Future Leaders, Or So They Say

Pamela Paul wrote about the disconnect between what the college students today were taught as being virtuous and why these pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel protesters won’t find their activism embraced by their future employers.

Activism has played a big part in many of these young people’s lives and academic success. From the children’s books they read (“The Hate U Give,” “I Am Malala”) to the young role models who were honored (Greta ThunbergDavid Hogg) to the social justice movements that were praised (Black Lives Matter, MeToo, climate justice), Gen Z-ers have been told it’s on them to clean up the boomers’ mess. Resist!

And “resist” they did, just as they were taught, just as they were told. That makes them heroes, or at least bold and courageous, the very sort of person employers should want in their shop. So why then, have law firms come out and told them they are unwanted?

In November, two dozen leading law firms wrote to top law schools implying that students who participated in what they called antisemitic activities, including calling for “the elimination of the state of Israel,” would not be hired. More than 100 firms have since signed on. One of those law firms, Davis Polk, rescinded job offers to students whose organizations had signed the letter Ackman criticized. Davis Polk said those sentiments were contrary to the firm’s values. Another major firm, Winston & Strawn, withdrew an offer to a student at New York University who also blamed Israel for the Oct. 7 attack. In a Wall Street Journal opinion essay, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law urged employers not to hire those of his students he said were antisemitic.

They may have been told by parents, friends and teachers that silence is complicity and they must be on the “right side of history” or else, but not the law firm hiring partner. Don’t they appreciate the glory of righteous activism?

Also, employers generally want to hire people who can get along and fit into their company culture, rather than trying to agitate for change. They don’t want politics disrupting the workplace.

This does’t quite capture the essence of the problem. There are, you see, Jewish lawyers in the firm. Granted, that wasn’t the case 50 years ago, but there are now. Quite a few, in fact. And they support Zionism, the existence of a Jewish homeland. What they do not want are baby associates refusing to work for Jewish partners. They don’t want them to “mostly peacefully” protest outside their offices, paint anti-Israel slogans on the law firm’s walls or inventory the clerical staff to take oaths in support of Gaza. They especially don’t want their baby associates to tell corporate clients that they are complicit in genocide.

One can well argue that these young people shouldn’t be punished for doing what they were taught to do, fighting oppression by any means necessary. But that doesn’t change the fact that their actions and attitudes are highly likely to offend and disrupt others at the firms who have finally reached the point where they will no longer accommodate their childish activism.

All of this serves as a prelude to the letters to the editor published by the New York Times in response to Pamela Paul’s op-ed.

To the Editor:

Re “And Now, a Real-Life Lesson for Student Activists,” by Pamela Paul (column, May 31):

Ms. Paul tells us that students who took part in recent protests may face reduced job prospects because of their actions: “Corporate America is fundamentally risk averse.” The prospects for these students are dim. Or are they?

These are students who have the courage of their convictions, who are willing to stand up for what they feel is right and make their own judgments. They are leaders. If they can’t get jobs they will start their own firms — and they will thrive.

Let corporate America hire the other students, the timid, conformist followers who accept what they are told without question and “fit into the company culture.” Let’s see where that gets them in five or 10 years.

Walter Williams
New York

Do they have the courage of their convictions? Is that why they protest masked, or cry at the punishment imposed for the civil disobedience or criminal conduct? Are they making their own judgment or doing what they’re told to do if they want to remain in the progressive church?

To the Editor:

I wouldn’t want to work in an organization full of people who did nothing wrong as children and adolescents. For one thing, I imagine that office parties would be dull and water cooler conversations bland.

Adolescence is inherently rebellious. Creativity is disruptive. But although I feel like an old fogey for saying this, what I find lacking in the younger generation is a sense of responsibility, of ownership for one’s actions. We learn character and courage when we face the consequences of our choices, whether it’s repaying school loans or justifying, defending, regretting, apologizing or atoning for our deeds.

As an employer, I’m willing to forgive and provide second chances. What I’m reluctant to do is hire those incapable of admitting or acknowledging that they might be wrong and unwilling to accept accountability.

Jay Markowitz
Pound Ridge, N.Y.

Dull office parties are certainly a problem, although the old days of wild office parties are no longer tolerable by the new #MeToo Puritans. But have any of them turned around and acknowledged that their support of Hamas might not have put them on the right side of history? And even if they said so in an interview, would anyone believe them, since lying to an interviewer is hardly a big deal when they’ve been taught that the woke must prevail by any means necessary?

But the most telling letter comes straight from a student at Emory.

To the Editor:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time as a university student, it’s that we are generally more socially aware than most adults. Campuses are not siloed; they are “hotbeds” of the exchange of conflicting ideas.

While onlookers may believe that our naïveté blinds us from seeing that the world is not ready for what we want it to be, they miss out on the obvious truth. We want to change the world, and our employers along with it. We are the employees of the future. Our activism is against the very employers refusing to hire us for exercising our constitutional right to protest.

Whatever your beliefs, I exhort you: Do not underestimate the university student. Do not devalue the “moral clarity,” as Pamela Paul calls it, with which we lead and protest. We are doing the dirty work, while the rest of the world watches. We have prepared our whole lives for these moments, in fact encouraged by you. Is the world truly so hypocritical?

