In 2004, the woman who would become legal writing director at Florida A&M University’s law school posted a working paper online so legal scholars nationwide could see her work.
The subject was heady: environmental dispute resolution.
But Victoria Dawson’s paper was so riddled with grammatical errors and mangled writing that some FAMU law students are now using it to help build a case that Dawson is not qualified to teach and was hired primarily on the strength of her personal ties.
Here’s an excerpt from Dawson’s magnum opus:
“He consulted with government officials and he sent his general manager of asset management representative repeatedly crossed the creek to negotiate with village leaders of Ugborodo during the women’s 10-day occupation.”
Oh, and the title was misspelled: “Environmental Dispute Resolution: Developing Mechanisims [sic] for Effective Transnational Enforcement of International Environmental Standards.”
Physician, heal thyself.
P.S. We apologize for any typographical, grammatical, or spelling errors in this post. When you need to crank out a dozen or so posts a day, you don’t have much time for proofreading.
UPDATE (6/6/07): Are people being too hard on Professor Dawson? And could L’Affaire Dawson have adverse consequences for the legal academy? Professor Dan Markel offers some thoughts here.
UPDATE (11/2/11): Professor Dawson has just provided us with the following statement, setting forth her side of the story:
After examining the actual facts into how the story was reported to the St. Petersburg Times it was determined that the entire story was orchestrated by a student who was dissatisfied with her grade. After this investigation, a Florida State Bar complaint was filed against the student for character and fitness violations. Evidence that was submitted to the Florida State Bar was information that proved that the professor did not post an article on a website for peer review. The article in question had been published one year prior to the allegations.
The same student made allegations that students had filed letters of complaint about the instructor. However, evidence was given to the Florida State Bar that the alleged letters of complaint from students were form letters signed by persons other than the students whose names appeared at the bottom of the letters. The class attendance sheet was tendered to the State Bar as evidence that the signatures were fraudulent. In fact, the letters were never tendered to the administration of the College of Law as complaints. The fraudulent letters were given to two professors.
There was also an indication in the article that there was some type of favoritism in the hiring of the professor. However, data was submitted to the State Bar that during the time that the professor was hired, as a visiting instructor, three other professors were hired and two had ties to the same University where favoritism was alleged. All three professors were hired at the same salary as visiting professors and subsequently as full-time tenure track professors. The full-time tenure track positions were faculty votes only and not by any one person where favoritism would be possible.
The student who launched the news story was required to respond to the Florida State Bar Character and Fitness Division as a result of her misconduct.
I remained silent and did not speak over the years because of the ongoing accreditation process for my College of Law. It was advisable not to publically defend myself because the press or bloggers may expand the coverage into more negative publicity for me and the College of Law. I gave the ultimate sacrifice to the College of Law to help them move on towards accreditation – the use of my name and character. It is now time to reclaim what has been taken from me.
Florida A&M Legal Writing Director Faces Questions Over Paper Posted on bepress [TaxProf Blog]
A Cautionary Tale for Users of SSRN and bepress? [PrawfsBlawg]
Errors mar law prof’s paper [St. Petersburg Times via How Appealing]