Monthly Archives: June 2006

110 Faculty Sign Open Letter to UM Administration

110 faculty signed the following letter to UM Vice-President Whitely and UM Dean Sandler; the number would surely have been much higher if it were not summer:

Dear Vice President Whitely and Dean Sandler,

It is with a mixture of indignation, sadness, embarrassment and weariness that we find ourselves forced to write another letter to advocate for justice at the University of Miami.

In the course of the last few months, our students have shown an array of human and civic virtues that one does not see often these days. Through peaceful and respectful demonstrations and with minimal disruption to campus life, they supported the fight for justice and dignity of people they barely knew. Anyone who has spent any time with these young people knows that they are gentle and respectful, that they care deeply about their academic careers, and that they have a keen sense of justice. These are qualities we all unequivocally encourage in our students. As former President Tad Foote told one professor, there was something noble in what these students did and he was proud of them. We agree.

The university administration has responded to the students’ actions on behalf of the janitors and groundskeepers first with harshness, and now with underhanded and petty strategies aimed at thwarting their right to an unbiased and fair hearing. We find this behavior deeply reprehensible and unacceptable at a university. A university is first and foremost about its students. These are our students. These are the people to whom we dedicate the largest part of our professional lives. These young people are the raison d’etre of what we do as faculty, staff, and administrators of this university.

The administration has used some deplorable tactics with the students. They served summonses to them in class, a violation of federal law (the Buckley amendment guarantees a student’s privacy) and of faculty rights as well as a disruption of the academic mission. They called students to “preliminary hearings” about potential serious charges, leaving the possibility of these charges hanging over them through commencement. They also were told that they had an “administrative stop” placed on their registration (in the middle of registration period) and they would have to see Associate Dean Singleton to register for classes. He is not an academic dean. He is their prosecutor and ought not to have anything to do with their registration. Along with the students and their lawyers, we see all of this as intimidation, something that should never take place at a university.

We deeply regret that these students have been targeted for disciplinary action for acting on the principles we teach regarding democracy and social justice. As currently implemented, the process by which they are being judged is profoundly flawed and characterized by arbitrary and unfair decisions. Specifically:

1) Students who pleaded not guilty were denied postponement of their hearings to the Fall, at which time they would appear before a University Disciplinary Hearing Panel including their peers. Instead, Associate Dean Singleton, who is a witness in some of the cases, now serves simultaneously as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury. There are clearly multiple conflicts of interest here, and the students cannot possibly have an impartial hearing. Moreover, by holding the hearings in the summer, the students are deprived of valued advisors and witnesses to support their cases who are out of town. The first summonses were delivered on 21 April, which allowed sufficient time for hearings to take place with a full panel to adjudicate the cases and with supporting witnesses and advisors still on campus. This was not done, however, because the Dean of Students granted his own office a continuance to do additional investigation. How is it possible that the Dean of Students grant one side a continuance to be able to present its best case but not the other? The cards are clearly and purposefully stacked against the students and they cannot possibly have a fair hearing in these circumstances.

2) Some students have now seen added to their previous charges the further charge of unauthorized distribution of printed material. The violation cited from Students’ Rights and Responsibilities Handbook is B.16, which references the Poster Distribution and Advertising policy on p. 47. The policy refers specifically to advertising, and requires the approval of the Vice President for Business Services. The materials distributed by the students were not advertisements but statements relating to social justice. They were acts of free speech and therefore not covered by any advertising policy.

3) The students who pleaded guilty or no contest to the charges brought against them were given absurd and even insulting penalties, including community service. They are being punished precisely because they did hundreds of hours of community service to improve the University and South Florida’s communities by assuring that workers at UM have freedom of choice, the right to work with dignity and respect, and to earn a living wage. Moreover, these students regularly do other community service, working at clinics and homeless shelters, for various environmental and civic groups, etc. And now you are going to punish them by making them do such work? How inappropriate! Adding to this absurdity, students who have graduated or will graduate this summer or fall have been given two semesters of probation. When asked how this affects them, Associate Dean Singleton told these students that this punishment means nothing for them. Then why give it, except to be vindictive? Finally, two students have been singled out for a particularly spiteful punishment: the loss of campus housing in the fall at University Village.

We ask that all students who have been charged with offenses in relation to their peaceful and respectful protests during the janitors’ and groundskeepers’ strike be granted amnesty. We need to be a model of openness and dialogue, a beacon for the free exchange of ideas and true learning. To punish these students is to undercut these fundamental goals.


