Inside Higher Education reports that a group of students and professors at the University of Minnesota Law is upset that University of St. Thomas professor Robert Delahunty is scheduled to teach at Minnesota next semester. Their objections center on Delahunty's tenure at the Office of Legal Counsel, where he was a career civil servant. At OLC, Delahunty participated in drafting controversial memos relating to torture and the treatment of detainees.
“He’s prominent for all the wrong reasons,” said Jon Taylor, a first year law student at Minnesota who has been circulating a petition asking the law school’s dean to reconsider the hire. “I don’t think this is what we’re paying for at a top 20 law program." The law school has about 800 students, and Taylor said that he has gathered close to 70 signatures and expects to reach 100 by Friday.
The controversy stems from a memorandum drafted in 2002 by Delahunty and a Justice Department colleague, John Yoo, a conservative scholar and professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. Drafted shortly after 9/11, the memo concluded that the Geneva Convention did not cover al-Qaeda suspects captured in Afghanistan, and helped lay the foundation for the Bush administration’s handling of prisoners captured during the war on terror.
Inside Higher Ed also notes that the plan to hire Delhunty has divided the Minnesota faculty. A story in the Minnesota Daily quoted Associate Dean Michael Paulsen in support of Delahunty's visit.
"Robert Delahunty is one of the nation's leading constitutional and international law scholars," Paulsen said. "He's an outstanding teacher."
Some of the controversy comes from a misunderstanding of the facts, Paulsen said. Most likely, many students are not familiar with Delahunty's memo.
Paulsen also said the protests are coming from a few extreme individuals in the Law School.
"That's a gross violation of academic ethics and academic freedom," he said. . . .
"It sometimes happens that even professors are not respecters of academic freedom and get their facts wrong, too," he said.
Nine members of the faculty responded to the plans to hire Delahunty and Paulsen's comments with this letter, concluding:
Our opposition to the hiring of Mr. Delahunty has got absolutely nothing to do with academic freedom but all to do with legal ethics. Mr. Delahunty's role in the Torture memos was not academic and we object to hiring someone of his credentials rather than to anything that he may say in class should he be so hired or concerns about his scholarly research or academic work.
We thus call on our Co-Deans to reconsider their decision to hire Mr. Delahunty as a temporary hire to teach constitutional law at the University of Minnesota Law School and to accomodate students who may have concerns about taking a mandatory course from such an individual.
The student petition organizers explained their opposition in these terms to the Minn. Daily:
"It doesn't have anything to do with academics; we hear he's a fine teacher," Taylor said. "It has more to do with ideology."
Taylor said students and staff were uninformed about the decision, and those active in human rights immediately recognized the name because "amongst human rights violators, he's a pretty prominent leader."
Interestingly enough, the class Delahunty is scheduled to teach is one normally taught by co-conspirator Dale Carpenter.
On the issue of Delahunty's role at OLC, here is what John Yoo wrote about Delahunty in War by Other Means: An Insider's Account of the War on Terror:
When the question of the application of the Geneva Conventions came to OLC, I asked Robert Delahunty to help me with the initial research and drafting of the opinion. Delahunty was one of the three career lawyers in the office who had risen to the level of the Senior Executive Service, the top crust of the civil service. A man in his early fifties, Delahunty had a large white beard, a mane of white hair, a round jovial face, and a hint of an English accent--he often reminded me of a kindly Saint Nick. He had first gone to England to study Greek and Roman philosophy and history, eventually becoming a tenured faculty member at a British university, left to go to Harvard Law School, and joined the Justice Department in the late 1980s. He had drafted many of OLC's opinions on war powers, foreign policy, and presidential-congressional relations under the first Bush and Clinton administrations. He had an encyclopedic knowledge notjust of the law and academic works, but of the real lifeblood of international law--the examples of state practice. To my mind, Delahunty was the very model of the career civil servant who applies his or her long years of experience and knowledge to the benefit of the American people.As far as I am aware, this is the only discussion of Delahunty in the entire book. In his subsequent discussion of the infamous "torture memos," Yoo does not detail the nature or extent of Delahunty's role.
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