A Widener Law professor is suing the University, the dean of the law school and two students for defamation after he was suspended for allegedly making racist, violent and sexist statements in the classroom, according to the Delaware County Daily Times.
The paper reports that Lawrence J. Connell was suspended for a year without pay, on Wednesday as well as requiring him to undergo psychiatric treatment and issue a formal apology after students accused him of using violent hypothetical examples during a lesson on criminal procedure.
During the lesson, Connell, a professor at Widener for 26 years, used a hypothetical that involved him shooting the dean of the law school, Linda L. Ammons.
Students say their professor made sexist and racist comments. They also say that Connell retaliated against his accusers by emailing other students regarding the matter, according to the Delco Times.
Connell denies all accusations. He is also refusing to seek the required psychiatric treatment, as a faculty council ruled in June that the accusations were unfounded.
Now, Connell, who was on paid administrative leave until now, is seeking $1.8 million in lost wages and benefits -- equivalent to the 12 years he says he would have continued to work -- and additional damages for, among other things, emotional distress and suffering, reports the paper.
The University has issued a statement regarding the matter:
“From the beginning, the Widener University School of Law has followed its established policies and procedures that all faculty members agree to when they sign their contracts with the university. These policies and procedures, which are in part authored by faculty, were written to protect academic freedom, ensure faculty governance, and protect the rights of students…Filing an informal or formal complaint of discrimination or harassment is protected activity under the law. The university prohibits retaliation against any individual who files a complaint in good faith or who participates in a discrimination and/or harassment inquiry.”
According to Connell’s lawyer, he has already started his job search.