As former U.S Attorney General and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law Alberto Gonzales arrived on campus and began teaching in January, many of his students are anxious and a little scared for what they call an exciting, yet challenging semester.
Law student Molly Shehan is a student in Gonzales’ Constitutional Law class.
“It seems like a great class. He is very down to earth and presents both sides in everything we have studied so far, so it should be fun. Actually, maybe not exactly fun, probably a little hard,” she said.
Gonzales is currently just teaching one class, Constitutional Law, which some students consider “interesting” due to his past political experience as White House Counsel and Attorney General under former President George W. Bush, as well as his controversial exit from the latter position after Congressional pressure and media scrutiny.
First year law school student Matt Mitchell, however, thinks Gonzales’ tenure should be taken with perspective given his responsibilities.
“I think that we ask a lot of our politicians that make a lot of decisions and some decisions are going to be more scrutinized than others. I think overall, you have to remember that some people will think what you do is wrong and some people will think what you do is for the betterment of the country,” said Mitchell. “So you have to keep that in mind with everything.”
Shehan also noted Gonzales’ transparency surrounding these issues in class.
“I think you know that [his past] is there, and he is very open and so if you are curious about something you can bring that question to him or to the class discussion,” Shehan said.
Law school student DeAnn Kilpatrick said she won’t read into his past because of her “reasoning of law school.”
“I look at him and how qualified he is as a teacher. He is not teaching us his perspective but rather teaching us what the law is,” said Kilpatrick. “So I don’t think the controversies really matter in the context of what we’re doing here at law school.”
While the students need to be able to interact with him on a teacher-student level, they also remember who is teaching the class: someone who is still the highest-serving Latino ever in the federal government and has seen that government work in a variety of high-profile positions.
“This is a huge opportunity for the law school and for the students to see the perspective from someone in that political capacity who was influential in our government system,” said Shehan.
But all politics aside, Gonzales, just like most other teachers, is at the law school to teach and “develop the next generation” of law students, as he said at his arrival announcement in October.
“It is good to see someone who has not only lived out the dreams of the law students but also has represented the country,” said Mitchell. “I think he brings a good idea of what that really means.”
Gonzales teaches Constitutional Law every Tuesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. in the 15th Avenue Annex/Law Building.