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Archive for Monday, February 5, 2001

No disgrace

February 5, 2001

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To the editor:

I object to the Journal World's tabloid-quality headlines over Wednesday's Pete Hunter election fraud story ("Student 'disgraced' law school," Jan 31), and as one of about 500 other students attending the KU law school, I strongly disagree with Justin Holstin's choice of words before legislators on Tuesday.

Mr. Hunter has certainly "disgraced" himself by his conduct. He may have "disgraced" his family or those who associated themselves with his campaign. But contrary to Mr. Holstin's claim, his actions have not "'disgraced' the law school." Talk of "disgrace" suggests that the school possesses some sort of collective conscience and that it is culpable for Mr. Hunter's conduct. Those suggestions are wrong.

The law school is not a private association, nor a church, nor (despite the metaphors) a partnership, nor a family. It is a state agency which must admit and retain students on the basis of measurable criteria. The admissions office cannot speculate on each applicant's latent character. Administration cannot exercise parental responsibility over each of 500 adult students. Faculty cannot redirect each student's moral inclinations. New students do not take a fraternity-style oath to answer for one another. As a state agency, the law school practically and constitutionally can only respond to misconduct with due process; it cannot reshape each student's conscience. Therefore, Mr. Holstin has no grounds to invite guilt by association.

Mr. Hunter acted for himself, not the law school, just as Mr. Holstin properly speaks for himself, not the law school. Mr. Holstin may have simply been careless with his words, but if he really meant "disgrace," he improperly invoked collective blame when it is clear, even to Mr. Hunter, that this was individual conduct. I was embarrassed both to learn of Mr. Hunter's deceit, and to read about Mr. Holstin's blustering in Topeka, but I have no control or influence over either gentleman's conduct and therefore have no cause to be "disgraced" by either. Nor does anyone else associated with the law school.

Robert J. Drumm,

Lawrence.

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