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The recent hiring of a constitutional law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School has touched off a contentious debate among students and staff who question the scholar’s ethics. At issue is a controversial 2002 memo to President George W. Bush about the military’s treatment of al-Queda detainees that the new hire, Professor Robert Delahunty, co-wrote. The former U.S. Department of Justice attorney’s memo concluded that al-Queda and Taliban prisoners were not entitled to the protection of international treaties or federal laws. He co-wrote the memo with John Yoo, another former Justice Department attorney who is now a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Critics claim that the memo ignored the Geneva Conventions and allowed for the mistreatment of prisoners. Nearly 200 students recently signed a petition asking the law school to reconsider Delahunty’s hiring. They discovered Delahunty’s link to the memo while researching him on the Internet. “There are questions concerning his ethics,” said Jon Taylor, one of several law school students who met with Delahunty and the school faculty recently to discuss their concerns. “The problem that I have is that when I was talking to him he seemed dismissive of concerns regarding the ethics of the memo. I was concerned that he didn’t think that there was a problem at all.” Reputation at risk? Taylor said that while he doesn’t believe Delahunty is going to be “a bad teacher,” he is concerned that his presence will tarnish the school’s image. “We don’t feel that this is good for the reputation of the school,” Taylor said. “What we’re getting . . . is someone who is known for writing a memo to the president with large negative implications. The memo was at best poorly written, and at worst, unethical.” Amy Bergquist, a third-year law student, expressed similar concerns. “I haven’t reached a conclusion that he has acted unethically,” Bergquist said. “But I’m saying that there are questions out there that seem to be legitimate concerns.” Delahunty, who is now a full-time law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, was unavailable for comment. Co-Dean Fred Morrison, who helped recruit and hire Delahunty, said there are no plans to fire Delahunty, who will teach constitutional law from January to April. Morrison noted that Delahunty was recruited under an accelerated hiring process to fill an emergency vacancy. He said that while he knew about the memo, he never linked Delahunty to it until students raised the issue. “My reaction was, ‘We have him on board now.’ He has a contract with us . . . and that is where we are,” Morrison said. Morrison explained that the law school hired Delahunty because he was local, experienced and available. “We do not hire or fire faculty on the basis of their ideology,” Morrison said. “The course he will be teaching does not contain anything related to the controversial memo.” As for the memo itself, Morrison said, “I think many people in the law school would disagree with the text of the memo.” In a faculty letter to the dean, nine law school professors blasted Delahunty’s hiring. “Hiring an individual like Richard Delahunty, whose credentials are tainted, places at risk not only the reputation of the Law School but also that of the law faculty and student body . . . .Mr. Delahunty’s role in the Torture Memos was not academic and we object to hiring someone of his credentials.” More than a dozen law professors were contacted for this story, but none returned phone calls.

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