TRAPPED INTRUMP'S ANGRY TIDE: One year on, colleges still face attacks the former president helped inspire.

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Author: Jack Stripling
Date: Feb. 4, 2022
From: The Chronicle of Higher Education(Vol. 68, Issue 11)
Publisher: Chronicle of Higher Education, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,560 words
Lexile Measure: 1350L

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A COUPLE OF WEEKS after a mob of Donald J. Trump's supporters stormed the nation's Capitol, Cathy Cox, then dean of Mercer University's law school, convened a group of students on a Zoom call for what she described as a real-world lesson in contract law.

At issue was a mock courtroom at the Georgia university named for L. Lin Wood Jr., an alumnus, donor, and ardent Trump supporter. On social media Wood had increasingly trafficked in political conspiracy theories, and he had been accused of inciting violence.

Not long before the Zoom call, Wood had taken to Parler, the conservative platform, with what sounded like a call to execute the vice president, Mike Pence. "Get the firing squads ready," Wood wrote. "Pence goes FIRST." (Parler removed the post, Mediaite reported, and Twitter permanently banned Wood after the Capitol riot. Wood said he had engaged in "rhetorical hyperbole" and does not believe in violence.)

Wood is a well-known defamation lawyer who represented Richard Jewell, the security guard wrongly accused of planting a pipe bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. By the time of the Mercer dean's Zoom call, however, Wood had become better known as something else: a chief propagator of Trump's baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Cox, a former Georgia secretary of state who is a Democrat, told the students on the Zoom call that she was worried about Wood's mental health. "I'm no psychologist or psychiatrist," she said, "but it is really troubling to me to see the significant sort of downturn." Since the previous summer, Cox said, Wood's Twitter account had gone "from the supercharged Trump supporter, to the angry Trump supporter, to the insane, to the violent tweets."

None of that, though, changed a fundamental fact: When Wood, in 2016, committed to donating $1 million to the law school, Mercer agreed to put his name on a courtroom, the dean said. There was no stipulation in the gift contract, the dean explained, that said Wood's name would remain on the courtroom "as long as we think you're a reputable lawyer."

The day before the Zoom call, Wood texted the dean. He was angry, Cox told the students, to learn that discussions were underway about taking his name off the courtroom. Then, something remarkable and extremely awkward happened on the call. Wood chimed in.

"I am on the call," Wood revealed. "And I am embarrassed for the profession of law that you're practicing right now."

Calm in tone, Wood commanded the floor. He waxed between airing his frustrations with the dean--"You have slandered me in this meeting," he said--and offering up for her review a bevy of rightwing conspiracies. Might I send you, Wood inquired, evidence related to Hillary Clinton "with respect to the adoption of children through Jeffrey Epstein"? (Baseless claims of a global pedophile cabal are central to the QAnon conspiracy.)

Wood, who had recorded the call, later posted the audio on his Telegram page. In an accompanying post, Wood wrote, "These...

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