Free Speech

"Yale Law's Bullying, Coercive Diversity Leaders"


Prominent liberal law professor Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern) weighs in, in the Chronicle of Higher Education (registration required; registration-free excerpt at TaxProf Blog):

Trent Colbert, a Yale Law student who belongs to the Native American Law Students Association (he's part Cherokee) and the conservative Federalist Society, had invited classmates to an event cohosted by both groups. "We will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned Nalsa Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc," he wrote. The invitation promised "Popeye's chicken, basic-bitch-American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.)" and hard and soft drinks.

It is unsurprising that Colbert did not know all the connotations of "trap house." The term, which originally referred to crack houses in poor neighborhoods, has, according to Urban Dictionary, "since been abused by high-school students who like to pretend they're cool by drinking their mom's beer together and saying they're part of a 'traphouse.'" It is one of a huge variety of slang terms from marginalized urban culture that have entered the mainstream, where many people acquire it ignorant of its etymology.

The invitation was almost instantly screenshotted and shared to an online forum for law students. The president of the Black Law Students Association reportedly wrote in the forum, "I guess celebrating whiteness wasn't enough. Y'all had to upgrade to cosplay/black face." She also objected to the mixer's affiliation with the Federalist Society, which she said "has historically supported anti-Black rhetoric." The school's Office of Student Affairs received nine discrimination and harassment complaints….

When Colbert hadn't apologized by that same evening [after being encouraged to apologize by Yale administrators], [the administrators,] Eldik and Cosgrove emailed the entire second-year class about the incident. An "invitation was recently circulated containing pejorative and racist language," the email read. "We condemn this in the strongest possible terms" and "are working on addressing this." Here mediation has ceased. The law school has taken it upon itself to declare who is right and who is wrong. Colbert was publicly branded as "racist" before his peers. "They sent that out," he told me, "while they were on the phone with me telling me that there's no judgment here."

In a brief follow-up meeting on September 17, which Colbert also recorded, Eldik says, "You're a law student, and there's a bar you have to take. So we think it's really important to give you a 360 view." This is more menacing than anything that was said the previous day. It suggests that this episode might be brought up to the character and fitness inquiry of a bar admission. …

People come to the university with radically different narratives about themselves and the world. That generates some mighty intense disagreements. Members of a university need to work together peacefully even when they find one another's deepest convictions wrong or offensive. It can be valuable to have someone in the administration that students can complain to, whose job it is to detect and de-escalate conflict. (It is obviously difficult for a student to approach a professor to complain about racial insensitivity.)

What that administrator must be wary of doing is adopting one side's narrative and imposing it on everyone. An explanation of why the "trap house" email offended some people was helpful. An official statement pronouncing it "racist" was destructive, as was the semi-official implication that the Federalist Society is oppressive.

For a detailed (opinionated, but as best I can tell quite accurate) account, see this item at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Aaron Terr).

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  1. Yale certaily has degenerated from my time there, long ago.

    1. Feel free to wish you had attended a conservative school -- such as Wheaton, Hillsdale, Bob Jones, Grove City, Regent, Liberty, or Franciscan -- while engaging in partisan nipping at the ankles of strong, liberal-libertarian schools.

      1. Feel free to wish you had accomplished anything in your life while engaging in [constant] partisan nipping at the ankles of a respected law school professor.

      2. Artie,
        I remember hearing President Kingman Brewster promise that Yale would always produce at least 1000 male leaders per year.
        And what is with you always yapping abut no-consequence colleges?

      3. Your absurd implication that Yale as presently constituted is a "strong, liberal-libertarian school" is not supported by your link to a music video. It's typical of your idiotic posting style that the claim isn't an actual statement, either, merely a skunk-like smell that you can emit without actually bothering to read the article. Your devotion to and fascination with posting in a forum you purport to deride with no real reference to the content provided by authors you also deride is quite peculiar. A normal person wouldn't feel this compulsion to online Tourettes.

        1. I provide the music links to try to bring some culture and joy to a bleak blog.

          If they bother you greatly, ask the Volokh Conspiracy to censor me. It has done it before. I expect it will do it again. Maybe the management values your preferences more than free speech or my musical links.

          (If you didn't find it jarring that that song was performed on Jay Leno's show, you might be unfamiliar withthe lyrics)

        2. As he has explained elsewhere, the Rev is a troll, and he is here solely to be amused by your over-reactions to the "skunk-like smell" of his commentary. Now you know why they added the "mute user" feature.

