An Arkansas law professor formally accused his school’s dean of antisemitism in a complaint filed Monday with the university’s human rights department.
Robert Steinbuch leveled the charge against Theresa Beiner, the dean of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Bowen Law School.
The two have been at odds since Mr. Steinbuch and a former professor objected to the sudden application of former President Bill Clinton’s name to a teaching chair that had not had such a title since it was launched in 1999.
The kerfuffle at Bowen Law School has also triggered hearings in the Arkansas state legislature, and a warning from Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert that the school should carefully avoid reprisals against Mr. Steinbuch or other employees.
In a written statement, Mr. Steinbuch said Ms. Beiner tried to complicate his professional life after he had a federal judge lecture his classes on days he could not attend while observing Jewish high holy days.
Both Mr. Steinbuch and another Jewish professor, Joshua Silverstein, said Ms. Beinert has denied their requests to teach a constitutional law class, despite their seniority and credentials, the two said.
“Dean Beiner has refused to allow me and my colleague … to teach the Constitutional Law class at the law school now that the class has come open, notwithstanding that we are both the most senior and the most qualified,” Mr. Steinbuch wrote.
“We are both Jews. No Jew has ever taught that class. Dean Beiner’s antisemitism has become obvious at this point,” he wrote.
Ms. Beiner did not respond Monday to a request for comment.
The landscape at the Bowen Law School was roiled earlier this year when retiring professor John DiPippa, a defender of Mr. Clinton during his impeachment and other scandals, began calling the distinguished chair he had occupied for more than 20 years the “William Jefferson Clinton” chair in constitutional law.
Longtime professor Thomas Sullivan and Mr. Steinbuch both objected to the sudden name change, noting the school had earlier decided not to use Mr. Clinton’s name and that, given he was stripped of his law license under threat of disbarment, he was a poor role model for prospective lawyers.
Mr. Sullivan has since retired from the school, a decision he told The Times was unrelated to the brouhaha over what to call the teaching chair.
When documents surfaced showing that Mr. Clinton, through his White House counsel, had declined to accept the naming of the chair, Mr. Rapert called a hearing of his governmental affairs committee to make sense of what was happening at Bowen.
The school stopped attaching Mr. Clinton’s name to the chair, and University of Arkansas Little Rock Chancellor Christina Drale told Mr. Rapert’s committee the school would not use that title in the future.
Since then, Mr. Steinbuch alleged, Ms. Beiner has targeted him for dubious reasons.
First came the denial of his and Mr. Silverstein’s application to teach the constitutional law class after Mr. DiPippa departs at the end of this school year. By longstanding practice at Bowen, the two Jewish professors should be the first choice, according to a memo Mr. Silverstein sent to the faculty in April that was shared with The Times.
Mr. Silverstein said that in addition to being the first Jews who would teach such a key class of a law student’s education, Mr. Steinbuch also offers intellectual diversity.
“Rob is a conservative and he would bring ideological diversity to the teaching of Constitutional Law at our institutions,” Mr. Silverstein wrote. “There is likely no law school subject where ideological diversity among teachers is more important.”
For 20 years, Mr. Steinbuch said he has arranged to have federal judges as guest lecturers to his classes during the Jewish high holy days and had done so for decades without remark.
In addition, it is common practice at Bowen Law School for faculty to arrange guest lectures for classes they are not able to teach for a variety of reasons, Mr. Steinbuch said. Consequently, his move in September is in line with university policy while also being protected by the First Amendment.
“Although I have worked with Dean Beiner for over two years, she claimed to be unaware that as a Jew who observes High Holy Days, I’ve never come to class during High Holy Days,” Mr. Steinbuch’s complaint said. “That’s remarkable.”
Despite the ongoing turmoil at Bowen, Mr. Steinbuch said nothing has interfered with his teaching. Although his complaint advised the school it should “consult with counsel,” a complaint to federal agencies or a lawsuit can come only after the university adjudicates his complaint, he said.
All were steps he vowed to take Monday.
“I do my thing and I’ll continue to do my thing,” he said. “They’re not going to intimidate me out of doing my job. But clearly she is operating outside the law and I intend to pursue all my options under the law.”
• James Varney can be reached at email@example.com.
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