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CUNY's Law Dean Is Wrong About the Attempted Shutdown of Josh Blackman

The student handbook makes it clear that students broke university policy.

CUNYYouTubeCUNY School of Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek called the recent student-led protest against conservative law professor Josh Blackman "limited and reasonable" and maintained that it did not violate university policy.

The dean is dead wrong. She's wrong about the protest, and she's wrong about university policy.

As I reported last week, Blackman—an associate professor at the South Texas College of Law—was attempting to speak to students at CUNY when a group of activists crashed the event, surrounded him, and heckled. They accused Blackman of a litany of unfounded crimes, labeling him a white supremacist, a racist, and an oppressor. The professor's controversial opinion is that he believes President Donald Trump was correct to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which permitted some illegal immigrants to remain in the country without fear of deportation. Blackman believes that DACA was enacted in a way that violated the rule of law, though he supports the DREAM Act, which would install a similar system in a different way.

The student-activists made it impossible for Blackman to speak for about eight minutes, and after that they left. Bilek told Inside Higher Ed that since Blackman was only disrupted for the first 10 minutes of a 70-minute speech, his rights were not violated:

"For the first eight minutes of the 70-minute event, the protesting students voiced their disagreements. The speaker engaged with them. The protesting students then filed out of the room, and the event proceeded to its conclusion without incident," Bilek said.

"This non-violent, limited protest was a reasonable exercise of protected free speech, and it did not violate any university policy," she added. "CUNY Law students are encouraged to develop their own perspectives on the law in order to be prepared to confront our most difficult legal and social issues as lawyers promoting the values of fairness, justice, and equality."

As The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein points out elsewhere on this site, the dean is wrong—the students' behavior clearly violates university policy:

Let's take a look at page 85 of the law school's student handbook: "II. Rules of the university (1-11) and law school (12). 1. A member of the academic community shall not intentionally obstruct and/or forcibly prevent others from the exercise of their rights. Nor shall she/he interfere with the institution's educational process or facilities, or the rights of those who wish to avail themselves of any of the institution's instructional, personal, administrative, recreational, and community services." Also this: "5. Each member of the academic community or an invited guest has the right to advocate his position without having to fear abuse—physical, verbal, or otherwise from others supporting conflicting points of view." The disruption didn't violate any university policy, Dean Bilek? Have your read the student handbook?

Bilek also failed to note a key detail: The protest came to an abrupt end only because a university administrator stood up and said, in no uncertain terms, "You may not keep anyone from speaking. If you do, I have other things to do, I will be back. Or you can resolve this yourselves. Or you can have me resolve it." This provides more evidence for my thesis: When students, administrators, and professors stand up to hecklers and implore them to be quiet, an event can be saved.

Photo Credit: Screenshot

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  • Shirley Knott||

    "Implore" seems a rather inappropriate verb choice.

  • ||

    I agree, but on the whole, for Robby, I give the article an A. A refreshingly "The policy is straightforward and they straightforwardly violated the policy." piece.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    These were law students?

  • Rhywun||

    Yes, we now have graduate students that need a blankie and a cup of hot chocolate to comfort them when someone says something they don't agree with.

  • sarcasmic||

    These are our future politicians, prosecutors, and judges.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Well, these students, and all of the backwater snowflakes attending right-wing goober factories, which feature strident censorship; loyalty oaths; codified suppression of science and dissent; old-timey conduct codes; viewpoint-based discrimination in everything from hiring and firing to admissions and administration; blatant rejection of academic freedom; and the daily teaching of nonsense as signature elements of a conservative-controlled campus.

  • sarcasmic||

    OK....

  • FreeRadical||

    And your rant has what to do with the issues raised by the behavior of these students?

  • Just Say'n||

    Oh, I get it, the good reverend is retarded

  • Rhywun||

    LOL you just described every vast majority of colleges in the country, and they are leftist.

  • Ariki||

    If I wanted to see cunts I'll go to pornhub.
    Fuck off Rev. Asshat.

  • DFG||

    What in the everlovingfuck is this one on about? "Right-wing goober factories with strident censorship, loyalty oaths and codified suppression of science and dissent"? Is this one of those people who thinks "A Handmaid's Tale" is a documentary?

  • Rossami||

    re: "These were law students?"

