UConn Law Professor Asked To Take Lea...

UConn Law Professor Asked To Take Leave -- Courant.com

There are 241 comments on the Hartford Courant story from Oct 4, 2007, titled UConn Law Professor Asked To Take Leave -- Courant.com. In it, Hartford Courant reports that:

A colorful University of Connecticut law professor has been asked to take a leave of absence for showing a film clip of a thong-clad woman dancing suggestively and for also raising provocative questions about ...

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Meriden, CT

#1 Oct 4, 2007
The gods of PC must be appeased -- to the volcano with him!

Nutley, NJ

#3 Oct 4, 2007
First Amendment?

Cheshire, CT

#4 Oct 4, 2007
This is why UCONN Law will always be a second rate school. So what if some were offended? That is what life is all about. In practicing law you will often be offended, however you still need to deal with it. The dean should be fired.

United States

#6 Oct 4, 2007
why did he have to stop the film at all? couldn't he have made his point without doing that?

sounds like a dirty old man has finally gotten a public wrist slapping.

how pathetic - retire already!!

Hartford, CT

#7 Oct 4, 2007
What great questions-the answers that I would love to see.
What does the student party have to do with him?
He sounds like advanced thinker to me. So I suspect there is more to the scantily clad woman thing that is shown here.
He probably left...heartbroken....

Avon, CT

#8 Oct 4, 2007
Remedies class? In my remedies class we discussed remedies to situations that were already adjudicated whereby the remedy was examined, not the cause or the act.

Most law school classes examine the act, tort, crime, or what the cause is. A remedy assumes that foundation, and looks at what we consider as a remedy to it.

Remedies is a very important class, in my opinion it should be a required one.

Asking how people feel about something is not remedies material, but more about the underlying cause. Sounds like this guy is teaching torts, criminal law, or LPR.

Moreover, they say UConn Law is highly rated in the rankings? No wonder the rankings are deemed suspect. I'm not impressed by this style or expression of academia.

East Hartford, CT

#10 Oct 4, 2007
As a UCONN law grad I have to say George's comment is pretty harsh. Not sure what the basis for his opinion is that the school is bad, I know many good lawyers who have graduated from there and the school has its share of great professors as well.

At any rate, Birmingham was wrong for stopping the movie where he did, it served no point that i can see, but this story is unclear as to whether that was the reason for suspension or if it was a culmination of several events.

As to the slavery questions, if the remedies discussion was a hypothetical examination of reparations as a possible remedy to the wrongs of slavery aren't those the type of questions that should be asked?

South Windsor, CT

#12 Oct 4, 2007
This has nothing to do with "feelings," and very little to do with "rights." It's about professionalism: delivering the service that one is paid (quite handsomely, in fact) to deliver. This is a public institution- its staff, including faculty, are ultimately responsible to the taxpayers, as well as to the students of the school.

Hartford, CT

#14 Oct 4, 2007
If you don't like it, too bad!!!! Freedom is hard and we're all adults.. Get over it and move on. The guy has been teaching since 1971..Society is becoming soft and afraid to confront racial issues...

East Hartford, CT

#15 Oct 4, 2007
I see it from all sides:

A. This guy does sound like a creep;

B. You always need professors that are going to push the envelope for thought;

C. Just because you're brilliant doesn't mean you have common sense...they can be mutually exclusive. Of course freeze-framing the film on that particular shot is going to offend at least the women in that class;

D. "Photos from the party posted on the popular Facebook.com social networking site depicted mostly white law school students dressed in baggy jeans, puffy jackets and sideways baseball caps, some holding machine guns and 40-ounce malt liquors. Some photos had captions from rap lyrics." Based on what is quoted here, where is the crime? Poor taste? I guess, based on what the implication is due to who comes to mind when describing the party. Is that illegal?

Cheshire, CT

#16 Oct 4, 2007
Alum wrote:
This has nothing to do with "feelings," and very little to do with "rights." It's about professionalism: delivering the service that one is paid (quite handsomely, in fact) to deliver. This is a public institution- its staff, including faculty, are ultimately responsible to the taxpayers, as well as to the students of the school.
No it is not about delivering a service. It is about education and expanding peoples thought process, challenging the norm and getting students ready for the real world. If you are practicing criminal law your clients and the homeboy witnesses are not going to be politically correct and are not going to speak to you with respect in the King's English. That my friend is reality, get used to it or enter a convent.
Uconn Law Student

