One of the most brazen and enduring Big Lies emanating from the mainstream news media, its pundits and, of course, the progressive/Democratic collective it works for, is that Republicans, conservatives and Donald Trump are existential threats to democracy, all while the various components of the Left, especially the institutions it has co-opted like the news media, Big Tech, the professions and education, are openly attacking the basic tenets of personal liberty. Yale Law School has been caught in a particularly odious example of this (not Harvard, for a change). So far, only conservative media sources and blogs have covered the story, but it is really bad. I doubt the the MSM will be able to bury it much longer.
As first reported in The Washington Free Beacon, Trent Colbert is a second-year student at Yale Law School and a member of both the Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) and the Federalist Society. He sent an email on September 15 inviting NALSA members to a social event, writing, “This Friday at 7:30, we will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House . . . by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc. [That is, the Federalist Society] Planned attractions include Popeye’s chicken, basic-bitch-American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.),” and a cocktail station.”
Almost immediately the invitation had been shared to an online forum for all second-year law students, several of whom complained that the term “trap house” indicated a blackface party. It doesn’t. The term can mean many things, like inner city crack dens, but “trap house” is most often generic slang for a place where teens or students can get beer. Oh, never mind! Facts don’t matter! “I guess celebrating whiteness wasn’t enough,” the president of the Black Law Students Association wrote in the forum. “Y’all had to upgrade to cosplay/black face.” She then objected to the event’s affiliation with the Federalist Society, which she said “has historically supported anti-Black rhetoric.” (And that is absolutely false.)
Colbert was quickly summoned to the law school’s Office of Student Affairs, which received nine discrimination and harassment complaints about his message from students. Wisely, the Trent secretly recorded the proceedings at that and subsequent meetings,. This is legal in Connecticut, a so-called “single party” state. It is unethical for a lawyer to do this in Connecticut, but Colbert isn’t a lawyer yet.
In the September 16 meeting, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Yaseen Eldik told Colbert that the process was not “adjudicatory or punitive.” Colbert explained the idea of the Constitution Day event was to “do like, classic American kind of patriotic goodies like America’s apple pie, get some fried chicken.” He said he intended “trap house” to suggest “a not-very-fancy social space where people drink.” He added, “ I just thought it was a funny name. It makes it sound social.” Of course, it shouldn’t matter what he meant “trap house” to mean: it’s protected speech. Yale ensures its students freedom of expression, or pretends to. Not when the right students want to silence them, however. Eldik told Colbert the word “trap” can be “triggering” because of its historical association with drug use in poor black communities and the history of white college students mocking black culture. Eldik also said that the involvement of a mainstream conservative organization like the Federalist Society was a problem: “The email’s association with FedSoc was very triggering for students that already feel like FedSoc belongs to political affiliations that are oppressive to certain communities.”
Now Yale Law School administrators were not only infringing on free speech, but freedom of association as well.
Eldik and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Ellen Cosgrove pressured Colbert to “de-escalate” the situation by writing a public apology to his classmates for offending them. Colbert said he would rather speak individually with anyone who was upset by his email, and Eldik responded that he didn’t “want to make our office look like an ineffective source of resolution.” An apology, Eldik said, ominously, was “more likely to have this go away.” Then came the “Nice little career you have ahead of you; be a shame if anything were to happen to it!” moment: Eldrik said he was “worried” about the incident “lingering” over Colbert’s reputation “not just here, but when you leave,” adding that “the legal community is a small one.”
Cosgrove told Colbert it was “your call” and they were not there to “strong-arm” him, but said he shouldn’t expect the matter to “just die” if he didn’t do anything. In other words, they were strong-arming him. Eldik noted darkly that he had to do a “write-up” about the incident. He also sent Colbert a draft apology addressed to BLSA leaders “as a way to help give you a start.”
Colbert didn’t apologize, so Cosgrove sent an email to Yale Law’s entire second-year class to “condemn . . . in the strongest possible terms” the “pejorative and racist language” in Colbert’s Constitution Day invitation. Colbert insisted on another meeting the next day. At that September 17 meeting, Eldik continued to pressure Colbert to issue a written apology, saying, “I’m not trying to make you write something you don’t want to write,”and then telling him what to write. “I think it’s important to say in the first few lines, as someone who’s written dozens of these, is you just want to . . . apologize for any upset, um, frustration that this has caused.”
Then came the inevitable re-education threat. Eldik said he hadn’t made a “formal recommendation” for Colbert to undergo bias training because Colbert had done so much “active listening to some of the cultural contexts” and had “been so receptive to a lot of what” Eldik had said. The meeting ended with Eldik making another barely veiled threat. “You’re a law student, and there’s a bar you have to take you know and it’s just, you know, we think it’s important to really give you a 360 view.”
For the rest of the month, Colbert attempted to get clarification from Eldrik and Cosgrove as to whether he would be disciplined, whether negative notices would be sent to the bar, and whether the matter was closed. He heard nothing for two weeks, then received equivocal responses. Yale knew it couldn’t do anything to the student once he called its bluff. But it did not expect him to go to the media.
In response the Free Beacon story, the authorities issued a statement that was in direct contradiction of the administrators’ words, which were preserved on Colbert’s recording:
“Yale University and Yale Law School have strong free speech protections, and no student is investigated or sanctioned for protected speech. When the Law School receives complaints about offensive communications, the Dean of Students routinely tries to help students talk to one another and resolve their disagreements within the community. At no time was any disciplinary investigation launched or disciplinary action taken in this matter.”
The statement also denied that it reports such incidents to bar authorities (though that was the implied threat they relayed to Colbert): “While any person may report concerns about a lawyers’ character and fitness to the bar, the law school has a longstanding policy of reporting only formal disciplinary action to the Bar Association.”
Several attorney commentators have suggested that such a dishonest statement would qualify as an ethics violation and worthy of professional discipline if it was made to a court. They are correct.
Two Yale Law School professors were horrified at the dishonesty. Corporate legal scholar Roberta Romano threatened to “correct the record” if the law school did not do so itself. The administration’s actions toward Colbert, Romano wrote, are “in direct and total conflict with what you stated,” noting that the school’s diversity director had made “a sly threat” about the student’s career. Another Yale Law professor said the initial statement was “appallingly disingenuous and full of falsehoods.” Yale Law School “stated ‘no student is investigated or sanctioned for protected speech. It’s hard to square that statement with the Dean of Student Affairs summoning a student for questioning in response to allegations by other students, with the Diversity Director ominously warning the student that if he doesn’t apologize his admission to the bar could be threatened, or with the Law School sending a message to the entire second-year class condemning the student’s email as ‘racist.’ If all that isn’t an ‘investigation,’ then it’s even worse—a pronouncement of guilt without investigation.” Keith Whittington, a legal theorist at Princeton and a member of the Academic Freedom Alliance, said Yale Law’s actions were “highly inappropriate and completely incompatible with maintaining a free speech culture in a law school.”
You can listen to the recording of Colbert’s meeting with the Yale Law administrators here.