    That has not yet been made clear in any media report I've seen. The speech was hosted by the CUNY School of Law and probably many of the attendees were from that school but it is also possible and even likely that the event was open to all students of CUNY (most events are) and maybe even open to the general public. I've seen no reports confirming the affiliation of the protestors.

    From their comments, I seriously hope that the protestors are not law students. If they were, that would be a pretty damning indictment on the quality of their educations so far.

  • Rhywun||

    I've seen no reports confirming the affiliation of the protestors.

    You raise a good point.

  • Just Say'n||

    What I find most troubling about this incident is that Josh Blackman is an "adjunct scholar at the CATO Institute". So SJWs are now targeting mainstream libertarian voices. Can Ron Paul even visit a college anymore without being shutdown? He use to pack colleges, but that was before "the wokening".

  • Earth Skeptic||

    There can be only one.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Rand vs Ron?

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    When students, administrators, and professors stand up to hecklers and implore them to be quiet, an event can be saved.


    Until you cannot, that is. Remember that Pol Pot used to be a university student.

  • Just Say'n||

    I might as well Goodwin this thread.

    Also, Nazi youth groups use to shout down problematic speakers at colleges.

    There, I did it.

  • Rhywun||

    Good God.

  • sarcasmic||

    Y'all

  • Ariki||

    The vast majority of the worlds tyrannical arseholes came from a upper middle class, to lower upper class, background.
    They preached their version of morality to those below them, not in an effort to improve the lives of the masses, but rather in an effort to use the masses as a weapon against those above them.

    If you cant compete with those above you on equal terms, your only avenue to the power you crave is to destroy the playing field.

    It is far easier to cut a few down than it is to raise the rest up.

  • Just Say'n||

    "This non-violent, limited protest was a reasonable exercise of protected free speech, and it did not violate any university policy," she added. "CUNY Law students are encouraged to develop their own perspectives on the law in order to be prepared to confront our most difficult legal and social issues as lawyers promoting the values of fairness, justice, and equality."

    Also, the "heckler's veto" has not been recognized as protected speech since Gregory v. Chicago and most recently in Hill v. Colorado. CUNY sounds like a terrible law school

  • Ska||

    Baruch is a pretty good CUNY school - but it's a business school. Hell, Queens College is a decent school for the price.

    I didn't even know there was a CUNY Law School until this episode.

  • Chipper Jones||

    Like most law schools it's largely a scam but to its credit at least tuition is low (subsidized, no doubt, by the good taxpayers of New York).

  • DajjaI||

    When students, administrators, and professors stand up to hecklers and implore them to be quiet, an event can be saved.

    Exactly so what's the problem? Just stand up to them. Ben Shapiro does this all the time and it works great. You know what doesn't work great? Expelling these people because that will only radicalize them. Also listeners have free speech rights too. Yes they can 'disrupt' an event and get escorted out, by hand taxi if necessary. (As I've experienced many times, it's actually pretty comfortable if disconcerting.) If you think the government or school administration should have the power to ban nonviolent 'disruption' but not free speech then what can I say, you are an idiot.

  • Eidde||

    To avoid expelling and radicalizing them, the best and most compassionate course for everyone is to tell violators - "get out or you'll be expelled," and if they think they're serious, is the vast majority of cases they'll obey.

    The ones who continue their disruption even after they know the administration will expel them, are few and far between.

    In the incidents I've seen, the protesters seem to have a pretty good idea how far they can go without facing consequences - and they rarely go beyond that point.

    Maybe the students who assaulted that professor at Charles Murray's speech are an exception, but I presume you'd want assaults to be prosecuted even at the risk of radicalizing the assaulters.

  • Eidde||

    Just have someone credible in the administration say "quit it or we'll kick you out," and in most cases they'll quit and not get kicked out.

  • Just Say'n||

    Oh, clearly. The good reverend is merely stating the "lolbertarian" view, which can be summarized as thus: "yeah, sure I believe in free speech, unless the Left tells me not to believe in that anymore. Then I think only Nazis like free speech or something".

    But, it is not nice to mock the good reverend's obvious mental handicap.

  • Just Say'n||

    Errr...this response is in the wrong place

  • FreeRadical||

    Still, a true comment you have made.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Just have someone credible in the administration say "quit it or we'll kick you out," and in most cases they'll quit and not get kicked out.