Canterbury, CT

#17 Oct 4, 2007
I am in this class and feel the need to speak out also. There were 2 cases assigned that day. One was Pipkins, discussed in this article, and the other was about descendants of slaves who are currently seeking damages from J.P. Morgan for financing the slave trade.
The reason that the Pipkins case, and subsequent video, were brought up in class were to show how slavery still exists today. How slavery is not something that died with the end of the slave trade. The culture of "pimps" and "hoes" is also one full of dominance and slaves, and it is occurring right now.
When Professor Birmingham put the video in, it was to show us an interview with Pipkins, the Defendant. Where Pipkins spoke about the way he treated his women...his slaves. Pipkins spoke about the way he would dominate them by demanding all of their money, keeping them in certain housing situations, and retaining all of their possessions so they could essentially never leave his ward.
The only reason that the tape was played was to show us how this culture draws parallels to slavery. It was never to be "sexually provocative." As much as that makes this a better story, or a more racially provocative one, it is just not the case.
Once the interview was over Prof. Birmingham paused the tape. And once he saw that he paused it over his mark, he removed the tape and apologized profusely for the picture of the prostitute on screen in her undies. Which, looked just like Britney Spears on the VMA's.
He then engaged the class in a discussion and forced us to use our minds to draw the parallels between the two injustices. Which was the whole point of the lesson.
There are injustices that occurred then, there are injustices that still occur today.
The fact that this story is being reported by Dean Paul in a way that he is attempting to save his own **** is one of them.
The Deans overreacted to this situation because of the party that occured off campus last year.
I wasn't at that party...and I didn't even hear about it until now. But the Deans made it very clear during the forum that they did not want this story to go to the media. That no matter what happened, that we should not take this to the media.
But that is exactly what Dean Paul did.
The fact that he reported that there were a "few" students who were upset that Professor Birmingham was asked to take a leave is also somewhat humorous to me. There were 45-50 students there voicing anger over this. Professor Birmingham has around 90 students this semester.
The forum was held at 5 PM, and most of his students are full time workers who attend the evening division and could not even make the meeting. Most of the people there, that I spoke with, took time off from work to be there. But considering that around 80% of his students are not able to attend, it was more than a "few."
Lastly, the Dean didn't fill the Currant in on how they planned on fixing the problem of displacing all of these students.
They canceled all of Birmingham's classes.
So, now, anyone who had a Birmingham class...has no class.
There are some students who have multiple classes with him. There is even 1 person who took all 4 classes with him and now has no classes at all.
The administration has given students the option of writing a 10 page paper for a pass/fail grade that is to be handed in on Dec. 20th. There are no classes to attend, no lectures to be heard, to law to learn, and no grades to receive.
The Deans have made it clear that if you do not choose to do this, that you can drop the classes and do absolutely nothing at all.
So you can get P's in place of grades you were in the process of paying for and earning, or you can drop classes and make them up and delay your law degree at your own inconvenience.
Its your choice...and not their problem.
former female student

Wethersfield, CT

#18 Oct 4, 2007
Prof Birmingham is one of the most beloved and hated professors on the UConn law campus. It is inaccurate to characterize his admirers as only male when many women choose to take more than one of his classes. He teaches more classes than any other faculty member and has been there for over 35 yrs. His methods are unorthodox but he is one of the few law school professors to push cookie cutter law students to step out of their comfort zone and explain WHY they believe what they believe, before they go out into the world to represent a diverse body of clients in an amorphous profession. This is both a challenge and breath of fresh air. As for where he stopped the film, I don't doubt that he stopped it after the relevant segment ended.
UConn Law Student

Topsham, ME

#19 Oct 4, 2007
What's lost in this article is the fact that, from all accounts I have heard (I wasn't in the class), pausing the movie at that moment was accidental and he quickly tried to fix his error. Also, it has been my impression on campus that the students who were offended did not intend that Birmingham be forced to take leave. Many students were more offended at the comments of other students than anything that Birmingham said or did directly, but arguments have been circulating that it was his responsibility to correct/reign in the discussion when the students comments were based on misinformed stereotypes.

Hartford, CT

#20 Oct 4, 2007
"As you can imagine, we want a law school where people are free to express their ideas," Paul said. "But we also want a place where each student, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, feels safe and welcome. I am trying really, really hard to balance those two things as best I can."

I guess "religion" doesn't count anymore since he did not feel compelled to include it in his list of "free expression of ideas". Unlike one of the other "safe" and "welcome" ideas of diversity he includes, religion is actually in the Constitution. Interesting to overlook that in a law school. Maybe he needs to try "really, really hard" to include everyone in his statements.

Wethersfield, CT

#21 Oct 4, 2007
women often suffer these demeaning assaults on their dignity in silence. i, for one, am glad this guy got called on the carpet
Fed Up

Bethel Island, CA

#22 Oct 4, 2007
Thanks to UCLS for elucidating the facts behind this storey. Dean Paul should be ASHAMED of trying to curtail students' freedom of speech to criticize him in a public forum like the Courant. I'm so sad that the place has become so PC that public image mqatters more than truth-telling. Even here, it's all about tuition money and status in the rankings. I'm surprised Jeremy Paul stooped this low, but now he's The Man, not one of the dissidents....totally co-opted by that big paycheck so he can afford private college tuition for his kids. I hope the national press gets ahold of this story about how students academic curriculum was disrupted and their experience damaged by academic facism.
former female student

Wethersfield, CT

#23 Oct 4, 2007
To the student in the class who posted the explanation of what happened: thank you. It's too bad that information didn't make it into any of the articles.
Fed Up

Bethel Island, CA

#24 Oct 4, 2007
If I was Brimingham, I'd sue the bejesus out of the State.
Uconn Law Student

Canterbury, CT

#25 Oct 4, 2007
Your welcome.

It is too bad. Its also too bad that part of my law degree will be a big empty space where class should have been.

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