Phi Beta Cons

Must a University Grovel When an Alum Does Something Awful?

That’s a question that I can’t recall hearing before in the politically correct atmosphere of higher education, but I think it’s about to.

Here’s the situation. A 1998 graduate of George Mason University Law School, one Matthew McLaughlin, has proposed a ballot initiative in California called the “Sodomite Suppression Act.” It’s utterly appalling. If you want to read it, there’s a link included in this Volokh Conspiracy post by GMU professor Todd Zywicki.

In saner times, this would not have called for any public statement, since no one would have thought that a university is in any way responsible for what its graduates later do. In our PC environment, however, it seems almost inevitable that if a graduate does something awful, accusations will be aimed at the school — at least if the school is regarded as “right-wing.” Therefore, GMU law school dean Daniel Polsby released a statement. It is quoted in full in the post by Professor Zywicki and here’s my favorite part:

“Some correspondents have called upon the law school to repudiate this initiative — and Mr. McLaughlin. With respect, we must decline, as it is not the function of schools or other institutions to denounce things with which they have nothing to do. Law schools are not guarantors of the views or acts of their former students. No one ever suggested that Harvard Law School should repudiate the treason of Alger Hiss, or that the University of Puget Sound law school should disclaim murders committed by Ted Bundy.”

Bravo to Dean Polsby for refusing to grovel.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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