Free Speech, Law Professors, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Military / Military Law

Suffolk Law Supports the Troops, and Free Speech, and the Constitution, and Everything Else!

On Friday, we told you about Michael Avery, a professor at Suffolk University Law School who objected to a school-wide solicitation for care packages for American servicemen fighting in Afghanistan.

If I were in charge of Suffolk University, I’d have just said, “Yeah, Professor Avery can be a dick sometimes, whatever,” and moved on. I mean, it’s an entire university; I think most people assume that the views of one man don’t necessarily reflect the view of the entire university.

But the powers at be at Suffolk couldn’t leave it at that. Both the dean of the law school and the president of the university had to weigh in and defend, well, everything.

I’m sure all the military guys know what happens when one defends everything….

The statement from Suffolk University Acting President Barry Brown is a hodgepodge of platitudes and clichés that taken together mean nothing. And it’s posted on the Suffolk University website for all to see:

Together with the Dean of the Law School, and on behalf of the University, I would like to address certain issues in connection with the Packages for the Troops effort at the Law School and the discussion that has occurred.

Suffolk University has a century-long history of supporting the free exchange of ideas and robust debate. We respect the right of our faculty members to exercise academic freedom and support all members of our community in speaking freely and expressing their opinions. A consequence of this open dialogue is the articulation of many points of view. As a diverse community, no one opinion or perspective is representative of the views of the whole community.

Along with our support of freedom of expression, Suffolk University has a long and proud history of supporting our men and women who have served their country in the armed forces through many programs and community outreach. We have been at the forefront among very few private institutions in New England in providing education and educational counseling to returning veterans through our Veterans Upward Bound program, which helps U.S. military veterans develop the skills needed for success in college. Through our Yellow Ribbon Program, we provide scholarships to returning veterans for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Suffolk University Law School has been a leader in creating pathways for law graduates to enter careers in the military, including officers in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.

In the long history of Suffolk University, we have embraced discourse within the framework of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We encourage free discussion; yet remain uncompromising in confronting acts of discrimination. As Suffolk’s history shows, all of this can be done while supporting our mission to provide access to excellence in education to those who deserve it, not the least of whom are active duty military personnel and returning veterans, who by their brave acts have honored each of us and our nation.

Barry Brown
Acting President and Provost

Law School Dean Camille Nelson issued a similar statement of gobbledygook. Her opening is priceless:

While I personally intend to donate a care package for our troops, I respect the right of others to hold a differing perspective.

The troops are my friends, faithful and just to me, but Professor Avery is an honorable man.

I suppose Suffolk felt it had no choice but to fall all over itself trying to distance the university from Professor Avery’s statements. But then it stupidly worried that such distancing would have had a chilling effect on free speech, as if the guy who writes screeds about care packages and flags gives a damn what others think.

In any event, one Suffolk Law student wonders if the administration cares about the rights of students to speak their minds as much as it cares about the faculty. From a student:

Know that Suffolk normally does not embrace any kind of free speech policy, and if a student said anything nearly as disrespectful about a professor as Avery has said about some of Suffolk’s students, the student would be punished harshly.

Seriously, tell me my idea wouldn’t have worked. It would have been brilliant to go to the Suffolk website today and just see: “Professor Avery is kind of a dick when it comes to the military. That is all.”

Somebody needs to give me my own law school to run.

Statement from Acting President and University Provost Barry Brown [Suffolk University]

Earlier: Law Professor Objects to Solicitations to Help Our Troops in Afghanistan

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