Kristin E. Holmes, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 2011
An associate professor at Widener University School of Law has been suspended for a year without pay after he allegedly retaliated against students who accused him of making violent, racist, and sexist statements.
University officials imposed the punishment, which also requires that the professor undergo psychiatric treatment and issue a formal apology, even though a faculty panel ruled in June that the accusations against the professor were not proven.
Lawrence J. Connell, who has taught at the school for 26 years, will not comply with the ruling, said his attorney, Thomas Neuberger, who described the punishment as “draconian.”
“It’s irrational to acquit a person of being a racist and sexist and then say he needs a psychiatric exam,” Neuberger said.
Connell, who is white, has argued that law school dean Linda L. Ammons, who is black, is engaged in an effort to oust him from the university because of his conservative political views. He is suing Ammons, the university, and two students who made the accusations, alleging defamation.
The alleged retaliation included sending e-mails to other students about the accusations and threatening the students with lawsuits in the media, the ruling says. Neuberger said that the characterization of those actions as retaliatory was a misperception and that Connell had been attempting to defend himself.
In December, Connell was accused of using violent hypothetical examples involving his attempting to shoot Ammons as part of classes on criminal procedure.
He also was accused of making a series of racist and sexist statements. He has denied the allegations. Connell has been on paid administrative leave since the accusations were made late last year.