Paul L. Caron

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Yale Law Dean Trumpets Free Speech Stance Amid Federal Judges' Clerk Boycott

Brian Leiter (Chicago), Yale Law Dean Gerken Shares "Message to Alumni" on Free Expression at the Law School:

This seems a victory for Judge Ho, despite the controversy about his threatened boycott.

Heather Gerken (Dean, Yale), A Message to Our Alumni on Free Speech at Yale Law School:

Yale Law Logo (2020)Dear members of our alumni community:
Yale Law School is dedicated to building a vibrant intellectual environment where ideas flourish. To foster free speech and engagement, we emphasize the core values of professionalism, integrity, and respect. These foundational values guide everything we do.

Over the last six months, we have taken a number of concrete steps to reaffirm our enduring commitment to the free and unfettered exchange of ideas. These actions are well known to our faculty, students, and staff, but I want to share some of them with you as well.

  • Last March, the Law School made unequivocally clear that attempts to disrupt events on campus are unacceptable and violate the norms of the School, the profession, and our community.
  • The faculty revised our disciplinary code and adopted a policy prohibiting surreptitious recordings that mirrors policies that the University of Chicago and other peer institutions have put in place to encourage the free expression of ideas.
  • We developed an online resource outlining our free speech policies and redesigned Orientation to center around discussions of free expression and the importance of respectful engagement. Virtually every member of the faculty spoke to their students about these values on the first day of class.
  • We replaced our digital listserv with what alumni fondly remember as “the Wall” to encourage students to take time to reflect and resolve their differences face-to-face.
  • We welcomed a new Dean of Students who is focused on ensuring students learn to resolve disagreements among themselves whenever possible rather than reflexively looking to the institution to serve as a referee.

This important and ongoing work takes place against the backdrop of long-standing efforts to encourage the robust exchange of ideas that is essential to any academic community. In all of these efforts, our core model remains the same — we know that the best way for our students to learn is by engaging with their peers and faculty in small, iterative conversations within our community. While this work often is not visible to the wider world, the Law School is moving forward on its central commitments and we are focused on educating the next generation of lawyers and instilling them with the values so many of us hold dear. I’m grateful for your unfailing support and love of the School.

Heather K. Gerken

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