The Culture of Complaint06-10-2021
We are living at a time when any action that one disagrees with leads not to a discussion and engagement but to a complaint and a demand for punishment. This is especially true at the top universities in the country. Disagreements that should be fodder for intellectual growth are now opportunities to exert power and punish one’s perceived enemies. What used to be educational institutions are, it seems, increasingly ideological battlegrounds. Nowhere is this descent into the swamp of “if you’re not on my team, you’re my enemy” more apparent than at Yale Law School, where the Dean Heather Gerken discipline Professor Amy Chua after students claimed to have proof that Chua had invited groups of students to her house for dinner, a practice common in colleges and universities, but apparently a violation of an agreement Chua had with the University. The problem is that there was no proof that Chua did what the students claimed and no evidence she did anything wrong or broke any agreement with Yale Law School. What we see, again, is a culture of complaint and punishment that forgets the very soul of what education is supposed to be about--learning from each other and our disagreements. Read more here.
The dinner parties, the students said, appeared to violate Ms. Chua’s no-socializing agreement, and were evidence that she was unfit to teach a “small group” — a class of 15 or so first-year students that is a hallmark of the Yale legal education, and to which she had recently been assigned — in the fall. “We believe that it is unsafe to give Professor Chua (and her husband) such access to and control over first-year students,” an officer of Yale Law Women, a student group, wrote to the dean, Heather K. Gerken.
The students provided what they said was proof of the dinners, in the form of a dossier featuring secretly screen-shotted text messages between a second-year student and two friends who had attended. That touched off a cascading series of events leading to Ms. Chua’s removal from the small-group roster.
Ms. Chua says she did nothing wrong, and it is unclear exactly what rule she actually broke. But after more than two dozen interviews with students, professors and administrators — including three students who say they went to her house to seek advice during a punishing semester — possibly the only sure thing in the murky saga is this: There is no hard proof that Ms. Chua is guilty of what she was originally accused of doing. According to three students involved, there were no dinner parties and no judges; instead, she had students over on a handful of afternoons, in groups of two or three, mostly so they could seek her advice.
“I met with Professor Chua to discuss a deeply distressing experience I had, an experience that hinged on my race and identity,” said one of the students, who is Asian….
At the meeting, Bruce Ackerman, a Sterling professor of law and political science, outlined the problem, or at least one of them: “Two of our most prominent professors, one of whom is the dean, seem to be saying diametrically opposite things.”