A Suffolk Law professor lets school know he doesn’t care for care packages.
The disclaimer “we support our troops” has practically become obligatory for proclamations of opposition to U.S. wars. But a Boston law professor felt compelled to declare to students and colleagues that he supports neither the wars nor the troops fighting them.
Michael Avery, a professor of law at Suffolk University Law School, responded to an online solicitation for support for care packages for overseas servicemen by labeling them killers undeserving of sympathy.
“I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings,” Avery professed in an email sent on the eve of the Marine Corps’ birthday and two days before Veterans Day. “I understand that there is a residual sympathy for service members, perhaps engendered by support for troops in World War II, or perhaps from when there was a draft and people with few resources to resist were involuntarily sent to battle. That sympathy is not particularly rational in today’s world, however.”
In the five-paragraph mass email, Avery also counseled students, faculty, and administrators “to be more mindful of what message we are sending as a school” and questioned the presence of an enormous American flag in a campus atrium. “Why do we continue to have this oversized flag in our lobby?”
“Perhaps some of my colleagues will consider this to be an inappropriate political statement,” the law professor continued. “But of course the solicitation email was a political statement, although cast as support for student activities. The politics of that solicitation are that war is legitimate, perhaps inevitable, and that patriotic Americans should get behind our troops.”
Avery, a recipient of the since-discontinued bachelor of laws degree at Yale University whose education included a late-’60s stint at the University of Moscow, has been active in left-wing causes for more than four decades. He is a past president of the National Lawyers Guild, and his resume boasts of work at the ACLU Foundation and Yale University’s Political Justice Workshop.
A perusal of the several dozen pre-controversy entries for Avery on RateMyProfessors.com suggests that the lawyer’s political activism doesn’t stop at the lecture hall door. Next to describing him as “arrogant,” “narcissistic,” and “condescending,” students most commonly noted his politicization of the classroom. One former student observed that Avery “had a huge liberal bias. That was fine with me, but don’t take him if you are at all conservative.” Another noted that Avery “definitely injects his opinions into every class. You feel a little awkward disagreeing with his stance on issues.” Other posters noted that he “hates Pres Bush” and that his “politics are somewhere to the left of Abbie Hoffman.”
The email that sparked Avery’s outburst asked for donations for care packages, which generally include minor luxury items such as candy, dipping tobacco, baby wipes, and other products valued by deployed soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The proximity to Veterans Day, and the presence of a Suffolk student serving in Afghanistan, prompted a staffer at the school to make the online solicitation on behalf a “Packages for the Troops” program.
The brouhaha quickly moved beyond the downtown Boston school. Local television news, talk radio, and area websites pounced on the campus controversy, forcing administrators to respond.
The school’s dean stated his intention to send a care package. Without naming Avery, the school’s acting president affirmed the institution’s support of the military—and free speech. “Suffolk University Law School has been a leader in creating pathways for law graduates to enter careers in the military, including officers in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps,” acting president Barry Brown posted on the school’s website.
“We respect the right of our faculty members to exercise academic freedom and support all members of our community in speaking freely and expressing their opinions,” Brown explained. “A consequence of this open dialogue is the articulation of many points of view. As a diverse community, no one opinion or perspective is representative of the views of the whole community.”
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