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Student group disrupted law professor’s talk because dean ‘failed to provide a safe space’

Dean who refused to punish them initially threatened to punish them?

After The College Fix reported that law professors at the City University of New York did not answer or refused to comment on last month’s student protest that disrupted a visiting law professor’s talk, another group asked to be quoted: the protesters themselves.

The CUNY Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a far-left law association, asked The Fix to give it “a platform to voice our thoughts” on the 8-minute disruption of South Texas College of Law Prof. Josh Blackman, who was invited to speak by CUNY Law’s Federalist Society chapter.

It’s not the first student chapter of the guild to try to stop a Federalist Society event: Its Lewis & Clark Law School chapter demanded the disinvitation of contrarian feminist Christina Hoff Sommers, whose speech was repeatedly disrupted by student protesters.

In an email Monday, the CUNY law chapter denied that it stopped Blackman from speaking – it claims “he spoke for 90 minutes” – but gave several justifications for its lengthy disruption of the event, which Blackman has said prevented him from giving his prepared 70-minute speech.

First, the Federalist Society chapter “failed to advertise or notify the community” of the Blackman event “until three days before.” Second, the guild chapter’s repeated heckling of Blackman was “protected free speech.” Third, “we believe that Josh Blackman chose CUNY Law because of its reputation as a radical campus and the likelihood of student dissent.”

Also, the dean failed to create a “safe space.”

MORECUNY Law refuses to punish hecklers at Josh Blackman event

You can’t understand the chapter’s decision to target Blackman, a conservative who supports a legislative fix for young undocumented immigrants, without knowing CUNY law’s history, the chapter says.

It contrasted a previous dean’s actions with the current dean, Mary Lu Bilek, saying it wanted to hold her “accountable”:

Our presence was important because CUNY Law’s “support” of  this event – which went far beyond simply granting  Blackman a platform – was unsettling and disappointing. …

CUNY Law promotes itself as a public-interest law school, committed to diversity, and safe for immigrant communities. Seemingly, this event ran afoul of everything that CUNY purports to stand for. …

In 1991, when the United States waged war against Iraq, CUNY Law students hung the flag of Iraq and an upside down American flag outside the school in protest. … The late Haywood Burns, the law school’s beloved dean at the time, supported the demonstration. He stood by the students, protecting their right to engage in First Amendment speech opposing military occupation of Iraq, by refusing to take down the flags. In 2018, after learning that Blackman would be visiting CUNY’s campus, Dean Bilek chose not to release a statement admonishing Blackman’s hateful views. She failed to provide a safe space for student`s affected by those views. Instead, Dean Bilek sent CUNY’s policy on “Expression on Campus” without context, threatening protesters with disciplinary action.

MORE: Blackman says CUNY Law would sic cops on pro-life protesters

The alleged threat was ultimately toothless, as Bilek set a new precedent at CUNY Law that any student or group can disrupt any club event or academic setting, without punishment, for up to 11.4 percent of its scheduled duration. The statement continues:

Haywood Burns once described CUNY Law as “a new kind of institution of legal education built on the pursuit of social justice through law.” The event which took place on March 29th, and the presence of the Federalist Society on campus is a sign that CUNY Law has become divorced from this original purpose of bringing students to the legal profession who recognize that the law is oppressive.

The guild chapter said it stood behind the protester who shouted “Fuck the law!” at Blackman, which drew puzzlement from legal observers who thought law students should respect the law:

We mean that law was written to uphold white supremacy, and limit the freedom of communities of color. We mean that the law is not neutral. As it is written, the law oppresses, dehumanizes, displaces, deports, and incarcerates our communities and loved ones. When we say “fuck the law,” we mean that under the the [sic] current political administration, we will not engage in a “civil debate” about the validity of someone’s existence. When we say “fuck the law,” we mean fuck the law.

The protesters said Blackman’s nuanced view that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should not have been implemented by executive order, but rather through legislation, is “hateful.”

They warned the Federalist Society to expect similar disruptions – “protected speech” in their telling – at any future event that threatens what they perceive as “safer spaces for marginalized communities.”

The guild chapter also posted its full statement on Twitter.

Read the statement on Twitter.

MORE: ‘It is a bizarre thing to say “f-ck the law” when you are in law school’

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