Infantile Yale Law students disrupt campus free-speech event

March 17, 2022 • 1:00 pm

A colleague called my attention to this article, which is from a pretty conservative site, the Washington Free Beacon, but who else would print it? The veracity of the report is demonstrated by photos, by a YouTube video that I’m unable to watch but I’ve embedded anyway, and by photos of the event at a Daily Fail article which largely repeats the Beacon prose. You be the judge. Knowing the way these things go, however, I don’t doubt that this happened pretty much as described. (See below; I’ve just found that the event was described in the Yale Daiy News as well.)

Click on the screenshot below to read. And remember, these are students at one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools, attending a debate about free speech that features both a liberal and a conservative looking for common ground (their organizations even worked together on the same side in a Supreme Court free-speech case). You’d think the law students would at least let the event proceed without interruption.

Not a chance.

An excerpt:

More than 100 students at Yale Law School attempted to shout down a bipartisan panel on civil liberties, intimidating attendees and causing so much chaos that police were eventually called to escort panelists out of the building.

The March 10 panel, which was hosted by the Yale Federalist Society, featured Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association [AHA] and Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit that promotes religious liberty. Both groups had taken the same side in a 2021 Supreme Court case involving legal remedies for First Amendment violations. The purpose of the panel, a member of the Federalist Society said, was to illustrate that a liberal atheist and a conservative Christian could find common ground on free speech issues.

“It was pretty much the most innocuous thing you could talk about,” he added.

That didn’t stop nearly 120 student protesters from crowding into the event.

The rest is pretty much predictable. About a hundred protestors—most of the audience— stood up when Waggoner was introduced, many holding signs protesting ADF. That organization helped appeal a case you’ll recall—that of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, when the cakeshop objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple. In 2018, the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, decided in favor of the cakeshop, but on the narrow grounds that “that the Commission did not employ religious neutrality, violating Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips’s rights to free exercise.”

Waggoner argued the case on behalf of the cakeshop (the defendant); the two votes against were Ginsburg and Sotomayor, while liberal Kagan and middle-ist Breyer joined the other five in the majority vote.

You can argue about whether the owners of the cakeshop could justify their refusal on freedom-of-religion grounds (I disagree), but it is a debatable issue and, at any rate, not one that was even relevant at Yale given what the debate itself was about.

The debate was moderate by Kate Stith, a professor of criminal law at Yalel, and the protest wasn’t silent:

As they stood up, the protesters began to antagonize members of the Federalist Society, forcing Stith to pause her remarks. One protester told a member of the conservative group she would “literally fight you, bitch,” according to audio and video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

With the fracas intensifying, Stith reminded the students of Yale’s free speech policies, which bar any protest that “interferes with speakers’ ability to be heard and of community members to listen.” When the protesters heckled her in response—several with their middle fingers raised—she told them to “grow up,” according to video of the event obtained by the Free Beacon.

The comment elicited jeers from the protesters, who began shouting at the panelists and insisting that the disturbance was “free speech.” Eventually, Stith told them that if the noise continued, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave, or help you leave.”

Bravo for Stith!

The protestors left noisily (and without comment or rebuke by Ellen Cosgrove, the associate dean of the law school who was in the audience), but proceeded to stomp, yell, and shout slogans outside the lecture hall. As the FB reports, “The din was so loud that it disrupted nearby classes, exams, and faculty meetings, according to students and a professor who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” Note that those who spoke about the “din” were so cowed about this that they wouldn’t give their names!

Finally, the panel concluded (I don’t know whether it produced any useful debate given the noise), and the cops showed up and escorted both Miller and Waggoner to safety, as there was some indication that there might be physical violence. (The cops were called by Heather Gerkin, dean of Yale Law School.)

Note too that Monica Miller is theLegal Director and Senior Counsel at the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and Executive Director of the Humanist Legal Society,” an organization that many of us support and some even see as too woke. I’ve been at several of their events, and pitting her against Waggoner would have been something to see. But I can find no report about the substance of the debate.

The AHA and ADF were in fact on the same side in a recent Supreme Court case, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, which decided last year by an 8-1 vote that a person whose free speech was violated, in this case a Christian who wanted to proselytize on campus but was prevented from doing so, has a right to sue for nominal damages. As the Beacon notes:

The American Humanist Association was one of several progressive groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that filed amicus briefs in support of Uzuegbunam. But it was the Alliance Defending Freedom that actually argued the case before the Supreme Court, which ruled 8-1 in Uzuegbunam’s favor.

The one dissenting vote, curiously, was by Chief Justice John Roberts—a conservative who cast the only lone dissenting vote of his tenure to date.

Finally, there were the usual sequelae: a raft of accusatory letters and petitions as the entitled and angry students used the event to air their pet peeves:

In the two days following the panel, more than 60 percent of the law school’s student body signed an open letter supporting the “peaceful student protesters,” who they claimed had been imperiled by the presence of police.

“The danger of police violence in this country is intensified against Black LGBTQ people, and particularly Black trans people,” the letter read. “Police-related trauma includes, but is certainly not limited to, physical harm. Even with all of the privilege afforded to us at YLS, the decision to allow police officers in as a response to the protest put YLS’s queer student body at risk of harm.”

