Widener University: Law School Threatens Professor’s Academic Freedom

Category: Due Process, Free Speech
Schools: Widener University School of Law

In December 2010, tenured law professor Lawrence J. Connell was banned from campus and charged with numerous violations of the university’s Faculty Member Discrimination and Harassment Code, including using the term “black folks” and using hypothetical classroom scenarios (a common practice in law schools) involving law school dean Linda Ammons. In March 2011, after a faculty panel recommended that dismissal proceedings against Connell be dropped, Ammons allegedly induced two law students to refile harassment charges against Connell, and added a new charge of “retaliation” for defending himself and explaining his situation to his students. A second panel cleared Connell of all charges of harassment and discrimination, but found him responsible for retaliation. Widener President James T. Harris then accepted Ammons’ recommendation that Connell be suspended for one year without pay and be forced to undergo a psychiatric or psychological evaluation before returning to Widener. Connell is currently suing Widener University, Dean Ammons, and the two students allegedly induced to file false charges against him.