Appointment of Russ Feingold

The University has announced today that Russell D. Feingold will join us as Visiting Professor of Law. In addition to noting this announcement, I wish to elaborate briefly upon my decision to appoint Sen. Feingold.

Let me begin with his background. Sen. Feingold is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a former Rhodes Scholar, and an honors law graduate of both Oxford University and Harvard University. He practiced law for six years with two leading Wisconsin law firms, Foley & Lardner and LaFollette & Sinykin. Sen. Feingold served for ten years in the Wisconsin Senate and eighteen years in the United States Senate, with the latter service concluding earlier this week, after his loss in the November election. He is known for his studious approach to the complex issues before the United States Senate, and particularly before the Senate’s select committee on intelligence and committees on the budget, foreign relations, and the judiciary. Sen. Feingold’s expertise and experience in a range of important legal fields will provide the basis for an upper-level elective course, Current Legal Issues: The U.S. Senate, which he will teach in the spring semester at the Law School. In addition to his teaching, Sen. Feingold will be working on a book concerning issues of the day.

On topics ranging from financing of political campaigns to civil liberties in an age of international terrorism to America’s engagement in Afghanistan, Sen. Feingold has been forthright, thoughtful, and independent. While I do not doubt that some of his views are controversial, or, still less, suggest that all of them are right, an institution of legal education is especially well suited to explore multiple dimensions of such issues. Thus, I believe that Sen. Feingold is almost uniquely well-positioned to contribute to discussion of numerous legal issues at Marquette Law School, through both teaching and writing. This is especially so because, throughout my discussions with Sen. Feingold, I was impressed with the commitment and seriousness with which he approached the role of professor. I am grateful that he will be with us for a time. I hope that you will join me in welcoming Professor Feingold.

Joseph D. Kearney

Joseph D. Kearney has served as dean and professor of law at Marquette University Law School since 2003. He joined the faculty in 1997.

This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. Joseph D. Kearney

    Here is the course description for “Current Legal Issues: The U.S. Senate”

    This course will examine certain constitutional and other legal aspects of the role of the United States Senate, using various recent public issues or controversies as guides or points of departure. The first portion of the course will consider institutional-legitimacy issues facing the Senate, including the appointment of senators to fill vacancies and the practice of “lame duck” legislating, as well as the current intense disputes concerning Senate rules and procedures such as the filibuster and holds. This part of the course will also look at the Senate’s “conviction” role in the impeachment process. The second part of the course will explore how the Senate interfaces with the Constitution and the Supreme Court. It will examine how senators should regard the issue of constitutionality in voting on legislation, be it campaign-finance reform, internet decency, or health care. This part of the course will also consider how senators should approach proposed constitutional amendments. The final portion of the course will review the wide range of issues that have emerged in recent years regarding the constitutional relationship between the Senate and the Executive Branch, including the increasingly acrimonious issue of the standard to apply to executive appointments under the “advice and consent” power. Particular emphasis in this part of the course will be given to issues that have gained greater prominence since 9/11, including the relationship between enacted, constitutional legislation and the presidential assertion of Article II powers, as well as the Senate’s abdication of its Article I war-declaration power.

  2. Ed Fallone

    I wish to extend a warm welcome to Senator Feingold as he joins Marquette University Law School. He has an unquestioned reputation for thoughtfulness and integrity. As for whether some of his positions as a Senator were controversial, I can only quote William Hazlitt: “When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.”

  3. Jason Keener

    As a former Marquette student, I am extremely disappointed that Marquette Law School has offered Senator Russ Feingold a position on its faculty. Senator Feingold is a notorious public supporter of a woman’s so-called “right” to have an abortion. Of course, the practice of abortion is a heinous act that is clearly against the natural moral law and divine positive law, as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. What sense does it make for a supposed Catholic law school like Marquette to give a platform and paycheck to someone like Senator Feingold who holds views that oppose both natural reason and the Catholic Faith?

    If Marquette Law continues down this path, I hope that Archbishop Listecki of Milwaukee will ask Marquette Law School to no longer call itself a Catholic law school.

    Please see this video about Senator Feingold’s extreme views on abortion:

    Also, for more information about a law school that respects the realities of the natural moral law and the divine positive law and their relationship to civil law, please visit this link:

  4. Michael S. Nolan

    Dean Kearney, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

  5. Steve C. First

    I can’t believe Marquette would bring in ex-Senator Feingold. The man has voted in favor for every bill for abortion. Shame on you.