Signed by 417 students, the letter also condemned Stith for telling the protesters to “grow up,” and the Federalist Society for hosting the event, which “profoundly undermined our community’s values of equity and inclusivity.”

Whatever you think, the campus police weren’t there to inflict violence on “Black LGBTQ people,” but to escort the debaters peacefully from the venue.

This is an embarrassment to Yale, but of course Yale has shown itself immune to embarrassment over the last couple of years.  And think of our future Yale lawyers, surely many of them participants in this idiocy. 60% of them signed the letter, noted above, supporting the “peaceful student protestors”! Peaceful my tuchas: they waved placards, interrupted the speakers rudely, and made a big ruckus outside the lecture hall. Do these future lawyers even know the meaning of words like “peaceful”, much less the principles of free speech? I think not.

I just found this tweet by Nicholas Christakis (remember him and the Yale Halloween Costume Brouhaha?):

So the Yale Daily News verifies the gist of what happened as well. It’s amusing that the protestors took Kate Stith to task for telling them to “grow up.” For growing up is exactly what they need to do. If you don’t even realize that you need to grow up, you won’t. It’s just like the realization that one is an alcoholic is necessary to effect a lasting cure.

Here’s the video, which I can’t watch. You can tell me what’s in it. 

28 thoughts on “Infantile Yale Law students disrupt campus free-speech event

  1. Some poor slob’s life may depend on one of these kids some day. After the inevitable, they will say that system doesn’t work.

  2. Fair questions to ask of the hecklers attending this Ivy League university: Do you invest your considerable energy doing volunteer work of a sort that is consistent with the passions that you show here? Do you serve in a soup kitchen or women’s shelter? How about working a suicide prevention hotline, where young LGBTQ people call every day?

  3. They certainly “felt unsafe” — not the two speakers, but anyone in the crowd of over a hundred students who heckled and threatened the two speakers. It’s a bit comical how this is now the stereotype of Yale, and a little bit frightening that these people are going to be the elite. Once again, we’ll hear this is just a right-wing stereotype with no basis in reality, didn’t happen, was invented by 4chan or some variation thereof. I can’t wait for the American pseudo-left, from Twitter to “Bread Tube” pretending this isn’t an actual, fairly typical thing for American elites.

    1. I am not American so apologies if I am wrong. I thought historically Yale graduates were regarded as the cream of the crop. If they continue to behave in such a juvenile manner they may find that will no longer be viewed as a worthy and desirable asset in the future employment stakes. A valiant attempt at shooting yourself in the foot or an own goal. Would be interesting to know what future employers think about all this

      1. Yale is not Yale law school. Or the Yale Department of Liberal Studies, or whatever. There is a large business school and engineering school, and its likely those are populated by more conservative students.

        1. Yale is not Yale law school.

          Yes. In 1986 I attended a presentation by Dario Fo at the Yale Law School. Nost of the attendees seemed to be frozen in their seats, but it was quite an experience.

          1. See above and learn about the story of Nicholas Christakis and his wife Erika, which I wrote at length about. They were hounded out of their position as resident “masters” because they wrote a letter simply asking students to use judgment about proper Halloween costumes and not rely on univeristy dicta.

            So what do you mean, exactly, by saying “Yale is not Yale Law School”? Judging from what I know about Yale undergraduates, Yale Law School is Yale.

            1. In fact I was surprised that Dario Fo was able to give his show at Yale. He was previously blocked several times from visiting the US, and his show at Yale came as a surprise. Not many people attended his presentation at Yale, about 30 if I remember correctly. And, as I said, the majority of attendees didn’t seem to like his ideas or think he was a good comedian.

        2. Note that law schools in the US, unlike the UK and Commonwealth, do not offer undergraduate degrees. All these children are thus postgraduate students, so it’s actually worse than it might appear to UK and Commonwealth readers.

      2. With HR departments being increasingly woke, too, Yale’s reputation as very woke education might count in the student’s favour.

        I guess we’ll see in another 10 years if this alleged “leftism” is successful other than for the DNC-aligned, surveillance capitalist mangerial, woke elite, who get their pockets stuffed by all the corportions who now find the Republicans a tad too deplorable to bribe. It seems like just the same scheme as the previous version, just painted blue this time (the red version continues, but it’s more for those donors who prefer comic book super villain aesthetics, the Kochs, Thiel etc).

        In that sense, what seems like “shooting themselves in the foot” might be a winning strategy for the students, that is on the contrary very successful for the Ivy League class — just not for poor, blue collar, marginalised people they purport to fight on behalf of. I think the last decade already suggested the last point. In another ten years we’ll know for sure.

        I bet the wokies will be elite, surefire, and that the USA won’t have decent healthcare, paid vacation or anything “left” like that, and thus show without a shadow of doubt that this really is just the vapid virtue signalling it was always held to be. It’s a very elaborate, painful “told you so” moment for a lot of people, where I’m just very grateful that I’m European.