    That seems to work at conservative-controlled schools, although the result of speech and conduct codes on those campuses is suppression of dissent, science, free inquiry, reason, and freedom of expression -- and a third- or fourth-tier ranking, or perhaps a spot in the unranked bin.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    If you think the government or school administration should have the power to ban nonviolent 'disruption' but not free speech then what can I say, you are an idiot.

    Did I miss something? Who here is calling for govt intervention? Who is calling for a ban? If I am to be an idiot, may it be only because I have missed something here.

    Abiding by the institution's rules laid out in the student handbook, which expressly protect the first amendment rights of all students, speakers, and faculty, is a condition of being a part of this academic institution. I wonder if such protests are ultimately "provo" tactics, to escalate things into more violent confrontation.

    The harrassment of Berning at the Charles Murray event, a neutral bystander simply attempting to document the event, and the angry assumption of that nazi-puncher that the guy merely filming him must "hate" that he punched a nazi. The mindset is already an infredibly confrontational one, but one also feverishly paranoid, and at the same time calculating and cynical. They'll push and they'll push until you dare even look at them sideways and then they'll kick it up a notch. It's not for me to say if any sanctions or punishment would work for so vociferously denying others basic freedom of speech; it could ultimately be futile, but such protests remind me acutely of those by the Westboro Baptist Church; you can't win. Any response only results in more zealous vitriol.

  • Eidde||

    The comparison I'd like to make is a fundraising dinner with rich alumni (if the law school has any rich alumni, that is).

    The dean gets up to speak but protesters gather around behind her and start shouting how shameful it is that anyone would consider donating to CUNY Law.

    Then after "only" eight minutes (after an official threatens them with consequences) they file out.

    Would that have been permitted to go on for eight minutes? Wouldn't security have gone in? Wouldn't the protesters be facing charges either in the campus courts or the real-world courts?

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    It appears Duke University recently experienced something similar, handled it in an adult manner, and therefore failed the Asperger-addled, faux libertarian, right-wing outrage standard while vindicating CUNY's measured conduct.

    If Duke brings criminal charges against its protesters -- the limitations period has not lapsed, so birther-class wingnut hope lives! -- the conservative victimization and outrage machine will score one.

  • Eidde||

    ""President Price get off the stage," the group chanted, while rushing the stage with signs and a megaphone. Once they gathered onstage, the group continued chanting "Whose University? Our University.""

    You're right, only Asperger-addled faux-libertarians would want these precious snowflakes to face any consequences for their behavior.

  • Eidde||

    Oh, and anyone who wants these students to be disciplined obviously believes President Obama was born in Kenya.

  • Eidde||

    By the way, you missed the most important part of that story - the President of Duke University is Vincent Price.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Oh, these infernal students!

  • ||

    The dean gets up to speak but protesters gather around behind her and start shouting how shameful it is that anyone would consider donating to CUNY Law.

    I was half-expecting that they would protest her glossed-over equivocation.

  • Eidde||

    I thought at first I had come up with a hypothetical situation, but at least in this Duke situation, reality caught up with me.

  • Jerryskids||

    Look, there's policy and then there's "policy". Strict adherence to the letter of the law - laws written by the oppressor class - obviously does not comport with being "prepared to confront our most difficult legal and social issues as lawyers promoting the values of fairness, justice, and equality." You have to know which rules can be bent and which should be ignored, and obviously from the response they received to their rules-breaking, these students have learned well which rules they can safely ignore.

  • Mr. Gus||

    Is it just me, or did Robby grow a pair in this article?

  • Just Say'n||

    Robby doesn't get enough credit for taking some pretty unpopular positions among the journo crowd. Yeah, he uses Vox as a primary source and he "to be sures" just about everything, but I guarantee you that this kid is not getting invites to those swanky cocktail parties. He's got bigger balls then he gets credit for.

  • FreeRadical||

    I agree. Anyone with hair like that needs to be closely monitored, but we should still give credit where credit is due.

  • Just Say'n||

    Forget the hair. The man admitted that he cannot change a tire. That should raise suspicions. But, credit where it is due and I don't think Robby gets enough credit

  • ||

    The man admitted that he cannot change a tire.

    +1 Fruit sushi.

    Still, an unusually direct and unequivocal article from Robby.

