Jack Weiss, head of the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, is stepping down as law chancellor and dean in August in the wake of conflicts with faculty, some of whom had advocated for his ouster.
“I am proud of the many positive developments at the Law Center during my eight years as chancellor and look forward to submitting the progress of the Law Center during those years to the judgment of history,” Weiss said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, however, major policy differences with a vocal segment of the faculty have made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to continue to lead the Law Center on a day-to-day basis and to implement my vision for the Law Center’s future.”
Weiss, who was out of the country Friday, said in an email he’s heard that a small number of faculty gathered signatures on a document expressing disapproval with him and submitted it to LSU’s provost in May. But he said he’s neither seen the document nor heard specifically what claims those faculty members made against him.
“The entire process took place behind my back without a single faculty member ever seeking to discuss his or her dissatisfaction directly with me,” Weiss said. It was “the adversarial environment the process exemplified,” he said, and not “the unseen document itself” or any claims against him, that made him want to step down.
Some spoke up Friday in support of Weiss, including S. Gene Fendler, president of the LSU Law Alumni Board of Trustees, who wrote in a statement: “Always optimistic, always pleasant, always available, the chancellor’s resignation will leave an emptiness that will long be felt at the Law Center by those who care for him and his methods and will soon be realized by those whose actions precipitated his departure as chancellor.”
Prior to joining LSU’s Law Center, Weiss was one of the nation’s leading First Amendment attorneys. He represented The Wall Street Journal for nine years and before that The Times-Picayune. One of his best-known Louisiana cases forced the disclosure of records showing that Louisiana legislators were using a little-known privilege to award Tulane scholarships to their relatives and friends.
Weiss will return to the law faculty, according to a press release issued by an LSU spokesman, which listed the following as his key differences with the faculty: “his strong support for the reunification of the Law Center with LSU; his leadership in fostering the creation of an outstanding program in Energy Law at the Law Center; and his consistent advocacy of eliminating burdensome upperclass course requirements in order to maximize student choice and opportunities for law students to focus on specific areas of legal study.”
The purported document seeking Weiss’ removal didn’t immediately surface in a formal records request filed on Wednesday by Kyle Alagood, a 2015 graduate of LSU’s Law Center.
Lloyd Lunceford, an attorney representing LSU, said in an email that a search for the document hadn’t turned up anything but will resume after the weekend.
Alagood said it’s no coincidence his request — which would have made public a desire by some faculty for Weiss to leave — came just two days before Weiss’ departure announcement.
Weiss and Lunceford denied a connection.
One complaint against Weiss includes a faculty member’s allegation that he retaliated against her for filing a sexual misconduct complaint against a colleague. Alagood, meanwhile, charged that Weiss pressured the student newspaper after it ran an article about a perceived lack of diversity at the Law Center.
Weiss denied both claims.
Elizabeth Carter, an LSU law professor who said she’s speaking only in her personal capacity, said she filed a complaint about sexually inappropriate comments made by a colleague.
While she couldn’t elaborate more on her complaint — she’s abiding by a confidentiality agreement she also contests — Carter said in an email that Weiss retaliated against her for filing the claim, even after the accused party “immediately admitted wrongdoing and agreed to an acceptable resolution.”
“Chancellor Weiss has used intimidation, harassment, confusion, denial of rights to participate, and other unjustified and unlawful conduct in an effort to prevent me from raising concerns I have regarding the Law Center’s commitment to diversity and compliance with applicable law and policy,” she wrote, adding his actions have “prevented other people — and women in particular — from filing Title IX or comparable complaints out of fear of retaliation or non-action by Chancellor Weiss.”
Weiss denied engaging in retaliation, “or any other form of illegal gender-based activity,” adding he couldn’t comment further on Carter’s statements because of the school’s confidentiality policies around such filings.
Alagood said Weiss put pressure on The Daily Reveille’s editor to write a front-page column apologizing for the lack of rigor in articles the student newspaper published last year claiming the Law Center had problems with diversity and inclusion.
Emails provided to The Advocate show Weiss asked The Reveille’s then-editor, Chandler Rome, to “confirm” Weiss would be able to see the notes or recordings of the reporter who wrote the disputed articles, saying, “There is no conceivable privilege that protects those materials.”
After Rome’s column was published, Weiss wrote him again about the articles that he wanted corrected: “The web link is out of sync with your column and should state very plainly that each article (to use your word) erroneously portrays the Law Center … the link should begin with ‘Correction’ or ‘Retraction’ or at a bare minimum, ‘Error.’ ”
Rome denied the request but wrote an editor’s note.
Rome, who graduated this year, said he stands by his column, saying the stories on lack of diversity failed to seek both sides. He says his dealings with Weiss were always cordial.
“I’d never dealt with a lawyer of that prestige, if you will. (My advisers) helped me out with how I should approach it, what I should say, how I should get it done, and they were very helpful. Both of them agreed with how I handled the situation was how it should be handled,” he said.
Weiss responded there was nothing inappropriate about his dealings with the paper and it was his obligation to make sure erroneous articles were corrected.
Weiss, a national media law authority and Louisiana native, was named chancellor of the Law Center in May 2007. He’s only the 10th person in the Law Center’s more than 100-year history to serve as its dean or chancellor.