  6. James A Spella

    I was disappointed to read that former Senator Russ Feingold was to teach at MU Law – especially if he is to be paid from university funds.

    Yes, it is a high profile engagement, and diversity of opinion both in thought and policy is among the missions of the school. But to seek out an individual who has voted consistently against the precepts of the Catholic Church rewards that person with an unwarranted association with MU.

  7. Gabriel Houghton

    The two comments expressing “disappointment” over Senator Feingold’s appointment puzzle me. They hardly seem Christian, and appear to eschew both common courtesy and charity for a rigid adherence to a certain line. Disagreements, conducted with respect and civility, not to mention attention to opposing points of view, not only spur learning, but their successful pursuit are essential to a law school trying to advance. The comments, however, suggest shunning Feingold instead of engaging him on the issues in a meaningful way. Though I appreciate the passion and committment to the teachings of the Catholic Church informing the comments, I cannot agree that withholding Feingold’s appointment on the basis of his contradictory views is tenable. In any event, if complete adherence to Church principles is the standard for association with Marquette University, how many instructors, I wonder, are safe in their posts?

  8. Judith Stadler

    Dean Kearney is very wise to make such an enlightened appointment. Marquette Law School students could not find anyone better to help them understand civil liberties, Senate versus Executive Branch conflicts, and political campaign issues. Senator Feingold is a true expert on the Constitution. As the mother, sister, and spouse of Marquette graduates, I salute you on your choice.

  9. Nancy S. Morris

    Law schools that require a single way of thinking do exist. Thankfully, Dean Kearney welcomes different viewpoints and promotes civil discourse. To my mind, mistrust of outsiders merely bespeaks institutional weakness.

  10. Nathan Petrashek

    Those opposed to the former Senator’s appointment ignore the valuable expertise he has acquired in his lengthy public service. Although I can’t say we fall on the same side of the fence politically, my impression has always been that he is thoughtful and dedicated. He has much to offer Marquette Law, and the Milwaukee legal community is fortunate to have him. Welcome to Marquette, Prof. Feingold.

  11. Jason Keener

    A person’s support for some things is so evil that it automatically renders them totally unfit to serve as a Senator or a law professor. I would say that notorious public support for abortion rights is one such evil that outweighs any other possible benefits that Senator Feingold could bring to Marquette Law.

    Also, sometimes a single way of thinking is the best way of thinking because some things are very clear. Some things are either true or false, right or wrong. Moreover, would Marquette University hire math professors who did not understand basic algebra? Would Marquette University tolerate nursing professors who did not understand basic anatomy? Why then would Marquette Law hire someone like Senator Feingold who doesn’t even know that killing innocent children in the womb is wrong?

    It is quite interesting to see the evils some of you are willing to overlook to have some big name Senator come and teach at Marquette.

  12. David Rose

    Welcome aboard Senator Feingold! And well done Dean Kearney! I wish I could come back and take the class! I remember well when Senator Feingold came to MULS as a guest speaker in the late 90s and how well received he was by the entire MULS community. The State of Wisconsin’s loss of such a progressive and reasonable representative in the Senate is MULS’s gain!

    David Rose ’98

  13. Mathew D. Pauley

    As a MULS grad, I wish to proudly add my voice to the chorus of welcome to Senator Feingold. I am greatly saddened by his loss in November as well as saddened that I will not be able to participate in what will undoubtedly be a wonderful class.

    In addition to being a Marquette Lawyer, I also consider myself a proud student of the school’s dispute resolution programs (both in the Law and Graduate schools). In that vein, I would encourage reading about the Public Conversations Project’s work on the abortion issue:

    Oh, and I wrote a Haiku:

    Conversations, Yay
    Demonizing Others, Boo
    MULS Understands That

  14. Andrew Golden

    Also, sometimes a single way of thinking is the best way of thinking because some things are very clear. Some things are either true or false, right or wrong. […] Why then would Marquette Law hire someone like Senator Feingold who doesn’t even know that killing innocent children in the womb is wrong?

