The Volokh Conspiracy

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

NYC Mayor Eric Adams And I Now Share Something In Common

We were both protested by CUNY Law students.


On Friday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams was the graduation speaker at the City University of New York Law School. One might think that the Democratic politician, who was elected in one of the most Democratic cities in the country, would receive a warm welcome from the second-most liberal law school in the country. But no. He was too conservative for the students. Adams was protested.

As the dean of the City University of New York School of Law, Sudha Setty, introduced the mayor at a Queens College auditorium on Friday, she noted his time spent on the police force. The crowd booed.

When Mr. Adams took to the stage and began to speak, things got much worse. Many of the newly minted doctors of law, in black gowns and mortar boards, turned their backs to him.

There were more boos and heckles, according to video of the event, which was closed to the press, and according to two people who were in attendance. Even a couple of raised middle fingers, one person said.

The linked YouTube video was made private, but I found this clip on Twitter. Adams is booed, heckled, and interrupted, as the graduates turned their back to the Mayor.

Mayor Adams called out the students for not participating in a "healthy dialogue."

Mr. Adams tends not to give such speeches with prepared remarks in hand, according to his spokesman, Fabien Levy, so there was no script from which to veer. But the mayor, who has something of a combative streak, did quickly tailor his riff to the situation at hand.

"We're watching a clear lack of desire to even participate in healthy dialogue," he told the students. He concluded his remarks with a broad smile, commending the graduates for exercising their right to protest, but suggesting that they do more.

"My message today to the graduates," he said, "my message to those who believe that their beliefs are the only beliefs in a diversified city like New York, my message to you, instead of being a detached spectator in the full contact sport called life, get on the field and participate about improving the lives of the people of this city."

Well said. Civil discourse is extremely important, but alas, has no place at CUNY. Welcome to the club of CUNY Law protestees, Mayor Adams.

Several years ago, the graduation speaker at my law school went on a rant about gun control. I took off my hat as a sign of protest. At one point, I sighed and rolled my eyes. I only realized later that my reaction was caught on camera, and broadcasted on the big screen. My Dean was not pleased with me, and asked how I could react that way, given the CUNY debacle. I replied that my silent protest was an effective way to make my point, without interrupting the speaker. I also told our graduation speaker that her remarks were completely inappropriate, and she was shocked and offended. Several of my conservative students thanked me afterwards for saying and doing what they could not. Tenure is a good thing.