What Did Tiger Mom Do To You?

There seems to be an ongoing competition between Harvard and Yale Law Schools to see which can be more ridiculous than the other. While Dersh does his best to balance out Larry Tribe on the Harvard team, Yale came on strong this week with its condemnation of prawf Amy Chua.

The Yale Daily News reported recently that a professor at the university’s law school, Amy Chua, had been disciplined for allegedly inviting students to dinner parties at her house in violation of a 2019 agreement with the dean. Current and former students of Chua’s sent dozens of emails to the administration to protest the decision. Some high-profile supporters condemned her treatment: One deemed it “sinister,” while others suggested it might be racist and sexist. Chua herself called the whole thing “surreal,” denied any wrongdoing, and demanded an investigation.

At first it does seem surreal, if not absurd. How could such a seemingly trivial accusation lead to such public consternation? Was the law school, as some of her allies believed, targeting Chua because of her politics or her persona? Had her personnel file been leaked by the dean in order to discredit her, as Chua seemed to imply? What exactly was going on at the nation’s top-ranked law school?

Chua has had a target on her back for a while.

She’s the author of the 2011 best seller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a memoir of her attempt to raise her two daughters in a strict, traditional fashion. In 2018, Chua wrote an op-ed in support of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, praising him as a “mentor for young lawyers, particularly women.” (That op-ed was published before Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were in high school — allegations that he denied.) Stories also emerged about how Chua had supposedly told female students who wanted to clerk for Kavanaugh that they should dress “model-like” in order to win his favor. Chua has called those claims “100% false.”

Chua is also married to Jed Rubenfeld, who was accused of sexually harassing students and suspended for two years. He was also a strong defender of Title IX due process before these accusations appeared.

But what did Chua do now to evoke such outrage by the best and brightest, New Haven edition? She had students over to her house. STUDENTS! Wait, you say. So…what?

One recent Law School graduate told the News that she witnessed Chua and Rubenfeld “deliberate” on students’ appearances, private relationships and other topics during dinner parties that she attended at their house.

“Having been on the receiving end of that behavior, I know personally that it is not always welcome, and that it is not all in good fun,” the recent graduate wrote to the News. “They purport to be provocateurs, but in fact they’re just bullies. But, if you want Chua’s help — and she often touts how much she can help marginalized students — then you play by her rules.”

Chua denies these dinner parties happened, but that she had students over when they were in “crisis” and sought her help. Did she traumatize them by not being the supportive academic students demand? That can happen. The hook is that in a 2019 letter, Chua agreed not to hold dinner parties for students anymore, where she might say something that offended their sensibilities, and she “violated” her agreement. The problem with the hook, as deeply buried in the CHE story, is that wasn’t the agreement.

An excerpt of a letter Chua wrote to the dean in October 2019 appears to back up her claim. In it Chua wrote that “my plan for now is to lie low and generally avoid socializing with students outside of office hours.” Note the words “for now” and “generally.” It appears that the language became more definitive when the dean described the agreement a couple of months later in a letter to those who had complained.

But surely the current outrage has some underlying basis and isn’t merely a cry that she broke her promise? Law student friend Leah Litman offered the “goods.”

If this doesn’t make you outraged at the awfulness of Chua for her benign behavior which triggers fears of retaliation with no logical connection whatsoever, nothing will. But don’t you dare doubt it’s serious. This is horrifying stuff, which any brilliant prawf would appreciate. Here’s the proof.

With the Dauber seal of approval, what possible doubt could there be that the legal academy would be better off without Amy Chua and with more Daubers?


11 thoughts on “What Did Tiger Mom Do To You?

  1. Dan

    Never before have so many words been murdered to say so little about what’s supposed to be so bad*. Apparently she and her husband had students over for dinner on occasion. And…?

    I can actually see a good reason for this to be discouraged, if not outright forbidden, by analogy to the military concept of fraternization–put simply, superiors don’t hang out with subordinates in such a way as to suggest equality or favoritism. If that were the objection, I’d get it. But that doesn’t seem to be the issue, and I guess I’m just supposed to be able to see the sexism/racism/*ism for myself.

    * Sadly, not really; it’s an unfortunately common reality.

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s as if they completely skipped over the part of what was wrong and went straight to the part where they were traumatized.

      1. tk

        Her sins are apparently:
        – she is married to an allegedly yucky guy
        – she didn’t rub her students’ tummies enough
        – she may have advised some of her students that they needed to change their appearance to present a more professional version of themselves.

        What the hell has happened to college students? When I was in college (40 years ago) students would have sacrificed body parts to go out drinking with a well-know prof, or be invited to their home. And yeah, the profs would give you advice about how to get ahead. And it wasn’t always tummy-rubbing stuff. But then, we were all adults…

  2. DaveL

    This is eerily familiar to Harvard’s reprisals against Ron Sullivan for joining the Harvey Weinstein defense team. Oh, of course it wasn’t because of his unpopular advocacy, it was for… well, something else. A vaguely offensive attitude, perhaps. Students felt unsafe. The environment was just toxic. Or something.

    1. SHG Post author

      The common element is someone feeling as if they should feel angry and/or hurt, and the rest is just trying to come up with some reason, no matter how attenuated, irrational or nonsensical. Or something.

      1. Dan

        The other common element is that everybody else (more precisely, the relevant decision-maker) indulges the crybaby, rather than telling them to grow up or get out. Which starts to make it look like this is what they wanted all along.

  3. cthulhu

    When our undergraduate senior design team won a prestigious national competition, our faculty advisor threw a big party at his house, invited all of us and the department faculty including the dean of the entire College of Engineering, and supplied free booze (including some pretty decent Scotch). A good time was had by all (at least until we woke up the following morning). These scolds and killjoys are missing the good things in life, even if they’re not hung over the next day.

    1. SHG Post author

      I was never invited to a prof’s home for a party in college, but there were occasions when there was alcohol made available and I do not recall anyone who needed traumatic pushing to imbibe to excess.

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