Columbia Law School: Threat to Punish Professor for ‘Hostile Environment’ Due to Exam Question
Professor George Fletcher, a renowned and respected legal scholar, taught an introductory criminal law class. In one exam, he presented his students with a hypothetical case-based in part on several real cases-that involved a woman who was grateful for a criminal assault that resulted in a miscarriage. Several faculty members and students objected to various aspects of the examination, finding it demeaning to women. The dean of the Law School, David Leebron, informed Professor Fletcher that the complaints he received constituted "a plausible contention of liability an[d] unlawfulness." FIRE contacted Dean Leebron and sought a retraction of his troubling statements on the limits of a professor's academic freedom. FIRE insisted that Dean Leebron reaffirm his commitment to academic freedom, secure Professor Fletcher's rights, and cease making ominous references to legal liability or faculty action resulting from the exercise of Fletcher's rightful freedom. FIRE's lengthy involvement on behalf of Professor Fletcher finally secured from Dean Leebron an affirmation of that School's commitment to academic freedom. Dean Leebron also declared categorically that the exam did not constitute sexual harassment, and that the incident would have no impact on Professor Fletcher's career.
- "Academic Freedom Vindicated," October 19, 2001: At last, FIRE's efforts to restore the rights of Columbia Law School professor bear fruit
- "Academic Freedom under Assault at Columbia Law School; Dean Threatens Criminal Law Professor," October 4, 2000: The politically correct mentality at Columbia University, exemplified by the new Sexual Misconduct Policy, already has claimed one victim: the distinguished professor of law, George Fletcher. Fletcher, the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence, was informed by Law School Dean David Leebron that an exam question in his criminal law class was possibly "unlawful" because it may have violated "harassment" law and discriminated against women by creating a "hostile environment."
- "FIRE's Letter to Dean David Leebron," September 6, 2000