Gerken Takes “Full Responsibility,” Meaning Absolutely Nothing

If you’re bored with the shenanigans cum idiocy that’s become the hallmark of Yale Law School, rest assured that this may be about YLS on its surface, but reflects the nature of what’s boiling up from below the surface of the legal academy. And in case the significance of this is still unclear, this is not only the lesson being taught to the future lawyers of America, but to the future holders of high office who will be positioned to make decisions that will affect a nation and its citizens.

Heather Gerken is the dean of Yale Law School, and is playing “the buck stops here” as if she’s being bold and responsible for the fiasco of falsely calling a student’s email invitation to a party, the now-infamous “Trap House” email, a “racist” message which her “muscle,” Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Diversity Director Yaseen Eldik condemned “in the strongest possible terms.” In their efforts to force the student who sent the email to apologize, they threatened to ruin his future career because they could.

There was nothing, but nothing, ambiguous about what happened here. They were neither shy nor tepid in their calling a student’s email “racist,” a rather clear choice of words, which they condemned “in the strong possible terms,” also pretty clear language. As for their threat of destroying a non-compliant “racist” student’s future, that’s par for the academic course.

Except this time, the woke authoritarians’ actions didn’t receive the adoring applause for protecting the feelings of the perpetually offended, but instead became the focus of scrutiny because David Lat, founder of Above the Law (and who left before it was reduced to insipid tears with 47 advertisements per page) made sure the rest of us learned of this idiocy.

At the Washington Free Beacon, Aaron Sibarium caught a school-wide email* from Dean Gerken taking “full responsibility” for the fiasco.

In a law school-wide email, Dean Heather Gerken took “full responsibility” for the “things the Law School administration should have done differently.”

“No student or student group should ever have reason to believe that administrators are acting in a biased or unfair manner, and I deeply regret that this impression was given in this instance,” Gerken wrote, referring to the administration’s public denunciation of an email invitation Colbert sent in September and its alleged suggestions to Federalist Society president Zack Austin that he and his group put Colbert up to the task.

Gerken’s email, which summarized the findings of an investigation by Deputy Dean Ian Ayres, did not mention Colbert by name and attributed the incident to poor communication.

There was no “impression” involved, nor was communication poor. If anything, the communication was excellent, clear and concise. It was racist and it was condemned in the strong possible terms. What part of that is Gerken trying to spin as unclear? This part.

Let me start with first principles. Free speech is the touchstone of every academic community. It is essential that we can all speak on — and disagree about — the most challenging issues of the day. The long-standing “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale” emphasizes “the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” A thriving learning community depends on wide-ranging conversation that includes people with very different points of view and from all parts of our society.

Conversations in such a diverse community should take place in an environment where everyone is treated with respect and where we hold ourselves accountable to one another. That is why “The Rights and Duties of Members of the Yale Law School” require a “scrupulous respect for the equal rights of others.” Moreover, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and University policy oblige the Law School to ensure a learning environment free of discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

This is an artfully inane attempt at trying to frame thought and speech as “we can disagree without being disagreeable,” a long-time liberal concept to enable the “unfettered freedom” of which she writes in the first paragraph. But it’s a lie, as she pithily proves in the second paragraph.

A student used the words “Trap House” in an email that mentioned the Federalist Society, and this not only violated that environment “where everyone is treated with respect” so that someone’s complaint that it hurt his feelings to see words that it demanded the administration to call it racist? What part of treating students with respect made threatening the ruin of their careers a pedagogical imperative?

These paragraphs are irreconcilable, and presumably someone who has found herself at the pinnacle of Yale Law School’s administration is smart enough to realize that she just spewed a steaming pile of bullshit.

But there’s more. She attempts to ground this fiasco in Title VI, prohibiting racial discrimination by schools against students. The only student who was discriminated against on the basis of race by Yale Law School was the sender of the Trap House email. Every other student at a law school does not get to demand that every word, whether from other students to faculty to administrators, must conform to his most delicate racial sensibilities or it’s a Title VI violation. Surely the dean of Yale Law School knows that much about the law.

“I have spent every year of my deanship trying to foster an inclusive community and create an environment where students feel called into the community rather than called out,” Gerken said. “The email message from administrators to members of the 2L class”—in which Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Diversity Director Yaseen Eldik condemned Colbert’s “racist” message “in the strongest possible terms”—”did not strike the appropriate balance between those two goals.”

Had this come from the dean of some “lesser” law school, there is a possibility that it would be roundly ridiculed as utter nonsense, sophistry dressing on empty word salad. But this is the sort of empty rhetoric that somehow manages to play at Yale Law School now, which explains why their “product,” the students who will someday assume positions of some authority in the legal academy and profession, leave there with minds full of mush.

For all the words needlessly murdered by Heather Gerken, there are a few that didn’t make their way into her “full responsibility” email: I apologize to Trend Colbert for trying to burn him at the stake to prove how woke we are. “Full responsibility” ain’t what it used to be.

*The full email can be found at the end of the article.

9 thoughts on “Gerken Takes “Full Responsibility,” Meaning Absolutely Nothing

  1. B. McLeod

    Didn’t strike the appropriate balance. Next time, they’ll condemn a potentially disfavored statement as racist in moderately framed terms which are weaker than the strongest possible terms.

    1. SHG Post author

      Ever wonder whether they laugh when they write this crap and think to themselves, “I wonder if the stupid little shits will finally realize what bullshit this is?”

  2. Eric B Rasmusen

    Whenever a leader “takes full responsibility”, we should make them take full responsibility, even if the malfeasance was somebody else’s fault. She’s just volunteered to be fired instead of Cosgrove and Eldik.

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