    2. The important thing is that you've let everyone here know that you went to Yale.

      1. Thank you David. I was a Yale faculty but i am not a Yalie.

  2. Yale certainly has degenerated from my time there, long ago.

  3. What would have happened if the student hadn’t had racial boba fides to protect him?

    If he were a member of one of the less preferred races, Yale would have been a lot more comfortable ramping up the bullying. We all know the casual slanders and presumptions that accompany "diversity and inclusion" actions against less preferred races.

    1. Well yes, they actually explicitly told him this, so it's not even a guess in this case.

      1. And if there’s any doubt, read every story about the incident. Each and every story includes a prominent paragraph to warn the readers about racial bona fides. Because everyone knows that readers will use racial prejudice to decide who is right and who is wrong without that information. (Then those readers will congratulate themselves for being The Good Guys.)

        1. To be fair, since the invitation was to the Native American Law whatever and the diversity officer or dean explicitly mentioned his ethnicity as a reason to give him extra consideration it would be hard to leave that out. But the Beacon article in particular chose to mention that fact in a way that appeared to use it in exactly the defensive way you suiggest, in the lede rather than in a more appropriate place, and the pee-on-self cuck smell of that apparent cringing got up a lot of folks' noses.

  4. 9 complaints.
    Enrollment around 700.
    Nobody likes a whiner.

    1. The Yale Office of Student Affairs and diversity apparatus loves whiners. Without whiners, they wouldn't have jobs.

      No wonder they work so hard at keeping the identity-based grievance level stoked up to 11.

      1. This is the first true thing you've ever said, tiny pianist.

  5. I would like to see the release of the recordings from Colbert. Then we will know just how innocuous the comments by Eldik and Cosgrove actually were. They should immediately release Colbert from any liability and let the recordings come out.

    1. What additional recordings are you hoping to see? And what liability do you think Colbert needs to be released form to share them?

      1. Are there additinoal recordings? My understanding is that complete recordings of two meetings are available on the Free Beacon site. Haven't heard that there are more.

      2. Nas....I don't know CT law, and how they deal with recorded conversations. That is my only reservation regarding liability. Otherwise, release all of the recordings, unredacted. Then we will know whether Eldik and Cosgrove tried to intimidate/threaten or not.

        If they did threaten a student, isn't that grounds for dismissal?

        1. My understanding is that all the recordings have been released unredacted. I may be mistaken, but the Free Beacon posted two long recordings. Is there a reason why you think there are others?

          1. There were more than two meeting and no reason to believe the student recorded only two, so, yes, there is reason to think there are more recordings. But I take it that the op was unaware of the postings, and was concerned about what CT law is on explicit consent to recording and/or publishing.

            And to answer _XY, of course their behavior is grounds for dismissal from an institution with higher standards than Yale has at present, but the inmates running this particular asylum are unlikely to achieve any awareness of this.

            I went looking for more information about what turns out to be "Alan Cosgrove (She[!], Them[!]) / Associate Dean and Yaseen Eldik (him[?], them[!]) / DEI Director of Student Affairs" and didn't find much besides that, and also turned up another inadequate response from the Dean, Prof. Heather Gerkin [pronouns unspecified].

            1. I'm now wondeing if "Alan" isn't an artifact of English-to-Chinese-to-English translation in my odd path to the Power Line article, as them seems otherwise to be an Ellen.

            2. Yaseen "Crazy Eyes" Eldik is pictured here.

              There's also a recording of a conversation with him. And quotes, including:

              ‘The racial association with that connotation would be bound up in some of the drug use that has been historically associated with poor black communities in this country.’

              Eldik added that the offer to serve fried chicken was used ‘to undermine arguments that structural or systemic racism have contributed to health disparities in the US.’

              1. ...needless to say, if the black student outrage husters were triggered it had nothing to do with obesity. Watermelon would have served that purpose even better than fried chicken. This Eldik person has a Gold Card membership in Team Stupid.

  6. "Originally used to describe a crack house in a shady neighborhood,..."

    And here I thought the original (and current) meaning is the little knee high building that shelters the thingy that throws the clay pigeons at a trap range. At least that's what I always hear them called 🙂

    1. I have seen the clay pigeon throwing machines called traps.
      At the rod and gun club we have trap house on the trap range and a skeet houses on the the upper range.
      The big difference between a trap house and skeet house is the direction the clay pigeons.
      I ought to leave the distinction to trap and skeet shotgunners. I have mostly been involved in rifle and pistol matches.
      I am certain that Urban Dictionary has alternate subcultural definitions for every phrase I have used,

      1. It's an easy distinction to make. In skeet, you're shooting clay birds that are launched from two places - the high house (on the side left of the course), and the low house (on the right side of the course). Each house throws birds in (roughly) opposite directions, at pre-set trajectories. At several stations (the places you shoot from), you'll also see each house launch a bird simultaneously, and you have to shoot both of them.

