UC Berkeley's Academic Senate debating John Yoo's fate

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The Panther March 30, 2009

Faculty members at UC Berkeley are debating whether to fire John Yoo from his tenured position for his off-campus work as a legal adviser to the Bush administration as the U.S. Department of Justice's investigation on Yoo's conduct winds down.

Under UC Berkeley's code of conduct, a criminal conviction would lead to dismissal even for tenured professors, although criminal conviction may not be necessary in Yoo's case, according to Christopher Kutz, law professor at UC Berkeley. Disbarment proceedings and "serious professional ethical violations," such as knowingly giving bad advice, could also lead to Yoo's firing, he said.

"I know many faculty, like all citizens, are very concerned about the production of these memoranda, and about possible breaches of professional ethics," said Kutz.

Berkeley's administrators do not plan to dismiss or disciplining Yoo yet, but its Academic Senate - which handles disciplinary actions against faculty including tenured professors - has received complaints about Yoo's actions while working for the Bush administration from faculty, students and alumni, said Kutz, who is also vice chairman of UC Berkeley's Academic Senate.

"It is possible that the Academic Senate will take up an inquiry based on these complaints," he said. "Yoo would not be disciplined for his work outside the university unless, and until, there are credible findings."

Yoo's legal opinions while working with the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice under the Bush administration advocated the expansion of presidential powers during wartime. These were used to justify torture, warrant-less wiretapping and rendition - where those captured by the United States are sent to another country with lax legal limits for interrogation.

About 430 people have to date signed an online petition at "Chapman Community Against Torture," a Facebook group.

"While I support his right to voice his opinions, I wanted to provide the Chapman community an avenue to voice [its] objections to the policies Yoo endorsed while working for [former] President Bush," said the group's founder and Chapman alumnus Will Matthews.

Berkeley alumnus and prospective law student at Chapman Jeremy Ficarola would still apply at the School of Law, even though he does not agree with Yoo. 

"You barely hear or see anything about Yoo down here. Up there it was impossible to ignore it since everyone is so politically active at Berkeley," said Ficarola, who grew up in Orange.

"I am interested in what he has to say and if I were given the choice to take his class, I would do so out of curiosity," said Ficarola.

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This page contains a single entry published on March 30, 2009 7:54 PM.

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