Robert Dunkley

Robert Dunkley


* Professor of Criminology, University of Northern Colorado

Dr. Robert Dunkley is a professor of criminology at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). Prior to joining the UNC faculty, he was an assistant professor of sociology at Benedictine College. Before that, he taught at Maple Woods Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College. Dunkley earned his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in sociology at Central Missouri State University and Kansas State University, respectively.

In the spring 2003 semester, a firestorm of controversy was sparked by an incident in Professor Dunkley’s Sociology 346 class, which, according to the UNC course catalog, was slated to “[s]urvey criminal behavior generally, including theories of causation, types of crime, extent of crime, law enforcement, criminal justice, punishment and treatment.”

On May 5, 2003, some three weeks after American troops had marched into Baghdad, Professor Dunkley gave his Sociology 346 students a take-home final exam whose fourth essay question required them, as one female student would later report, to “Make the case that George Bush is a war criminal.” This particular student wrote instead that Saddam Hussein was a war criminal, and she received an “F” for her grade on the exam. She then went through the appeals process provided by the school, as a result of which her final grade in the class was improved to a “B.”

During the formal inquiry, Professor Dunkley stated that he had destroyed all copies of the exam and the exam questions, even though that was a violation of university regulations. For the purposes of the inquiry, however, he reconstructed the exam questions from memory. In doing so, he disputed the student’s version of the exam’s fourth question and said that it actually read as follows: “Make the argument that the military action of the US attacking Iraq was criminal.”

These are the questions, in their entirety, that Dunkley said he had included in the exam:

  1. Compare and contrast Power Control Theory and Integrated-Structural Marxism. How do they analyze the family in terms of social class? How does this class discussion relate to crime? Which family members are essentially excluded in their analysis? What are the weak points of both theories and what are their strengths? Which theory do you support?
  2. The Feminist movement of the 1980s offered a significant “new way” in looking at law and its affect on women. The idea of equality is an issue still unresolved. Explain what the equality doctrine is. How should women define and respond to sexual differences? Can the claim of special treatment for women be considered problematic? Why? How can this be neutralized? What do feminists mean by “Doing Law?”
  3. The taboo (deviance) society places on homosexual relationships and gay lifestyles today is beginning to subside. Attempts are being made to allow gay marriages, which appears right around the corner. Make an argument that would support gay marriages and gay families and explain how this additional type of family could help prevent crime (use one of the above theories from question #1 in your discussion and Shaw and McKay’s analysis of social ecology).
  4. The American government campaign to attack Iraq was in part based on the assumptions that the Iraqi government had “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” This was never proven prior to the US police action/war and even President Bush, after the capture of Baghdad, stated “we may never find such weapons.” Cohen’s research on deviance discusses this process of how the media and various moral entrepreneurs and government enforcers can conspire to create panic. How does Cohen define this process? Explain it in-depth. Where does the social meaning of deviance come from? Argue that the attack on Iraq was deviance based on negotiable statuses. Make the argument that the military action of the US attacking Iraq was criminal? [sic] 

The foregoing items required students to: (1) demonstrate their knowledge of two leftwing theories (“power control theory” and “Integrated-Structural Marxism”); (2) demonstrate their knowledge of, and justification for, feminist law theory; (3) make the case for gay marriage; and (4) make the argument that the military action of the US attacking Iraq was criminal.

The student who protested her failing grade stated, upon seeing Professor Dunkley’s version of the questions he had included in the exam, that Dunkley had altered the fourth exam question when he supplied his copy to the appeals committee. She reiterated her claim that Dunkley originally had asked students to make the case that President Bush personally was a war criminal, rather than that the military incursion in Iraq generally was a criminal venture.

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