Shenanigans at Yale Law School – Reason.com
Reprinted with permission, the article is by Aaron Sibarium of the Washington Free Beacon, originally published here. I didn’t think a summary with a link would do this one justice:
Yale Law School administrators spent weeks pressuring a student to apologize for a “trigger” email in which he called his apartment a “trap house,” a slang term for a place where people buy drugs. Part of what “sparked” the email, administrators told the student, was his membership in a conservative organization.
The sophomore law student, a member of both the Native American Law Students Association and the conservative Federalist Society, had invited classmates to an event co-hosted by the two groups. âWe’ll be christening our own (soon) world-famous NALSA Trap Houseâ¦ In keeping with the theme, he said, the blender would serve ‘American-themed snacks’ like ‘Popeye’s Chicken’ and ‘Apple Pie’ .
The student, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, is part of the Cherokee, the Indian tribe that was forcibly displaced during the infamous Trail of Tears.
Within minutes, the cheerful invitation had been captured and shared on an online forum for all sophomore law students, several of whom alleged the term “trap house” indicated a blackface party.
âI guess celebrating whiteness wasn’t enough,â the Black Law Students Association president wrote on the forum. “You all had to switch to cosplay / black-faced.” She also opposed Blender’s affiliation with the Federalist Society, which she said “has historically supported anti-black rhetoric.”
âTrap houseâ has been a term used in progressive pop culture since at least 2016, when the socialist podcast âChapo Trap Houseâ burst onto the scene. Hosted by three white men, the podcast received sympathetic profiles in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Guardian, none of which suggests there is anything racial about his name. Once associated with downtown crack haunts, “trap house” has also become generic slang for any place young people can have ale.
The hosts of Chapo Trap House did not respond to a request for comment on the show’s title.
Just 12 hours after the email was sent, the student was called to the law school’s student affairs office, which administrators said had received nine complaints of discrimination and harassment over his post.
In a meeting on September 16, which the student recorded and shared with the Washington Free BeaconAssociate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Director of Diversity Yaseen Eldik told the student that the word âtrapâ connotes crack use, hip hop and blackface. These “trigger associations,” Eldik said, were “made worse by the reference to fried chicken,” which “is often used to undermine arguments that structural and systemic racism has contributed to racial disparities in health in the United States. “
Eldik, a former Obama White House official, went on to say that the student’s membership in the Federalist Society had “sparked” his peers.
âThe association of email with FedSoc has been very empowering for students who already feel that FedSoc belongs to oppressive political affiliations for certain communities,â Eldik said. “This of course includes the LGBTQIA community, black communities, and immigrant communities.”
The statement said administrators at the country’s top-ranked law school now view membership in mainstream conservative circles as a legitimate object of offense and a potential ground for discipline. The Federalist Society, founded by Yale law students in 1982, has spread across the country over the past four decades and has become one of the most influential legal groups in the country. Members include the six conservative Supreme Court justices, as well as the late Antonin Scalia, who spoke at the company’s inaugural conference.
At a time when American institutions lean overwhelmingly to the left, the judiciary has remained reasonably balanced thanks in part to the efforts of the Federalist Society. Wider adherence to the position conveyed by Yale lawmakers would effectively suppress – with the threat of disciplinary action – opinions and associations that were heretofore commonplace in elite legal circles.
The episode also offers insight into the culture of the campus diversity offices that claim to be a resource for all students. Behind closed doors, suggests the leaked audio, these bureaucracies are less ecumenical than their public message suggests: their goal is not to make universities more inclusive, but rather to wield the threat of exclusion against groups. disadvantaged.
Throughout the September 16 meeting and a conversation that followed the next day, Eldik and Cosgrove repeatedly hinted that the student could face consequences if he did not apologize, including problems. with inquiries into the âcharacter and fitnessâ of the bar exam, that Cosgrove could weigh in. as associate dean. These investigations examine the disciplinary records of aspiring lawyers in great detail: the New York State Bar, for example, asks law schools to describe any “dishonorable information” that could affect the “character of the candidate. Even if this did not lead to formal discipline. .
It’s unclear if this is what Cosgrove was referring to when she warned on September 16 that things “could escalate” without apologies. âI’m worried about this influence on your reputation as a person,â Eldik interjected. âNot just here, but when you leave. You know the legal community is small. “
The best way to “make this go away,” he continued, would be to formally apologize to the Yale Black Law Students Association. âYou are a law student, and there is a bar that you have to follow,â Eldik said in a follow-up meeting on September 17. “So we think it’s really important to give you a 360-degree view.”
When the student resisted, saying he would prefer to have a face-to-face chat with anyone offended by his email, Eldik nonetheless drafted an apology for the student to send to the “Character-Oriented Rehabilitation Department.” “.
Addressed to black student leaders, the memo included an apology for “any harm, trauma or upheaval” the initial email may have caused. “I know I need to learn more and grow,” the apology project concludes, “[a]and I will actively educate myself so that I can do better. “
The student ultimately declined to send the note, instead, telling his classmates in an online forum that he welcomed conversations with anyone offended by his choice of words.
When the student had not apologized on the evening of September 16, Eldik and Cosgrove emailed the entire sophomore class about the incident. “[A]An invitation circulated recently containing derogatory and racist language, “the email read.” We condemn this in the strongest terms possible “and” we are working to address it. “
Eldik, Cosgrove and Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken did not respond to requests for comment.
Complaints of questionable discrimination are nothing new at Ivy League Law School. In February, for example, a multitude of affinity groups accused the Yale Law Journal of systematically excluding black students from the masthead. When the prestigious publication released its admissions data, it turned out that black students were admitted at a rate of 61%, far higher than the rate for any other race or ethnicity.
But as âdiscriminationâ and âharassmentâ have taken on ever broader meanings, anti-discrimination offices have assumed a broader mandate, applying not only equal opportunities but a progressive ideology. At least one complaint alleged that the email “was a form of discrimination,” Eldik told the student, while the “harassment” allegations centered on its “psychologically damaging” nature.
This conceptual drift was imposed by the self-interest of the bureaucracy. Anti-discrimination officers are urged to handle grievances in a brutal and public manner, a fact the audio makes clear. When the student suggested letting his peers contact him individually to discuss their feelings about the email, Eldik replied, âI don’t want our office to look like an ineffective source of resolution. “
This resolution cannot imply any formal sanction. In a third meeting on October 12, nearly a month after the initial incident, Eldik and Cosgrove assured the student that they would not put anything on his file that could pose a problem for the bar.
âWe would never have put our letterhead to write anything at the bar about you,â Eldik said. âYou may have been confused. “
When they first met, Eldik had hinted that the student’s race might result in some leniency.
âAs a man of color, there probably isn’t as much attention to you as to a white person in the same position,â Eldik told the Native American student. “I just want to recognize that there is also a complexity to this.”
Update 3:58 p.m .: After the publication of this article, Yale Law School published a declaration saying that “no student is investigated or sanctioned for protected speech” at law school. “At no time has a disciplinary investigation been opened or disciplinary action taken in this matter,” the statement said. âWhile anyone can report concerns about the character and suitability of a lawyer to the bar, the law school has a long-standing policy of only reporting formal disciplinary action to the Bar Association. “
UPDATE FROM THE BD: First, note the non-denial by YLS that the events occurred as stated. Meanwhile, Reason’s Liz Wolfe gives a sensible take on the controversy.