  4. “profoundly undermined our community’s values of equity and inclusivity.”</blockquote

    How Orwellian; speaking across the aisle = undermining inclusivity, while preventing such conversations = supporting inclusivity.

  5. The Washington Post has an interesting story about a Civil Dialogue Movement emerging on some university campuses. Perhaps we are beginning to see the pendulum swing?

    The WaPo article is by Jennifer Miller, for those who want to do a search. Possibly the link I paste below will work, but I am not certain that it will.

      1. Yes, and one of your commenters suggested the Civil Dialogue should start out with “training wheels” topics that wouldn’t inflame passions as much as meatier topics might..

        “It was pretty much the most innocuous thing you could talk about,” said a member of the Federalist Society, sponsor of the event.

        That worked out well.

  6. I saw several with masks on. Of course they are legitimate protection tools for health reasons today but I couldn’t help but think that they were also being used as a means of anonymity. Poor babies!

    1. Early in the pandemic when masks were being proposed, fitfully, as something maybe we should all be encouraged to wear, a Wisconsin trailer park owner told news media that if she saw anyone on her premises wearing a mask, she would call 911 to report a robbery in progress. That’s a normal I will be glad to return to.

  7. The one dissenting vote [in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski], curiously, was by Chief Justice John Roberts—a conservative who cast the only lone dissenting vote of his tenure to date.

    Roberts’s dissent in Uzuegbunam was based not on the merits of the case, but on administrative concerns over swinging open federal courthouse doors to litigants who had suffered no actual damages, but might be willing to bear the costs of litigation while claiming as little as $1 in nominal damages. Chief Justices tend to view such administrative concerns as being within their particular remit — after all, their official title is not “Chief Justice of the Supreme Court” but “Chief Justice of the United States.”. And Roberts seems obsessed with managing federal-court caseloads more than most.

    1. Suits against things like “In God we Trust” on money have foundered on lack of standing, in that plaintiffs can’t show that it actually harms them. Would this ruling make such suits easier?

      1. The case was based on the doctrine of “mootness” rather than “standing,” so it’s hard to say.

        In any event, the chances that the current six-member conservative majority on SCOTUS would find that so-called “ceremonial deism” such as the “In God We Trust” motto on money violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment are essentially nil.

        All signs point to the current Court being the most pro-religion in modern US history.

  8. One of the signs held up was ‘Silence is Death’…
    I mean, NOT the silence of the speakers, because they were literally being silenced.
    So who then?
    The students themselves – well, they were protesting and dominating, so…no.
    The amorphous LQBTIQ+ community – about which this was not about – I think not. (They may be silenced elsewhere, but not at THIS event).

    I truly think the students just choose ANY event so that they can virtue signal. They can always draw a crooked line from a speaker to whatever pet peeve the student has, and thus justify their protest.

    But like the fundamentalist christian – they just KNOW they are right, and no ‘discussion’ will sway them. In fact, discussion must be opposed for their belief to go unchallenged.

    If only more of them read (and understood!) John Stuart Mill on free speech…

  9. I underscore the words “infantile” and “immaturely” and refer those who haven’t seen it yet to this video of Coleman Hughes interviewing Ayishat Akanbi about the “foundational problem of everything.”

  10. Infantile Leftism, in its currently fashionable form, is still with us, sure enough. But my impression is
    that the formerly constant din of DEIdeological complaint and performance has been noticeably muted for the last few weeks. Am I just imagining that? Even before February 24, a reaction against wokeism was building, exemplified in the UMass Boston letter. And after that, the news from Ukraine may have reminded many people in academia that the real world presents more serious issues than those of the woke tantrums of recent years.

  11. FIRE reported the Yale disturbance today.
    FIRE to Yale protesters: ‘Forcing the cancellation of speech you disagree with isn’t free speech’
    From their e-mail post:
    Also worth reading: Yale Law alum David Lat covers recent heckler’s vetoes at Yale and UC Hastings on Original Jurisdiction, asking “Is Free Speech In American Law Schools A Lost Cause?” Link is active (free) in the linked e-mail article.

    Another piece from FIRE today included a story from MIT. The administration is telling students and faculty that they cannot request (even politely, in a way that invites “No” for a response) that others wear masks now that the university has lifted its mandate. FIRE reminds MIT, Oh yes they can! [L.M.: Why do some bureaucracies find it so difficult to get stuff like this right? Our own Toronto Symphony Orchestra has just politely requested all concert-goers to strongly consider wearing masks, even though after 21 March there is no legal obligation to and vaccine passports and capacity limits have lapsed. I’m sure most people will, given the orchestra’s demographics and that the hall holds 2600 people.]

    Good news: The New York Times editorial board slams the state of free speech, cancel culture.
    We couldn’t have said it better ourselves [says FIRE]: “You can’t consider yourself a supporter of free speech and be policing and punishing speech more than protecting it. Free speech demands a greater willingness to engage with ideas we dislike and a greater self-restraint in the face of words that challenge and even unsettle us.” (paywalled)

    All these stories can be read from the link above. Only the NY Times editorial is paywalled.

    Just adding this info in case some readers decided the Washington Free Beacon story about Yale Law had to be fake news.

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