This morning, the Washington (Com)Post published an op-ed arguing, laughably, that George Mason University is right to rename its law school after Antonin Scalia. The key arguments are…oh hell, what arguments? All this thing does is talk about how Scalia was nice to the authors (he “treated us with dignity and respect”) and that Scalia “had a profound effect on American constitutional law and legal advocacy.” OK, case closed, I’m convinced: rename GMU Law School after this guy! Heh.
Seriously, though, this op-ed is super-thin gruel. I was curious what readers thought of it, so I checked the top-rated comments. Here’s a sampling, more or less in agreement with my views on this issue (bolding added by me for emphasis):
Top-rated comment: “Scalia was an arrogant, mean-spirited homophobe. No law school should memorialize this bad man.”
Third-top-rated comment: “In my opinion the important issue is not whether Scalia deserves to have a law school named after him, The issue is a public school allowing massively wealthy ideological propagandists to buy the name of the law school to promote their political agenda, There is no evidence that a rational judgment by the university of Scalia’s qualifications had anything to do with this. It was clearly a decision made by the school to get money from the likes of the Koch bros. I would feel the same way if some leftists were paying millions to buy a law school name to promote their agenda.”
(Note on that previous comment; imagine if George Soros offered $100 million or whatever to UVA, as long as they renamed themselves “George Soros University?” Can you imagine the reaction?)
Scalia claimed ‘I attack ideas, I don’t attack people’.
So in his 1996 dissent in Romer v. Evans, where he compared gay people to murderers, polygamists and people who were cruel to animals, he wasn’t “attacking people”, but only “attacking ideas.”
What about his speech at Georgetown where he compared gay people to “pederasts” and “child abusers.”? What idea was that attacking?
GMU has the right to name their law school whatever they want. But if they decide to use the name of a bitter bigot like Scalia, they should not be surprised to find out in future years that the brightest potential students, who prefer an education of open-mindedness and respect for others, will avoid them, and their student body will increasingly become the domain of a narrow right wing segment of the population that seeks an ideologically narrow education.
There is a reason there are no law schools named after Roger Taney (Chief Justice in the Dred Scott case). While he was, like Scalia, widely viewed as a brilliant legal mind and very influential jurist. But his decision in that case, along with his other pro-slavery views, mean that no university wants to stick his name on their law school.
At the very least, perhaps GMU should wait a few years before rushing into attaching themselves to the Scalia name — maybe they’ll find that, with time, his legacy will be a lot less appealing than they find it now.
And one more: “Please. None of this would’ve have happened had there not been that multi-million dollar check.”
Anyway, at the very minimum, Virginia authorities and legislators need to look into this carefully, figure out if this is proper for a state-funded Virginia university, and decide whether they want this to be a precedent that is followed going forward, whether the wealthy donors who want Virginia colleges/universities named for them are liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, communist, fascist, whatever.