The Right Coast

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Fostering the Discussion of Racial Issues
Mike Rappaport

There is an unfortunate controversy occurring at the Wisconsin Law School. See here and here.  Some students in a class have complained that the professor made offensive statements, including “Hmong men have no talent other than to kill” and “all second-generation Hmong end up in gangs and other criminal activity.”  The professor, under advice of counsel, has not responded in detail except to deny making these statements. Some other students in the class also deny that these statements were made. 

In the absence of the specific facts, it is hard to comment on this incident. But the issue does raise a more general question as to how a university should treat complaints from students that a professor was racially insensitive, used stereotypes, or said things they found insulting. While one can certainly imagine statements about race that are extreme and improper, the discussion of racially sensitive issues should be an important part of the law school curiculum. In order to foster that discussion, it is necessary that students and professors in the classroom have confidence that they will not be subject to discipline if some in the class find their statements offensive.

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Mike Rappaport


Any set point that is ultimately reached in this area should be "content neutral" - whatever one may or may not say about minorities should also be applicable to what one may say or not say about the majority folk.

Of course, a rule like that would force the termination of some entire departments at a lot of universities.

Posted by: km | Mar 6, 2007 8:11:55 AM

In his letter of justification, Kaplan says that he said "..involved in crime as a matter of economic necessity". A lefty, then, excusing crime? Perhaps the complaining students also feel that they are acting out of some personal or social necessity? Some onlookers might ungenerously think "Serves him right".

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 7, 2007 11:52:25 PM