Trent Colbert: The Trap House Party (Yale Law)
- October 13: First Story--Washington Free Beacon
- "Yale Law School’s Free Speech Blunder Bolsters the Federalist Society’s Victim Mentality," Slate, MARK JOSEPH STERN. "Yale’s move here was unwise through the lens of free speech; even if we assume the school’s intentions were pure—which is open to debate—its response was wrong, full stop."
- "Opinion: At Yale Law School, a party invitation ignites a firestorm," Ruth Marcus, The Washington Post.
- The Daily Mail (London) storyy with pictures of Eldik and Cosgrove.
- Excerpts by Volokh from the Koppelman gated Chronicle article.
- FIRE articles are October 14 and Yale's repudiation of the Woodward Report and the October 15 suggested prewritten apology for Yale to sign.
- [ https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/10/hunting-the-satanists.html "hunting-the-satanists",] Marginal Revolution blog.
- "how-yale-law-school-pressured-a-law-student-to-apologize-for-a-constitution-day-trap-house-invitation/," FIRE .
- Dean Gerken's bland email to the Yale Law community.
- "Yale Law School sought 2L's apology for 'trap house' Constitution Day invitation, citing 'triggering associations'," DEBRA CASSENS WEISS, ABA Journal.
- First Generation Professionals, Yale, statement against Colbert. "We appreciate Yaseen’seffort to educate Trent and repair harm within the YLS community as well as Dean Gerken’semail this morning." What email is that?
- "Convulsions at Yale Law School: Administrators Do Damage Control as Faculty Members Slam School’s Dishonesty," Free Beacon:
...corporate legal scholar Roberta Romano, threatened to "correct the record" if the law school did not do so itself. The administration's actions toward Colbert, Romano wrote Krozner, are "in direct and total conflict with what you stated," noting that the school's diversity director had made "a sly threat" about the student's career.
"Please correct the record," she added. "I would not want to have to do it for you."
Another Yale Law professor, who asked to remain anonymous, said the initial statement was "appallingly disingenuous and full of falsehoods." Yale Law School "stated ‘no student is investigated or sanctioned for protected speech,'" the professor told the Free Beacon. "It's hard to square that statement with the Dean of Student Affairs summoning a student for questioning in response to allegations by other students, with the Diversity Director ominously warning the student that if he doesn't apologize his admission to the bar could be threatened, or with the Law School sending a message to the entire second-year class condemning the student's email as ‘racist.' If all that isn't an ‘investigation,' then it's even worse—a pronouncement of guilt without investigation."
Oct 18: *",The Yale Law School Email Controversy: An Interview With Trent Colbert" , Dzvid Lat, Oct 18.
TC: I’ve received many private messages of support—“I don’t get this,” “Sorry you have to be dealing with this,” “Stay strong.” I think there’s a silent majority that supports me. But nobody wants to be the next person targeted on GroupMe.
TF: Once the attacks on Trent were in the GroupMe, everyone felt they had to go along. There’s a very “emperor’s new clothes” vibe—when someone says something is offensive, everyone else has to play along. In some cases, there’s actually something to seize on. In this case, I can’t emphasize enough how out of the blue it all was.
TC:Nobody reached out to me before filing their complaints. My first meeting with the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) was less than 24 hours after my email went out.
I received one message two days after my original invitation was reposted into the class GroupMe. By that point, I had already been reported by at least nine students to the OSA, and I had already had two meetings with administrators from that office.
I didn’t understand this message as an invitation to dialogue. The student told me they didn't like my response attempting to clear the air in the class GroupMe,3 said that they would no longer be extending me the benefit of the doubt, and reiterated the demand for an apology...I will add that, later on, the student did reach out again, expressing interest in talking with me, and we had a nice 40-minute chat the next day...
Interview footnote: On September 17, Colbert went on GroupMe to explain that "there was never a Trap House theme" for the party, which was about Constitution Day. He included a copy of the party invitation that he sent to the FedSoc list, which was more formal than the NALSA invite and made no reference to any “trap house.” ...
