Some strange news from my alma: eccentric but popular law prof Robert Birmingham has been asked to take the rest of the semester off after showing a clip from “Pimps up, Ho’s down”, a training film for prostitutes, during his “Remedies” class. Professor Birmingham is known for his unconventional teaching style and is best know for “consideration is like chicken sexing” from first year contracts and frequently uses mathematical principles to teach the law (Nash equilibrium).
In this particular class, the students were discussing the Eleventh Circuit decision in U.S. v. Charles Floyd Pipkins, a.k.a. Sir Charles, and Andrew Moore Jr., a.k.a. Batman. Pipkins and Moore were appealing their convictions on RICO charges as Atlanta pimps of juvenile girls as young as 12 years old. Pipkins speaks in the “Pimps” film.
The 11th Circuit explained that prostitutes are free to choose a different pimp. The questing being discussed at the time was whether the 11th Circuit’s opinion meant that the prostitutes were not held in involuntary servitude, which happened to be one of the counts in Pipkins’ RICO indictment.
I wonder if there’s more to the story, but Courant article has only so much. From what I’ve heard, reactions are mixed. Personally, when I heard about this, I thought: “Ah, that’s Prof. Birmingham!”
One student, who declined to be identified and was in the “Remedies” class, said the administration’s reaction undercuts the idea of academic freedom and First Amendment rights.
A UConn law professor since 1971, Birmingham evokes strong views from many admirers and some detractors on campus for his teaching style.
“He makes a provocative statement and asks, “How do you feel about that?'” the student said. “He teaches us to think about the law and why we might be offended.”
I guess the school has to balance free speech, an eccentric professor and the sensibilities of students, but asking him to leave for the rest of the semester? I’m pretty sure this is not the first time he’s said something controversial or that he’s the only one. So why now?
Maybe someone at PrawfsBlawg has an opinion on this.