Group of 1,400-plus—including 40-plus elected officials—call on Yale Law School to take action following heckler’s veto fracas

April 7, 2022

Yale Law School has dominated much of the news over the past month, but unfortunately for the once-vaunted institution, this seems to be one rare exception to the time-tested adage “there’s no such thing as bad press.”

On March 10, Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kristen Waggoner and American Humanist Association attorney Monica Miller went to Yale Law School to discuss Ms. Waggoner’s recent U.S. Supreme Court victory on campus free speech. They were greeted by a mob of nearly 120 law students who showed up to hurl insults and disrupt a legal panel discussion about remedies for First Amendment violations on college campuses. 

Ultimately, Ms. Waggoner and her fellow female panelist had to be escorted away from the event by Yale police. It wasn’t safe for them to leave on their own.

The incident has evoked public criticism from across the ideological and political spectrum. Those considered left of center, like esteemed law professor Erwin Chemerinsky (Berkley Law) and Chancellor Howard Gillman (UC Irvine), along with those considered right of center, like the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, have spoken out to denounce this unsettling instance of cancel culture.

And now, you can add to the list of critics a group of over 1,400 Americans, including many Philadelphia Statement signatories, who signed a letter to Dean Heather Gerken of Yale Law School on April 7, urging her administration to take tangible steps to address the rapidly deteriorating culture of free speech and civility on campus.  This letter represents one more example of those across the political divide finding common ground to support free speech.

Notable signatories on the letter include five current governors, 24 state attorneys general, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and several members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Other public figures include Ben Carson, Jordan B. Peterson, Dr. Robert George, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dr. Kevin Roberts (President, Heritage Foundation), Elise Westhoff (President, Philanthropy Roundtable), Governor Scott Walker (President, Young America’s Foundation), Dr. Peter W. Wood (President, National Association of Scholars), and Eli Lehrer (President, R Street Institute).

“Dean Gerken, we urge you to take concrete action to correct the course of Yale Law School,” the letter states. “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. These include, at the very least, respect for the right to freedom of speech, a commitment to living peacefully with one another despite differences, and esteem for truly open dialogue and debate.”

The signatories also note that students targeted Ms. Waggoner based on the discredited word of the morally bankrupt Southern Poverty Law Center—whose rhetoric has previously inspired unruly and violent behavior on and off campuses throughout the U.S.

The letter ends by calling upon Dean Gerken to take steps to cultivate a free speech culture at Yale Law School, take appropriate disciplinary action consistent with Yale’s free speech policies against the students involved in the inappropriate and dangerous incident, and correct or retract Yale Law School’s previous statements that downplayed the students’ unruly and threatening behavior.

You can read and sign the letter here.