Interview footnote: I have received secondhand reports, from Professor Monica Bell and from one current YLS student, that some students tried to reach out to Colbert, but I haven’t seen any confirmation of those efforts at contact. Colbert made available for my review many of the emails and GroupMe messages at issue here, and I didn’t see any in which a fellow student expressed an interest in a one-on-one conversation with Colbert.
- Emma Perez blogpost.
To be clear, legal institutions have caused violence long before the Federalist Society, and even those who disavow the organization perpetuate white supremacy, racial capitalism, and patriarchy. The law as it is currently constructed is, by default, a tool of domination; it requires serious effort to use the law as a tool for harm reduction, much more as a tool for liberation.
Dear W’all, The APALSA Board would like to build on the messages sent by theDred Scott Society, FGP, YLW, and BLSA to support and affirmthe message of our classmate Marina Edwards. It is critical for us as Asian American and Pacific Islander students to work in solidaritywith our peers – especially our Black peers who have been disproportionately impacted by this community harm and taken on disproportionate labor to repair it – to underscore the impact that this incident has had on our YLS community.
- "Yale Law School Students to Media: ... :Asian-American student group says comparisons to Maoist China are 'offensively racist',"Aaron Sibarium, Washington Free Beacon. Various student groups attack Colbert.
- https://www.campusreform.org/article? "Yale students try to cancel classmate who sent edgy Constitution Day email," Ben Zeisloft, Campus Reform.
- Prof. Christakis tweet, 119th
ave you ever wondered what deans of diversity do behind closed doors? Until last week, the public had little visibility into their methods. Then covertly recorded audio emerged of Yaseen Eldik, Yale Law School’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Ellen Cosgrove, an associate dean, pressuring a student to issue a written apology for emailing out a party invitation that offended some of his classmates. ... The most significant question that remains unanswered at Yale Law School: Was this case unusual, or do the diversity bureaucrats at Yale treat lots of people this way behind closed doors? Cosgrove and Gerken, the law school’s dean, figured prominently in my colleague Elizabeth Bruenig’s report on a bizarre controversy that erupted around Amy Chua, a prominent Yale Law professor whom administrators apparently punished in the spring. Some students had made murky complaints that Chua had entertained other students at her home—and that this was evidence of a threat to students’ safety.
- "We’re Not “Cripplingly Sensitive,” Black Students at Yale Law Just Want to Talk." Saja Spearman-Weaver. "I am writing as a Yale Law School student who is frustrated by another attempt by the right wing and their allies in the media to paint my peers as “cripplingly sensitive.”"
- "GETTING MINDS RIGHT AT YALE: FIVE POINTS," Scott Johnson, Powerline blog.
- "Yale Law needs to learn to watch its language," Professor Andrew Koppelman, The Hill.
But there is a long history of white college students holding parties that ridicule Black culture. Fried chicken is a frequent feature of those parties. In New Haven, the Popeye’s closest to Yale is at the dividing line between "Yale" New Haven and the Black New Haven that Yale students often avoid. The term “basic bitch” originated in rap music.
For people like Prof. Koppelman and the privileged left, it's just plain weird that Yale students would ever want to leave their cocoon and patronize a business in scary New Haven. I remember in college at Yale we used to walk across the deserted Common to Burger King late at night, the thrill of the danger we had been warned about, and how neat it was when someone there asked if I wanted to buy "coke or smoke". But it wasn't that we liked slumming. It was that we liked french fries.
In contemporary parlance, “racist” has two distinctive definitions. One, the more familiar, subjective one, describes a person who consciously embraces an ideology of white supremacy. But another, newer meaning describes any speech or conduct that, intentionally or unintentionally, has the objective effect of promoting the institutions that tend to subordinate Black people. (Set aside that reasonable people often disagree about whether a given statement or action has that effect.)
