Arkansas law prof. faces retaliation for studying race-based admissions policies

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock law professor claims that he faced retaliation from colleagues for trying to compel the university to release information on its admissions policies.

Prof. Robert Steinbuch, a professor at the university’s Bowen School of Law, filed a lawsuit against the administration in November after being provided with heavily redacted admissions data in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, and is now alleging that two of his fellow professors have engaged in retaliatory behavior toward him in an effort to discourage his research into whether race-based admissions policies represent a disservice to minority students.

[RELATED: U. of Arkansas prevents prof from studying race-based admissions data]

Steinbuch told Campus Reform that although the school had provided him with the full data sets on two prior occasions, law school Dean Michael Schwartz responded to his latest request by redacting information on race, LSAT scores, and undergraduate GPA.

“They took out essentially all of the relevant information,” he said.

Shortly after he filed his original complaint, Steinbuch alleges that two of his fellow professors sent an email to Schwartz and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Theresa Beiner complaining that Steinbuch’s lawsuit could be “distressing” to students.

According to the amended complaint, a copy of which Steinbuch provided to Campus Reform, Professors Adjoa Aiyetoro and Sarah Jenkins “made multiple false allegations about [Steinbuch’s] grading policies and perspective,” as well as his “perceived or alleged bias.”

The document makes a specific point of mentioning one portion of the email from Prof. Jenkins, in which she asserts that “students of color have read the complaint and are very distressed,” and suggests that Steinbuch cannot be trusted to fairly grade minority students in his classes because of his lawsuit.

“Aiyetoro and Jenkins wrote to the Dean saying that because of the complaint, I shouldn’t be able to give out exams or grades in his class,” Steinbuch explained. “They state that because of the lawsuit, I should be limited in my grading abilities.”

Schwartz brought the professors’ emails to the attention of Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Dr. Zulma Toro-Ramos, passing along the recommendation that she investigate the allegations, but recusing himself from the matter because of his status as a defendant in the pending lawsuit.

Steinbuch, who was copied to the email, followed up with an email to Dr. Toro “stating that Profs. Aiyetoro and Jenkins’ claims were baseless, demonstrated their lack of understanding of even which classes [Steinbuch] teaches and his grading policies therein, and were nothing more than slanderous and race-baiting efforts to impugn [his] character.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Toro responded a week later with an email requesting that Steinbuch come in for a non-disciplinary meeting to discuss “concerns about your grading policy,” advising him that he would not be allowed to bring his lawyer to the meeting because the situation in question “is not the subject of your lawsuit.”

In his amended complaint, Steinbuch protests that “Dr. Toro impliedly concedes that the meeting, outside the presence of [Steinbuch’s] attorney, would be improper if it were related to the suit, then continues by stating that she is going to investigate the bald-faced, baseless allegations made by Profs. Aiyetoro and Jenkins … even though those allegations were made in emails that literally referenced the lawsuit in the first sentence.”

As a representative of the university, which is a named defendant in Steinbuch’s original complaint, he contends that Dr. Toro’s request for a private meeting was not just inappropriate, but part of a pattern of behavior that amounts to retaliation against him for filing his original lawsuit.

Steinbuch told Campus Reform that Aiyetoro and Jenkins “have a history at the law school of acting like ‘race police’,” and said he is unwilling to tolerate their efforts to shut down discussion of sensitive topics that might conflict with their perspectives.

“You have no right not to be offended, and what baffles me is that these are law professors, who blanket themselves routinely in the First Amendment, but now they throw that away,” he complained. “To me, this is quite clearly race-baiting and this is unfortunately the latest response by the Left whenever there is even a wish of a discussion about issues on admissions or otherwise relating to race.

“And the problem is, too often, we have systems in admissions programs at public universities in which all sorts of race considerations are undertaken, but there’s not a willingness to discuss them,” he continued, “and when someone like me merely raises an inquiry into the data, the race-baiting comes out as an attempt to intimidate people like me and quash a legitimate, open, fair discussion of the topic.”

Steinbuch described his research as being “quite simple,” saying that he merely examines the relationship between applicants’ scores and their eventual performance on the bar exam in an effort to explain why African American law students have consistently failed the bar at roughly twice the rate of their white peers.

“For six or seven years, African Americans failed the bar twice as often as whites, and we know that this is not a function of their race, but of differing admissions standards,” Steinbuch said. “Nobody wants to have this discussion, and when people like me try to have this discussion, the race-baiting comes out. I will not tolerate it, and I will call it what it is.”

Campus Reform reached out to Aiyetoro, Jenkins, and Toro for comment, but none of them responded by press time.

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