Law Professors Facing Consequences of #MeToo Movement
Law professors around the country are being investigated for sexual misconduct.
Karen Sloan, a writer at Law.com, recently pooled together the latest on which professors are facing the heat.
The Effect Of #MeToo
The #MeToo movement has spurred a mass of individuals speaking out against sexual misconduct and abuse of power.
In the legal education sphere, law professors and administrators are being questioned for misconduct with students and staff.
Sloan says it’s unclear whether this is a recent phenomenon or simply an effect of the #MeToo movement shining light on such behavior.
“It’s difficult to say whether the #MeToo movement is prompting more complaints of misconduct on law campuses, or whether misconduct investigations are simply garnering more attention now that the movement has placed a national spotlight on those who use positions of power and authority to take advantage of others,” Sloan writes.
Most recently, a number of women’s groups at top law schools publicly condemned mandatory arbitration agreements—contracts that law firms use that require employees to bring complaints against their employer before a neutral arbitrator that is hired by the company.
“Fundamentally, we feel that all employees should have the right to redress any issues that arise in the workplace in whatever forum they want,” Yale Law Women Advocacy Chair Samantha Peltztold Yale Daily News. “Really all we’re asking for here is that they not be barred access to one avenue for seeking relief for the claims of things that happen in the workplace. When you boil it down to that level, it’s a pretty simple ask. It doesn’t seem like much, and we’re hopeful that big law will agree.”
Northern Illinois College of Law
In February 2017, former Northern Illinois Law Dean Eric Dannenmaier faced sexual harassment allegations from two female employees who alleged that the dean had subjected them and students to graphic, sexual comments.
“The university launched a Title IX investigation and Dannenmaier did not categorically deny making the comments in question,” Sloan reports. “Investigators noted that his story shifted over time while the complainants’ remained consistent. University officials determined that there was enough credible evidence to conclude that the dean had created a hostile working environment for the complainants.”
According to Law.com, Dannenmaier was placed on voluntary leave in February and eventually resigned from his position in June, nearly one year after he assumed deanship.
Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law
At Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law, former law dean Jeffrey Standen suffered a similar fate as Dannenmaier. Standen faced allegations of sexual harassment from three women.
“The complainants—one employee and two students—claimed that the then-dean forced them to do demeaning things, such as standing on a table while wearing a dress to reach an air vent and picking up items from the floor while he watched them bend over. He also made repeated requests for hugs,” Sloan writes.
Despite the vivid allegations, the university concluded that there was not enough evidence to support sexual misconduct. However, the investigation found that Standen had in fact fostered a work environment filled with an “unhealthy culture of fear, intimidation and bullying.”
Standen denied the allegations and voluntarily resigned from his position. However, according to Law.com, he still remains on the law faculty.
Yale Law School
In Spring of this year, Yale Law School investigated allegations against professor Jed Rubenfield after numerous female students complained about his misbehavior.
“The crux of the Rubenfeld matter seems to center on his role as an influential mentor with connections that help students land coveted clerkships, and whether he used that status to cross certain lines,” Sloan writes. “Former students told Slate that Rubenfeld scheduled late-night one-on-one meetings with them; that he drank to excess with students; and made inappropriate, sexually tinged comments both individually and in class.”
Charleston School of Law
Todd Bruno, former director of legal research, analysis and writing at Charleston, resigned after a number of female students complained about how he groped them and made sexually inappropriate comments.
“Many of the complaints stemmed from Bruno’s position as a moot court and trial advocacy team adviser, where he reportedly drank heavily during out-of-town competitions and groped several students,” Sloan writes. “Multiple students reported that Bruno placed his head on their breasts while out at bars, according to the report.”
According to Law.com, Bruno denied the allegations. The school eventually reached a monetary settlement with the female students, but it is unclear whether or not Bruno is still on the faculty.
University of Illinois College of Law
At University of Illinois College of Law, Professor Jay Kesan was accused of sexual misconduct by a number of female students.
“The investigation stemmed from multiple complaints that Kesan had acted inappropriately with students and faculty,” Sloan reports. “One student reported that Kesan had rubbed her thigh; another said he invited her to stay at his apartment; and a faculty member told investigators that he asked invasive questions about her sex life.”
Investigators had found that Kesan violated specific campus codes of conduct, but did not go as far to say that it qualified as “sexual misconduct.”
According to Law.com, Kesan is taking a one-year unpaid leave.
Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington
Professor Ian Samuel, who is in his first semester of teaching as a professor at Indiana, is the most recent professor to come under fire for misconduct.
On Friday, university officials confirmed that there is a pending Title IX investigation and that Samuel voluntarily checked himself into a hospital.
“Title IX investigations typically center of claims of sexual harassment or misconduct, but not always,” Sloan writes. “Samuel is a prominent name in the legal academy, having spurred the national law student movement against mandatory arbitration agreements at large law firm when he circulated a leaked copy of the clause Munger, Tolles & Olson used for summer associates.”