The most innocent possible explanation for the use of the term in Eldik and Cosgrove’s message to the students would cite the second, objective meaning. (The subjective one would have been actionably defamatory.) The epithet “racist” was applied to the language, not its author. The objective meaning accounts for the weird fact that, as Colbert told me, “They sent that out while they were on the phone with me telling me that there’s no judgment here.” }}
October 25, Monday
- "We Have a Diversity Bureaucracy. In the Wake of Yale Law Brouhaha, Prominent Scholars Say We Need A Free Speech Bureaucracy Too," Washington Free Beacon, Aaron Sibarium:
Arkansas senator Tom Cotton (R.) went so far as to threaten Yale's federal funding. "I'm sadly not surprised that Yale Law is full of humorless petty tyrants trying to punish conservatives for harmless jokes," Cotton told the Washington Free Beacon. "If these schools want to keep getting federal funds, they should focus on teaching the law and protect the free speech of their students." ... "Universities are not punished for stifling free speech," said David Bernstein, a constitutional historian at George Mason's Antonin Scalia Law School. "They are punished for allowing harassment." "Every university and big corporation is now incentivized to have a bureaucracy dedicated to handling harassment complaints," Bernstein told the Free Beacon. "The problem is you don't have a counterbalancing First Amendment or free speech bureaucracy"—in part because there's no legal incentive to set one up.
Martha Nussbaum, a left-wing legal theorist at the University of Chicago, said it "would be appalling and chilling" for any administrator to suggest that "the Federalist Society is per se racist," as Yale Law School diversity director Yassen Eldik alleged. Nussbaum's Chicago colleague Brian Leiter—who has argued that future generations are "doomed" if America does not one day embrace socialism—agreed, telling the Free Beacon that "Yale has some serious academic freedom and free expression problems." ... "The only reason this institution exists is to promote interesting thinking," said J.D Vance, a Senate primary candidate in Ohio and alum of Yale Law. "What it actually does is train people to be boring and provincial thinkers who harass other people for having original thoughts."
Even more liberal alums of the school, including Above the Law founder David Lat, share Vance's concerns. Lat tweeted that "the intellectual environment at Yale Law School right now is extremely hostile to conservatives."
"If a conservative or libertarian law student asked me if they should go to Yale Law today," Lat said, "I would have to think long and hard about my answer."
- "Why I Didn’t Apologize For That Yale Law School Email: We must end the culture of performative repentance,"
- "Damage Control: Yale Law School Scrubs Administrator Profiles from Website: Removal comes in the wake of widespread outrage about administration's response to party invite,"
Washington Free Beacon, Aaron Sibarium:
Yale Law School's Office of Student Affairs has removed all administrator profiles from its website "to protect staff members" in the wake of widespread outrage about the school's treatment of Trent Colbert, the second-year law student who invited classmates to his "trap house," according to a university spokeswoman. ... According to a now-deleted version of the student affairs website, Cosgrove's remit involves the bar exam's "character and fitness" investigations, which review aspiring lawyers' disciplinary records in considerable detail. ... An entry for Cosgrove—which contains no mention of her "character and fitness" duties—is still viewable on the law school's main website. Archived web pages indicate that the profiles were scrubbed between Oct. 13 and Oct. 18. ... Debra Kroszner, a spokeswoman for the university, said the "profile page for the Office of Student Affairs was temporarily taken down to protect staff members who have been receiving threatening emails and phone calls." But contact information for both Eldik and Cosgrove remains publicly available on the university's website for "discrimination and harassment concerns." ... Some have even called for the administrators to be fired. "If, after a full and fair hearing, administrators are found guilty of violating free speech or other academic freedom rights of students or faculty, they should be dismissed," said Princeton University's Robert George. "Until this begins to happen, you can expect more of this."
- "INTERVIEW The Diversity Bureaucracy," The City Journal, Aaron Sibarium and Daniel Kennelly.
Your latest update to the story notes that there’s been a backlash to the backlash at Yale Law, with an Asian-American student group issuing a statement denouncing as “offensively racist” Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus’s evocation of “Maoist reeducation camps” to criticize Yale Law’s response—this despite the fact that two other student groups issued statements about the incident approvingly citing Maoist intellectual Paulo Freire. Are we sure this isn’t satire?
It sounds too good to be true, but it really happened. Freire did call Mao’s Cultural Revolution “the most genial solution” to “oppressive pedagogy.” He was praising the Cultural Revolution as late as 1974, by which point it had killed millions in China. This is the guy that the Dred Scott Society and Marina Edwards, president of the Black Law Students Association, praised as an exemplary intellectual who shows us how to have “critical dialogue.”
