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Elite insouciance at Yale Law School

Photo accompanying “Confessions of a Tiger Couple,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 2014

Rules are for the little people, chapter infinity:

Law professor Amy Chua will no longer be leading a first-year small group at the Yale Law School next year after students raised allegations that she is still hosting private dinner parties at the home she shares with her husband, suspended law professor Jed Rubenfeld, despite having agreed in 2019 to cease all out-of-class hours interactions with students.

I realize they’re Masters of the Universe and all, but does the concept of thin ice mean nothing to these people?

Chua previously agreed to stop drinking and socializing with her students outside of class and office hours in response to allegations of misconduct, according to a December 2019 letter obtained by the News from Law School Dean Heather Gerken to affected parties. But law students met with Law School administrators on March 26 and brought forward documented allegations reviewed by the News that Chua has continued hosting private dinner parties with current Law School students and prominent members of the legal community. Three days later, Chua was removed from the list of professors who will lead small groups, which are intimate groups of around 15 first-year law students led by a professor at the Law School, for the 2021-22 academic year.

It won’t hurt when I fall down from this barstool.

The News spoke with seven Law School students and alumni, all of whom were granted anonymity due to fear of professional retribution, about Chua’s alleged misconduct and the terms of her punishment. They all emphasized the immense power and influence that Chua holds in the legal community and at Yale, including her prior service on a clerkship committee that helps law students secure their first jobs in the field.

Eleven students independently reached out to the News highlighting their positive experiences with Chua, particularly noting her efforts to support her students and encourage a diversity of opinion in classroom discussion.

Allegations of misconduct

Chua and Rubenfeld first came under public scrutiny in September 2018 when they reportedly told female law students that they needed to look and dress a certain way to attain clerkships for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90.

Rubenfeld is currently serving a two-year suspension from the Law School following a University Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct investigation into allegations of verbal harassment, unwanted touching and attempted kissing in the classroom and at his home. Students have since called for Rubenfeld’s permanent removal and demanded greater transparency about the findings of the sexual misconduct investigation into him, but University President Peter Salovey has not released any specifics about Rubenfeld’s case.

A report published in October by students from two groups at the Law School — Yale Law Women and the YLS Title IX Working Group — details a timeline of the case against Rubenfeld, which begins in September 2008 with a report of the “monthly soirees” held at Chua and Rubenfeld’s household. The report also reveals that Rubenfeld’s small group was reassigned in the fall of 2015 after an “informal investigation” from the Law School into his behavior in the classroom and at his house.

Gerken’s 2019 letter reveals that Law School alumni have brought forward allegations that Chua drank heavily with YLS students and remarked inappropriately on both students and faculty.

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.”

I bet.

Gerken outlined the terms of Chua’s punishment in her 2019 letter to Chua.

In the letter, Gerken explains that Chua would not teach any required courses — which include small groups — for the 2020-21 academic year and would not resume teaching required courses until the Law School is “assured that the kind of misconduct alleged will not occur.” Chua also agreed to a “substantial” financial penalty, the amount and nature of which remains unclear.

The letter also explained that “under [Gerken’s] deanship,” Chua would not serve on the clerkship committee, which helps Law School students secure judicial clerkships. Chua told the Guardian in August that she voluntarily gave up this role and that it was a “pleasure to step back” because she “never wanted to be on the committee.”

Additionally, Chua also agreed “on her own initiative” to stop drinking with her students and socializing with them outside of class and office hours, according to the letter.

As I’ve had occasion to remark before, while I was composing this post some single mom making eleven bucks an hour got fired from her job at McDonald’s for showing up seven minutes late because the bus wasn’t on time.

Meanwhile Chua and Rubenfeld continue to get paid collectively close to a million bucks a year to basically not do their jobs any more, but apparently being asked to at least avoid getting drunk around the kiddies is just too much to ask of our best and brightest.

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