Calls the student outburst “unacceptable,” but within the school’s rules
In her first statement on an incident in which 120 students disrupted a speech by a conservative speaker, the dean of Yale Law School said the demonstrators did not violate the school’s free speech policy.
“Under the University’s free expression policy, student groups have every right to invite speakers to campus, and others have every right to voice opposition,” wrote Dean Heather Gerken in a campuswide email on Monday.
“Our commitment to free speech is clear and unwavering. Because unfettered debate is essential to our mission, we allow people to speak even when their speech is flatly inconsistent with our core values.”
On March 10, the Yale Federalist Society invited conservative attorney Kristen Waggoner from the Alliance Defending Freedom to campus to debate Monica Miller, a lawyer for the progressive American Humanist Association.
Students argued that Waggoner’s presence on campus alleged put queer students “at risk of harm.” As the debate began, protesters began to taunt members of the Federalist Society, with one protester telling a member of the conservative group she would “literally fight you, bitch.”
As protesters continued to disrupt the event, law professor Kate Stith reminded them of the school’s free speech policy, which bars any protest that “interferes with speakers’ ability to be heard and of community members to listen.”
This only further antagonized the protesters, who upon being asked to leave yelled things like “Fuck you, FedSoc.” As the panel continued, the protesters loudly stomped, shouted, clapped, sang, and pounded the walls, further disrupting the debate.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the protesters loudly chanted “protect trans kids” and “shame, shame,” disrupting nearby classes, exams, and faculty meetings.
Later, police were called to keep the peace and law enforcement escorted Waggoner out of the building.
In her statement Monday, Gerken said the protest adhered to university policy and did not warrant disciplinary action.
“Had the protestors shut down the event, our course of action would have been straightforward – the offending students without question would have been subject to discipline,” Gerken wrote, adding that the students “complied with University policies inside the event.”
However, she said the behavior of certain protesters has triggered a “serious discussion” within the Law School about its “policies and norms for the rest of the semester.”
Gerken called the disruption “unacceptable,” saying that “at a minimum, it violated the norms of this Law School.”
“This is an institution of higher learning, not a town square, and no one should interfere with others’ efforts to carry on activities on campus,” she wrote. “I expect far more from our students, and I want to state unequivocally that this cannot happen again.”
But Gerken herself has been under fire, as she currently faces a lawsuit for allegedly attempting to “blackball two students of color from job opportunities as retaliation” for refusing to lie to support the university’s investigation into Law Professor Amy Chua.
The students – a black female and an Asian-American male – allege Gerken approached one prestigious law school professor and counseled against hiring either of them as “Coker Fellows,” which are prestigious teaching assistant positions that often lead to federal clerkships and other lucrative career opportunities, because they refused to manufacture evidence against Chua.
“Together, we will figure out how to nurture a thriving intellectual environment while maintaining a community of equality and mutual respect,” Gerken wrote on Monday.
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