Yale University appears to be in the midst of a meltdown. You may find that irrelevant, or even amusing, but you shouldn’t. Because Yale’s sad condition, unfortunately, is common to many of our most important institutions.
As I wrote here last week, Yale’s governing board, faced with a challenge by an outsider, secretly rewrote its rules as the votes were counted, so as to ensure no more unapproved candidates.
Why is Yale so eager to avoid outside scrutiny?
There was also a scandal about a speaker at Yale who discussed “the psychopathic problem of the white mind” and talked about emptying her revolver into the head of any white person who got in her way.
But the big Yale development this week came from my alma mater, Yale Law School, where the New York Times reported on a bizarre student campaign against law professor Amy Chua, best known for her “Tiger Mom” book on raising children.
Both she and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, were made pariahs on campus based on student complaints, coincidentally shortly after showing support for then-nominee for the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh.
Then this year, students accused Chua of, well, something — and the school backed them. It had to do with claims that she had dinner parties for some students at which federal judges were present. As proof, students circulated screenshotted text messages from students who were allegedly there. As the Times reports: “Ms. Chua says she did nothing wrong, and it is unclear exactly what rule she actually broke.”
After interviewing numerous students and faculty, the report concludes, “There is no hard proof that Ms. Chua is guilty of what she was originally accused of doing. According to three students involved, there were no dinner parties and no judges; instead, she had students over on a handful of afternoons, in groups of two or three, mostly so they could seek her advice.”
(One Asian student had apparently asked her advice about dealing with a disturbing racial incident. In response to the complaints against Chua, another Asian student withdrew an application for a prestigious campus position for fear that people would accuse him of benefiting from Chua’s influence. Asian applicants are suing Yale for discrimination. Yale has an Asian problem.)
At any rate, this “dinner-party-gate” escalated with student complaints and demands, which now have some other faculty members uncomfortable, too. And, according to the Times, the overall climate is hostile: “At the law school, the episode has exposed bitter divisions in a top-ranked institution. … Students regularly attack their professors, and one another, for their scholarship, professional choices and perceived political views. In a place awash in rumor and anonymous accusations, almost no one would speak on the record.”
Yale Law School claims to be the finest law school in America. It is — for the moment, at least — ranked No. 1 on the US News list. It has produced great judges, scholars and lawyers. But now it’s an Orwellian mess of anonymous accusations and power politics.
Some say that Dean Heather Gerken has been too indulgent toward complaining students, and on the evidence, I’m inclined to agree. One professor interviewed by the Times complained of “tattle-tale espionage” and asked, “Where are we — in Moscow in 1953, when children were urged to report on their parents and siblings?”
Yes. That’s where we are. And that’s where many of our top institutions are.
We see publishers where the staff successfully demand the banning of authors they don’t like. We see software companies where employees, instead of doing their jobs, spend hours talking politics and trying to politicize their companies. We see news organizations taken over by “woke” ideology. We see teenagers kicked out of school for tweets made years earlier.
And now, in a place that is supposed to be all about the rule of law, we see anonymous mob rule. With very few exceptions, today’s Yale Law School contains either people who are deliberately behaving badly or people who are too afraid to stand up to those who are. We hear a lot about justice, but anonymous accusations and power politics aren’t justice, and places that are ruled in such a fashion tend to do badly.
The question is whether there is anyone in charge willing to show principle and decency: at Yale and elsewhere.
And for America, the question is: If our top institutions are this bad, should they remain our top institutions?
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.