The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

David Lat on Law Student Anonymity


Some very interesting observations and queries, much worth checking out. An excerpt:

Should law students be able to protest anonymously? I view school as a period of experimentation and exploration, and one reason I have argued against holding college writings against judicial nominees is because of the chilling effect it would have. Students would be much less willing to experiment, explore, and write and say controversial things—all valuable parts of the educational process—if they felt that their words and deeds would come back to haunt them, years later.

When I was in charge at Above the Law, we had a policy of generally not naming law students involved in controversies; instead, we would come up with (often cute) pseudonyms for them (e.g., Johnny Applethief). We did this because we didn't think it fair for a law-school controversy—often a pretty silly law-school controversy—to dominate a student's so-called "Google footprint," i.e., what comes up when the student is the subject of a Google search.

One of the reforms that Yale Law instituted in the wake of last year's protest debacle was a ban on surreptitious recording. In announcing the ban, Dean Heather Gerken pointed out that it "mirrors policies that the University of Chicago and other peer institutions have put in place to encourage the free expression of ideas." And although the ban received criticism (from both the left and the right), one can see the logic of it. Students would be much less willing to participate in discussion, especially to voice a controversial opinion or to play "devil's advocate," if an out-of-context snippet of their remarks could make its way to Twitter or TikTok.

So that's the pro-anonymity case. There's a case to be made against anonymity, which Professor Nancy Rapoport makes in this blog post (discussing a situation in which anonymous law students filed complaints against a professor—complaints a university investigation concluded were unfounded):

Read the whole thing.