Part 1 of case documents in the case of Johnson v. Oklahoma City University, et al

This is an update to an earlier blog post.

I have been reviewing the initial case documents in this case and I am stunned. I think the allegations are likely true, but if even 10% of the allegations are true, this is a horrible, horrible travesty that must be addressed.

The complaint includes accounts of gross sexual harassment (and I would argue even assault when a male professor uses in appropriate physical contact with a female professor) of other professors, law students and undergraduate work study students; sexual discrimination (including a practice of promoting equally qualified male professors over female professors and paying male professors more than female professors); and an atmosphere that mocks and belittles those who think that women and racial minorities have a place at the table for events like Constitution Day.

Since these documents are in the public domain (see, I am publishing them here. OCU Law apparentely has done its best to minimize these complaints and brush them under the rug. I think it is time to shine some light on this situation.

* Document 1-1 – “The Complaint”
* Document 1-2 – “Confidential Memo to William J. Conger dated October 17, 2007”
* Document 1-3 – “Grievane for Sexual and Racial Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation and Failure to Following University Policies and Procedures, dated April 16, 2008”
* Document 1-4 – “Protocol: Procedures for Faculty-Discrimination panels convened under subsection IX(A) of the Faculty Handbook”
* Document 1-5 – “OCU Whistle Blowing Policy”
* Document 1-6 – “Letter to OCU Law Faculty from William J. Conger”
* Document 1-7 – “EEOC Charge of Discrimination”
* Document 1-8 – “EEOC Dismissal”
* Document 1-9 – “Civil Cover Sheet”

I will publish later case documents as well as my finances permit (PACER charges 8 cents per page to access these documents in the public domain). Certainly it is fair to hear the responses to the complaint by Dean Hellman and OCU Law.

Time for change at OCU Law School

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) OCU law professor alleges discrimination

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.

OCU Law School joins the blogosphere OCU Law School launches blog and monthly podcast

This is pretty neat and is a great example of one OCU Law’s strong points, its commitment to technology. (I am a little biased though as I worked for the law school’s library tech services folks when I was a student there)

Now, if only they can use technology to find ways to lower the cost of getting an education at the school. I got a good education at OCU but owe out the yazoo on student loans. Somebody has got to do something to lower the cost of getting a good legal education! I guess online classes are a ways off, but there must be something that can be done to make things more affordable.

Are Oklahoma law students smart, or is the Oklahoma bar exam easy?


NewsOK: Oklahoma law students are setting benchmarks

Would-be lawyers in Oklahoma pass the bar exam at a nearly unparalleled rate, but no one really knows why.

Some point to the caliber of students admitted into law school these days, while others note schools have shifted their focus toward preparing students for the bar exam.

Whatever the reason, those who have taken the test during the past couple of years have not been having much trouble.

Eight-two percent of the 519 test-takers passed Oklahoma’s bar exam in 2005, putting the state behind only four others nationwide, according to statistics from the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

During the most-recent session, in July, 88 percent of the 380 people who took the exam earned the right to practice law in Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Bar Association. . .

I’m not sure what the deal is. I think one big factor is that there is more of an emphasis in the law schools of passing the bar exam from the get go (this is certainly the case at my alma mater, OCU Law School).

That said, I’m not convinced that the bar exam is that helpful of a tool in measuring the abilities of future lawyers. I know some really sharp, hardworking law school grads who have flunked the exam multiple times, while I know some absolute deadbeats who passed on the first try. Half of passing the exam is knowledge-based, but the other half is test-taking technique and pschology.

I will say what I will not credit with the high bar passage rates is BARBRI. BARBRI is a joke and is waste of money and time. I guess it is almost impossible to tackle a bohemoth like that outfit, but I really wish there was a competing provider in Oklahoma of bar exam prep. Most of our lectures were poorly recorded video-tape presentations, and a good part of the time the “teachers” (I use that term loosely for some of the clowns we had presenting the material) used sexist and offensive hypotheticals I guess to make us laugh, but I wasn’t laughing.

Anyway thank God those days are over.

Inspiring story about an OCU Law grad OCU graduate starts new lifestyle after trading tattoos for law degree

A pretty neat story but one that is not unique at OCU Law. I’ve known quite a few students who came from difficult backgrounds but who were driven to better their communities and themselves. My hope is that OCU Law continues to welcome such students, and hopefully lowers its tuition to make it easier for those folks and other working-class students to go there. I know I’ve been a broken record on the subject of lower tuition but it really is a barrier for many (it almost kept me from graduating).

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz to speak at several venues in Oklahoma


One of my favorite authors of recent months is speaking at several venues in Oklahoma over the next few days, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

She has written three books to date (the first two which I have read and HIGHLY recommend, the third one I look forward to reading ASAP)….

1. Red Dirt: Growing up Okie – a book telling of her upbringing in Depression-era rural Oklahoma (including her grandfather’s background as a Wobbly and Socialist Party member during the all too short but glorious pre-WWI heyday of the left in Oklahoma), the experience of the red scare era in Oklahoma, her moving to Oklahoma City, and her move to California in the 1960’s.

