Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Firing of Don Guter

12/11/2008—The rest of the world is unaware that here at Duquesne University School of Law, the Dean, Don Guter, was summarily fired yesterday. No reason was given. Dean Guter did not deserve to be fired. The law school is doing very well on his watch and there is no unmentioned scandal going on. President Dougherty just wanted his own person in as dean. Guter was too independent in his judgment. This is not big news. Things like this happen all the time.

But this is a Catholic Law School. Not only that, but we hear all the time about Duquesne’s “mission”, to serve God by serving students.

I make the point in the book Hallowed Secularism that one of the reasons for rising secularism is that religious institutions do not behave as well as secular ones. That is not always true, but it is true here at Duquesne. When it happens, religion itself suffers. Religion is made to look ridiculous in the eyes of the non-religious world.

Karl Barth once said there is the church of Esau and the church of Jacob. There is the man-made church institution and then there is the representative of the holy spirit--verily God’s representative on earth. It isn’t fair to expect religious institutions to be better than human beings tend to be.

That is true but it is not the point. I would like to see the representatives of Our Religions under the weight of representing God. I would like to see them always asking themselves, what will the nonreligious think if we do a certain questionable thing? This is the way that Jews used to ask, what will the goyim think?

I wish President Dougherty had said to himself before he acted, I had better be especially sure and especially just, because not just my reputation will suffer if I am wrong. Nor just the reputation of Duquesne University. But God’s reputation will suffer. And it has.


  1. Too "independent in his thinking"? Is the Law School promoting that its students should not practice just such a degree of independent thinking? Isn't studying simply a process of questioning? And is that not the ground from which all scholarship grows? And isn't the promotion of scholarship the exact purpose President Dougherty has provided for Dean Guter's removal? Yet, President Dougherty actively dismantles any rational method of achieving that which he claims to be working towards.

    I appreciated your last blog very much for its genuine content. Yet, I am still lost. When, we, as students, or, we, as teachers, or we as people, stop questioning each other and when we stop questioning the world in which we live, and cease to think independently, and simply resign ourselves to be followers, that is when we can be sure our scholarship is in question. That is when we can be sure our leadership is questionable.

    Certainly no one is holding, Duquesne, as a religious institution, to a higher standard than it might hold any other private or state University. There is, however, a minimum standard. Given that, when a superior strikes down with such an irrational and arbitrary fist we simply must respond and stand up and question.

    And, Prof., let me just say, your test this morning was not easy.

  2. I just came across your blog when googling Don Guter's name. I wanted to thank you for your public defense of Don Guter, who is one of the most honorable men and admirable lawyers with whom I have ever had the privilege and pleasure of dealing. He was a wonderful role model for the law students as a lawyer, an administrator and an ethical human being.

    As you well know, he could have taken a far more lucrative legal job following his retirement from the military. It was a gift to Duquesne Law that he agreed to serve as Dean. His work on behalf of habeas corpus and rule of law is inspiring. How foolish of the Duquesne president to fire a man of this caliber, particularly following the election of Obama. Obama signed 3 executive orders, closing Gitmo and governing treatment of detainees. To his right was VP Biden, to his left - in a place of honor, was Admiral Guter. Obama gratefully acknowledged the work Guter and the other flag rank retired military had done to educate leading politicians and push for these orders.

    Video of this event was rebroadcast around the world. Just today, Don Guter was interviewed on this subject on PBS. Think of the honor which would have reflected on Duquesne Law School, both nationally and internationally, to have this man identified as its Dean. Obama is frequently referred to by international leaders and media as the most powerful man in the world. Think of the influence & assistance Dean Guter could have provided to students in terms of federal summer internships, and to alumni in terms of federal jobs. Think of the benefit to all alumni if the Law School attained national, as opposed to regional, stature. At this point, who would agree to be the new Dean? Only someone with so little self-respect or intellectual integrity they would be willing to serve under the thumb of the current Duquesne president.

  3. Professor Ledewitz,

    I am a former student of yours and a current member of the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps where I had the pleasure to twice serve under Admiral Guter. He was and remains my mentor and friend. I too thought the firing of him was unjust. I am well aware that the president did not like for him becuase Don Guter always tells you exactly what he believes. He will respectfully disagree with you, but never held it personally. The same could not be said for Charlie.

    In the spring of 2008, I attended an alumni function in San Diego. Despite knowing that there were two law school alums in attendance, President Dougherty did not mention any of the accomplishments at the law school. In hindsight, I have come to realize that Dougherty could not bring himself to appreciate anything the Admiral did. Sad.

    What has most amazed me during this process has been President Dougherty's reluctance to publicly defend his action. At first, he summarily fired the Dean as you stated before then sending out a PR representative to defend his actions when the blowback started. He did not feel any need to speak to the stakeholders such as the faculty, students or alumni, but sent the unaccountable board of directors to speak on his behalf. It was only after the students protested did he finally feel compelled to say something to the faculty, but then only in a memorandum. If it was truly the right thing to do, then he should be courageous enough to publicly say so.

    Dean Guter's firing is unfortunate forthe university, the law school, the alumni, faculty and students. Nonetheless, Dean Guter does not need the title to complete his life. His firing will forever say more about the president than it does about Dean Guter.


  4. Professor, great note on Don Guter, a truly great American who was the subject of some real nonsense here. As a Roman Catholic and a jurist I am ashamed of Duquesne.

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