“Justice Antonin Scalia could be caustic in his dissents, but he was also known for a sharp wit that often drew laughter from Supreme Court audiences” according to the New York Times. The paper conflated this wit with the likelihood that Scalia would be amused over the current controversy regarding George Mason University Law School’s decision to name the school the “Antonin Scalia School of Law.” The move is contentious because the name change is tethered to an alleged understanding between the donor of $30 million to the University, Charles Koch Foundation (and an anonymous donor), and the University’s tacit understanding that the foundation’s ideologies would feature prominently in the school’s academia.
Many faculty members and most of the law students queried about the name change are opposed to it. It is likely to go through anyway. Opposition to the change is rooted in the belief that the University loses academic freedom because the foundation yields too much control to people like the Kochs. We agree with this position and also think Scalia does not deserve to have any law school named after him for another reason: We believe he was not as smart as he has posthumously been given credit for, either on the court or during his many social interactions.
A single Supreme Court exchange between Scalia and Justice Blackmun illustrates our point. Justice Antonin Scalia, in response to Justice Blackmun’s claim that the death penalty was unconstitutional in a case, suggested that Blackmun had purposely selected a less graphic case to make his point and then referenced the Sabrina Buie tragedy, a particularly grisly murder and rape case of a little girl. Scalia, arguing for the death penalty, in that case, concluded his remarks by saying, “ . . . How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!” –Never mind the fact, that some years later, the man initially convicted was determined to be innocent. If Scalia felt so strongly that states should have the right to kill people, he should at least make sure the condemned person was guilty. You cannot be smart and think otherwise.
We agree that the University should not capitulate to the demands of the Koch foundation and the other unnamed donor. We recently wrote a book review on the subject. In “Dark Money”, author Jane Mayer provides a close look at how billionaires, wealthy industrialists, and their paid lapdogs have infested the political election process through highly organized and nefarious means. The centerpiece of the book focuses on Charles and David Koch, whose wealth is estimated to be 90 billion dollars. Working with other wealthy and similarly minded people, the Kochs have coyly amassed a spectacular network of Super PACS and other organizations that promote politicians who support the views of these rich people. Of primary importance to the membership of these groups is whether a particular piece of legislation negatively impacts the financial bottom line of the various corporate entities owned or controlled by them. They have infiltrated colleges by funding them with guarantees that the propaganda they espouse is taught in the institutions in a manner that is favorable to the agendas of their business concerns. They fight against employment, environmental and tax laws, or any other legislation that might reduce or threaten their profits. The author, Jane Mayer, painstakingly identifies the members and roles this growing number of neoconservatives are playing in the political field. Millions are spent in elections by their PACs and clandestinely named and shaped organizations to defeat candidates who they oppose. For the most part, they support Republicans who are part of the so-called establishment base of the party (Democrats have formed their PACs and organizations designed to do the same). This book educates you on all the players and groups on the political scene today and from the past. The University should distance themselves and not be bought by outside entities.