Law students at Yale and Harvard, triggered by Kavanaugh, skip class and file Title IX complaints.
At last count more than 1,700 law professors have signed an open letter complaining that Judge Brett Kavanaugh “displayed a lack of judicial temperament” in responding to uncorroborated sexual assault accusations against him. In his 12 years on the federal bench, Judge Kavanaugh has produced ample evidence of his judicial temperament. If anyone’s temperament should be of concern to these professors, it’s that of their students, enthralled by identity politics and victim ideology.
Immediately after President Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh in July, hundreds of Yale law students, alumni and faculty signed a petition claiming the nomination presented an “emergency . . . for our safety.” When Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations became public in September, Yale law students convened a town hall to combat a “culture” on campus “that privileges power and prestige over safety and wellness, [and] that precludes many of us from flourishing in this space.”
When the New Yorker published its own uncorroborated account of lewd conduct purportedly committed by Mr. Kavanaugh as a Yale freshman, Yale law-school alumnae organized an open letter supporting “all women who have faced sexual assault, not only at Yale, but across the country.” Thirty-one Yale law professors canceled classes to facilitate student protests against Judge Kavanaugh, both in New Haven and on Capitol Hill. The Office of Student Affairs put out a plate of cookies to let students “know we are thinking of you.”
Not to be outdone, Harvard law students walked out of their classes the day after the New Yorker article appeared, wearing pink buttons declaring “I Believe Christine Blasey Ford.” America must “stand by these survivors,” the president of the Harvard Black Law Students Association told the crowd. The dean of students announced, “We are supporting our students as they grapple with these issues.” Whether she provided cookies is unknown.
Judge Kavanaugh has taught a three-week course at Harvard every January since 2008. Nearly 1,000 Harvard Law alumni signed a petition saying his presence on campus now would send a message to female students that powerful men are above the law. In a letter to the dean, some first-year law students claimed that allowing Mr. Kavanaugh to teach would create a “hostile environment for many students, and especially survivors.” Several undergraduates filed Title IX complaints on the same grounds, according to the Harvard Crimson. Earlier this week Judge Kavanaugh announced that he won’t teach the class in 2019. His faculty page has been scrubbed from the school’s website.
The Kavanaugh hysteria has provided the country with a crash course in academic victim politics. The tribal denunciations of “privileged white males,” the moral panic over fantastical accounts of sexual predation, the spectacle of Ivy League law students claiming to feel “unsafe,” the assertion that a single uncorroborated outbreak of male teen hormones should cancel a lifetime of achievement in the law—all originate in the anti-Enlightenment ethos of the academy, embodied in critical race studies, feminist legal theory, and the attacks on the Socratic teaching method as anti-female and anti-“survivor.”
The #BelieveSurvivors mantra is a cornerstone of the campus grievance industry but inimical to everything that a law school should teach. It’s a religious gesture, not a legal one: Such belief is independent of proof, arising out of a pre-existing commitment to a narrative of ubiquitous female abuse by patriarchal white males. The “survivor” label presupposes the conclusion that evidence should establish: that the accused is guilty of an offense. The fact-finder, if there even is one, regards contradictions or holes in a woman’s story as evidence of “trauma” and thus as further corroboration. According to #BelieveSurvivors logic, the Innocence Project, which exists to vacate wrongful convictions and has a presence at law schools across the country, should be disbanded.
Examples abound of student rape allegations arising out of voluntary drunken hookups, following which the self-described victim sought further sexual contact with her alleged rapist. Even if such cases weren’t so common, to presume the guilt of the accused based on an accusation alone would still be an affront to due process.
The current generation of elite law students will one day become judges themselves. If they remain committed to the circular logic of #BelieveSurvivors, the rule of law is in trouble.
This piece originally appeared at The Wall Street Journal
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contributing editor at City Journal, and the author of the bestselling War on Cops and The Diversity Delusion (available now). Follow her on Twitter here.