    You do realize that not everyone who attends/attended Marquette Law School is Catholic, right? I mean, unless I missed the part of the application that demanded my certificate of baptism. Personally, I’m a proud alumnus of Marquette, and I completely disagree with your characterization of your opposition to abortion as “very clear.” Are you going to demand I return my J.D.?

    I’m not saying I see eye to eye with Senator Feingold on everything, but don’t you think it’s a little disingenuous to take this kind of stand now? I don’t recall you protesting the appointment of any number of faculty members who openly and actively practice the Jewish faith, some tenets of which (such as, I don’t know, not accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior) clash with the tenets of the Catholic church.

  15. Jason Keener

    Andrew Golden,

    I have no problem with any person teaching at Marquette Law School as long as that person respects basic norms of morality, especially if they are a public figure like Senator Feingold who could easily scandalize others. Marquette would never hire a notorious public supporter of racism, but then why will Marquette hire a public supporter of abortion rights? Isn’t the direct killing of innocent human beings in the womb even worse than the evil of racism?

    I also have no problem with a non-Catholic professor teaching at Marquette as long as that professor respects the teachings of Catholicism and does not try to oppose the Catholic Faith with their own religious ideas. After all, Marquette is a Catholic law school. I believe that if people do not want to teach and study law along the lines of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, they should look into other law programs. Why should Marquette Law, a Catholic school, be expected to put on an equal level non-Catholic ideas about law and Catholic ideas about law?

  16. Gordon Shea

    Under the logic that “a supposed Catholic law school like Marquette” should not “give a platform and paycheck to someone…who holds views that oppose both natural reason and the Catholic Faith,” Marquette, and all Catholic-affiliated law schools would need to eliminate family law from the curriculum — since divorce is a central topic of such classes (and today gay marriage, gay adoption, etc. likely are as well).

    I imagine that while Sen. Feingold’s public position on abortion may not jibe with that of the Church, his positions on the death penalty and some of America’s recent wars (which, at least arguably & in some cases likely, do not meet Catholic criteria for “just wars”) will be quite at home at Marquette. Abortion is not the only issue of concern to the Church.

    Regrettably or not, “the natural moral law and divine positive law” are not part of civil law, and civil law is what all law schools – whether Marquette, Notre Dame, Harvard, the University of Wisconsin, Yale, etc. – must teach in order to be acreditted by bar authorities and allow their students to take bar exams and/or be admitted to pratice law.

  17. Walter Bond

    @Jason Keener

    If you think Senator Feingold’s opinions on abortion (which we’ve already established are very different than yours) are in any way analogous to mathematicians not knowing basic math or nurses not knowing anatomy, then I’m ashamed to say that we attended the same institution of higher learning.

    It’s great that you’re so passionate about what you believe in, but your passion is obstructing your logic. It’s possible, and even ok, for people to hold beliefs different than yours, and for people with starkly different beliefs to share the same space and platform for dialogue.

  18. Jason Keener

    Gordon Shea,

    It is true that the natural moral law and divine positive law are not identical to civil law, but civil law must respect the basic truths of the natural moral law and divine positive law, as interpreted by the Catholic Church. This is true because the authority of the civil government, who drafts civil laws, and the authority of the Catholic Church, who expounds and interprets divine law, both have authority that derives from the same God. Of course, God cannot contradict Himself. A civil law can never be a good law if it contradicts the reasonableness of the natural moral law built into man’s basic nature by God or the divine positive law as revealed supernaturally by God through Christ and the Catholic Church.

    Pope John Paul II did teach that Catholic civil lawyers [or anyone else] should not take on divorce cases and should instead help couples to reconcile (Address of Pope John Paul II to the Roman Rota on Jan. 28, 2002). This makes sense because a civil lawyer has no authority to help break up a marriage, an institution that God has said is indissoluble in its nature through the natural moral law and the divine positive law.

    In short, all of Reality hangs together because the same God has created everything.

  19. Jason Keener

    Walter Bond,

    I do not think that my reasoning is off. Professors should understand the fundamental realities of their field of study; therefore, a math professor should understand the fundamentals of algebra. A nursing professor should understand the fundamentals of anatomy. A law professor, like Senator Feingold, should understand the basics of law and that it makes no sense for a Senator or law professor to support laws for civil abortion rights when no woman has a moral right to kill an innocent person in the womb. It is a basic fact of law and of reality that for civil laws to be good, they must be in accord with the natural moral law (right reason) and divine positive law.