2. Outlaw Woman: A memoir of the war years (1960-1975) – an account of her experiences in the women’s liberation and radical revolutionary anti-war movements of that time, a compelling account of the victories but also mistakes of the movement as well as a detailed account of the degree of FBI infiltration and surveilance of the movement, later in the book she discusses going underground and leaving the activist scene for a time before returning to academia

3. Blood on the Border: a memoir of the contra war – I haven’t read this one yet

Roxanne is speaking tonight at Book Beat & Co. (in southside OKC, sellers of the “rare, obscure and even the forbidden”), Wednesday at the Piedmont Public library, and Thursday night at OCU, in the Kerr-McGee Auditorium at 7 p.m.

More info on the events can be found at:

A response to the ignorant smack talking about OCU Law school from so-called liberals

There’s been a good bit of conversation today in the blogosphere about FEMA Director Michael Brown accompanied by quite a bit of ignorant smack talking from wannabe liberal talking heads about OCU Law School (where Brown graduated in 1981, and where I am currently a student)

Here’s a few samples of what some folks are saying…

The New Republic: Mike Brown’s padded resume – Univ. of Colorado at Boulder Law Professor, Paul Campos

To understand the Mike Brown saga, one has to know something about the intricacies of the legal profession, beginning with the status of the law school he attended. Brown’s biography on fema’s website reports that he’s a graduate of the Oklahoma City University School of Law. This is not, to put it charitably, a well-known institution. For example, I’ve been a law professor for the past 15 years and have never heard of it. Of more relevance is the fact that, until 2003, the school was not even a member of the Association of American Law Schools (aals)–the organization that, along with the American Bar Association, accredits the nation’s law schools. Most prospective law students won’t even consider applying to a non-aals law school unless they have no other option, because many employers have a policy of not considering graduates of non-aals institutions. So it’s fair to say that Brown embarked on his prospective legal career from the bottom of the profession’s hierarchy.

DailyKos: FEMA’s Brown padded resume— hardly a lawyer, either (scroll down to see comments both positive and negative about OCU Law)

obsidian wings: Michael Brown— It Just Gets Worse — This blogpost has some good rebuttals to the anti-OCU smack talking…

To be fair, OCU’s law school is considered one of the best in the state, for what that is worth. It is a private school that pumps money into its art department, divinity department (it is associated with the United Methodist Church) and its law school. Now, I know that over the last decade it slid from grace for a while, but I also know that before that it was fairly well reagrded and its law school is still well thought of by most people in the state and area.

Gary:”So was it not an accredited law school before 2003, or not? If it wasn’t, what was the “regard” based upon?”

I would assume that it was a tendency to produce good lawyers. The kind that do the things you need lawyers to do pretty well.

I am no expert on where the best law schools are, and wasn’t reying to proclaim myself such. I just know that it had a reputation as a solid law school at least through a lot of the 80s. Enough so that they had no problem attracting students even given their relatively high cost (for the area, very high). And enough so that I had heard about it into the mid nineties. I am not saying that it is at the top of the law school eschelon, just that it isn’t some hack school in a tin shed by the side of the road. It DOES have a decent reputation and being from there doesn’t necessarily say anything about Brown’s abilites.

Corrente: Ouch

UPDATE It turns out that OCU School of Law did become a member of the AALS in 2003. However, at the time of Brown’s hiring in 2001, it was not a member.

I have e-mailed the author, Paul Campos of CU School of Law, and informed him of this.

Well all of that aside, here’s my take on OCU Law School (I am biased as **** I will readily admit). It is a good school and in many ways is the best law school in the state. On the positives, it has a solid curriculum, quite a few excellent professors (prospective and current students are welcome to email me to request my list of who is good and who ain’t), a vigorous student life (we have something like 30 or 40 student organizations), a fairly diverse student body (unlike OU… the last graduation I attended over there was whiter than anything I’ve seen in a long time), and an administration that is proactive and willing to engage with students on their concerns. (one sterling example was last year when the law school responded positively to some of the demands that our National Lawyers Guild chapter and the Lesbian and Gay Law Students Association made concerning the Solomon Amendment)

But most of all, I appreciate the fact that OCU gives students a chance who would not make it in to the top tier law schools (in many cases not because of a lack of abilities, but rather because they had to sacrifice their undergrad grades because they had work and family responsibilities), both through their admissions policies as well as their having a night school program (which is pretty rare these days at other schools).

Sure the school has its problems… it costs way too much (but what private school doesn’t), it has way too many spoiled out-of-state rich kids (a minority thankfully, but they still are annoying as all get out), and it has a few faculty members who can’t teach their way out of a bucket. (but who I assume can’t be removed because of tenure). But those problems are not uncommon at other schools. (and I won’t blame OCU Law for educating Congressman Istook. He probably thought what he learned in Con Law was part of the great liberal conspiracy)

So all of that is to say that the liberal blogging elite needs to get their story straight (as does Professor Campos as the University of Colorado.)

A call to postpone the effective date of BARF How Can Anyone Vote No? — By Elizabeth Warren

A good argument on why the effective date of BARF (a/k/a Bankruptcy Abuse Reform Fiasco) should be postponed, for the sake of those in Louisiana who have lost everything (and will be left with mortgages for non-existent homes).

(For more discussion on this topic be sure and pick up more coverage by Professor Elizabeth Warren at Warren Reports — Warren by the way is an excellent scholar and advocate on bankruptcy law issues… in fact she was one of the editors of the casebook we used for the Bankruptcy Law course I took a year ago at OCU.