The dean of the University of Florida's Levin College of Law, who like other lawyers is trained to weigh words with care, has created a stir with her objection to being called "young and vivacious."
An expert in feminist legal theory, Laura Rosenbury wrote a 4,000-word article for the New England Law Review that ended by recounting a banquet last fall when the male president of UF's Florida Law Review introduced Rosenbury with that description. In the article published this summer, Rosenbury said when she discussed her concern — whether a male dean of the college would be described as "vivacious" — the law review adviser responded, "But you look so much younger."
Now Rosenbury is being criticized by others connected to the Levin College of Law for such public criticism of her colleagues, who though not specifically named can be identified by their positions.
“The UF Levin College of Law and the University of Florida should be embarrassed that the Dean of their law school publicly calls out and identifies one of her own students and faculty members with the borderline slanderous accusation of sexism, against two of the most well-respected, tolerant and unprejudiced people at the school,” Michael Balducci, an alumnus and former Florida Law Review executive editor, wrote in a Facebook post.
Rosenbury said she has heard similar pushback from others.
Rosenbury said the last part of the article was to say she still encountered implicit gender bias as a dean, and while overt bias Frug had faced during her life has lessened with time, bias based on one’s identity still exists. In hindsight, she said she could have made the point in a way that avoided any embarrassment to the student.
“I think it’s good that people are talking about implicit bias in the legal profession,” she said. “I hope, though, that we can find more productive ways of talking about it.”
She’s been traveling the past week, but she plans to apologize to the student and faculty adviser once she’s back at UF.
“I will certainly apologize if they think I was calling them sexist,” she said. “Certainly that was not my intent, and I want to apologize for that.”