The Des Moines Register ha an interesting article following up on the lawsuit against the University of Iowa law school alleging ideological discrimination in hiring. The judge declared a mistrial because the jury was deadlocked. According to interviews with jurors, however, there was genuine agreement that Teresa Wagner was denied a position because of her conservative views and political activism, but disagreement over whether the Dean could be held responsible. Given the nature of the claim, the Dean was the named defendant, rather than the university (or the faculty, who largely control academic hiring decisions).
jurors said they felt conflicted about holding a former dean personally responsible for the bias. They wanted to hold the school itself accountable, but federal law does not recognize political discrimination by institutions.
“I will say that everyone in that jury room believed that she had been discriminated against,” said Davenport resident Carol Tracy, the jury forewoman.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Teresa Wagner on Tuesday filed a motion for a new trial in the case that scholars agree could have national implications in what some argue is the liberally slanted world of academia.
The jury’s belief that Wagner was a victim of discrimination is significant as the case heads toward a retrial that will cost the state thousands of dollars to litigate and could cost the university hundreds of thousands of dollars should it lose or settle out of court, scholars following the case said.
Paul Caron has more here.
As I noted before, as a general matter I do not think faculty hiring decisions should be second guessed in courts. Ideological discrimination in faculty hiring is contrary to the principles of academic freedom and is incompatible with a genuine commitment to liberal education. But this does not mean such conduct should be illegal, particularly in private institutions. If the allegations are true the University of Iowa’s law faculty should be ashamed of themselves.