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Institute must rectify Dershowitz records

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(Editor's note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to President Charles M. Vest.)

I am writing to you in your capacity as a member of the MIT Corporation. I am at the same time writing to other Corporation members as well. I am contacting you in my capacity as

a cooperating attorney, working through the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the local arm of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This letter is necessitated by the fact that I have been entirely unable to deal fruitfully with the administration of MIT in a quest for what MCLUF believes to be rather elemental justice due our client, Adam L. Dershowitz G.

A member of the administration, Associate Provost Samuel J. Keyser, has treated Dershowitz

in an egregious manner, and MCLUF's efforts to redress Dershowitz's grievance have been met with a refusal to take any remedial action. Instead, Keyser has insisted that I deal with his (or MIT's) legal counsel, Jerome N. Weinstein, of the Boston law firm of Palmer and Dodge.

In turn, Weinstein has told me that I might as well cease any efforts to redress the problem, since his client (it still remains unclear whether Weinstein is representing Keyser or MIT) refuses to do anything.

Since I am uncertain as to whether it is even ethically permissible for me at this point to deal with anyone within MIT's administration -- in view of the fact that Weinstein is legal counsel and wishes me to deal with him rather than to deal directly with his client -- I have taken the rather unusual step of contacting directly the body that is immediately above the Institute's administration, namely the Corporation.

Dershowitz, while an undergraduate at the Institute, sought to test an Institute-wide "policy" that restricted everyone's right -- students and professors -- to show sexually explicit films on campus, even to an audience of consenting people in a closed and hence private, non-intrusive setting.

When Dershowitz showed one "banned" film, Deep Throat, as a "test case," he was prosecuted within the Institute's disciplinary system. After an extensive hearing, the school's Committee on Discipline unanimously acquitted Dershowitz of the administration's charges, on the ground that the restrictive policy was a violation of academic freedom and that Dershowitz was acting within his rights.

Despite this acquittal, Keyser informed Dershowitz that the Institute's administration, or at least Keyser, considered the policy still to be in place and Dershowitz still to be bound by the policy. Dershowitz, again seeking a "test case," showed the same film the following year.

This time, instead of prosecuting him through the Institute disciplinary mechanism, Keyser simply made a decision, entirely on his own, that Dershowitz was in violation of a valid policy restricting his right to show the movie.

As a result, Keyser placed a letter of admonition in Dershowitz's student file for a period of time -- an action that Keyser himself viewed as "serious."

Dershowitz, who is now a graduate student at the Institute, is simply trying to get acknowledgment placed in his file, to the effect that the admonition had been wrongly placed there. He did, after all, have a substantive right, secured by principles of academic freedom, to show the film.

Once re-prosecuted by Keyser for violation of a policy that a formal Institute disciplinary board had already declared to be in violation of academic freedom, Dershowitz had a procedural right to have the matter adjudicated, yet again, via the Institute's regular disciplinary system.

Keyser had no right to act as prosecutor, judge and jury, and to summarily punish Dershowitz, merely because it was obvious to Keyser that he would again be unable to get the Institute's disciplinary board to agree with his position.

Dershowitz and the MCLUF are asking for no more than that a letter be placed in Dershowitz's student file, indicating that Keyser's summary punishment and letter of reprimand are null and void, since the matter should have been prosecuted, if at all, through the Institute's duly established disciplinary mechanism, much as the first case had been.

This would end the matter. It is this which Keyser has refused to do, and which his attorneys have refused to help facilitate. Rather, the attorneys have acted as a buffer, making it difficult if not impossible for Dershowitz and me to deal directly with the Institute's administration.

MCLUF, Dershowitz and I hope that this matter might be placed on the Corporation's agenda at its next meeting.

I must add that neither Dershowitz nor MCLUF is happy with the Institute's current policy with respect to sexually explicit films being shown on campus. The version that was in effect at the time of the Dershowitz case, and the revised version in place today, are, as the Institute's own COD found, violative of academic freedom.

This substantive issue, however, is not the subject of the instant letter. The substantive issue will be raised by MCLUF at the Institute, as well as at other campuses that have adopted policies restrictive of free speech, but this will be done at a later time.

Harvey A. Silverglate->

MCLUF Cooperating Counsel->

Counsel for->

Adam L. Dershowitz G->