August 8, 2008
The Proposed AALS Meeting Boycott: Much Ado About Something, But What?
Dave Hoffman thinks the proposed AALS boycott being promoted by the Legal Writing Institute, SALT, and several AALS sections, including the Section on Legal Writing Reasoning and Research, the Section on Teaching Methods, and the Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues, is "absurd" and a "depressing" spectacle. Reaction from Larry E. Ribstein's wife is "These people don’t have enough to do.” Brian Leiter is "always in favor of boycotting a meeting of the hopeless Association of American Law Schools" (for reasons stated here), and Paul Caron, who has never seen a blog post he didn't like to link to without reading, has gone ga-ga linking to blog posts covering the controversy. But, no need to read them all.
For an overview of the boycott, see Legal Writing Professors Take Leading Role in Protesting AALS Meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on Legal Writing Prof Blog. The best critiques are presented on Prawfsblawg at On Boycotts: Individuals, Groups, and Specialized Groups and Ideoblog at The AALS boycott. See also Law Professors to React to Threatened AALS Boycott on Legal Blog Watch.
The Issue. The AALS will be holding its annual meeting at the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt in January 2008. Groups supporting the boycott are upset with the hotel's owner, Douglas Manchester, because he has donated $125,000 to an initiative that is trying to put a constitutional amendment to ban now lawful same-sex marriage in California on the November ballot. The grounds for the protest, LWI, SALT and AALS policies of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Problem. The hotel does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Douglas Manchester, reported to be a devote Catholic, is using personal funds to promote a political cause. Whether you agree or disagree with his position, the last time I checked, the Constitution allows this.
I don't think I would go as far as Dave Hoffman has, writing that the proposed boycott "is an example of how the AALS becomes distracted by ideology instead of, say, tending to the business of improving law school education," but the boycott does go too far. If law profs want to protest Manchester's views, they can form a picket line outside the hotel and reserve their lodgings elsewhere.
The Forecast. My crystal ball says any boycott of AALS will fail. San Diego's weather is too nice to miss in January. [JH]
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