Robert M. O'Neil

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Robert M. O'Neil (born October 16, 1934) [1] is a specialist in constitutional law and a past president of the University of Virginia who created the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. He is the director of this center and took this position in 1990 after retiring from serving as the president of the University of Virginia. He remains associated with the Law School of the University, teaching courses in the First Amendment and the Arts, Speech and Press, Church and State, and Free Speech in Cyberspace.[2]


Robert Marchant O'Neil [3] was born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 16, 1934.[1] He is married to Karen Elson who teaches English and is director of college counseling at St. Anne’s Belfield School in Charlottesville, Virginia.[2]

O'Neil attended Harvard University for his undergraduate degrees. In 1956 he received his Bachelor of Arts,[4] in 1957 his AM and his Bachelor in Law in 1961.[1] O’Neil also holds an honorary degree from Beloit College[2] and Indiana University (LLD, 1987).[3]

Teaching career

Before his career as teacher and scholar, Robert M. O'Neil gained experience on law topics by working for a United States Supreme Court justice. He used to serve as a clerk for Justice William J. Brennan. In 1963 he left his job as clerk and became part of the law faculty of the University of California at Berkeley.[1] Robert was not only involved in the law school; he also was involved in leadership activities. He served as chair of the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Freedom.[2] His law teaching career at Berkeley lasted from 1963 to 1967, and then he went to work as a law professor at SUNY/Buffalo where he also was executive assistant to president Martin Myerson.. After SUNY he returned to Berkeley.[1]

While teaching, Robert M. O'Neil was known for his work defending affirmative action and his deep study of the First Amendment promises.[5]

He also was a member of the law faculty of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Indiana University at Bloomington, and the University of Wisconsin Law School.[2]

Administrative career

Robert O'Neil has had several charges at different universities.

In 1972 Robert O'Neil started his administrative career by taking the position of vice president and provost for academic affairs of the University of Cincinnati. The following year he became executive vice president of academic affairs.[1][3] In 1975 he became vice president for the Bloomington campus of Indiana University.[3] In 1980 he took his position as the president of the University of Wisconsin system. Subsequently, he became president of the University of Virginia.

His involvement in other associations besides universities was very active. An example is his participation as general counsel of the Committee of the American Association of University Professors. He holds this position for 2 years in the early seventies and another two years in the early 90’s. He ended up being president of this committee in 1999.[2]

For almost two decades he was a trustee for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Educational Testing Service and the Johnson Foundation.[2] He has also held the chairmanship of several organizations, including the National Association of State Universities, Land-Grant Colleges, and the boards of directors of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

His presence was felt in many institutions like the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), the Fort James Corp., and the Commonwealth Fund and the Media Institute from which he was director.[2]

He was an executive member of the Association of American Universities and WVPT Public Television, the American Bar Association’s Human Rights Journal and the National Advisory Board of the American Civil Liberties Union.[2]

At this time O'Neil is the director of the Ford Foundation's Difficult Dialogues Initiative. He also participates on the Board of Consulting Editors of Trusteeship, journal of the Association of Governing Boards, journal of the Association of Governing Boards.[2]


O’Neil has written numerous articles for law reviews and other journals and is the author of several books, including:

  • The Rights of Public Employees (2nd ed.). Southern Illinois University Press. 1993. ISBN 0-8093-1927-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Classrooms in the Crossfire. Indiana University Press. 1981. ISBN 0-253-17933-5. Retrieved 2010-11-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Free Speech in the College Community. Indiana University Press. 1997. ISBN 0-253-33267-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The First Amendment and Civil Liability. Indiana University Press. 2001. ISBN 0-253-34033-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Academic Freedom in the Wired World. Harvard University Press. 2007. ISBN 0-674-02660-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Presidents of the University of Wisconsin System". Retrieved 2010-11-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "Director". The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. Retrieved 2010-11-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Indiana University Honorary Degree recipient Robert Marchant O'Neil".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "An Explanation of degree abbreviations". Retrieved 2010-11-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "A tribute to Robert M. O'Neil". 93: 841–851. JSTOR 25050368. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>