    I also believe that it is perfectly ok for people to hold different beliefs. That does not mean Marquette Law, a Catholic school, has to place Catholic ideas about law and non-Catholic ideas about law on the same footing.

    In the end, an idea is either true or false. Not all religious beliefs and ideas are true. Our discussions must not simply be a pleasant exchange of ideas but a search for what the truth of things really is so that we can conform our lives to reality. If we believe that we cannot discover truth, then we have a major problem of philosophy, not just a problem of law.

    Take care!

  20. Andrew Golden

    I have no problem with any person teaching at Marquette Law School as long as that person respects basic norms of morality . . . I also have no problem with a non-Catholic professor teaching at Marquette as long as that professor respects the teachings of Catholicism and does not try to oppose the Catholic Faith with their own religious idea.

    That’s terrific. Now please cite where in this blog entry or in the course description it mentions anything about Senator Feingold teaching about abortion. As it doesn’t, with all due respect, my initial point stands: it’s hypocritical to attack Feingold’s appointment to the law school faculty when you didn’t attack the appointment of non-Catholic faculty members. Again, you can argue that if you asked Senator Feingold his position on abortion, you’d get exactly the answer you would expect, but, again, if you asked all of the members of the faculty if they believed in Christ as the Son of G-d, you would likely get several who would say they did not, and I’m fairly certain if I dug hard enough I could find some public evidence of their espousal of that or some action signifying that. But I’m not going to try, because you can find anything “bad” about anyone if you dig enough.

    In the end, an idea is either true or false. Not all religious beliefs and ideas are true. Our discussions must not simply be a pleasant exchange of ideas but a search for what the truth of things really is so that we can conform our lives to reality. If we believe that we cannot discover truth, then we have a major problem of philosophy, not just a problem of law.

    You didn’t direct this to me, but I’m going to respond to it anyway. You argue that we must “search for what the truth of things really is so that we conform our lives to reality.” Well, were I to use your train of thought against you, I could just as easily argue that your position on abortion is not true or correct, and that the reality is that abortion is perfectly valid and legitimate. After all, you base your position off of a religious leader who holds no authority over me, whose positions come from a Bible for which the bulk of text is based off of a premise (Jesus as Lord and Savior) for which there is no scientific evidence supporting it. Ergo, as the foundation is invalid, the position is too. But I would be as narrow-viewed as I am claiming you are if I did that, and so I do not.

    I’ll leave you with this thought: you claim that those who don’t want to study law from a Catholic bent shouldn’t be at Marquette Law. Were that an acceptable position, why do you suppose Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Baptists, etc. are not prohibited from attending? Are you suggesting that the administration cares more about money than about faith? Because I’m willing to wager there are any number of staff at the law school who would disagree with you quite heartily on that.

  21. Andrew Spillane

    I too will add myself to the long list of persons happily addressing Russ Feingold as “Professor Feingold.” I will freely admit that I am no fan of his views on abortion and on other policy issues. You might even say my vote for Ron Johnson last November is partly responsible for landing him this teaching position!

    But please keep this in mind: He is not teaching a class on bioethics, theology, or metaphysics. If abortion comes up at all in his U.S. Senate class, it will likely be of only circumstantial moment in describing the processes and framework of the Senate, an institution with which he has become intimately acquainted. Who better to teach this class than a Senate veteran that has been working there in the trenches for years?

    A very warm welcome to Marquette, Professor Feingold.

  22. Barbara Gosch

    Congratulations on the addition of former Sen. Russ Feingold to your teaching staff. I’m confident students will feel honored to have such an outstanding scholar and statesman join your faculty. Since I have been a member of an academic community for much of my life (upon reading his credentials and your course description) it’s only a matter of time before Harvard, Princeton, or Stanford, will want to hire him. How fortunate for your university and our state that we still have him here.

  23. Jason Keener

    Hi, Andrew Golden.

