student discovered her mugshot online. He posted it,  and many more students re-posted the picture.

How could students posting public information on their own Instagram accounts be grounds for punishing them?  It isn’t. The school has no right to do this, and suspending students for such protected conduct just serves to intimidate them  and other students from exercising their rights as citizens.

That, of course, is the idea.

I agree that it wasn’t kind or fair of the students to set out to embarrass a teacher, but that’s a matter for discussion—education, perhaps— not discipline.

There has been a disturbing amount of deliberate or ignorant trampling on student speech lately, notably the University of Oklahoma expelling students for a constitutionally-protected racist chant, but also in high schools across the country where personal social media posts have been and are being treated as grounds for discipline. This is not to be tolerated from educational institutions in a democracy. Schools are fond of n0-tolerance: I can’t think of any conduct that should be less tolerated than teachers and administrators trying to control legal conduct and protected speech by students that occur off school grounds. We need to raise citizens who understand and respect individual rights, not burgeoning fascists who think that authority can and should shut down speech and conduct it doesn’t like.

At Highland Oaks Middle School, administrators eventually overturned the suspensions. I don’t care: fire them.

For this has to stop.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Streisand Effect, Ms. Jackson! Thanks to your employers trying to cover-up your offense by muzzling your students, everyone is seeing your mugshot. Just trying to do my part to discourage this blatant abuse of power….

_________________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: WNC Action 5

 

Let’s Play “Pick The Most Unethical Lawsuit!”

Bad suits

Hello, hello, hello, Game Show fans! My, what a great crowd we have today. I’m your host, Wink Marshall, and today our contestants are going to compete for Most Unethical Law Suit. As always, you, our home audience, will decide who get the prize, a lifetime supply of extremely expensive boloney, courtesy of our sponsor, Oscar Meyer. Are you ready? Then, let’s meet our contestants! First, heeeere’s…

Andrew Rector!

You remember Andrew, right? In June, I wrote…

ESPN cameras caught Andrew Rector sleeping in his seat in the fourth inning of  the April 13 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. In the time-honored tradition of TV play-by-play when something funny, weird or, most especially, sexy is spied in the stands, ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk  began making fun of him. The clip ended up on YouTube, naturally, and thus on various sports websites, followed by the various idiotic, cruel, gratuitously mean-spirited insults, usually composed by brave anonymous commenters. …Let me say for the record that picking fans out of the crowd at sporting events and making fun of them, whatever they are doing, is generally a rotten thing to do. I know: it’s public, you know you might be on camera, and the fine print on the ticket stub puts you on notice. Unless, however, the conduct involved is actually newsworthy or despicable (as in instances where an adult has snatched a baseball from a child), the Golden Rule applies. …Unfortunately, Rector, whose name was unknown and whose sleeping form would have been quickly forgotten, decided that his humiliation was so great that he needed to sue…for $10, 000,000. Rector filed the suit against ESPN, Shulman, Kruk, the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball…and asks for damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, citing malicious and false statements said about him,including that Rector is “a fatty cow” that represents a “symbol of failure.” …None of the defendants actually said any of these things (“fatty cow”?). Rector’s suit is apparently making the creative legal argument that ESPN’s mild mockery seeded the vicious mockery elsewhere on the web.

Welcome back to Ethics Alarms, Andrew, old friend!  Try to sta awake, now! Has the Streisand Effect kicked in yet? We’re doing what we can to help!

Now let’s meet someone completely new to Ethics Alarms, Contestant #2, Continue reading