New Starr lec­ture date may be close

UNM de­nies pres­sure led to post­pone­ment


Univer­sity of New Mex­ico’s law school dean is strongly deny­ing that pub­lic pres­sure prompted post­pone­ment of a re­cent Ken Starr lec­ture, say­ing he val­ues lively de­bate and is al­ready clos­ing in on a new date for the event.

Dean Ser­gio Pareja is also de­fend­ing the de­ci­sion to de­lay Starr’s planned UNM ap­pear­ance — one he said the par­ties made to­gether— writ­ing in a new let­ter that reschedul­ing could al­low ten­sions to wane fol­low­ing Brett Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion to the U.S. Supreme Court. The hear­ings “had ig­nited pub­lic opin­ion and re-trau­ma­tized some as­sault sur­vivors,” and the univer­sity did not want to ap­pear “tone deaf” to women’s con­cerns, he wrote.

“I am a be­liever in the free flow of ideas, and we in­vited Judge Starr to speak here pre­cisely be­cause his lec­ture will gen­er­ate a healthy de­bate,” Pareja wrote in a let­ter to the Jour­nal. “... That said, some­times cir­cum­stances can so in­flame emo­tions that we ac­tu­ally risk sti­fling de­bate and shift­ing fo­cus away from the topic rather than pro­mot­ing a healthy ex­change of views.”

He said the univer­sity is

now ten­ta­tively look­ing to host Starr on Jan. 23.

Starr, a one­time in­de­pen­dent coun­sel who led a probe into Bill Clin­ton, was set to visit UNM on Nov. 1 for a free lec­ture called “In­ves­ti­gat­ing the Pres­i­dent, Now and Then: Liv­ing in a Con­sti­tu­tional Quag­mire.” But UNM and Starr de­cided to post­pone about a week ahead of time. UNM gave no new date and lit­tle ex­pla­na­tion in an emailed no­tice of the change.

The school’s as­sis­tant dean told the Jour­nal then that it was a tim­ing is­sue and ef­fort to be “sen­si­tive to what was go­ing on na­tion­ally,” but pro­vided few specifics other than say­ing Starr had ties to Ka­vanaugh. Ka­vanaugh had worked on the Clin­ton in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and his Supreme Court ap­point­ment sparked con­tro­versy af­ter mul­ti­ple women ac­cused him of sex­ual mis­con­duct in the 1980s.

The law school had faced back­lash for invit­ing Starr given his his­tory at Bay­lor Univer­sity. Starr re­signed as Bay­lor’s pres­i­dent and chan­cel­lor in 2016 amid scan­dal over the univer­sity’s han­dling of sex­ual as­sault cases in­volv­ing foot­ball play­ers.

Pareja said in an in­ter­view Fri­day the Bay­lor his­tory was not part of the post­pone­ment de­ci­sion, and that the heated de­bate sur­round­ing Ka­vanaugh was his chief con­cern.

While no­body specif­i­cally sig­naled their in­ten­tion to over­take the event with Ka­vanaugh dis­cus­sion, he said he feared that could hap­pen.

“Re­ally what did it to me was just watch­ing on TV those images of the peo­ple shout­ing at the con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings . ... I was just wor­ried it was just go­ing to de­volve into a whole con­ver­sa­tion about Ka­vanaugh and we can’t even hear about in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pres­i­dent,” he said.

Ken Starr

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