We, current and former members of the central Arkansas Jewish legal community, are speaking out against what we believe to be false and public accusations of antisemitism made against Dean Theresa Beiner of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law by Robert Steinbuch, a Jewish and tenured professor at the law school.
Steinbuch has created a public controversy over an internal, administrative matter. His accusations trivialize actual instances of antisemitism facing the Jewish community, unjustly compromise the reputation of Dean Beiner, and harm the law school.
Professor Steinbuch requested a religious accommodation for future teaching absences to allow observance of Jewish holidays. His request was handled administratively via an interactive process with Steinbuch, Beiner and the Human Resources Department, in accordance with UA policies and the law.
Steinbuch was allowed several ways to make up any missed classes, including in-person, via Zoom, or by using the school's capture system, which permits faculty members to record a class for later viewing. Steinbuch, however, insisted that he was also entitled to arrange for guest speakers. Dean Beiner denied only this option, as having the regular professor rather than guest speakers may further the interest of the students in continuity of instruction.
Steinbuch then publicly accused Beiner of antisemitism, including complaining to the press. Steinbuch filed a grievance with the HR Department against Beiner for religious discrimination. Steinbuch also accused Beiner of antisemitism for not granting his request to teach constitutional law after an opening for this course was created with the retirement of Professor John DiPippa.
Steinbuch and Beiner disagreed about the interpretation of UA and law school rules as applied to planned absences for religious observance and guest speakers. The HR Department ultimately agreed with Steinbuch's interpretation, stating that he should be allowed to invite guest speakers as a third option when he is absent while observing religious holidays.
However, it also found that Beiner did not discriminate in selecting the accommodations. The HR opinion states, "[We] fully believe that Ms. Beiner is making sincere efforts to deal with religious makeup accommodations. The issue of class makeups in the law school is complex because of various policies, practices, laws and make-up options."
The department found no merit to Steinbuch's claim of discrimination with regard to his request to teach constitutional law.
One may disagree with Dean Beiner's administrative decisions and think her interpretation of the university's rules to be wrong, but that does not make her decisions antisemitic.
The importance of fighting antisemitism cannot be overstated; however, false accusations do not further this fight nor increase anyone's understanding of how antisemitism may be manifested in word and deed. We know antisemitism and decry it in any form; however, we equally decry false claims of antisemitism.
We believe Steinbuch's claims of antisemitism against Dean Beiner to be false.
Editor's note: This letter was signed by 21 current or former members of the central Arkansas Jewish legal community: Phil Kaplan, Annabelle Tuck, Dick Williams, Audrey Evans, Jack Grundfest, Michael Kaiser, Arnold Goodman, Bettina Brownstein, Perry Young, Lee Thalheimer, Peter Miller, Jeff Rosenzweig, Stacey Ronnel, Carmen Arick, Joan Vehik, Sarah Levy, Joanne Matson, Jennifer Ronnel, Ken Gallent, Ken Gould, and Brooke Augusta Ware.