We recently blogged about Kiwi Camara — the young, brilliant, controversial legal scholar — and his mysteriously disappeared job offer from George Mason University School of Law. Camara is a legal Doogie Howser who was 16 when he entered Harvard Law School. At HLS, he caused an uproar after dropping the N-bomb in a group outline. He has apologized repeatedly and profusely for that mistake; but it continues to dog him, years later.
The Washington Post originally broke the story about Camara’s GMU appointment falling through. But their story may have been erroneous, at least in one respect. The Post reported:
At George Mason’s law school, the faculty had authorized [Dean Daniel] Polsby to hire Camara as an assistant professor, but the dean wanted to first see what students, alumni and others thought. He scheduled a town hall meeting for last night, but the meeting was nixed after Camara’s application was withdrawn.
We contacted Camara for comment. He explained:
I was never instructed to withdraw my application, and I never did so. My candidacy was ended by George Mason…
Also, there was a week’s lapse between my job talk and when the faculty voted me an offer (to be precise, voted to authorize the dean to extend an offer). Surely they would have investigated before, rather than after, voting me an offer — and especially before going public and thereby triggering the recent media coverage.
Indeed. This is all very strange.
More discussion, including an interesting mini-scoop from Camara, after the jump.
We contacted Camara to get his comment on one rumor that was going around. The rumor, which an anonymous tipster passed along to us, was that (1) Camara had misrepresented to Dean Dan Polsby that he had an offer from another school; (2) Dean Polsby, after investigating, found out this was not true; and (3) Dean Polsby then directed Camara to withdraw his application.
We contacted Dean Polsby, who declined to comment on L’Affaire Camara. But Camara, whom we also contacted, offered a pretty persuasive refutation of the rumor:
That is not true. As I told Inside Higher Ed, I have no offers from other law schools.
I was not even a candidate anywhere else at the time George Mason was looking at me. I did not go on the AALS market this year, a fact that is verifiable by looking at the FAR. My candidacy at George Mason arose by word of mouth from a mutual friend, not through the normal application process.
So much for that gossip. More from Camara:
Another inaccuracy in your anonymous correspondent’s account is that I was instructed to withdraw my application. I was never instructed to withdraw my application, and I never did so. My candidacy was ended by George Mason. The fact that your correspondent says that I withdrew my application suggests that his or her only actual source is the Washington Post story, which incorrectly reported that I withdrew my application.
Of course, we remain in the dark about what REALLY happened here. Neither Polsby nor Camara explained these events to us. The Inside Higher Ed piece referenced by Camara has some good background, but it also doesn’t nail down what transpired:
[A]fter hearing that Camara was no longer a candidate to join the faculty, many assumed it was the skeletons in his closet, or, as some have contended, the youthful indiscretions that should have been forgiven long ago. But Polsby specifically noted in his e-mail to students that Camara was “no longer a candidate” for reasons “separate from those that prompted me to call the meeting.” [A] member of the faculty confirmed that it was an unrelated issue that arose after the original announcement, ending the hiring process.
What that issue might be is not known, although there has been speculation about unspecified political pressure. Faculty proceedings are confidential, and Camara would not say who ended the proceedings. Unlike some law schools, which require a supermajority, the faculty votes by simple majority to give the dean the authority to make an offer. Once that was done, it was Polsby’s decision to go directly to the student body.
The incident has already sparked discussion online. Faculty members at GMU Law were hesitant to describe their reactions to the incident, but opinions are reportedly mixed among both students and faculty. If some were disappointed at how the proceedings ended, they weren’t alone: Camara himself said he was dismayed by the outcome. “Yes, I was surprised. … I was really impressed by the faculty there. I had the feeling of what you might imagine the University of Chicago was like 30 or 40 years ago” for economics — “everybody focused on ideas.”
We have been slightly snarky in our past coverage of Camaragate. But on a serious note, we do think it’s unfair that Kiwi Camara, who is by all accounts a talented and prolific scholar, can’t get past one stupid thing he did as a teeanger — for which he has profusely apologized, again and again.
It may be a cliche, but it rings true: Everyone deserves a second chance. How many years must elapse before Camara will be deemed sufficiently “rehabilitated” by the legal academy?
(We realize that Camara’s GMU appointment was apparently scuttled for a reason unrelated to the HLS incident. But it is certainly true that Camara will be forever associated with that incident — and that many other schools, less conservative than GMU, would probably not hire him based on that one event.)
Finally, here’s an interesting tidbit that Camara shared, which we haven’t seen reported elsewhere previously:
Some news that you might be interested in is that I am now planning to write a book, telling my story and reflecting on some broader themes that it raises.
Exciting! We look forward to it; we think it will be a VERY interesting work.
And we think it’s smart that Camara is taking an unfortunate incident from his past — one that continues to haunt him, despite having taken place many years ago, when he was basically a kid — and trying to turn it into something positive. It’s a fine example of taking the proverbial lemons and making lemonade — or turning calamansi into (delicious) calamansi juice, as a good Filipino-American like Camara would do.
Words He Can’t Escape [Inside Higher Ed]
Racist Writing as a Teen Haunted GMU Candidate [Washington Post]
K.A.D. Camara [official website]
Kiwi Camara [Wikipedia]
Earlier: Kiwi Camara and GMU Law: What Happened Here?