This post was edited to improve the grammar and to strengthen my arguments at 4:51 a.m.
NewsOK: Memo to Oklahoma City University attorney details gender issues (thanks to Workplace law prof blog for this link)
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A law professor at Oklahoma City University has filed a federal lawsuit against the university and its law school dean, claiming sexual discrimination and violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.Danne L. Johnson, as associated professor of law since 2003, contends male law professors at the school make as much as 52 percent more than their female counterparts at OCU. . .
It apparently began last year when Johnson complained to law school Dean Lawrence Hellman about the lack of racial or gender diversity on a Constitution Day panel in September 2007. All five professors on the panel were white men, according to the lawsuit.Johnson and three other female professors requested a meeting with Hellman and OCU general counsel William J. Conger in October 2007.
Conger excused the lack of female or minority panelists by calling the Constitution Day event “meaningless,” the lawsuit states, while Hellman refused to distribute an e-mail encouraging the faculty to be more mindful of diversity when choosing speakers and panel members. . .
OCU Law is such a weird place. I graduated there in Dec. ’05. Some professors and administrators were committed to equality and a positive classroom environment, but others weren’t. It is the “bad apples” and the school’s refusal to get rid of those bad apples, that makes me very hesitant to recommend the school to prospective students (despite the many positive experiences I had there). I don’t understand why law students are still subjected to abusive treatment, or why such treatment is considered “par for the course.”
And the dominance of white male voices on the teaching faculty is downright wrong. (Unfortunately, OU law is even worse. I attended a graduation there a few years ago and it was the whitest event I’ve been to in a long time.)
If these allegations are found to be true, OCU Law has a lot of amends to make. And even if the courts don’t find cause for the suit, the general issues raised by the suit only help to highlight bigger looming problems. Here are my suggestions on some solutions…
1. It may be time for a change in the composition of the administration (again this is assuming that the allegations are true) — My own experiences in dealing with the OCU Law administration were mostly positive (I was a activist as a student and often had to be an advocate with the administration for causes I believed in) but the allegations raised in this suit are beyond the pale. Dismissing serious bonfide complaints about discrimination and allowing a hostile environment against women and minorities is not good leadership.
2. Implement a real non-discrimination policy with teeth. Mere platitudes won’t cut it. A good place to start would be equal pay for equal work. A pay gap of over 50% is in excusable.
3. Fire professors that refuse to treat students and colleagues with basic dignity and respect. The legal profession is supposed to be about civility and respect. Most professors model this to their students, but a few don’t. And the few that don’t, are pretty atrocious violators. Tenure should be a shield for the professionally abusive.
4. Hire more professors of color and more female professors, and then make sure that those professors are given equal opportunity.
5. Recover the school’s Methodist heritage — Make OCU Law students would never know it, but OCU law is part of OCU, a United Methodist college. I think it is high time that the larger college took seriously its commitment to the radical inclusive teachings of Christ and reigned in the current abuses of the law school. Abusive teaching styles and racial/gender discrimination is completely contrary to this identity.
6. Commit to being a law school for the people, and not just spoiled rich kids who can afford outrageous tuition prices — OCU Law has had a proud history of having a night school program and its alums have been at the forefront of fighting for basic justice. OCU must reexamine its current tuition policies and ask if they are perpetuating injustice. There may be a debate on the merits of the case brought over gender/racial discrimination, but there is no doubt that OCU Law practices class discrimination. (I barely got out without going under financially, and I will be taking college classes forever the way it looks right now to avoid paying my outrageous student loans. This isn’t right.)
I know, these are crazy demands. But as a fan of OCU and a proud alum, I think it is time to demand more than what we are seeing today from the school.
And I hope my criticisms are heard out of my concern for my alma mater and the legal profession. OCU does many things very well. I think the LR&W curriculum is top-notch and the Dean’s Public Interest Summer Fellowship is incredible. And certainly the best of the professors (such as Professor Von Creel or recently retired Professor Coulson (click here to watch his retirement lecture)) are worthy of praise.
But there has to be change too. Legal education must be at the forefront of the legal profession. Law schools should set the example for workplace equality, for civility, and especially for basic justice for the poor.
A school that charges over ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS per credit hour (when fees are included) is out of reach for not only poor Oklahomans but the middle-class, and this kind of systematic economic in justice ensure that most future graduates of OCU Law likely won’t care about the poor, because they are far removed from due to our society’s class system.