The chairman of the Dartmouth Music Department has filed a $2.4 million suit against the Dartmouth Review and members of its staff, charging that the publication has defamed his character when it published an article in January which criticized his teaching.
In the suit, Professor William Cole alleged that the Review had acted with a reckless disregard for the truth in preparing the article, titled "Professor Cole's Song and Dance Routine," Dinesh D'Souza, former chairman of the conservative weekly, said yesterday.
The article, written by a Review reporter who attended the first two lectures of Cole's winter-term course on the oral tradition in American music, called Cole an exceptionally easy teacher and implied that he had relaxed his requirements in order to help Black students.
Cole refused to comment yesterday, directing all questions on the case to his lawyer. Jack Longs who said that Cole had filed his suit because "the article accused him of being incompetent."
Long refused to say whether he thought the criticisms of Cole--who is Black--were racially motivated.
The Review, which is not sanctioned by the college, has come under fire in the past for running allegedly racist articles, including one attack on affirmative action written in slang that Black students found insulting.
D'Souza called Cole's suit "excessive" and said it was "an attempt to strangle financially--if not legally--a student newspaper intrepid enough to criticize a faculty member's teaching methods." He added that he had offered Cole a full page in the Review to respond to the article, but that Cole had refused.
Although he said he is confident the Review will win the suit, D'Souza said the Review's legal costs could come to $50,000. He added that no trial date for the suit has been set, but that the Review has to file a response to Cole by May 18.
Cole's suit has found support among several professors at Dartmouth who view the Review's article as a threat to academic freedom, D'Souza said.
Professor of Government Roger Masters said the article went beyond "the norms of civility" and added that similar articles would introduce a "chill" into the classroom.
However, Dartmouth College has not involved itself in the case, spokesman John Heston said yesterday. He explained that the suit was "not a collegiate issue at all," but rather a private dispute.
The suit, for which Heston said he could not remember a precedent, has apparently caused little excitement among Dartmouth students.
"It's a hands-off thing for students," David Moore, president of the Afro-American Society, said yesterday. Moore said that most students were waiting to see what happened in the courtroom before responding.
But Moore, who has taken the course criticized by the Review, added that he personally felt the weekly had misunderstood Cole's teaching style. He called Cole a "very talented musician" who "knows exactly what he is doing."