  • Rhywun||

    Our little baby's all grows up!

  • Ryan Frank||

    In Commentsville they say, Robbys balls grew 3 sizes that day.

  • Just Say'n||

    "After that day, Robby was able to impregnate a woman with simply a stare..."

  • FreeRadical||

    When I think about these protesters (and the insane people at UT mentioned in the other story), I get almost a sense of panic.

    What do you do with people that are devoid of reason? That have no capability for nuanced thought? That are utterly closed?

    I think, well, they are a small group and things really aren't that bad. Or, they'll grow out of it and it will be ok.

    But then they get traction, and respect, from people that should have outgrown it. That should still have reason. The professor at UT may now face and investigation. The DEAN of the law school at CUNY defends them.

    And then I start to realize: this is how communism was able to take root. This is how intellectuals were rounded up. How creativity and industry were destroyed. I could never really understand how it could happen. But now I'm getting a hint. My blood runs cold.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Arm the populace?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    They accused Blackman of a litany of ... crimes, labeling him a white supremacist, a racist, and an oppressor.

    What a coincidence — that's exactly the type of argument I use against opponents of open borders!

    This is what I'm always talking about. Sure, the protesting students probably identify as "progressive," but progressives and libertarians have many important overlapping views. I bet these students would find a lot to like if they discovered Reason.com. So instead of mocking them as "snowflakes" or whatever, we libertarians should reach out to progressives and make clear we're on their side when it comes to issues like abolishing ICE and opposing Drumpf's white nationalist agenda.

  • sarcasmic||

    but progressives and libertarians have many important overlapping views

    Really?

    Libertarians want government to leave them alone, and progressives want government to control everything and everyone.

    I fail to see the overlap.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Liberals and libertarians share some views. Conservatives and libertarians share some views. Faux libertarians -- right-wingers in silly drag -- claim conservatives have the upper hand in this one.

  • Eidde||

    The rev doesn't seem to realize OBL is a parody. Or at least I think it's a parody.

  • MarkLastname||

    I maintain Kirkland is also a parody, whether he knows it or not. When God made him, he did it as an act of satire.

  • Conchfritters||

    ....we libertarians should reach out to progressives and...

    And hand them a joint and tell them to chill out and shut the fuck up.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    And get their hands off my wallet.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    You're pointing out the nominal policy. The Dean is articulating the actual policy: That disrupting events is ok so long as the victims aren't favored by the administration.

  • sarcasmic||

    Principals, not principles.

  • Conchfritters||

    Wow - I was too busy smoking weed and drinking shitty beer when I was in college to protest anything. I don't think I even voted in any elections for those six and a half years, but really I was too drunk to remember. Who the fuck are these people, and when did people stop doing college correctly?

  • FreeRadical||

    Same here. And all my other time was consumed overcoming hangovers to be able to make it through engineering school.

    Even back then, we spoke derisively of the stupid fucks in the humanities. Obviously, it's even worse today. (And I love the humanities, really)

  • Rhywun||

    I'd like to think we're not getting a completely accurate general picture of what's really going on in schools today. Nobody writes articles about students goofing off or, I dunno, studying.

  • DajjaI||

    The fact is, this is the first time many of these idiots exposed their views in public. So now they will have to deal with the consequences of their behavior - embarrassing themselves in front of their peers. Sure some people will give them a pat on the back but most will marginalize them. Most students didn't go to law school to say, "F_ck the law." This is all good and healthy and let's not get our panties in a twist. If the university cracks down hard on 'disruption' then it will only produce more. Because it will radicalize kids because they have nothing to lose. I know this is so counterintuitive and hard to understand. The law of unintended consequences. Why was G_d so stingy with giving intelligence to the libertarians? WHY OH WHY.

  • FreeRadical||

    I'm so dumb, I can't figure out why you feel the need to put underscores into words.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Voodoo?

  • libertynugget||

    We must have diversity, and if you don't agree then we will ostracize you.

  • Shirley Knott||

    It's a more diverse group if it includes outcasts.

  • Eidde||

    That used to be a winning Hollywood formula.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Sometimes I feel like I don't have the heart to tell Robby that he graduated like 12 years ago.

  • inoyu||

    The brand new "Gorsuch Doctrine" states that "intentionally obstruct" is too vague therefore the rules of the university don't apply to anything.

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