By Kimberly Miller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Colored balloons filled with helium and slips of paper that read, "Rehnquist re: Native Americans: We conquered them, why should we pay for their land? United States v. Sioux Nation (1980)," greeted Chief Justice William Rehnquist as he began his first day of teaching at the UA Law School.
"I think he and other members of the Supreme Court have issued decisions in areas dealing with women and minorities that demonstrate a real lack of sensitivity," said Susan Crawford, a law student and member of the National Lawyers Guild.
Crawford joined about 20 law students and one law professor who gathered outside of Rehnquist's classroom in the University of Arizona College of Law to protest his "conservative, right-wing, regressive views," she said.
Rehnquist is teaching a one-credit, two-week class titled "The Supreme Court in the History of the United States" to second and third-year law students. This is the second year he has taught the course. Protestors were present last year as well.
Rehnquist avoided the protestors, arriving at class 10 minutes early and guarded by two Secret Service agents. The agents stood at the classroom door, allowing only students registered for the class to enter.
Students involved in the protest said they wanted people to know that not all law students are for Rehnquist or agree with his views.
"A lot of law students are involved in the status quo of life and they are honored, like the UA, to
have him here," Crawford said. "But there are those of us who are in the law to bring about social change and protect the rights of the underclass and minorities."
Joe Bernick, a law school graduate, said the law college only wants the prestige of having Rehnquist teach a class, and isn't concerned if his opinions are biased.
Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1972 by former President Richard Nixon, and was selected to be Chief Justice by former President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Reaction from students watching was mixed as to the appropriateness of the protest.
"I think it's horribly disrespectful," said Amy Goyer, a second-year law student. "I think it's condescending and demeaning. I don't agree with him, but I don't think what their signs are saying is something he would actually write."
"I support their right to express their opinions," said Nancy Olmstead, a law student. "He shouldn't be insulated from other people's opinions because we're not insulated from his."
Howard Druan, a student in Rehnquist's class, was also protesting his new professor who he said has a history of making decisions against poor people and minorities.
"He has been on the wrong side of many decisions," Druan said. "He is a symbol of everything that's wrong with the legal system. But the class is offered as a credit and we've all taken courses with professors we don't agree with."
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