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The Torture Professor

Why UC Berkeley should fire John Yoo, the legal scholar whose work led to Abu Ghraib and secret spying on Americans.



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Still, that doesn't mean that UC Berkeley has to sit on its hands. The university, through tenure rules, certainly has the ability to investigate whether Yoo committed research misconduct or violated the canons of intellectual honesty. And Boalt itself should examine whether the professor breached legal ethical standards. Based on the evidence, both investigations are justified.

Granted, the ten-campus University of California rarely fires tenured professors. According to the president's office, it has only happened five times in the past twenty years. And only one of those occurred at Berkeley. In 1991, the university fired Michel Strickmann, an associate professor of Asian languages. According to a report from that year in The New York Times, Strickmann was dismissed for allegedly sexually harassing several students, though he was never convicted of any crime. Similarly, in 2002, John P. Dwyer, then the dean of Boalt Hall, resigned in disgrace amid allegations that he sexually harassed a former law student.

Those examples make it clear that if UC Berkeley fails to investigate and fire Yoo, it will send an unmistakable — and perverse — message. If you're a professor, and you cross the line with a coed, it will cost you your job. On the other hand, you can violate moral, ethical, and legal standards. You can hurt the reputation of your university and your country. You can bring shame upon the nation and harm its standing in the world. You can put our soldiers at risk unnecessarily. You can enable people to be humiliated, tortured, and possibly even killed. And, aparently, you can do it all in the name of "academic freedom."

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