A Boycott We Can Get Behind

Three cheers for Judge James Ho and his fellow travelers, who are taking the fight to Yale

The view across Hewitt Quadrangle of Commons, Yale University / Facebook

Rejected. That word, perhaps above all others, strikes fear in the hearts of careerist, Ivy League overachievers and the administrators whose livelihoods depend on serving them by maintaining their perch atop the all-important U.S. News & World Report rankings.  

That is why Fifth Circuit Judge James C. Ho’s announcement last week that he will no longer hire clerks from Yale Law School, ostensibly the nation’s premier breeding ground for legal scholars and practitioners, is garnering so much attention, and why we expect our colleague Aaron Sibarium’s report — indicating that a dozen more federal judges are following suit — to turn heads, too. 

Three cheers for them. Changing the market demand for a Yale Law School degree is one way to motivate the feckless, dishonest, and unprincipled administrators in New Haven and elsewhere to do their jobs—that is, to reassert in clear terms that free inquiry is the primary function of a university and that it is to be protected at all costs, including, and perhaps especially, when free speech causes offense. 

It may not work and, if Yale continues on its current course, the boycott is telegraphing to anybody interested in a serious legal education that what’s on offer in New Haven is far from it. 

The pushback, some of which clearly comes from those troubled by the totalitarian atmosphere on the Yale campus that has been well documented in these pages, is well underway. Critics say this boycott will hurt innocent students and that it won’t affect change.  

Set aside the fact that this is a prospective boycott that won’t affect current Yale students. Innocent students are being hurt now: Look no further than Yale law student Trent Colbert, who was put through a Kafkaesque interrogation by administrators last year after sending a lighthearted email to his classmates, or to the dozens of students who showed up in March to hear a debate about civil liberties only to have their classmates disrupt the event and drown out the speakers. 

The question is, what is to be done? Yale Law School long ago gave up the idea of educating its students. It prizes nothing more than its own prestige, derived in part from the federal clerkships in which it places its graduates. As any parent resolved to deliver tough love and discipline to an unruly child knows, the punishment hurts us more than it hurts them. But it is necessary.