Professor John Doe Is An Ugly [Insert Racial Slur]!
Law students sometimes use the internet to widely disseminate racist or gendered comments about women and minority faculty members. For example, I have heard about law students using teaching evaluation forms or Facebook or Myspace to make comments to the effect that that a female faculty member is a bitch with PMS or that an African-American faculty member is a [insert racial slur]. Indeed, the Auto-Admit debacle from a couple years back revealed that law students or potential law students seem to at least sometimes use the internet to convey vicious gendered and/or racist comments.
When I hear about these situations, I always wonder about the “character and fitness” implications. It seems to me that a law student who is publicly judging a female faculty member negatively on a gendered basis or who is characterizing minority faculty members by way of stereotyping and ugly slurs is raising questions about his/her character and fitness to practice law. In the same way that a lawyer who embezzles is not fit to practice, one might argue that a law student who dismisses individuals with ugly characterizations based only on race or gender might also be of questionable character for purposes of practicing law. Yet not everyone agrees with this assessment, and, with respect to law students using the internet for such attacks, there has not been a lot of discussion about the character and fitness issues raised.
Therefore, the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education will be presenting a panel at the AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans examining the issues raised – including the character and fitness issues – when law students, lawyers, judges, or potential law students use the internet to make gendered or racist comments. If a student posts on her Myspace page that Professor John Doe, who teaches Gender and Race and the Law, is an “ugly [insert racial slur] who only has a job due to affirmative action,” does that pose a character and fitness concern? Should we care?
There is a call for papers for this panel presentation, and anyone interested in submitting a paper or paper proposal is welcome to e-mail me for the details.