Widener Dean Pursues Punishment for Law Prof Who Used Hypotheticals in Class

Ashley Thorne

Last week we reported that a faculty committee at Widener University had recommended withdrawal of a Dismissal for Cause Action against Professor Lawrence Connell, associate professor of law at Widener's Delaware campus. Professor Connell was suspended from teaching after two students filed complaints about the hypotheticals he used in his Criminal Law class accusing him of racism and sexism, among other charges. Some of the hypotheticals in his lectures referred to him shooting the dean, Linda Ammons, who is black. Professor Connell gave examples of this specific kind of hypothetical in his February interview with NAS.

Today Connell's lawyer Thomas Neuberger issued a press release stating that Dean Ammons has chosen not to take the recommendations of the faculty committee and has instead directed the two students to re-file their charges against Connell.

Neuberger said that Connell must now defend himself before a formal hearing committee composed primarily of administrators, not legally trained faculty members. He said that Connell must submit a written response by March 25th - his current 39-page affidavit as well as a new one. Neuberger emphasized that the hearing will not require the student accusers to take a sworn oath, and that he will not be allowed to cross examine them. 

We have put in inquiries to Dean Ammons and the university's public relations officer and will report on further developments in this case.

UPDATE: Widener University issued its own press release yesterday explaining the procedures for investigating such complaints. It said, "At the formal hearing before the tenure committee, the faculty member has substantial procedural rights, including the right to representation by counsel and to confront and cross examine witnesses." The release concluded with a promise on behalf of the university to "continue to follow its stated procedures such that the rights of all involved are preserved and protected."

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