Student groups protest UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge's heated blog remarks, law school dean's written response
April 15, 2011 1:56 a.m.
UCLA law students are reacting with frustration to the law school dean’s response to a professor’s xenophobic blog posts, according to a student law organization.
The post, made by Stephen Bainbridge, professor of corporate law, began with complaints about FedEx Express Office online services. Bainbridge described the customer service representative he spoke with as a “moron with an impenetrable accent,” and asked, “What third world shithole do they have him penned up in?”
The comments, made on March 27, were posted on Bainbridge’s blog, professorbainbridge.com, one of the top 100 legal blogs recommended by the American Bar Association Journal.
Shortly after, many student groups from the law school reacted strongly against the comments. Students Helping Assure Racial Equity, Justice and Diversity mounted the primary response.
“The phrasing of his post was careless and very insensitive. Students here come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including some parts of the world he put down in his comments,” said Kenia Acevedo, co-chair of SHARE JD and a law student.
School of Law Dean Rachel Moran sent a letter to concerned student organizations in response. In the letter, Moran said the comments do not reflect the views of UCLA School of Law. She also said UCLA Law cannot censure his views because they were posted on his personal blog. Moran was not available for comment.
Bainbridge’s colleague, William Klein, also a professor of corporate law, said Bainbridge’s comments do not reflect his character as a whole.
“He made a mistake but he removed the statement,” Klein said. “Everyone gets a little bit irritated from time to time, but he’s really a wonderful guy with very commendable moral values.”
Bainbridge has since posted another blog entry, stating that he deleted the “offending passages” and offered his apologies.
“Some folks thought the excised comments were racially insensitive. I don’t see it myself but … I don’t want to offend readers unnecessarily,” Bainbridge wrote in the post.
“I think a fair assessment of the many thousands of my blog posts over the years would demonstrate that the post in question was an ill-considered aberration,” he added in an email statement to the Daily Bruin.
SHARE JD members said they were upset the law school failed to provide those offended with an adequate response.
“The response was watered down. Since his blog is so directly tied to the institution and capitalizes on the fact that he is a UCLA law professor … it reflects poorly on the school,” Acevedo said.
SHARE JD members said they found the response especially lackluster in light of the administration’s strong reaction to the recent Alexandra Wallace video, in which a student ranted against Asians on campus.
In response to the Wallace video, Chancellor Gene Block sent a letter to the campus community and posted a video condemning Wallace’s views.
SHARE JD said they were looking for a response addressing the whole law school community, not only student organizations. In hopes of achieving this goal, they contacted the chancellor, but did not receive a response.
“In this case, the dean didn’t even make a value judgment on the matter,” said Jullianne Harris, law student and SHARE JD member.
Commenting on the blog closed shortly after the posting. Bainbridge’s blog has a section regarding his comment moderation policies. His policy states that he has the right to delete comments that are “racist, sexist (or) abusive.”
New York University law student Anand Parikh managed to post a comment before the commenting feature was closed.
Parikh said he was mortified that a professor would share these views so openly.
“How can he objectively grade students with that viewpoint?” Parikh said.
He added that he thinks the incident is emblematic of an overall lack of respect and support for diverse students within law schools.
Harris agrees, stating that the burden of representation she feels as a black student in law school is “intense.”
“Sometimes, I’m the only face of color in class, so I’ll be the only one to say something when a diversity issue comes up,” said Harris, also a member of the Black Law Student Association.
Some members of SHARE JD said Bainbridge’s deleting of the offensive language marks a small but important win for students.
“It shows that as students we can mobilize and affect change,” said SHARE JD member Brittany Goodnight. “Diversity is always an issue worth addressing.”