As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the trial of Teresa Wagner — the would-be Iowa Law professor who claims she was denied a position because of her conservative views — ended in a mistrial. The jury found that Wagner’s First Amendment rights were not violated, but they couldn’t come to an agreement on whether her Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the University of Iowa College of Law.
And so the liberal bias in higher education is safe for another day.
The Wagner case was a pretty big deal. Conservatives who have long felt “under-represented,” “discriminated against,” and “disrespected” at our nation’s colleges and universities felt like Wagner had a really strong case for unconstitutional liberal bias. They really felt that Wagner was a “victim” here whose “qualifications” were questioned just because the faculty at Iowa Law irrationally “hated” her.
Man, that kind of prejudice must suck. I can’t imagine what that would feel like. Luckily, conservative pundits have showed me what to do when somebody goes to court with a claim that they’ve been unfairly discriminated against: pretend it never happened and denigrate the victim and those who defend her!
Conservatives felt they had a really strong claim that Wagner was passed over for professorial opportunities just because of her political beliefs. From the Huffington Post:
During a weeklong trial watched closely in higher education, Wagner claimed that the overwhelmingly liberal faculty refused to hire her because she is a Republican who had worked for social conservative groups that oppose abortion rights. She argued that the opposition to her appointment was led by Professor Randall Bezanson who, as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, helped draft the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion…
Conservatives who claimed they had long been passed over for jobs and promotions in higher education had hoped Wagner would prevail because of her evidence suggesting discrimination, which is difficult to prove. The evidence included what her lawyer called a “smoking gun email” in which an associate dean warned then-Dean Carolyn Jones that he worried professors were blocking Wagner’s hiring “because they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it).”
The Iowa faculty argued that Wagner simply wasn’t qualified.
The trial got nasty. For example, n Iowa Law professor who defended Wagner claimed the university was trying to discredit him. From the AP:
While [Professor Mark Osiel] was on the witness stand, assistant attorney General George Carroll said that Osiel had recently faced a misconduct investigation after someone complained about hearing sexual grunting noises coming from his office at the law school. Carroll argued that information was relevant because it went to Osiel’s credibility.
Osiel, 57, testified that the noises were from him taking part in exercises suggested by doctors to treat medical ailments.
Ah, the old “jerk one of these and call me in the morning” defense.
Eventually, the jury found that Wagner’s right to free speech was not violated by Iowa Law’s hiring decision. The jury deadlocked on the Fourteenth Amendment issue. That means more fun for the rest of us. I really want to hear Wagner’s team re-argue the case claiming conservatives are a protected class.
Don’t get me wrong; I think conservatives should get special consideration when applying for jobs in higher education. Remember, I’m the guy who thinks that diversity is important. And it’s hard, harder than you think, to find educated people who truly believe that there’s an omnipotent man who lives in the sky whose divine will can be flummoxed by a condom. You’ve got to search for people who care about the law, but truly want to apply the original intent of a document written by slaveholders who thought women shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Reasonable people can disagree about fiscal policy and the proper size of the government, but when you find somebody who truly thinks the unregulated flow of corporate money into our political process will not cause the electorate to lose faith in the fairness of our democracy, you’ve got to snatch that person right up.
When you find these people, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to relax your standards of academic rigor so that your university is a more intellectually diverse environment.
Joking aside: universities should promote a diverse intellectual environment. If they have to do it by applying a little affirmative action for conservatives, then that’s what needs to happen.