    In some sense, it makes no difference whether or not Senator Feingold is going to teach about the issue of abortion in his class. By the very fact that Senator Feingold has been a notorious PUBLIC supporter of something as evil as abortion is what renders him unfit for holding any kind of position of power or prestige in society or on a law school faculty. You would never be ok with Marquette hiring a professor who is a well-known PUBLIC supporter of evils such racism, child abuse, or the killing of mentally ill people. Why then do you have no problem with someone like Senator Feingold teaching at Marquette when Feingold is a well-known PUBLIC supporter of something as evil as abortion, which involves the killing of innocent human beings in the womb? I have no problem with any of the other faculty members at Marquette Law because, to my knowledge, none of them are well-known public figures who have PUBLICALLY shown their support for evils such as abortion, racism, or any other such evils. None of the other members of the law faculty, through their public support of abortion, have scandalized and misled other members of society into thinking that abortion is somehow ok. No other members of the law faculty, through their public support of abortion, are confusing Catholics who might now wonder if the Church has changed her stance on abortion because Marquette, a Catholic school, has hired a PUBLIC and well-known supporter of abortion rights.

    Also, in the case of Senator Feingold, one must also question how competent he is to be teaching anything having to do with law when he is so wrong on such a basic issue of law and morality like abortion rights. I would hope that Marquette Law would not ordinarily hire faculty members who show major gaps in their knowledge of civil law and how it relates to the natural moral law and divine positive law.


  24. Jason Keener

    Hi, Andrew Golden.


    It seems possible to me that you do not consider abortion to be as evil as some people do, and that might also be the cause of our difference in opinion. Have you seen the pictures of aborted children? Have you read the philosophical arguments against abortion and how abortion involves the killing of a human person? Please take a look at this article by philosophy professor Peter Kreeft:

    You are right. Abortion is either wrong or right. I believe the scientific, philosophical, and religious evidence points strongly in the direction that abortion is a serious evil. Moreover, even if we could not tell for sure if abortion is right or wrong, it would be wrong to support abortion because a basic principle of ethics is that you should not act on a doubtful conscience. Just the possibility that abortion MIGHT involve the killing of an innocent human person is enough to render its practice and support evil.

    I do not see anything wrong with Jews, Muslims, Protestants, and others attending Marquette Law as long as they are willing to accept the Catholic view of law, although I do wonder if Marquette Law is actually promoting a Catholic view of law these days. That is fine. Just do not call yourself a Catholic law school then. I believe in truth in advertising. 🙂

    You are also right that some of my opposition to abortion comes from my Catholic Faith. Not only is abortion against good reason, but I believe that the Catholic Church has confirmed the evil nature of abortion through its divinely-appointed teachers. You may not believe the Catholic Church is God’s true Church. I believe that it is and that the evidence is strong for that belief. For more information about the truth of the Catholic Faith, please see any books on Catholic Apologetics like Peter Kreeft’s “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics,” which is available at the Raynor Library. You might also enjoy this series of YouTube videos on Catholic Apologetics.

    Take care!

  25. Thomas Epstein

    Were Marquette a secular university, this would not be an issue; however, it is indeed a Catholic institution. This appointment mocks the teaching authority of the same Church from which the university derives its original mandate to educate.

    The honor of professorship (“visiting” or otherwise) bestowed upon a high-profile individual who openly opposes and actively seeks by legislation to thwart essential Catholic moral teaching regarding the sanctity of human life is inappropriate for a Catholic Law School.

    At its very best, adding Senator Feingold to Marquette’s professorial cadre tacitly endorses on-demand “removal” of inconvenient life and the unnecessary creation and sacrifice of human embryos for stem-cell harvest in support of medical research that can be (and is) done better and yielding more promising results using non-embryonic stem cells.

    To any official of a genuinely Catholic institution, the decision not to endorse blatant supporters of anti-life programs having the force law and public funding ought to be a figurative “No-brainer.” Alas that “No-brainer” seems to be applied literally in this instance.

  26. Marilyn Gallagher

    I believe that a Catholic college (University) should have differing opinions available or discussed but this needs to be within the context of Catholic teachings as this is what makes a Catholic colleg Catholic. This can best be achieved by inviting a speaker not hiring fulltime professor to the staff.

  27. Jeri McCarty

    I am a MU graduate as is my sister and brother. We are deeply saddened and ashamed that MU law school Dean Joseph Kearney would give ex-senator Feingold a professorship and platform knowing his voting record on abortion.
    Once again Catholic higher education has shown the world that they have no respect for life and the teaching of Jesus Christ.

  28. Jessica E. Slavin

    What a terrific opportunity for the law school, to have Senator Feingold teaching our students about current legal issues in the United States Senate.