Posted in U.Miami: Strike'06 | 5 Comments

Blame Google

Emergent Chaos pokes deserved fun at the CYA tactics — or simple ignorance — of the Catawba County (NC) Public School System’s explanation of how student social security numbers ended up being searchable.

Sadly, this is so far from unique…

Posted in Internet | 1 Comment

A Great American

America’s second-richest man, Warren Buffett is giving away $30+ billion, the large majority of his fortune, to the Gates foundation to fight disease.

Every Democrat running for office should be quoting what Buffett had to say about the idea of passing it all on to his kids:

Mr. Buffett was scathing yesterday in describing his feelings about estate taxes, which the Bush administration is trying to kill. The ability of rich men to pass on “dynastic wealth” to their grandchildren is offensive to the American tradition of meritocracy, he said.

He gets particularly upset at his country club, he said, hearing members complain about welfare mothers getting food stamps “while they are trying to leave their children a more-than-lifetime-supply of food stamps and are substituting a trust officer for a welfare officer.”

(The kids are still getting billions for foundations they run, plus a tidy pile of their own, so don’t cry for them.)

Posted in Econ & Money | Leave a comment

In Case You Give a Hoot

In case you care, Ann Bartow explains the trademark law behind the decision in the Hooters case. I especially liked the post title, “Hooters” Loses Its Appeal.

Posted in Law: Trademark Law | Leave a comment

In Which I Announce My Candidacy for Public Office

The Carpetbagger reports that Constitutional convention talk refuses to go away:

some of the less-sane members of the GOP base are openly considering a constitutional convention because of the Senate’s failure to pass an amendment banning gay marriage. Unfortunately, talk of such a ridiculous idea seems to be increasing, not decreasing.

A second Constitutional Convention is actually far more likely than it should be: Over the decades, arguably as many as 32 states have passed resolutions calling for a Constitutional Convention, just two shy of the 34 needed. I say “arguably” because some of these were a long time ago, and Dillon v. Gloss (1921) (!) tells us that changes in the Constitution should be the result of a “contemporaneous consensus.” Nevertheless, there is a contrary body of opinion, exemplified by the ratification of the 27th Amendment that these calls do not have a ‘use-by’ date — they remain in force at least until rescinded by the legislatures which issued them. (Some people even argue that since the Constitution doesn’t mention taking back a call for a convention, even a rescinded call for a Convention remains in effect!)

On the other hand, many of the petitions states have voted in the past are plausibly dismissed as technically deficient, as they purport to request that a convention be called for a particular purpose (e.g. to consider a given amendment), while the Constitution quite clearly contemplates only an open-ended procedure. It’s not at all clear what weight to give those resolutions.

Working on a worst-case hypothesis, as best I can tell the 32 states that have called for a new Constitutional Convention in some form or other are:

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska , New Hampshire, New Mexico , North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania , South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah , Wyoming

Many of these states passed resolutions that purported to limit the requests to a balanced budget amendment, and the large majority did so between 1975 and 1979 — almost a generation ago.

Alabama, Florida and Louisiana each subsequently rescinded their calls. As if in counterbalance, South Carolina and Tennessee passed their resolutions twice and Louisiana did it three times.

One house of the bicameral Nevada legislature also purported to “purge” its resolution, but as the call had been voted by both houses, it’s hard to see this as legally effective.

So the bottom line is…confusing. If the calls for a limited convention count as calls for an unlimited convention, and the rescissions don’t work, then we could be as little as two states away. If the three rescissions are legally effective — and I think they should be — we could be as little as five states away. On the other hand if only knowing and general calls for a convention work (which, on balance, I think should be the right answer) then we are very far away, although I don’t know what the exact number is; similarly, if the courts were to craft some sort of time limit for the validity of a call for a Convention, then we could be almost at square one, depending on what the line was.

Even if a Convention were to meet and to report out a new document, or changes to the old one, any revisions would have to be ratified by the states. I am sure that I don’t need to spell out how dramatic the potential changes could be — for ill, or even for good.

So, you heard it here first: If the call for a Second Constitutional convention happens, and if it survives its trip through the courts, then I’m going to be running to be a delegate. (Assuming we even get to elect our delegates, of course.)

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law | 5 Comments

Amazingly Great Political Ad

This new ad from Ned Lamont is really great.

Posted in Politics: US: 2006 Election | Leave a comment