Friday, February 20, 2009

Viewpoint: Goucher unfair to accused professor

By Alexander E. Hooke
February 17, 2009

"You preachers of equality: Your most secret ambitions to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue."- Nietzsche.

Are violations of rights relevant only in distant lands? Does the conviction that everyone is equal before the law become a fiction when possible injustice occurs in our own backyard?

This seems to be the case in light of a recent announcement that Goucher College removed a professor from his teaching duties. Leopold Munyakazi, a French teacher, has been accused of participating in genocide in his native Rwanda in 1994. While his claims of innocence are predictable, the assertions and responses surrounding his removal are remarkably surprising.

Goucher President Sanford Ungar publicly acknowledged that he lacked any evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt anything that "would either convict or exonerate Dr. Munyakazi." So far, there are only rumors floating on the Internet and indictments threatened by the corrupt Rwandan government. Both of these sources are notoriously unreliable for establishing any coherent legal charges, especially over something as horrible as genocide.

Unabashed by the fact that lawyers, judges and juries - not college presidents - determine guilt or innocence before the law, Mr. Ungar defended his actions with the current "words of virtue." Paramount was not justice before the law but the "best interests" of the Goucher community.

This action is not without precedent, of course. To take a much more dramatic example: Under the Bush administration, hundreds of men were held in Guantanamo Bay prison as suspected terrorists. It is now common knowledge that they were denied the basic rights every American would expect. Supposedly liberal academicians across the country's college campuses pilloried the Bush administration as an international embarrassment for punishing these suspects without any trial. Yet, when one of their colleagues is suspended without any concrete evidence, the public hears a veritable conspiracy of silence.

In any event, the punishment of Dr. Munyakazi has another precedent. It appears whenever people become angry or frustrated with conventional law enforcement. This is found in vigilantism and lynching. Vigilantes are impatient. They sense that someone is getting away with a crime and that only they can apprehend or punish the miscreant.

There is a chance that Mr. Munyakazi did commit a horrible deed. Maybe a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay participated in an act of terrorism. But these possibilities are to be determined after the facts are provided, not before. Hence, our legal presumption of innocent until proven guilty.

To circumvent the conventions of modern law, too many preachers of equality are not really worried about justice. Whether they are lackeys of the Bush administration or professional academics, they yearn for the power of a tyrant, shrouded with the words of virtue.

Alexander E. Hooke is a professor of philosophy at Stevenson University, Maryland. His e-mail is


Related materials:

Open letter to Sanford J. "Sandy" Ungar, President of Goucher College with regard to Dr Leopold Munyakazi's case

On Trail of War Criminals, NBC News Is Criticized

To Catch a War Criminal? Why is NBC being so cagey about its new series?

Dr. Leopold Munyakazi's arrest a disgrace

USA: A Rwandan Professor Removed From Teaching


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