Anger as Brett Kavanaugh hired to teach course at UK branch of US university

‘As a survivor of sexual assault, this decision has really impacted me negatively,’ says student

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Wednesday 10 April 2019 14:47
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A student group of sexual assault survivors and campaigners created a petition and began holding protests against Mr Kavanagh’s hiring
A student group of sexual assault survivors and campaigners created a petition and began holding protests against Mr Kavanagh’s hiring

An American university has faced fierce criticism for hiring controversial US Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh to teach a course in the UK.

Mr Kavanaugh, whose confirmation proceedings were roiled by allegations of decades-old sexual assault, has been hired by George Mason University to teach a course on the US constitution.

It is scheduled to be held in Runnymede in Surrey where the Magna Carta was sealed in 1215 and where George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School is located.

The 54-year-old will be teaching the course with Jennifer Mascott, one of his former clerks on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit who is an assistant professor of law at George Mason.

Ms Mascott came to Mr Kavanaugh’s defence when his nomination was threatened last year by allegations of sexual misconduct, which he vehemently denied.

“He has acted with the utmost character and integrity,” she told PBS NewsHour in September.

Survivors of sexual assault protested against Mr Kavanaugh’s appointment after the news he had been hired emerged at the end of March in the university’s undergraduate newspaper Fourth Estate.

Mason For Survivors, a student group of sexual assault survivors and campaigners, created a petition and started holding protests against Mr Kavanaugh’s hiring.

“There is a historic amount of institutional negligence on your part to support survivors of sexual assault and the student body as a whole,” reads a petition, which has garnered more than 4,000 signatures.

The petition, which is addressed to the administration of the university, called for it to “Terminate AND void ALL contracts and affiliation with Brett Kavanaugh at George Mason University.”

“As a survivor of sexual assault, this decision has really impacted me negatively,” one student said, according to a clip of a meeting last Wednesday with the university’s board of visitors.

“It has affected my mental health knowing that an abuser will be part of our faculty.”

George Mason University’s president Angel Cabrera said: “The law school has determined that the involvement of a US supreme court justice contributes to making our law programme uniquely valuable for our students.”

His statement added: “The decision, controversial as it may be, in no way affects the university’s ongoing efforts to eradicate sexual violence from our campus.”

Mr Kavanaugh taught a course about the Supreme Court at Harvard Law School for nearly a decade, but faced a similar backlash there.

Four students wrote an op-ed in the Harvard Law Record saying that an “opportunity to learn about the Supreme Court might not be equally available to women because many will self-select out of a class taught by a credibly accused sexual assailant”.

In October, Harvard announced Mr Kavanaugh, who was first nominated to the federal bench by former president George W Bush and to the country’s top court by current president Donald Trump, said he could no longer commit to teaching at the institution. This followed hundreds of Harvard students and alumni calling for the university to revoke the judge’s status as a lecturer.

Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings were beset by allegations of misconduct from three women, including California college professor Christine Blasey Ford, who testified to the committee that a drunken Mr Kavanaugh assaulted her while both were in high school. The judge has angrily denied all allegations.

Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation was delayed for a week to allow for a limited FBI investigation into Ms Ford’s allegations and those of another accuser. Republicans said interviews conducted by the FBI unearthed nothing to corroborate the claims, while Democrats said the probe was too narrow in scope to be illuminating.

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