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UNM law school postpones Starr lecture

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico School of Law has indefinitely postponed a free public lecture by Ken Starr, with one administrator calling it a timing issue rather than a response to recent criticism.

Ken Starr

Starr, the onetime U.S. Solicitor General who later spearheaded an investigation into then-President Bill Clinton, was set to speak on campus Thursday. The lecture – “Investigating the President, Now and Then: Living in a Constitutional Quagmire” – had been in the works for more than a year, according to the law school’s assistant dean, Hannah Farrington.

While UNM initiated the postponement conversation with Starr, Farrington said both parties agreed the timing was not ideal.

They have not set a new date.

Farrington acknowledged UNM had received some negative feedback about the event, but would not attribute the postponement to the criticism.

“Honestly, it’s more that we were sensitive to what was going on nationally and wanted to choose a better time,” she said.

The only specific national matter Farrington cited was Starr’s connection to Brett Kavanaugh, the polarizing judge recently appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kavanaugh – who had worked on Starr’s Clinton investigation – narrowly won confirmation amid decades-old sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women.

But one UNM employee had publicly raised other concerns about Starr, noting his controversial tenure as Baylor University’s president and chancellor. Starr resigned from those positions in 2016 after a high-profile scandal involving the university’s treatment of sexual assault cases.

Eric Vogler, an accountant for UNM’s Children’s Campus, wrote in a letter to the editor published by the Daily Lobo on Oct. 16 that he was “disappointed” that UNM had invited Starr to campus.

“It’s widely believed in Texas that Baylor, under Mr. Starr’s watch, badly mishandled accusations to avoid scandal and to preserve a successful football team,” Vogler wrote. “We do know that there was enough smoke to the fire to force Mr. Starr’s resignation.”

Vogler said Tuesday he was unaware UNM had postponed the lecture. He said he hoped his message had resonated.

“I like to think it’s at least caused someone to stop and think, anyway,” he said.

Asked if Starr’s record at Baylor was a factor in UNM’s decision to postpone his UNM visit, Farrington said, “I’m not going to say that. What I will say is that his résumé came up in considering him for this lecture and it came up in connection with things that are going on nationally.”

About 120 people had registered for Thursday’s lecture, Farrington said. UNM notified them of its postponement via a succinct email with little explanation.

“In consultation with Judge Starr, our upcoming lecture has been postponed. We apologize for any inconvenience,” says the email obtained by the Journal.

It adds: “We are appreciative of Judge Starr’s interest and his time. We also respect his busy schedule. No future lecture date is available at this time.”

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