    And what a wonderful opportunity here in the blog comments, for our institution to showcase the “democratic spirit” that is (in my view) one of the best possible lessons of a legal education. My students will be familiar with the concept from David Foster Wallace’s essay on “Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage.” Here is the key passage:

    “A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e., passionate conviction plus sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a very difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a D.S.’s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity — you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually.

    This kind of stuff is advanced U.S. citizenship.”

    The university, on the “Our Mission” page of the Marquette website, states that its vision “is to provide a Catholic, Jesuit education that is genuinely transformational, so that our students graduate not simply better educated but better people, and to do so with such excellence that when asked to name the three or four best Catholic universities in America, people will include Marquette as a matter of course.” Setting aside one believes about Senator Feingold’s positions on abortion, it seems clear that the Senator’s presence and teaching here at the law school is a step toward fulfilling that vision. A university where Senator Feingold would be barred from teaching a course has little hope of being a top university in America.

  29. Michael Robiolio

    Marquette says “I am a Catholic University.” The identity as Catholic should equate with obedience to the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II’s Ex corde Ecclesiae, stipulates:

    “All teachers and administrators, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least to respect, that identity.”

    It would be a hard contradiction for a person with Sen. Feingold’s Public positions to fulfill that criteria reliably when for greater than 20 years he has publically promoted legal positions opposite to that faith on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and homosexual marriage (nondebateable positions within the Church)– to list a few. If he wants to reverse his prior positions publically then great!! The fact that there might be other Professors, less well known, who oppose the Church, is not an argument contrary.

    Universities teach impressionable students. Students need not be Catholic, but if they chose to attend a Catholic school, they should not expect to be taught ANYTHING contrary to Catholic Truth. For as any Catholic (should)knows, Catholic Truth = Truth. If you believe otherwise, you are not truly Catholic.

    Not all lessons are direct. Even if a professor is not teaching on abortion or similar issues, his or her deformed views can corrupt more subtley. Today’s students are not so well versed in Catholic teaching, its origins, and its rationality to resist moving to the wrong side. Many already are living and thinking and acting in contradiction to their claimed faith. How will that improve by increasing their exposure to professors who hold views opposing the Catholic faith?

    By the way, science is not the only way of finding truth. In fact, it is incapable of finding truth beyond the the physical realm, and often imperfect even within that realm. There is enough evidence historically, mixed with science (look at miraculous healings such as that of Pierre de Rudder and thousands of others that science cannot explain — read Healing Fire of Christ) throughout history to prove reasonably that Jesus is who He said He is. Most people just don’t look in to it or think about it enough.

    And of course we all recall the Gospels where Jesus welcomed the Pharisees, the scribes, and even the pagan idol worshippers, who had so much experience in religion, to be disciples and even Apostles to teach on the diversity of the faith….uh….oh, He didn’t, did he? Those he chose were committed to the faith. They were to go out into the world and teach that faith within the real world setting. Each and every Catholic University professor needs to be prepared to teach in conformity with the Catholic faith. For the NUMBER ONE goal of all Catholic entities (churches, organizations, universities, and individuals) is evangelization — working for God in getting souls to heaven.

  30. Andrew Spillane

    I have seen the “impressionable student” argument time and again, and I feel it demands a response. I am not accusing you of harboring this belief, but I get the feeling that such an argument suggests a lack of faith in students’ intellectual capacities and maturity. In the worst offending iterations, the argument borders on belittling and insulting.

    Sometimes, the “impressionable student” is caricatured as this lost unenlightened soul that will accept any and all information incoming. To some, even the presence of a professor holding conservative, liberal, libertarian, and other views seems to have a diffusive effect, as if students catch whatever they are thinking like the flu. If that is the state of legal education at Marquette, then its students are pitifully lacking in the critical thinking skills absolutely necessary to practice law.

    Thankfully, Marquette is not in such dire straits. As I have said time and again, Marquette is brimming with some of the most brilliant minds I have ever come across, and that statement applies to both the faculty and students. I have seen exemplary student scholarly writing in our law reviews. I have watched my classmates give jaw-dropping oral arguments (the Jenkins finals last year being a prime example). Especially given that many students entering the first years are in their mid- to upper-twenties and beyond, I find it exceedingly hard to believe that the presence of a pro-choice former Senator would change anyone’s views on a topic so public and controversial.

