U.S. senators, governors from across the country, and other prominent figures have signed an open letter asking Yale Law School to discipline the "vitriolic mob" that derailed a bipartisan panel on free speech, the latest call for consequences amid the law school's inaction.
The letter, sent today to the Yale Law administration, included signatures from Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), nine members of the House of Representatives, and the governors of Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Mississippi, and Idaho. It urges the school to punish the "physical intimidation and menacing behavior" directed at the speakers, who were escorted out of the event by police after a rowdy, vulgar protest.
"Instead of engaging with the panelists, a shocking number of Yale Law students hurled constant insults and obscenities at them and tried to prevent them from speaking and being heard," the letter reads. "Our nation desperately needs the next generation of attorneys, legislators, judges, and Supreme Court justices to be marked by the character and values that undergird the American legal profession and a free society."
To that end, the letter calls on the law school to "condemn the behavior of students who violated other people's rights" and "take appropriate disciplinary actions in keeping with Yale's free speech policies." It also demands that the law school "retract and/or issue corrections to" its initial statement about the protest, which the law school claimed had not disrupted the event or necessitated police assistance. Both claims were subsequently debunked by audio from the event.
Governors and members of Congress weren't the only ones to sign the letter. Ben Carson, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, added his name to the list, as did 24 state attorneys general and a number of academics and nonprofit leaders. All told, over 1,400 people signed.
The missive marks a crescendo to a chorus of outrage that has beset the law school in recent weeks. One day after news of the protest broke, D.C. Circuit judge Laurence Silberman floated the possibility of denying clerkships to any student involved in the disruption. A week later, the dean of Berkeley Law School wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying the Yale protesters should "face disciplinary action" for attempting a "heckler's veto." And on March 31, Yale Law professor Kate Stith called on her colleagues to recognize the disruption as a "blatant violation of Yale's Free Expression policy," which prohibits interfering "with speakers' ability to be heard and of community members to listen."
The dean of Yale Law School, Heather Gerken, has so far resisted these calls. In a March 28 message to the law school, Gerken said the protesters' behavior was "unacceptable" but ruled out formally disciplining them.
The letter was organized by the drafters of the Philadelphia Statement, a document that defends free expression and civil discourse. The full letter can be read here: