Education

George Mason Faculty Complain About Naming Law School For Scalia

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Blake Neff Reporter

The faculty senate at George Mason University (GMU) has approved a resolution officially protesting the school’s decision to rename its law school after deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, complaining that Scalia’s jurisprudence was harmful to “marginalized” groups in the United States.

GMU announced in March that it would rename its law school to the Antonin Scalia School of Law. After some mockery over the school’s likely abbreviation (ASSOL), the school tweaked the name to the Antonin Scalia Law School. The name change was made in response to a pair of donations worth $30 million, $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation along with $20 million from an anonymous donor.

Now, after a month, GMU faculty are pushing back. The school’s faculty senate passed a resolution Wednesday night questioning the renaming and demanding greater transparency from school administrators.

The resolution, approved on a 21-13 vote, lists five reasons that renaming the law school for Scalia is “problematic.” Scalia, it says, “made numerous public offensive comments about various groups – including people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals – which this university has appropriately gone to some lengths to embrace as valued parts of the university community.”

Similarly, the resolution complains that Scalia “was a significant contributor to the polarized climate in this country that runs counter to the values of a university that celebrates civil discourse.”

The resolution also argues that renaming the law school for a well-known conservative justice would increasingly brand the school as “a conservative institution rather than an unaligned body that is a comfortable home for individuals with a variety of viewpoints.” GMU is already known for having a substantial number of conservative and libertarian professors, especially in economics and law. It also hosts the Mercatus Center, a think tank that promotes free-market economics.

The faculty senate meeting that passed the resolution was an acrimonious affair, according to Buzzfeed News. Dozens of student protesters filled the room, and some faculty members condemned the renaming in harsh terms.

“We really have a bad reputation for academic integrity,” said professor Dave Kuebrich, one of the senators who approved the resolution.

On the other side of the coin, law professor Lloyd Cohen compared Scalia’s critics to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, claiming they were inventing racism on Scalia’s part where none existed.

The resolution is symbolic in nature, as the faculty senate has no power to halt the renaming process. But that doesn’t make it meaningless, because GMU’s law school still hasn’t officially changed its name. The resolution could lend additional force to the push to halt the renaming.

Also on Wednesday, a Virginia lawmaker sent a 1,200-signature petition protesting the new name to Virginia’s higher education authority, which has final authority over the renaming.

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