The Volokh Conspiracy

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Two Law School Deans on the Massacre in Israel

Moral clarity from Scalia Dean Ken Randall, and lack thereof from NYU Dean Troy McKenzie.


Some other time, I will express my views on when and if university administrators should express opinions about the issues of the day. For now, it's sufficient to note that they do all the time, and in that context should be judged by what they say, when they say it, and how they say it.

Here is Dean Ken Randall, Scalia Law (my law school) in an email I received this morning:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Over the past few days, we have watched images of deadly acts of terrorism against Israel. Whether you have friends and family in the region, or your concerns are centered on your classmates and colleagues here at home, please know that my thoughts are with you. Terrorism has no place in our society, and we stand with the Israeli people. Especially in this season when we observe important Jewish holidays, I know that you will offer support to those in our community who are in need during this difficult time.

By contrast here is NYU Dean Troy McKenzie, in response to an official missive sent to law students by the president of the Student Bar Association, defending the massacre:

Dear Members of the NYU Law Community:

Some of you may have seen a message from the president of the Student Bar Association regarding the horrific conflict in Israel and Gaza. This message was not from NYU School of Law as an institution and does not speak for the leadership of the Law School. It certainly does not express my own views, because I condemn the killing of civilians and acts of terrorism as always reprehensible.

The attack on Israel and the subsequent and ongoing hostilities have made this a period of extreme pain and distress for many members of our community.  Since the weekend, I have worked with administrators to provide support to students, faculty, and alumni who have been affected by this crisis.

The feelings that divide people in the world at large are certainly present within the Law School, but I hope that we are able to address them with compassion and mutual respect. The Law School's leadership team will continue to provide the resources and support we can.

In addition to implicitly expressing the view that the righteousness of massacring babies and so forth is just a matter of opinion, McKenzie is being far from forthright. While the NYU SBA does not speak for NYU Law as an institution, it nevertheless is not merely a student group, but part of the NYU administration. The SBA has representation on sixteen different law school faculty-student committees, including admissions and faculty hiring.

And compare McKenzie's mealy-mouthed equivocation to this statement by the student's erstwhile employer, Winston & Strawn. One can have a separate discussion as to whether rescinded her offer was inappropriate "cancel culture"–my own general view of this is that when someone says something egregiously stupid, even evil, one should give that person a chance to reconsider and apologize before taking action–but regardless, W&S managed the moral clarity that Dean McKenzie did not.

UPDATE: Dean Paul Caron, Pepperdine Law School: "Our Pepperdine Caruso Law community is praying for [Professor] Michael [Helfand] and his family [who were in Israel at the time of the attacks], all of our Jewish faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the country and people of Israel, and all people in the region during this horrific time. We are heartbroken by the devastating suffering and loss of innocent lives."