Con Law teaching story
s-gerber at onu.edu
Thu Jul 1 11:48:21 PDT 2004
I thought the attached story might be of interest.
Ohio Northern University
Natelson seeks regents' help
in clash with UM Law School
By CHARLES S. JOHNSON
of the Missoulian State Bureau
June 20, 2004
HELENA - University of Montana professor Rob Natelson, accusing the Law
School of discriminating against him for years because of his
conservative political views, has asked the state Board of Regents to
overturn a decision denying him the opportunity to teach constitutional
Natelson, who has twice run as a Republican for governor and led
several ballot-issue campaigns to limit taxes, filed a formal appeal
this week with Regents Chairman John Mercer of Polson. He asked that
the regents consider his request or assign it to Higher Education
Commissioner Sheila Stearns rather than allow it to be heard on the UM
He asked the regents to reverse the Law School decision and order him
to be transferred to the constitutional law teaching vacancy.
Natelson urged the regents to admonish the Law School "to reassess its
policies and practices to assure that faculty members of all viewpoints
receive equal opportunity and treatment in hiring, promotion, work
practices, merit pay and faculty awards, and that there is greater
viewpoint diversity among faculty."
In addition, he asked the regents to order the Law School to file "a
plan of affirmative action (but not preferential hiring) to assure that
the goals of equality opportunity, equal treatment and intellectual
diversity are met." This may include, he said, "reassessment of
intellectual political bias, faculty sensitivity training and basic
education in federal and state provisions against illegal
Mercer said Tuesday he had not yet seen Natelson's appeal, but added:
"Every grievance that's outside the collective bargaining arena has an
opportunity to go before the Board of Regents."
Stearns said she had not read Natelson's appeal either so she wasn't in
a position to comment. She wasn't sure when his appeal would go before
Natelson said he has been the victim of "invidious political
discrimination" at the UM Law School for more than a decade "once my
conservative and pro-free-market views became known and I began to
express them in public."
"I am a political conservative," he said in a 24-page supporting
document. "To put it mildly, my law school colleagues are not. My views
are fairly mainstream for Montana as a whole. I supported Ronald
Reagan's campaigns for president and voted for President George W.
Bush. I favor school choice, constitutional tax limitation and
freedom-oriented solutions to social problems."
Natelson said he's been punished by the Law School in several ways. His
requests for merit pay increase have been denied, he said, and his
applications to teach constitutional law have been spurned four
different times after professors teaching the course have left the
"The law school apparently views this course as politically sensitive
and has kept it in liberal hands for over 20 years," Natelson said.
Ed Eck, dean of the Law School, couldn't comment on the allegation
because it's set for a hearing on the UM campus Wednesday.
In his appeal, Natelson cited the Montana Constitution ban on political
discrimination and said political discrimination by state agencies can
be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"From the time I joined the (UM law) faculty until after I began to
express my conservative/free market political views in public (circa
1992-93), I was treated well," Natelson wrote. "This changed
dramatically after my political views became known - in particular
after I expressed opposition to tax increase. It continued when I
publicly criticized the extreme activism of the Montana Supreme Court,
with which the law school has a relationship too close to be
appropriate for an academic institution."
Since joining the UM law faculty, Natelson said he has complied "a
record of publication and public service that rivals any other faculty
member." For example, he said his publication record, mostly in the
area of constitutional law and constitutional history, accounts for 40
percent of all publications by the current full-time faculty.
"I have developed national reputations in constitutional subjects and
in real property law," he said.
Natelson said he is "generally conceded to be one of the law school's
most demanding and knowledgeable teachers." He said he has
"conscientiously withstood the usual pressures (including
administrative pressures) to court popularity by dumbing-down courses
or inflating grades."
This appeal, he said, involves the latest in the Law School's "string
of decisions denying me otherwise routine transfer into a vacant course
in constitutional law." He called the transfer denials "particularly
outrageous" since other faculty members are routinely transferred into
vacant courses at their request, even if they have published little in
law review articles in that area.
"On the other hand, I have published extensively on constitutional
subjects in journals of high quality and have taught a relevant course
for a decade," he said. "There seems to be no recent precedent for
denying anybody but me such a transfer."
Natelson lost bids for governor in the 1996 and 2000 Republican primary
races. He founded several conservative groups, including Montanans for
Better Government, and was host of a statewide radio talk show for
He led a signature-gathering campaign in which Montanans suspended and
ultimately rejected a 1993 state income tax increase. In 1998, he
spearheaded a voter-approved constitutional initiative that would have
required voter approval before state and local governments could raise
taxes and certain fees. That measure, however, was struck down as
unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court.
Ohio Northern University
Ada, OH 45810
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