Anissa Patel
Dover, Mass.
The writer is a student at Emory University.

“Hotbeds,” you say? Of “the exchange of conflicting ideas,” you say? “Change the world, and our employers along with it,” you say? How could this not make future employers desperately want to invite you in?

To the Editor:

Pamela Paul has learned the wrong lesson from the college protesters. The issue is not their zeal or passion. The issue is mindlessness, which is probably the salient quality that businesses wish to avoid.

In their passion, too many of the protesters openly support a ruthless terrorist group, repeat chants that they actually don’t understand and accuse Israel of genocide. No business would ever wish to hire employees so susceptible to groupthink.

Ari Weitzner
New York

Dr. Weitzner just doesn’t get it. They’re the leaders of the future. Or so they say.

13 thoughts on “Future Leaders, Or So They Say

  1. jfjoyner3

    No worries. All kinds of federal agencies will hire them. And won’t THAT be just lovely for the rest of us.

  2. Lee Keller King

    “Campuses are not siloed; they are “hotbeds” of the exchange of conflicting ideas.”

    Ha, ha, ha.🤣 Made me laugh. “Conflicting ideas” apparently only describes left-wing ideas as conservative, and even moderate, ideas, are being suppressed on college campuses.

    And I wonder if there would be this outrage if these students had been marching with swastikas installing themselves Nazis. (Oh, wait, some of them were marching with swastikas).

    Actions have consequences, and it is not the fault of Big Law or corporate America that these children did not learn that lesson earlier in life.

  3. Richard the Lawyer

    See, you don’t understand….cancel culture is a terrible thing, and we’re all firmly against people being punished for their opinions about all sorts of things. But there is and always will be an Israel exception; Israel non-idolators must always be canceled.
    Look at David French’s piece in the Times today about being canceled by his Presbyterian church because of his politics. I assume we don’t approve of that, but it’s ok when law firms do it. Do I have that straight?

    1. Miles

      In the scheme of stupid analogies, you win a prize. Not hiring someone who’s a bad fit for your organization and, atop that problem, demonstrates intellectual inadequacy, isn’t cancel culture. That’s normal hiring. No one has a right to a job, you dolt.

      1. Richard the Lawyer

        No one has a right to a job? If I disrupt the workplace because of my politics, yes, that’s correct. But to say in advance that I am automatically barred from employment with law firm ABC solely because of my beliefs about political issue XYZ is blatant viewpoint discrimination, and that’s what is apparently ok with you. Maybe these students will turn out to be good lawyers, maybe not. Maybe they’ll keep quiet on the job, maybe not. But only the Israel exception applies in advance to rule out wrongthink. Are you ok with the federal judges who say that they won’t hire any law clerks from Columbia? I’m not.

        1. cthulhu

          Employers are ignoring the “overly passionate for Palestine” because they’re clearly the equivalent of a crazy girlfriend, and rule number one of crazy girlfriends is “don’t do it with the crazy”. No matter how good their transcripts look, just below the surface is a total nutjob just waiting to emerge at the absolute wrong time. So abstain and pass them by is the only sane response. I see no reason why a prospective employer has to wait for the nutjobbery to emerge on company time, when the anti-social behavior is already clearly evident in present actions.

          1. Richard the Lawyer

            So by definition, being against what Israel is doing (with the US’s passionate support) is nutjobbery. Being against mass death (no matter who does it) is like being a crazy girlfriend. Do I understand you correctly?
            If your criteria were applied in a blanket fashion to any other characteristic (race, gender, ethnicity, etc.), you’d rightly be called a bigot. But the Israel exception always trumps (sorry) anything else.
            Thanks for proving my point.

            1. SHG Post author

              Kid, if you’re point was to make people here think you’re a blithering idiot, then you’ve succeeded. Now go away.

        2. Miles

          This is nothing like the judges saying they won’t hire from Columbia. They condemned a school for the conduct of a subset. Here, it’s condemning the subset that deserves condemnation, you dolt. It’s truly hard to imagine you’re a lawyer when you’re fundamentally incapable of grasping why every analogy you’ve attempted is absurd.

          Putting aside that viewpoint discrimination in hiring is entirely lawful (you can’t possibly be a lawyer and be this stupid), it’s not their beliefs, but their actions in engaging in organizations that support terrorism, actions that are civilly disobedient at best and criminal at worst, and demonstrate no concept of their place in an organization.

          Sadly, you may well be a lawyer, given how many baby lawyers are incompetent morons these days. Your arguments are inane and you seem to be the only person here too clueless to realize how stupid you come off.

        3. Ron

          So you can’t reject people from a job just because they’re members of the KKK and hate black people? Strong argument, Richard. You are a powerful intellect.

  4. B. McLeod

    But they aren’t bold and courageous. They’re like mindless, bleating sheep without judgment or filters, and you could hardly allow one within fifty miles of a paying client.

    I saw a story on the Internet yesterday that said 26% of them take a parent with them to job interviews.

    [Ed. Note: Here’s the link.]

  5. LTMG

    The 13th century student riots at Oxford and the University of Paris are not all that different compared to the recent anti-semitic upheaval at many US universities. So, 22 and 23 years old activist graduates are going to school their elders? Unlikely. The activists will be the world leaders and builders of the future? Unlikely; they will be the dictators in a few arenas.


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