Breaking: Federal Judges: Law Schools Need to Crack Down on Student Disrupters Now

Law schools like to say that they're training the next generation of leaders. But too many institutions of legal education have become laboratories of divisiveness, not leadership. A series of recent videos from law schools, including Yale and Stanford, captures screaming students insulting and disrupting accomplished litigators, legal scholars, even federal judges. Evidence is rapidly accumulating that law schools across America are failing in their basic mission to teach students how to become good citizens — let alone good lawyers.

In a nation of over 300 million Americans, we're bound to disagree on a wide number of issues. We're committed to the same fundamental principles of liberty and equality. But we disagree fervently about what those principles require in practice. We weigh competing considerations differently. And these divergent value judgments inevitably lead to conflict.

Our nation's Founders anticipated these concerns. The Federalists promised that the former colonies would be better off together — that we would enjoy numerous economic, diplomatic, security, and other advantages that flow from scale. In response, the Anti-Federalists worried that no republic anywhere near our size and heterogeneity had ever been formed. They feared we were too diverse and would bicker endlessly. They believed we would be better off apart.

The Federalists prevailed by offering two critical ingredients for avoiding endless conflict: federalism and freedom of speech. We would do at the national level what must be done at the national level. But we would leave ample space for differing viewpoints. And we would have the freedom to advocate our beliefs and advance them in state and local communities nationwide.

Thank goodness the Federalists won — America is the most successful nation in human history. But if we do not reverse the toxic environment on our nation's campuses soon, we may ultimately prove the Anti-Federalists right.

Our country won't work unless citizens agree on the basic terms of our democracy. We Americans are a diverse and passionate bunch. But we come together as one great nation. We work with each other, trade with one another, and treat our neighbors with respect and decency. And we engage others with a presumption of good faith and in the earnest belief that there's always something we can learn from our fellow man.

We expect parents to raise their children with these values. But we also look to schools to inculcate these principles to the next generation of Americans.

Unfortunately, too many educational institutions have stopped teaching students an essential skill of citizenship: knowing how to agree to disagree with one another. What we're seeing instead is antithetical both to the academy and to America at large. We don't disagree — we destroy. We don't talk — we tweet. We live in a culture of cancellation, not conversation. We don't engage with one another — we expel people from social and economic life. It's unsustainable — and, we fear, existential.

What's worse, what happens on campus doesn't stay on campus. Students learn the wrong lessons and practice the wrong tactics. And then they graduate and bring these tactics to workplaces across the country. In recent years, leading law firms have felt increasing pressure not to hire students, or to remove lawyers, who hold certain views.

Fortunately, this problem may be surprisingly easy to solve. Most universities already have rules in place ensuring freedom of speech and prohibiting campus disruptions. The problem is that the rules aren't enforced. Students disrupt without consequence. Administrators tolerate or even encourage the chaos.

That's not because most students or faculty support these tactics. When we visit campuses across the country, we're always told it's just a small fraction of students who practice intolerance. But the majority tolerates it, because faculty don't want to become controversial, and students just want to graduate, get a job, and move on with their lives.

It shouldn't be on the students to police other students. It should be on the grown-ups to lead, to teach, and, where necessary, to punish.

But everyone's scared to do anything. We're the opposite of the Greatest Generation. We're leaving our country worse off, not better, for the next generation.

Nobody wants to be vindictive. But rules aren't rules without consequences. And make no mistake: Administrators who promote intolerance don't belong in legal education. And students who practice intolerance don't belong in the legal profession.

Law schools know what their options are. They know they can suspend or expel students for engaging in disruptive tactics, or threaten to report negatively on a student's character and fitness to state bar examiners. They know this because schools have done it.

And if schools are unwilling to impose consequences themselves, at a minimum they should identify the disrupters so that future employers know who they are hiring.

Schools issue grades and graduation honors to help employers separate wheat from chaff. Likewise, schools should inform employers if they're injecting potentially disruptive forces into their organizations.

Otherwise, more and more employers may start to reach the same conclusion that we did last fall — that we have no choice but to stop hiring from these schools in the future. At the end of the day, that may be the only way to send a message that will resonate with law schools — judges and other employers imposing consequences on law schools who refuse to impose consequences on their own. No one is required to hire students who aren't taught to live under the rule of law.

James C. Ho serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Elizabeth L. Branch serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

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Federal Judges: Law Schools Need to Crack Down on Student Disrupters Now

Administrators who promote intolerance don't belong in legal education. And students who practice intolerance ... READ MORE


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