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SLU Law Dean Tom Keefe Resigns Over Offensive Remarks: "If I Was Them, I'd Fire Me"

Thomas Keefe image 1.jpg
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Update: When news broke yesterday that Saint Louis University Law School Dean Tom Keefe had resigned from his post -- full interview below -- officials at SLU did not respond to requests for comment or provide any official notice to the law school. This afternoon, after a string of media reports in which Keefe admitted he was resigning in the face of internal criticisms over inappropriate comments, Ellen Harshman, interim vice president for academic affairs, has publicly addressed the shake-up.

In a message to the law school, she says Michael Wolff, a current law professor, will be stepping up immediately as dean (as we reported this morning). Harshman's message does not acknowledge the inappropriate comments that Keefe says prompted his resignation.

"The University thanks Keefe for his service to his alma mater, for his commitment to the law school and its students, and for his fundraising efforts," her email to the law school says.

The full letter and our original interview with Keefe is below.

Original post, Tuesday, March 5, 6 a.m: This week brings news of yet another high-profile resignation at Saint Louis University -- but this time it's not in protest of Father Lawrence Biondi.

Thomas Keefe, interim dean of the university's law school, and a Biondi supporter appointed last year after the previous dean resigned, says he decided to step down after he learned that his colleagues were not pleased with inappropriate and politically incorrect comments he has made.

"I stuck my foot in my mouth," he tells Daily RFT. "I'm becoming the story and I'm not supposed to be the story."

What were his offensive comments?

See also:
- Resigned Chair Jay Hammond On Lawrence Biondi: "He Creates a Culture of Fear"
- SLU: More Faculty Protest As Theology Dept. Chair Jay Hammond Resigns
- Lawrence Biondi: "To Those Of You Who Have Been Critical...I Have Listened"

In an interview last night, Keefe tells us that over the last several days, he's learned that members of the university were upset with a string of remarks he has made since he was appointed dean.

"'Life is a bitch. If it was easy, we would call it a slut,'" he says. "Apparently, I said that one time."

Another time, he says, he might have used the phrase "drunker than ten big Indians."

He says he has joked with students that "pot's gotten a lot better than when I was in law school."

An anonymous employee of the law school tells Daily RFT that some of the complaints against Keefe rose to the level of sexual harassment, an accusation the Post-Dispatch also cites.

Keefe, however, tells us that while he has likely said a lot of potentially offensive things, he does not believe he has ever made sexually harassing remarks.

Continue for more of our interview with Tom Keefe.



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12 comments
jims
jims

dean, not deann.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Advocating illegal drug use should get him removed from his positions. As a Dean of the Law School, he should know how to change the law without breaking the law.

But he is right. In the real world his comments would barely get an eyebrow raised. Academia is well tuned to be offended by the most minor of insults. Keefe's comments were beyond minor for the place he was sitting. It is like faculty waits to pick at a few words and ignore the whole of the message.

Ryan Sea
Ryan Sea

#whenkeepingitrealgoeswrong

Ryan Sea
Ryan Sea

sounds like he deserves a raise more than anything

Lois Giles
Lois Giles

My Gawd people need to lighten up.. most of what I understand is just reality..albeit some of his quips are off the hook, but come on!!!!

WhatUpWithThat
WhatUpWithThat

Was he stoned when he gave this interview? Or is he honestly just that flippant? He just doesn't care at all.

Joey
Joey

@JamesMadison If the 'real world' is internet message boards, then yes. In any real job those comments would be out of bounds as well. So unless his reality his hanging out with his friends 100% of the time, his excuse is pretty pointless.

jims
jims

@glkiadsjldf Agree. Joe Biden can make offensive comments about Indians and get elected Vice President twice -- so Keefe2016!

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@Joey, perhaps in your real world that is true, but in mine, guys talk like guys. Sure, we all become eunuchs entering a wider audience. But guys talking to guys? Happens everyday in real life workplaces.

I would normally take offense to the "slut" remark, but his actual quote merely defines a slut as being easy. His drunken Indians is a phrase used by many, and it is offensive, but something been heard countless times before. Those times of remarks between guys might (just might) get someone to say, "whoa, that's offensive." Likely no one would say it in the real world, unless in a large audience.

In my real world, it was the pot "jokes" (and I am assuming it was a joke). What I find amusing here, it is not the pot references that caused issues, but the non-PC remarks. 

Academia is the world turned on its head. Pot smoking is accepted, but defining the term "slut" is not. Keefe's mistake was not realizing his environment. Those keen on being offended will find something to be offended by.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@Joey, wrong. Probably get a warning from the manager if a complaint was filed. Second time, a written reprimand. Third time an unpaid vacation, and somewhere down that line termination if someone else overheard and took grave offense. That is real world to avoid lawsuits, and keep productive workers who maybe are not as PC as you are.


Perhaps your memory is perfect and you can recall exact quotations made in jest. The rest of us have vague memories of inconsequential matters to our lives. So, yes, I might not be able to state with 100% certainty the words I used, but I might be able to state that sounds like something I might have said. Chalk this up to the rest of us not having hyperthymesia like you seem to think you have.

Joey
Joey

@JamesMadison And if you were overheard and reported, you'd be fired. Just because you do that in a breakroom or closed door meeting doesn't mean that it's accepted in the workplace. Also, the guy's a doofus anyway by not fully accepting his remarks (unless he has some type of Alzheimer's / memory issues then...)

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