Paul L. Caron

Monday, October 9, 2017

Seattle Law School Is Latest Flashpoint Over Campus Speech; Petition Seeks Cancellation Of Immigration Debate Sponsored By Federalist Society


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 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.


Legal Education | Permalink


Every time this happens the DoJ should file a lawsuit against the school. Assuming we had anyone at the DoJ who gave cared, that is.

Posted by: Michael D Hiteshew | Oct 16, 2017 8:37:35 AM


The event wasn't cancelled. One of the co-sponsors and several of the panelists withdrew and not many audience members bothered to show up. There's a difference between being lame and unpopular and being "oppressed."

If the Seattle Fed Soc is a social leper and no one wants to talk with them, then maybe the Seattle Fed Soc should ask what it's doing wrong.

Posted by: Whiny Conservatives | Oct 13, 2017 9:52:20 AM

Dale: "And the left calls conservatives fascists."

Sometimes while they're literally beating down conservatives, or anybody they don't like, for attempting to exercise their rights...

Posted by: MM | Oct 11, 2017 7:37:26 AM

"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'"

Seriously....? What is this world coming too

Posted by: taxtaxtax | Oct 10, 2017 9:32:17 AM

And the left calls conservatives fascists.

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Oct 10, 2017 4:24:21 AM

No group should be forced to sponsor an event with which they do not wish to be associated.

That is a far cry from cancellation of a debate. The debate should go forward. If no party wishes to represent one side of the debate, it says more about the strength of their position in the debated topic than it does anything else. They can be replaced, or represented by an empty chair. Failure to engage is a sign of weakness and fear, not principle.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Oct 10, 2017 4:19:34 AM

If the left wants to repeal the second amendment, and severely restrict the first, what is left?

Posted by: mike livingston | Oct 10, 2017 1:49:14 AM

If you are so fragile that hearing an opinion that differs from yours results in harm, then perhaps being a lawyer is not for you. The cost of free speech is hurt feelings and ruffled feathers.

Posted by: Cheyanna Jaffke | Oct 9, 2017 2:26:12 PM

I doubt these political debates on hot button issues are of much use anymore. Our society tends to suffer attitude polarization nowadays. We tend to seek out information that supports our beliefs and discount contradictory information. In the process of evaluating the information, we become more extreme in our position. Fox News and right wing radio have figured out how to profit from this psychological phenomenon.

Posted by: anon JD/MD | Oct 9, 2017 2:21:01 PM

Right, because the best way to settle an issue like this is to name-call and try to cancel a legitimate event.

Liberalism is no longer truly liberal, honestly...

Posted by: MM | Oct 9, 2017 1:35:28 PM

The issue isn't one of lower attendance -- except insofar as the snowflakes signing the petition want the event to have zero attendance as a result of its cancellation.

Posted by: guy helvering | Oct 9, 2017 1:04:24 PM

One has to admire the chutzpah of the sort of person who applauds shutting down an immigration debate in the name of freedom of association but cannot fathom the idea of the U.S. excluding noncitizens.

Posted by: Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk | Oct 9, 2017 10:02:46 AM

In addition to the transfer of critical knowledge to students and independent unbiased research by scholars, universities exist to facilitate and encourage the development of the full range of critical and constructive thinking among their students. What is now going on in far too many locations under the movement often referred to as "social justice" in which advocates call for understanding and dialogue even while suppressing that dialogue when it does not fit into their agendas is an offense to the ideal of the university as a generator of the full range of discourse on issues vital to society. The use of "it will cause fear" among certain groups, or "anger" on the part of marginalized people winds up insulating everyone from actually learning how to engage in constructive analysis of the kind required in a truly open democratic society. Frankly, the "speech repression" movement has reached the point where since the universities are contradicting a main reason for their existence (and tax treatment) they should either clean up their act or have their favorable tax treatment removed because they have become ideological political actors and propagandists rather than centers of critical and diverse thought. I write this after spending most of my life in what would be considered social justice matters but this has gone too far and "justice" is not achieved in a democracy through authoritarian dominance and repression regardless of one's particular ideology. The irony is that people should not be calling others "fascists" at the same time they are seeking to control, usurp and dominate through such accusations.

Posted by: David | Oct 9, 2017 9:06:28 AM

This isn't a free speech issue. It's a freedom of association issue. If people think a leader or group is so beyond the pale and outrageous that getting up on stage with them and giving them a platform would only backfire by conferring them with legitimacy and attention, then declining to appear on stage with them is a legitimate decision.

How may editorials and letters to the editor do Bloomberg or the WSJ turn down?

What's remarkable about this story is that hundreds of thousands of people are facing deportation and loss of their livelihoods and friends and families and future, but the victims are conservative law students who are miffed that an extra curricular activity might have lower attendance.

Posted by: Freedom of Association | Oct 9, 2017 9:05:36 AM

I'd really have to wonder about the capacity of a progressive Seattle U law grad to stand up in court and anticipate an opponent's legal arguments. This is just another example of infantilizing adults.

Posted by: Tuan Samahon | Oct 9, 2017 7:50:14 AM