To the Editor:
The Yale Daily News’ editorials decrying the secrecy of the University’s proceedings against Professor Antonio Lasaga and your demand that the Corporation immediately approve his firing by the president (“Anonymous tribunal drags feet on Lasaga,” 1/22, “The secret, sluggish firing of Lasaga,” 3/20) warrant a response, on behalf of both the Tribunal Panel and Lasaga.
The rules for disciplinary proceedings, adopted decades ago, provide that the proceedings shall be public or private depending on the wishes of the respondent. As Lasaga’s representative in those proceedings, I elected to have the proceedings closed. My reason was to protect the participants from the pressures and distractions of ill-informed or irresponsible critics. Since you were aware of this, your description of the proceedings as conducted in “inordinate secrecy” (3/20) is unfair.
Also unwarranted is your assertion that the delay in “booting Lasaga — may be the greatest offense of all.” You think the University needed no time at all in which to follow your advice and “rubber-stamp the obvious” (3/20). You even opined that “outrage” should “be directed against the University that refuses to sever all ties with [Lasaga] quickly.”
Since the Tribunal Panel is precluded from explaining the delay — at least while the proceedings are still in process — I would like in its defense to suggest why the panel took months to investigate and decide the matter (a pace that would appear to many courts to have been accelerated).
While Lasaga did proffer two guilty pleas in federal court, no judgment was ever entered on those pleas. He has been convicted of nothing. He remains, under the law, presumed innocent until and unless a judgment of guilt is pronounced by the court. Since the please were tendered, the constitutionality of both of the statues upon which the pleas were predicated has come under serious attack, attacks which are still pending. If you read the public court record of those pleas, you will discover that there are very few “facts” admitted in the court proceedings.
It is unclear from the court record what Lasaga did and far from clear that he was seriously culpable. Arguably, the panel should have delayed its own proceedings longer than it did, in order to permit the courts to determine whether Lasaga was indeed guilty of crimes and what those crimes, if any, actually consisted of.
Perhaps responsive to opinions such as yours, the Tribunal Panel chose to go ahead while the court proceedings were unresolved. Having done so, it was necessary that it determine those issues from itself, based upon the record before it. Seemingly aware of this responsibility, you nonetheless inexplicably assert that the University Tribunal “continues to drag its feet over the paperwork-heavy task” (1/22).
Rather than expressing outrage at the delay and non-public nature of the proceedings and demanding that the Corporation “rubber-stamp the obvious,” you might have ruminated over some of the fundamental issues that the Lasaga case presents, from initial actions by University personnel to the meaning of tenure. You might even have asked how the University could have peremptorily terminated Lasaga’s salary almost two years ago, while still claiming to respect his tenure rights.
March 29, 2001
The writer is a professor in the Yale Law School and Antonio Lasaga’s attorney.