Chapman opinions on Yoo divided

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President James L. Doti

"Before we started discussing the issue on campus, as a result of the notoriety of Professor Yoo's visiting appointment, I would have said [torture is] never justifiable. But now I've become a little uncertain." -  Chapman University President Jim Doti

Doti does not have an opinion on whether Yoo's memos adhered to the Constitution...
"I'm aware of the investigation, but I don't know very much about it." 


Some believe John Yoo's presence on faculty can only hurt the university's reputation
THE PANTHER  March 7, 2009

Memo by memo, John Yoo's legal history is starting to affect the law school. From across Glassell Street, students, faculty and administrators from the main campus are taking notice.

On March 3, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., released to the public eight legal memos drafted in part by Yoo while he worked at the Justice Department from 2001 to 2003. These are among ten memos being investigated by the department. The memos provided legal advice to the Bush administration to grant greater executive powers during war time, including the power to conduct searches of and use wiretapping on American citizens without warrants.

The department later deemed the legal opinions flawed and ordered them withdrawn.

Yoo, who is on sabbatical from his tenured position at UC Berkeley's law school, is a visiting professor at Chapman's School of Law for the spring semester. Yoo's appointment took effect in January.

Yoo did not respond to telephone calls from The Panther.

"Given the controversy surrounding Professor Yoo, I believe our reputation is enhanced because of what his appointment says about Chapman's commitment to academic freedom," wrote President Jim Doti in an e-mail.

Yoo's presence, according to Doti, will strengthen the university's reputation of being open to all sides of the political spectrum.

But some professors disagree.

"I don't think it's an issue of academic freedom," said Lori Han, professor of political science.

Han believes that different points of view are important; however, Yoo's work under the Bush administration was so extreme, that she feels it threatens the university's reputation, she said.

Han believes that Yoo's interpretation of the Constitution is warped and agrees with protest groups that Yoo's memos constitute malpractice.

"I'm embarrassed to have him on this faculty," she said. "This couldn't have happened at a worse time."

She believes that Yoo's presence is detrimental to the university's reputation, especially when expansion is one of the university's primary goals. 

Doti, however, stands by his opinion.
During an informal lunch, he discussed with two faculty members, whose names he declined to reveal, what constitutes torture and whether the use of torture could ever be justified.

"Before we started discussing the issue on campus, as a result of the notoriety of Professor Yoo's visiting appointment, I would have said [torture is] never justifiable. But now I've become a little uncertain," Doti wrote in an e-mail.

Doti is opposed to warrantless searches and seizures, he said, but believes wiretapping, in some cases, is justified. Doti does not have an opinion on whether Yoo's memos adhered to the Constitution, he wrote.

"I'm aware of the investigation, but I don't know very much about it," wrote Doti.

Alumnus Robert Wiens has been paying close attention to news about Yoo and is worried about how it affects Chapman, he said.

"I don't care a whit about Yoo's positions, legally or otherwise. My concern is that the university is tarnishing its reputation," said Wiens, who lives in Sacramento, Calif.

Wiens, 71, is a retired employee of the California Department of Finance. He graduated from Chapman in 1969 and says he has donated at least $10,000 to Chapman since then.

Wiens sent a letter to Doti in December, in which he wrote that the decision to hire Yoo was shameful and, unless reversed, that he would not continue contributing financially to the school.

"No more," wrote Wiens in his letter. "Unless Yoo's appointment is withdrawn, Chapman will never receive another dollar from us, nor will I be an advocate for Chapman to prospective students."

Doti declined to comment on the letters he received from Wiens.

Over 135 students and alumni agree that Yoo should be faulted for the legal advice he provided and they have registered on the Facebook group "Chapman Community Against Torture," according to Denis Binder, professor of law.

One of these students is junior Sasha Anderson.

"It scares me that someone who was able to manipulate our Constitution is teaching our future lawyers and leaders," she said.

While the Facebook group has not organized any form of protest, Anderson supports local groups, such as Code Pink, which was part of a coalition of organizations that protested outside the law school on the first day of the spring semester.

Sophomore Collin McClanahan is also a member of the Facebook group who disagrees with the memos and managed to catch sight of Yoo in the law school lobby. 

Nubar Hovsepian, an associate professor of international studies, does not believe the claim that Yoo's presence promotes academic freedom.

"To say that the law school needs another conservative voice is, at best, a dubious claim," said Hovsepian. "I don't think [Yoo's presence] adds anything to the university."

According to Chancellor Daniele Struppa, the faculty has not issued a formal response to Yoo's presence on campus. 

The Faculty Senate has the option of issuing a statement of opinion, but Hovsepian doubts this will happen.

"The faculty is not known to rally around broad political questions," he said.

Doti has received a few letters about Yoo from alumni and several from members of the larger community - none from faculty or trustees.

Whether Yoo's opinions are in conflict with Chapman's values, he isn't sure.

"[Yoo] seems like a genuinely nice person, one whom I would like to get to know better," Doti wrote in an e-mail. "But I have not discussed the issue of torture with him."

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on March 10, 2009 12:07 PM.

"in the interest of the United States"... how about humanity? was the previous entry in this blog.

Yoo's boss, now a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit... is the next entry in this blog.

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