University’s handling of dean’s departure is a disgrace

Tyler Hoffman, Executive Editor & Publisher

I would venture to guess most students don’t read the university’s official e-newsletter, The Daily, with the frequency its editors intend. Published as often as its name suggests, The Daily provides an outlet for the Office of University Marketing and Communications to publish positive news about the institution, as well as offer a forum for members of the university community to promote their programs and events.

While most students set their inbox to automatically file it away, The Daily is widely read by staff and faculty members. It’s an invaluable tool and a cornerstone of internal communication at Case Western Reserve University. But this is where my praise of the campus e-newsletter ends.

Because if you were sitting next to me in the Jolly Scholar on March 4 at 11:10 am.—the moment when The Daily hit my inbox—you would have witnessed me choke on a forkful of chicken salad when I read this line about Lawrence Mitchell, former dean of the law school:

“Mitchell’s decision to step down to support the best interests of the [law] school is the most recent of a series of examples that demonstrate his dedication to the institution, which Mitchell will continue to support as a faculty member and scholar at the school.”

Apparently, the Office of University Marketing and Communications and I have very different ideas of what it means to be dedicated to Case Western Reserve. By their logic, supporting the university is best done by dragging it into an expansive puddle of shame, allegedly harassing women and retaliating against those who voice their dissent. (Mine involves writing this editor’s note.)

The Daily attributes Mitchell’s resignation to an effort to “minimize distractions relating to a lawsuit filed against him and the university alleging retaliation against a member of the school’s faculty.” Is that really what the administration considers sexual harassment to be—a distraction?

In the eleven-paragraph article, the four most lengthy segments are dedicated to “gains achieved during Dean Mitchell’s leadership,” such as “forging educational partnerships with nearly two dozen schools around the globe” and “enhanc[ing] the diversity of the student body,” If Mitchell was to ever pen his autobiography—I hear he has time now—The Daily’s article could be its forward.

Oh, and let’s not forget all he did for women. According to The Daily, he should be saluted for “launching the Women’s Law and Leadership Institute…” (I’m sure that will be the first thing for which School of Law women will remember him.)

I am a fervent supporter of due process; I believe in the legal system and that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. But I believe with equal conviction that it’s a two-way street. One of the School of Law’s most respected faculty members, Raymond Ku, filed the lawsuit. And numerous parties have gone on the record with statements that reinforce his claims against the dean.

The article published by The Daily on March 4 is an embarrassment to the university’s name and should be removed from the public view. As an editor, it is beyond me why the institution didn’t limit that post to a short announcement about the dean’s resignation—nothing more, nothing less. Instead the university placed itself on the wrong side of the fence.

Rather than stay neutral or indifferent, Case Western Reserve steered clear of the high road and, as The Daily article exemplifies, aligned itself with Mitchell. I wonder what shows of support they’ll display next?
Perhaps Campus Planning and Facilities Management will install loudspeakers on the facade of Adelbert Hall? That way, the entire Case Quad can link arms and join the administration in a boisterous rendition of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man.” But like their words, I’m sure their tune will fall entirely flat—and on increasingly deaf ears.

Tyler Hoffman