Yoo, Tenure, and the Academy

In response to many calls for possible dismissal (or at least investigation) of John Yoo at the Boalt (Cal Berkeley) School of Law, Dean Chris Edley yesterday issued a memorandum strongly rejecting the idea (albeit reserving some harsh words for Yoo’s work in the government).

Although I have been among the most vociferous critics of both John Yoo’s work in the government and his scholarship, I largely agree with most (though not quite all) of what Dean Edley says here, and I, too, am uneasy with the notion of Boalt taking any serious steps with respect to the employment of a tenured professor. (Full disclosure, for what it’s worth: I worked both with Chris Edley in the Clinton administration and with John Yoo in the Bush administration. I have not spoken to either of them about this matter.) For an alternative view, see this provocative post (and the resulting comments thread) from Henry Farrell.

Especially because I don’t have any special insight on this question, I’m very interested in what my co-bloggers have to say about it and, more broadly, about whether there are other steps that members of, and institutions in, the academic community ought to take, apart from questions of tenure, if and when they come to believe that one of their own has engaged in official state conduct that was not only of very poor legal quality but also egregiously harmful, with the possibility of some (but hardly all) responsibility for serious legal wrongdoing.

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