Attorney General candidate Dean Klonoff in hypocrisy twist

Measure 49 reveals hypocrisy in academia
By Ross Day
Oregonians In Action EC
Looking Forward Magazine.

The popular comedian and political commentator Stephen Colbert once said “I am all for free speech, except when I disagree with it.” If the events that transpired during the campaign on Ballot Measure 49 are any indication, this quote — and certainly its sentiment — seem to be the philosophy of the Lewis & Clark College, its law school, and to the dean of the law school, Robert Klonoff.

In October, a letter was sent to Oregonians from former Dean of the Lewis & Clark College of Law, James Huffman, in opposition to Measure 49. In response, Dean Klonoff issued a press release feigning indignation at Dean Huffman’s letter.

Klonoff claimed it was disappointing that Oregonians In Action would use the “[S]chool’s good name for a partisan political purpose.” Klonoff went on to say in the press release, and in a subsequent press release, that by using the law school’s name on the envelope of the letter, Huffman’s letter gave the public the impression the law school had taken a position on Measure 49, which it had not.

Of course, Klonoff never issued a press release “deploring” associate professor of law John Kroger for using Lewis & Clark College, and the Lewis & Clark College of Law, to issue a press release in September (before Huffman’s letter was sent, mind you) announcing his candidacy for Oregon Attorney General. Professor Kroger clearly used Lewis & Clark College and the law school for a partisan political purpose and made it appear as though the law school was supporting Kroger’s candidacy for a partisan political office. (By the way, you can still find Professor Kroger’s press release on the Lewis & Clark website)

By contrast, Huffman’s letter had his home address in the return address, and the letter was clear that it came from the “personal desk” of Dean Huffman.

Klonoff’s concern about a “fair debate” didn’t seem to be an issue when the Lewis & Clark Law School hosted a speaking event in September entitled “Yes on 49!” (the press release and video podcast are both still available on Lewis & Clark’s website), and did not bother to invite the opponents of Measure 49 to the discussion. Both the title of the event, as well as the law school’s website, certainly give the impression that the “good name” of the Lewis & Clark College of Law was being used to support Measure 49.

Where was Klonoff’s outrage then? Where was Klonoff’s concern about “fair debate” or the use of the school’s “good name”? Did Professor Kroger or the Environmental Law Caucus also get letters from Klonoff’s lawyers threatening a lawsuit?


Klonoff’s unilateral reaction to Dean Huffman’s letter reflects the obvious double standard that appears to prevail at Lewis & Clark College, its law school, and throughout academia. Professors are free to advertise their political beliefs in concert with their position of respect and authority, so long as those beliefs reflect a liberal political philosophy. As soon as one of their own in academia – like Dean Huffman — begin to think independently of the prevailing political thought in our colleges and universities, the thought police are put on full alert, outrage is expressed, and lawsuits are threatened.

How’d you like to have this guy for your boss? Your “academic freedom” stretches only so far as Commandant Klonoff allows.

Dean Klonoff missed a golden opportunity to take the high ground and denounce any instance – regardless of political perspective — where the law school’s “good name” may have been used for a political purpose. Klonoff could have set the Lewis & Clark College of Law apart as an institution where everyone’s free speech rights would be respected.

Instead, Klonoff chose to go after the speech he disagreed with. Stephen Colbert would be proud.

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