Kristen Juras, Assistant Professor at the University of Montana School of Law, has a problem with a student named Bess Davis. Ms. Davis is not a law student, and has never audited one of Professor Juras's classes. No, Ms. Davis is a student journalist, who has written all of five columns for the school's student paper, the Montana Kaimin. Ms. Davis writes about sex. That doesn't bother Professor Juras, who isn't a prude and who respects free speech. What bothers the professor, if one believes her, is that Bess Davis's writing is unprofessional:
Since February, assistant law professor Kristen Juras has made clear to the Kaimin her opposition to senior Bess Davis’s “Bess Sex Column” by writing a letter to the editor as well as e-mailing and meeting with Kaimin editor Bill Oram. Juras said the material in the column is inappropriate for college students and reflects poorly on the university’s School of Journalism and UM itself.
“It’s embarrassingly unprofessional,” she said. “It affects my reputation as a member of the faculty.”
The column is so embarrassing to Professor Juras that she is prepared to lobby the University's Board of Regents for a policy requiring student paper columnists to have expertise in the matters on which they write, and that the paper better review material Professor Juras considers "objectionable." Then, according to Professor Juras, her problems with the paper "will correct themselves."
In other words, though she's not a prude, and she respects free speech, Professor Juras wants the University to censor the student paper, and student columnist Bess Davis.
I'll leave aside the question of whether the content of a student paper should be produced by those who have professional expertise in anything, given that it's a student paper, written by people who by and large don't have even a bachelor's degree in English or journalism. I'll also leave aside the question of whether, if Kristen Juras were to apply for a visiting professorship at another school, the faculty would ask her about the sex column in the student paper, as opposed to, oh I dunno, her own legal scholarship.
I'm more interested, frankly, in protecting Professor Juras's reputation, from the damage it has already suffered and will continue to suffer during this controversy. For instance, I'm gravely concerned about Professor Juras's ignorance of First Amendment precedent such as Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S. Ct. 733, 21 L. Ed. 2d 731 (1969), which holds that speech by students in public schools may be infringed only on a showing that it will disrupt the orderly running of the school, or is indecent. (Professor Juras does not make such a contention concerning Ms. Davis's columns.) I'm concerned that, to the extent that what Professor Juras really seeks is to have the University censor one student, she is asking for constitutionally prohibited viewpoint discrimination under the guise of sometimes permitted content discrimination.
Moreover, and this is what really concerns me, as far as Professor Juras's reputation is concerned, I believe that any time someone writes, "I respect free speech, but…" and then goes on to ask for censorship, that person looks like an ass, a fool, and a hypocrite.
And so, in order to protect Kristen Juras's reputation, I am asking to be appointed as an independent monitor at the University of Montana School of Law, with authority over the writings and speech of assistant professors who teach property, business, and tax, and a requirement that all such writings and speech be cleared with me, beforehand, to the extent that they touch on political or legal topics outside the subjects of property, business transactions, and tax. (Because God, I don't want to have to read that stuff.)
Since Kristen Juras, evidently, is unwilling to protect her own reputation, which is now that of a fool, someone else will have to do it. For her own damned good.
Via Legal Blog Watch.