    Moreover, couldn’t it be to the Catholic tradition’s benefit to have faculty members espousing different views? No one can completely mature in their intellectual experience and in their faith in an echo chamber. There is no challenge in that. No trial. I say contrary points of view provide opportunities for critical thinking and find ways to fortify their beliefs. In litigation in particular, it is essential that students learn to hear their opposition talking, to remain confident in their own arguments, and to be able to pick opposing arguments apart in their minds to reaffirm the position those students support. I would think that the same holds true, perhaps even more true, with fundamental theological beliefs.

    And if, in students’ estimations at particular crossroads in their lives, they begin to drift away from their faith, then so be it. Let them make mistakes. Let them grow. Let them lead richer lives by learning from experience. And above all, let them practice that analytical process that is essential to resolving legal issues: exercising judgment.

    That is what we are here for, after all: to think like lawyers.

  31. Ron Faust

    “Once or twice a century an issue arises … so far-reaching in its consequences, and so deep in its foundations, that it calls every person to take a stand.” John T. Noonan

    Abortion is such an issue. This is a teachable moment. I pray that Marquette University is in the end wise enough to recognize the opportunity before them to teach that this is an issue about which there can be no compromise.

  32. Michael Robiolio

    On the contrary, I AM harboring this belief, but not to your caraciture from one extreme to the other (i.e. all critical thinkers to all who accept any information incoming). While some students are very critical and solid thinkers, most of us do form many impressions from those we respect. We also depend upon information received to form opinions critically, yet that too can be skewed by opinion.

    Professors by office (just as priests and bishops by office) command that respect. Students, and particularly young students, ARE more impressionable. I’ve seen this throughout my schooling and into my current medical profession. That does not mean that they accept everything on face value. Even the best minds can be mislead by enough misinformation. When a University hires a faculty member IT bestows a level of authority on that individual. When it hires multiple individuals with similar views at odds with its claimed world view, it becomes a house divided.

    If a university claims to be Catholic, then it reasons that it claims to be part of the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. As such it MUST accept the teachings of the Church. Those teachings ARE NOT DEBATABLE, therefore, there is NO REASON to invite others to debate those teachings. There are far more useful ways to devote time and energy to making those teachings clear, not confused!

  33. Gene Knaff

    I commend Marquette Law on this appointment. Senator Feingold is certainly most knowledgeable of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and their interpretation in light of current issues. As a product of Jesuit education I have valued its emphasis on human rights, individual development and on knowing the world, the culture around us. I encourage you to provide an opportunity for sharing his knowledge not only with the students but with the public.

  34. Rick Daniels

    I agree completely with Gabriel Houghton and Andrew Golden. It’s about the manner in which the professors conduct themselves and the way they teach, rather than further their own agendas that makes them valuable assets. The course Senator Feingold is teaching has nothing to do with these beliefs, and it would be unwise of Marquette to refuse the addition of such a valuable asset. I can only imagine the hissy fit some of you would throw if you knew that probably half the professors and students at MU are pro-choice; it’s not about that! It’s the education that is done at Marquette, that teaches the Church’s philosophical beliefs, that educates students in the Catholic teachings, not mandating acceptance to be a part of the community. I can tell you for a fact that I had an Ethics teacher who was pro-choice in his belief but still managed to defend the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas to perfection against an onslaught of student doubters…at the end of the day a lot of students probably did not change their views, but they understood why the Church has its viewpoints, what Catholic teaching is, and where it comes from. It’s talent like that Marquette needs to acquire and hold onto, and I have no doubt the Law school and its students will benefit from Senator Feingold’s teaching.

  35. Quinn Williams

    Dean Kearney,

    You have again scored a real victory for Marquette University Law School, in line with the new facility, Mike Gousha, and other moves designed to put MULS in the top-tier. I think it is fair to say based on the level of interest and discussion on the blog to date that Prof. Feingold’s selection will add a high level of debate and discourse to the law school, no matter which side of the issues you fall on. It is critical to allow for competing viewpoints to be shared and discussed in a marketplace of ideas. Other lawschools have neglected this to their peril, and I am glad to see that you continue to be willing to put Marquette in the forefront of critical thinking.

    Excellent acquisition, and once again thank you for your leadership. It is actions like this and those before it that continue to give me and my fellow alums great pride in our school.

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