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CUNY law professors refuse to speak about student mob that disrupted scholar’s talk on free speech

More than 20 CUNY instructors decline to comment; students will not be punished

Faculty at the City University of New York’s Law School are uniformly silent after a student mob disrupted a conservative law professor’s speech about the Constitution, with the scholars refusing to condemn or even weigh in on the matter.

The College Fix reached out via email multiple times to the entire list of CUNY Law School’s faculty members last week, which contains more than 20 professors, but all either refused to comment or failed to respond entirely.

The protest took place March 29 over a discussion about free speech and the Constitution by conservative law professor Josh Blackman, who was invited by the conservative law group the Federalist Society. Blackman recounted the incident on his blog, video and photos of which shows students standing alongside Blackman and holding signs saying, variously, “free speech is not a shield for hate,” “shame on CUNY,” “Federalist Society is Racist, Josh Blackman is Racist,” and others slogans.

The students interrupted Blackman’s speech multiple times and claimed he was upholding “white supremacy.” Blackman attempted to engage with the students numerous times, but they continued to interrupt him. The students eventually left after nearly 10 minutes of shouting and jeering.

University administrators recently announced they will not punish the students for storming the event and shouting down the visiting scholar, calling the demonstrators’ disruption free speech.

Asked by The College Fix for comment on the protest, none of the faculty members listed on the CUNY Law School website provided one.

The faculty members were asked about their stances on the administration’s decision not to punish the students, their interpretations of the First Amendment implications of the protest, and what their reactions would be if students disrupted eight minutes of one of their classes or speeches. None responded.

In one of the few responses of any kind, when asked if he had any comment to make, Professor Paula Berg merely said: “I don’t.” Professor Victor Goode wrote he “wasn’t at the event so there’s really nothing [he] can add.”

Asked if he had any comment, Professor John Farago wrote: “Sadly, no I do not.”

The Fix also received four “out-of-office” replies, but the other 14 of the 21 professors contacted failed to respond entirely.

After the event, the law school’s administration announced that it would not punish the student protesters. The school’s law dean, Mary Lu Bilek, wrote in a statement that the protest a “reasonable exercise of free speech.”

“This non-violent, limited protest…did not violate university policy,” Bilek said.

That determination seems to conflict with university policy, The College Fix reported last week. The school forbids “shouting down or otherwise preventing a speaker from delivering remarks at a program or event at a college campus or ejecting participants in a public forum or meeting because of their viewpoint.”

As well, the school’s student handbook states that “a member of the academic community shall not intentionally obstruct and/or forcibly prevent others from the exercise of their rights. Nor shall she/he interfere with the institution’s educational process or facilities, or the rights of those who wish to avail themselves of any of the institution’s instructional, personal, administrative, recreational, and community services.”

Bilek did not respond last week to requests from The College Fix to clarify the discrepancy between school policy and her administration’s decision not to punish the students who disrupted Blackman’s speech.

MORE: University won’t punish students who disrupted conservative professor’s speech

MORE: University silent after caving to students who occupied campus building

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About the Author
Matthew Stein -- Swarthmore College