The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
On March 26, a group of students at Yale Law School approached the dean's office with an unusual accusation: Amy Chua, one of the school's most popular but polarizing professors, had been hosting drunken dinner parties with students, and possibly federal judges, during the pandemic…. [Prof. Chua] has a reputation for unfiltered, boundary-pushing behavior, and in 2019 agreed not to drink or socialize with students outside of class. Her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, also a law professor, is virtually persona non grata on campus, having been suspended from teaching for two years after an investigation into accusations that he had committed sexual misconduct.
The dinner parties, the students said, appeared to violate Ms. Chua's no-socializing agreement …. The students provided what they said was proof of the dinners, in the form of a dossier featuring secretly screen-shotted text messages between a second-year student and two friends who had attended….
At the law school, the episode has exposed bitter divisions in a top-ranked institution struggling to adapt at a moment of roiling social change. Students regularly attack their professors, and one another, for their scholarship, professional choices and perceived political views….
[Dean Hether] Gerken's critics in the faculty worry that she acted too hastily in the Chua matter [in requiring that Chua step aside from teaching a small first-year class -EV], prioritizing students' concerns over a professor's rights.
Particularly problematic, several professors said in interviews, was her reliance on the text-message dossier, prepared by a student who learned that two of his friends had gone to Ms. Chua's house — and believed that the visits made them complicit in her, and [her husband] Mr. Rubenfeld's, behavior…. Ms. Gerken referred to the dossier at an April 21 faculty meeting as evidence of Ms. Chua's misconduct. Several professors who saw the material said in interviews that they were shocked at how unpersuasive it was.
"Evidence of what?" one asked. Another called it "tattletale espionage."
"Where are we — in Moscow in 1953, when children were urged to report on their parents and siblings?" the professor said.