The Legal Beat
Bias Incident At Law School May Only Be Tip Of The Iceberg
Posted on Tuesday February 07, 2017
Check out the updates at the bottom of the article.
Yesterday, law professors of color at Indiana University Maurer School of Law were targeted by a white supremacist group that papered their office doors with hateful flyers. But more than just an isolated incident at a single school, the group’s social media indicate Indiana is but one of 30 schools targeted. In a statement from Lauren Robel, law professor and the University’s Executive Vice President and Provost, she detailed the incident:
Earlier today, I learned of flyers posted on our campus by a group that identifies itself with white supremacy, and which claims in its social media to have posted similar flyers at as many as 30 universities across the country, including universities in California, Texas, Illinois, Washington, Georgia, and Massachusetts. Posted under cover of darkness, targeting the office doors of faculty members of color or scholars of race and ethnicity, these flyers were clearly meant to intimidate, threaten, scare, and provoke anger among faculty, staff, students and visitors.
Robel went on to condemn the action as antithetical to the university’s mission:
Our university rejects all forms of racism, bigotry, and discrimination. These are in direct conflict with our core values and simply will not be tolerated. Our campus unequivocally rejects the cowardice and ugliness that this group’s action represents.
We stand together as a community in the face of this abhorrent action. We will not be divided by cowards. This is a university. We discuss ideas in the full light of day.
Additionally, law professor Charles Geyh took to Facebook to register his outrage:
Over the weekend, white supremacists slithered into the law school and plastered cards and posters on the office doors of my non-white friends and colleagues. One of thirty universities targeted. Burning crosses for the 21st century. This latest squall in the shit storm of intolerance that has beset the nation is infuriating, disheartening, and unacceptable. In frustration, I scurried off and wrote the following note for my door, fully realizing that if it ends there, I am part of the problem.
“I do not know why you would want to see me. There is no accounting for taste. But if you do, you are welcome here.
• I do not care what color you are unless it is blue, in which case I will call a nurse
• I do not care what your religion is, as long as it does not require ritual sacrifice of people I like
• I do not care what your sexual preferences are. Just keep away from the squirrels on the lawn outside my office window
• I do not care what your politics are, unless you have decided that your politics require you to be a dick to people who are welcome here
It pisses me off that I have to occupy door space with a message that should go without saying, but the world around me seems determined to be a tool.”
In a statement to Above the Law, Professor Geyh went on to note the prevailing mood at the school:
As a standard-issue, white, middle aged male, I do not presume to know how it feels to arrive at your office and discover that you are the target of a hate group “siege” (the group’s term), with all the ghosts of burning crosses and lynchings that it conjures. I have taught at five different law schools, and this is the most collegial and supportive of the bunch. Shocked, angry, and resolute best describes the mood I have witnessed in hallway conversations.
We have reached out to other members of the faculty, but we have not heard back as of yet. If we receive additional comments, the story will be updated.
And while the response from the administration has been good, Geyh is ready for things to get worse before they get better:
The preliminary steps that administrators have taken are good ones, but I do not view this so-called “siege” as a one-and-done event. We must anticipate the need for a more sustained campaign, with respect to which ongoing university support will be critical. As to what that support should look like, my impulse would be to solicit the views of targeted faculty: They have endured these insults; they are familiar with the tactics, and they are a damn sight better able than I to tell us what support they need.
We have yet to hear details from any other schools that may have been targeted by this hateful group. If you know of other incidents, or want to sound off on this one please email, text (646-820-8477), or tweet (@ATLblog) us. Poignant or insightful responses — we’ll keep you anonymous — could find their way into an update to this story or a follow-up piece.
UPDATE #1: We’ve gotten an update from students on the ground at IU Maurer, and they seem quite angry their school was used for such hateful actions:
The response from the student body was instantaneous. A group of students got together on Monday night to make posters containing messages of love, togetherness, and support for the law school community which were posted around the law school. I have attached a photo collage for reference. Additionally, the Black Law Students Association is hosting a Stand for Solidarity during the lunch hour tomorrow where students will come together in silent solidarity with posters bearing similar messages of support, justice, peace, and community. The BLSA leadership has also asked that we wear black as a symbol of inclusiveness because black absorbs all light and represents inclusiveness of all colors, peoples, and identities…
These types of events have lately become the norm at our school because of the diverse group of students represented here. From the Women’s March to the protesting the Immigration ban and now this, students across our student body have been active in providing support to those affected and are loathe to staying silent in the face of injustice.
UPDATE #2: Additionally, it seems isn’t IU’s first brush with white supremacists:
First, the white supremacist group that has targeted our school is not new. They are an offshoot of an existing white supremacist group that had caused a number of incidents at IU’s campus a few years ago.Second, the law school was not the only place targeted. Posters were also placed in visible locations on campus (including near the well-known Sample Gates) and outside the offices of other professors studying race and ethnicity outside of the law school.
Kathryn Rubino is an editor at Above the Law. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).