Law School Deans, Law Schools, Sex Scandals

Larry Mitchell’s Response To Sexual Harassment Allegations? ‘I encourage you to give your full attention to classes.’

I don’t think we’ll be seeing Case Western Reserve School of Law Dean Lawrence Mitchell writing a New York Times op-ed about the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him. So I think the email he just sent to Case Western Law students will have to suffice as his official response — at least until he can figure out how to wrap “defending the dean from faculty allegations” into Case Western’s revamped curriculum.

I’m not surprised he said something about it. One thing that we’ve clearly seen from Mitchell’s time at Case Western is that he’s a media hound, so long as he doesn’t actually have to answer any questions from the media. He seems to be far more concerned with how he (and the school) is perceived than anything else. Oh, he was going to say something.

But since he can’t really talk about the case against him directly, his email was just reduced to (you guessed it) telling students how lucky they were to be going to Case Western! Of course they are, don’t you wish you could be going to a school where your dean is slowly becoming a national punchline?

Look, sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuits are tricky, and the university has already denied the allegations, so it’s a bit too early to start calling Mitchell “Leisure Suit Larry” just yet. I think everybody will be interested in Mitchell’s official defense, whenever that is put together. But it doesn’t appear that Mitchell could wait around for, you know, the lawyers, before saying something. Some people will say that this is just an attempt by Mitchell to take the attention off of himself, but honestly I think it’s just that Mitchell can’t help himself from talking. Here’s what he emailed to the CWRU Law community:

To My Faculty and Staff Colleagues, and to My Students:

By now most of you have read or heard about the lawsuit filed against the university and me by a member of our faculty. I understand that many of you will have questions and concerns about the allegations, as well as the impact the media coverage will have on our school. I would like nothing more than to explain my perspective in detail, but the nature of pending litigation means that I cannot do so at this time. What I can and will say is that ours is an extraordinary community, dominated by individuals of enormous intellect and even greater goodwill. We have achieved remarkable progress together, and I am confident that we will continue to build on that momentum.

Like all law schools, we face tremendous challenges. But this faculty demonstrated its remarkable commitment to the school and the larger profession this summer when it approved overwhelmingly our sweeping curriculum redesign…

Going forward, then, I encourage you to give your full attention to classes and cases, rigorous academic debate and collegial scholarly conversations. Those are the activities that make this law school great, and will continue to do so for decades to come.

As always,

L

You can read the full email on the next page.

If you want to read between the lines of that last paragraph though, tipsters report that environment on campus has not been full of “rigorous academic debate” or “collegial scholarly conversations.” Instead, the conversation seems to be more along the lines of “can you believe this guy?” From a tipster:

It’s been an interesting few days on campus–students and faculty being quite open in their expressions of disgust for Dean Mitchell, no one bothering to hide the fact they’re talking about the lawsuit, even when they see him coming. Some faculty have brought it up in class.

He told a gathering of students at an open forum several weeks ago that he would be “very disappointed” if we continued to send tips to you guys. So, here’s an email he sent this morning to faculty, staff, and students.

Yeah, respect for Dean Mitchell’s proclamations seems to be running sky high right now.

Here’s a question that only the Case Western University leaders can answer: regardless of the veracity of the allegations, is Dean Mitchell helping Case Western Law students right now, or not? I just hope somebody over there is focused on that question, instead of how this is playing out in the media.

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