Sunday, October 4, 2009
Paul Mahoney, Dean of the University of Virginia School of Law, shared with me the following statement regarding Professor Eskridge's allegation that he was denied tenure based on sexual orientation:
Professor Eskridge testified that he was denied tenure in 1985 because of his sexual orientation. He was not actually denied tenure, but was deferred for future consideration, a common procedure at the time. The faculty wished to see the fruits of his promising, but nascent, scholarly interest in legislation before granting tenure. His subsequent scholarship in that area was highly successful and influential, and he would certainly have received tenure at Virginia had he not resigned to accept a lateral offer from Georgetown.
People who were on our faculty at the time of these events deny that Professor Eskridge’s sexual orientation played any role. Many were unaware of it. And they emphatically deny the specific conversations Professor Eskridge recounts.
In my 19 years on the Virginia faculty, I have seen none of the prejudice that Professor Eskridge alleges. On the contrary, relations among straight, gay and lesbian professors have always been warm and supportive. Virginia prides itself on a friendly, collegial, welcoming environment and remains completely committed to equality, civility and mutual respect.
I will just add that Dean Mahoney's statement is consistent with what I have heard on various occasions from others familiar with the state of Professor Eskridge's scholarship at the time of the decision to defer. (I am agnostic on the allegations about anti-gay slurs and bias, since I have nothing to go on but the statements by Dean Mahoney and Professor Eskridge.)
UPDATE: David Lat ("Above the Law") has posted a reply from Professor Eskridge to Dean Mahoney's statement.