A federal judge vowed to push back the cancel culture and ideological intolerance on elite college campuses by not hiring Yale Law School students as law clerks.
Speaking at a conference in Kentucky, Judge James Chun-Yee Ho of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blasted colleges for not “teaching students how to agree to disagree.” Instead, “They’re teaching students how to destroy.” He named a few examples, and Yale stood out for some of the most disturbing.
One of the earliest and ugliest anti-free-speech incidents took place at Yale in 2015, over an email about Halloween customs sent by the then-associate master of Yale University’s Silliman College, Erika Christakis. Her well-intended email was in response to the school’s Intercultural Affairs Council asking students to consider the cultural implications of their Halloween costumes. It sparked outrage among some Yale students, and they demanded the school fire Erika and her husband, Nicholas Christakis, master of Silliman College. Although the university didn’t fire them, it didn’t offer a robust defense of their right to free speech either. The couple was left to fend off woke mobs on their own. A year later, they resigned from Silliman College duties and returned to academic research.
In another controversial incident, woke administrators, not students, were to blame. Last fall, several Yale Law School administrators reportedly pressured a conservative Native American student, Trent Colbert, to issue a public apology over an emailed party invitation containing the word “traphouse,” which some black students found offensive. The administrators reportedly issued veiled threats by warning Colbert that the incident would negatively affect his future career if he refused to apologize. One administrator even sent Colbert a pre-written apology to get him “started.”
Around the same time as this “traphouse” controversy, two Yale Law School students filed a lawsuit alleging that the law school’s dean, Heather Gerken, Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove, and Diversity Director Yaseen Eldik “worked together in an attempt to blackball two students of color from job opportunities as retaliation” for the students’ refusal to make damning statements about Amy Chua, a center-right Yale Law professor.
In another example of the university’s woke mobs taking over, more than 100 Yale Law School students interrupted a bipartisan panel discussion on civil liberty and free speech in March. According to The Washington Free Beacon, these students caused “so much chaos that police were eventually called to escort panelists out of the building.” Yet Cosgrove, who was present at the event, did nothing to confront the students whose behavior violated Yale’s free speech policies. This incident was so shocking that senior District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Laurence Silberman sent a note to all Article III judges the day after the event, advising that “all federal judges — and all federal judges are presumably committed to free speech — should carefully consider whether any student so identified should be disqualified for potential clerkships.”
‘Yale Is Worst … and It Sets the Tone’
Judge Ho said these incidents demonstrate that “Yale not only tolerates the cancellation of views — it actively practices it.” Furthermore, Ho pointed out, “When elite law schools like Yale teach their students that there are no consequences to their intolerance and illiberalism, the message sticks with them.” Ho wants to teach Yale Law School students a different lesson: Every action has a consequence.
In Ho’s words, “We’re not just citizens. We’re also customers. Customers can boycott entities that practice cancel culture … I wonder how a law school would feel if my fellow federal judges and I stopped being its customers.” Ho announced that he would stop hiring Yale Law School students as clerks and urged other judges to join him. He said he singled out Yale Law School because “Yale is worst when it comes to legal cancellation … and it sets the tone for other law schools and the legal profession at large.” By publicly boycotting Yale Law School students, Ho hopes to “send the message that other schools should not follow in Yale’s footsteps.”
Ho’s announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise, because he has always been outspoken against cancel culture and affirmative action. An immigrant from Taiwan, Ho has a long and distinguished legal career, including serving as a law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Nominated by then-President Donald Trump to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Ho was confirmed by the Senate in January 2018.
Ho’s 2017 testimony for a House subcommittee hearing on the importance of a diverse federal judiciary made headlines for his strong opposition to affirmative action. “The last thing we should do is divide people by race,” he said. “…We don’t achieve equality of opportunity by denying it to anyone — we achieve it by securing it for everyone. … It would be profoundly offensive — and un-American — to tell the world that you’re restricting a judgeship to members of only one race.”
One Way to Fight the Culture War
In February this year, speaking at Georgetown University, Ho defended Ilya Shapiro, who faced backlash for his tweet criticizing President Joe Biden for limiting his Supreme Court justice nominee pool by race and sex. Ho said: “I stand with Ilya on the paramount importance of color-blindness. And that same principle should apply whether we’re talking about getting into college, getting your first job, or receiving an appointment to the highest court in the land. … [T]he first step in fighting racial discrimination is to stop practicing it. … [I]f Ilya Shapiro is deserving of cancellation, then you should go ahead and cancel me too.”
Some conservatives think Ho’s boycotting of Yale Law School students for future clerkships has gone too far, amounting to “using the blameless as pawns in an effort to change the behavior of an institution to which they are connected.” But Ho’s critics on the right have offered no effective alternative to fight the cultural war in America.
For years, many conservatives had hoped that these students and their like-minded peers from other campuses would somehow moderate their behavior when they graduate and start living in the “real world.” But this hope has proved to be wishful thinking. These young people deploy similar tactics in the real world as they did in college to silence views they don’t like or disagree with. Besides ruining individuals’ professional and personal lives, such ideology-driven activism has destroyed the trust in and reputation of some of the most important institutions in this nation. For instance, will the Supreme Court ever regain public trust after a draft opinion over abortion was leaked in May?
By boycotting Yale Law School students from clerkships, Ho warned woke students and administrators at Yale and other universities that their behavior on campus will have real-world consequences. Shortly after Ho’s announcement, about 12 federal judges reportedly said they wouldn’t hire future Yale Law School students as clerks either. It remains to be seen whether these judges’ approach will bring positive culture change to colleges. Should the boycott movement succeed, these judges may have shown conservatives how to fight the cultural war effectively.