The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

A Paradoxical Defense of Berkeley Law School


Two 2019 alumni of Berkeley Law School, Nir Maoz and Olivia Wittels, are concerned that the recent attention given to the "no speakers who support Israel's existence" rule adopted by nine student groups at the law school is giving people a false impression of the school. Jewish and Zionist students at Berkeley Law, they write, are thriving. They describe their own experiences in support of that claim.

I don't doubt they are right about the thriving part, but after I finished the article I wound up more concerned about the environment at Berkeley Law than I was before I read it. Sometimes, incidents like the current speaker boycott are short-term phenomena, spurred by an especially charismatic student activist who temporarily rallies other groups to his side. But Maoz and Wittel's article suggests that the problem is much more deep-rooted and longstanding. They write: "We won't deny that in our three years at Berkeley Law, we experienced a number of antisemitic incidents that contributed to what was, at times, a hostile climate for many Jewish students."

They don't describe what these incidents were, but I find it striking that in a defense of their alma mater, with perhaps the most "progressive" student body of any law school, they describe antisemitism sufficiently serious to at times create a hostile environment. Good for them for not letting it interfere with their activism, nor for falling into a victim mentality. But something seems to be seriously amiss at Berkeley Law.