Bloomberg Law, Seattle Law School Latest Flashpoint Over Campus Speech:
An immigration debate at Seattle University School of Law is the latest front for the hot-button issue of campus speech rights. ...
At Seattle University’s law school, a Change.org petition purportedly signed by over 200 individuals is asking the school to cancel the Oct. 16 debate, which is being hosted by the school’s Federalist Society chapter.
The event, “an immigration debate primarily focused on” the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, was to be co-hosted by the school’s Access to Justice Institute as part of its “Social Justice Monday” series, Thomas Reinhard — who is the Federalist Society chapter president and a student at the law school — told Bloomberg BNA by phone Oct. 5. ...
“Our school does a lot of work in its recruitment and its programming trying to support students in marginalized communities,” Destinee Evers, a second-year law student who signed the petition, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 6. It “really concerned me that we would be potentially supporting an event that would create dialogue that might make some of those students unsafe or unwelcome,” she said.
Reinhard said he’s “1000%” certain the petition caused ATJI’s withdrawal. ATJI describes itself as a “home for pro bono, public interest, and social justice activities” and is affiliated with the law school.
As “a result of our discussions with students, alumni, and faculty,” the event will “go forward under the sole sponsorship of the Federalist Society,” school dean Annette Clark said in an email to students Oct. 5.
The petition has “been up for about a week” and initially contained a “big, long diatribe about how the Federalist Society is a xenophobic organization,” Reinhard, who sent a purported screenshot of the original language to Bloomberg BNA, said. That language has since been removed from the petition. ...
The school “miscalculated and erred” in planning to have ATJI co-sponsor the event for two reasons, Clark said.
First, the Trump administration’s announced intent “to rescind DACA” has “generated great fear within vulnerable immigrant communities and has caused real harm, making discussions of immigration policy that include a conservative viewpoint even more painful and anxiety- and anger-producing for those individuals and families who are at risk (and for their allies),” Clark said. “In other words, we should have taken into account the historical moment in which this program was going to be presented as a Social Justice Monday and what that would mean to marginalized individuals in our community,” Clark said.
Second, “because Social Justice Mondays have traditionally been led by the voices of marginalized students, we should have included them in discussions about why we felt this program was appropriate to be under the auspices of a Social Justice Monday, and we should have reached a decision about its appropriateness together,” Clark said. ...
In “anticipation that students will want an opportunity to come together to express their views” on the school’s decision, the school’s student bar association has scheduled a forum for Oct. 19, Clark said. It’s “a difficult task to hold in tension our care and support and valuing of all students, the creation of an inclusive environment in which students feel safe and as free from harm as possible, and one in which free expression is encouraged and valued,” Clark said. “I understand that many of you will disagree with how I have balanced the differing interests of our students and our responsibilities as an educational institution,” she said.