        In trap shooting, there's really only one 'house' where birds are thrown from, which is downrange from the shooters. Generally the direction birds are are thrown in trap is random, so you don't know the angle that the bird will fly when you call for it.

    2. I first heard the term "trap house" in conjunction with the Brionna Taylor shooting, where the drugs delivered to her house had been taken to a "trap house" for sale by her ex- or other (than the shooter) boyfriend.

      1. About 2014-2015 or so I checked a lot of Urban Dictionary definitions of slang phrases and words that had multiple meanings in different sub cultures (many of which changed or dropped out of favor over time).

        If you try to limit your speech to worlds or phrases that don't mean something different in the slang of some sub culture some where in the US, you are going to waste a lot of time with Urban Dictionary and still miss a lot of them.

  7. "invitation was recently circulated containing pejorative and racist language," this libelous?

    1. Probably not quite, since it appears to offer an opinion characterizing "language".

      In response to this characterization, Trent Colbert might have suggested the University staff refrain from libeling him though. Responding publicly with such a suggestion wouldn’t be out of line.

    2. Maybe. But if they worked for a state school instead of private they'd probably get qualified immunity.

      1. Is that sarcasm?

        Expressions of opinion can't be defamatory? Also, I suggest standards-of-care issues might be explored, particularly as to the school's responsibility to curb the implied threats of defamation by their employees to the Bar and ~"small legal community". If they went ahead and it could be demonstrated that they had done so would there be injury w/o tort?

        1. Expressions of opinion can’t be defamatory?

          Generally speaking, that's correct. One can't insulate a defamatory statement from liability just by putting "in my opinion" in front of it — e.g., "In my opinion, Gandydancer molested some kids last week" — but a genuine opinion — something that isn't capable of being proven true or false — can't be actionable. Whether something is racist is in the latter category, as racism is in the eye of the beholder.

          the implied threats of defamation by their employees to the Bar

          There might be implied threats, but not of defamation; reporting to the bar, like other official reporting, is immune from defamation.

  8. I'm reminded of a passage in Mary Karr's book "Liar's Poker". Her mother, when hounded by by local bluenoses for moral failings, told one of them "You'd see immorality in the crotch of a tree."

    Now, I don't doubt that the nine complaining law students genuinely believed it to be "racist and pejorative", but they're going to have to brush up on their critical reading skills if they want a future in the legal profession.

    1. Counterpoint: They are very adept at issue spotting, even finding them where few others would.

      1. Another counterpoint - they're from Yale, they'll decide what the legal profession's standards are.

    2. There actually are (or maybe used to be) those who get the vapors at the term "crotch mahogany," which is lovely wood.

    3. I don't think critical reading skills are the problem so much as their instinct to assume the absolute worst about a fellow student. The public complaints, at least the ones quoted in the media, seemed to understand the invite as promoting a blackface party, or at least a party themed along those lines. (And there is some precedent for that: apparently something along those lines happened a few years ago in the South of course, if the Internet is to be believed.)

      But to think the invite was for a blackface party, you'd not only need poor reading skills, you'd need a nearly pathological level of enmity for... other races? Conservatives? Strangers? Whatever it was, this never would have gotten started if the complainers had respected the author enough to give him even the slightest benefit of the doubt. And then to go straight to the administration... it really looks like they smelled the blood of a FedSoc member and pounced on him.

  9. The nice thing about incidents like this is it reminds us how much actual racism is a problem on campus: Not at all, if they have to go gin up controversies like this.

  10. The audio offers an unsettling insight into the hair-trigger and reflexively liberal mindset of the educational diversity complex.

    It isn't "liberal" to selectively punish a student (for nothing!) because he happens to belong to a group whose ideology you don't share.

    1. To spell it out: These people aren't liberals -- they're fascists.

  11. Sooooo ... It seams the only real RACIST here is the HIGHLY PAID "Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Yaseen Eldik" who refuses to include ANBODY who does ANYTHING WHITISH. Quite the INCLUSIVE view. They should be the looking for new employment.

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