Belmont faculty sign letter aimed at Alberto Gonzales

Monday, October 17, 2011 at 3:30pm
By Steve Cavendish

Forty-five Belmont University faculty and staff have signed an open letter stating their opposition to torture and the death penalty, and in support of constitutional rights. 

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be very noteworthy. Belmont doesn't have a reputation for being a bastion of liberalism, despite cutting ties with the Baptist church almost four years ago, and these are hardly controversial positions in academic circles.

The timing of the letter, however, suggests something else: Welcome to Belmont, Alberto Gonzales.

The former attorney general under George W. Bush arrived on campus last week to be appointed the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair at the university's newly christened law school. With him comes the prestige of having a former head of the U.S. Justice Department and Texas Supreme Court member on the school's faculty. 

But it also carries some baggage.

Gonzales was a controversial figure for his role in constructing the administration's legal rationale for so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including sleep deprivation and waterboarding. He has also been criticized for his advice given regarding clemency considerations for death row prisoners while legal counsel to then-Texas Gov. Bush. Additionally, Gonzales stated during 2007 confirmation hearings that "there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution."

Even though Gonzales is never mentioned by name in the letter, all three of these topics formed the basis of the statement by the signatories, who pledged to "support opportunities to discuss the issues presented in this document." 

When contacted by The City Paper, multiple professors declined to comment on the record, saying that the statement spoke for itself.

In a statement on Monday, Provost Thomas Burns emphasized that the letter represented the personal opinions of those faculty members, adding, "We support the free exchange of ideas, encourage thoughtful and respectful discussion, and believe that it would be best to address such issues through conversation and dialogue."

Gonzales received a similar reception from faculty at Texas Tech University in 2009 when he began teaching political science classes. 

19 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 10/17/11 at 4:13

I was afraid that Belmont would except Gonzales without anyone speaking up. I now have more faith.

By: govskeptic on 10/18/11 at 5:45

The invasion of Belmont by the Politically Correct began several yrs ago and
is apparently picking up speed. This is certainly "not your father's or mother's"
Belmont any longer! What is the breakdown of faculty versus staff in this 45
signature I wonder?

By: Radix on 10/18/11 at 7:18

True GovSkeptic. It's sad. I would have loved to feel good about sending my kids there, but they moving toward into a University that teaches people what to think instead of how to think. Mainstream higher ed is just indoctrination now. Belmont used to be a hold out. Maybe Gonzales can help turn things around.

By: jonw on 10/18/11 at 7:33


+1 for govskeptic & Radix..
It is sad to see Belmont now becoming just another politically correct institution.

By: Pantos on 10/18/11 at 7:43

So is their beef that Gonzales didn't follow the guidelines
God laid down in scripture, or are they writing in protest of God's guidelines? If it is the former they may have a beef. If it is the latter then they just want to be God and make the rules they like.

By: notoalbertogonzales on 10/18/11 at 7:54

Alberto Gonzales is a poor choice to teach constitutional law. Harold Koh, the Dean of Yale Law School, said the following about him in a congressional hearing:

Taken together, Mr. Gonzales’ legal positions have sent a confusing message to the world about our Nation’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law. They have fostered a sense that we apply double standards and tolerate a gap between our rhetoric and our practice. Obviously, our country has faced a dangerous threat since September 11, and we expect our leading officials to respond. But we should not discount the enormous costs to our reputation as a leader on human rights and the rule of law from the perception that we have waged a war on terror by skirting the Torture Convention, upsetting constitutional checks and balances, opening loopholes in the Geneva Conventions, and creating extra-legal persons and extra-legal zones

By: BenDover on 10/18/11 at 7:55

Reminds me of that stupid ill informed letter from the Duke faculty about the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse players.

By: notoalbertogonzales on 10/18/11 at 8:03

Yeah BenDover, except this criticism is based on well established facts in the public record. For more see:

Or, at least give this youtube video 3:00 minutes. It presents Gonzales' testimony before congress.

By: silverhaired on 10/18/11 at 9:10

Now that these Belmont faculty members have declared their belief that " ...An unjust law is no law at all....", I look forward to their support and tolerance for those Belmont students who openly and lovingly defy the 'unjust' drug, alcohol and other behavioral laws set forth in Belmont's student handbook.

Oh, by the way, who gets to decide on which laws are 'unjust' ?

By: Leazee on 10/18/11 at 9:34

I, too, am relieved that the faculty have expressed reservations. Gonzales also oversaw the systematic firing of federal judges based on objectionable reasons. For the most part, the judges were not conservative enough for the Gonzales Justice Dept. and the Bush administration. Does Belmont really think that securing Gonzales is a coup? I question the leadership and judgement of the administration as well as their board. More importantly, I wonder about the type of lawyer the school will produce.

By: localboy on 10/18/11 at 9:38

It's seems like it always comes down to individual choice, silverhaired.

By: canthonymartin on 10/18/11 at 10:03


There is no moral defence for torture. Alberto Gonzales used his supple legal mind to try to construct such a defence, and that is the issue. His moral compass is subject to "declination" and adjustment: a Law School would be better served to recruit someone else with a lot less baggage than Alberto Gonzales carries with him.

By: Mad Tom on 10/18/11 at 11:27


John Yoo wasn't available?

What is with these Christianist law schools hiring torturers?

By: govskeptic on 10/18/11 at 12:20

For Mad Tom:

What makes you think Belmont is a Christianist University or Law School?
To be a recognized law school, especially in your first year with a less
than clear future for said law school both in need and cost, there must
be some recognizable Professors. That is not required of the under-
graduate professors as is well shown within the letter!

By: EDUNITED on 10/18/11 at 12:45

I missed the condemnation of drone strikes killing American citizens, use of information from "enhanced interrogation techniques" used to find and to execute Osama bin Laden, and DOJ authorized sales of hundreds of guns to Mexican narco-terrorists that killed Americans in America. Guess it was just a political oversight on the part the signers.
Ed vanVoorheees

By: JeffF on 10/18/11 at 7:47

uh, Leazee, judges were not fired. The politically appointed U.S attorneys left over from Clinton were being forced out. No one ever explained why other presidents did not face criticism for doing the same thing so for the most part this became a non issue.

I consider interogation of enemy combatants a non issue since they are not guaranteed the rights we have since they were kept overseas. Also they are not subject to Geneva Convention protections since they were not fighting on behalf of a signatory nation. Since most of their home countries disavowed them and their actions we probably should have tortured them even worse.

By: macjedi on 10/19/11 at 7:24

Well.... check THAT out! Christians* actually acting like Christians supposedly act. Good on them!

*Mostly by association. Belmont is, thankfully, shedding that portion of its shackles.

By: Jim Beachboard on 10/20/11 at 5:16

At bottom, it would appear to be all political blather and to have nothing to do with sincere moral commitment-- but why should that be a surprise in the current era?-- Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.

By: tmh@lutherander... on 10/21/11 at 6:10

"Alberto Gonzales is a poor choice to teach constitutional law. Harold Koh, the Dean of Yale Law School, said the following about him in a congressional hearing..."

You mean the same Harold Koh who now supports the use of unmanned drones to assassinate enemy combatants, including U.S. Citizens, without due process?