October 26, Tuesday
- "Trent Colbert: standing athwart the mob: How an individual stood up to the collective and lived to tell the tale," Razib Khan, Substack, podcast interview with Trent Colbert.
- YAF article, Jacob Roth.
- "GETTING MINDS RIGHT AT YALE: TRENT COLBERT SPEAKS," Scott Johnson, Powerline blog.
- A Yale Law Student Who Refused To Apologize Over Email Explains Why: Won’t ‘Indulge This Culture Of Performative Denunciation’," The Daily Wire, Ashe Schow. Rehash, but original.
October 27, Wednesday
- "Yale Law School student bucks outrage crowd who accused him of racism over party invitation," The Blaze, CHRIS ENLOE. Rehash, but original.
- "The Contretemps at Yale," RealClearEducation, Northwestern Professor Steven Lubet.
A law school’s “discrimination and harassment coordinators” cannot denounce a student for racism and then withhold that information from its bar certifications. If the condemnation is warranted, it must be reported; if it is not warranted, it should be retracted. To do otherwise would violate the administrators’ own obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct. ... The YLS statement also raises another problem that has not yet been picked up in even the most extensive accounts of this episode: Does Yale fully comply with its obligations of disclosure regarding bar admissions?
Many states require law schools to report much more than “formal disciplinary action” in their certifications for the bar exam. New York, where many Yale graduates apply for bar admission, asks not only about formal discipline but also about whether the applicant was “charged with any misconduct.” Moreover, New York also asks: “Is there any other discreditable information in the personnel or other records of the school regarding the applicant’s conduct or activities or bearing upon applicant’s character not otherwise set forth in this form certificate?”
California likewise asks if there is “any reason to question the applicant’s fitness for admission to practice law.” Responses to the New York questionnaire must be signed by a school official and submitted under its official seal; California requires a dean’s signature, but no seal. Neither state limits reporting obligations to conclusively disqualifying information.
Cosgrove and Eldik, in their roles as discrimination and harassment coordinators, virtually accused Colbert of racism, which they condemned in the “strongest possible terms.” If they meant what they said, it would certainly be “discreditable information” with “bearing upon [his] character” (New York) or “a reason to question [his] fitness for admission to practice law” (California), even in the absence of formal discipline.
If the Yale administration’s “longstanding policy” does indeed limit its answers to formal disciplinary action – omitting both charged misconduct and any other discreditable information – then it has been misleading the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division (the actual licensing authority, not “the Bar Association”), and the California bar, for years.
And if Yale does in fact fully comply with the various certification forms, then the recent announcement misled the YLS students who received it.
A third alternative: Yale conscientiously objects to providing information beyond formal discipline, informing the bar authorities that its answers are accordingly limited. That would be an admirable position, if held openly.
...Law schools do not get to silently set their own policies when responding to such official inquiries. Under Rule 8.1(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer may not “knowingly fail to respond to a lawful demand for information from an admissions or disciplinary authority.”
Raising the “trap-house” invitation on Colbert’s bar certifications would only increase the damage that Cosgrove and Eldik have already done to him, but YLS has no choice now. The humane and responsible step would be to retract the condemnation – just as publicly as it was first issued.”
October 31, 2021
- "An Open Letter to Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken," Peter Berkowitz, RealClearPolitics.
I offer three proposals...
First, Yale Law School should incorporate into entering students’ orientation a section on free speech and liberal education. The mini-course might assign Chapter II of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty,...
Second, Yale Law School should host an annual university-wide lecture on free speech. The lecture should be supplemented with a week of special programs, i...
Third, Yale Law School should host a regular debate series for the university community on leading issues in American constitutional law...
November 9 (Simon Lazarus)
- "Where YLS Has Gone Off The Rails, And What Is Needed To Get Back On Track," via Leiter Reports, Simon Lazarus ’67.
- "Court filing: Yale’s lawyers make surprising claims about the school’s academic freedom promises", FIRE, Yale University says in court that the Woodward Report does not represent its freedom of speech policy, October 7, 2021.