Posted on October 21, 2021

Convulsions at Yale Law School

Aaron Sibarium, Washington Free Beacon, October 18, 2021

Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken on Monday promised an investigation into the controversy surrounding Trent Colbert, the second-year law student and Federalist Society member who sent a lighthearted email inviting classmates to his “trap house.”


It is unclear whether administrators will issue an apology for their conduct along the lines of the one they drafted for Colbert, as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has proposed.

Yale Law School told the Washington Free Beacon that Ayres’s investigation would not result in any further action against Colbert. {snip}

Gerken’s announcement comes in the wake of widespread outrage over the administration’s aggressive handling of the incident and its tendentious response to news reports about it, including from two prominent Yale Law professors who lambasted the university’s official statement.


The outrage has bubbled over into other elite universities. Keith Whittington, a legal theorist at Princeton and a member of the Academic Freedom Alliance, said Yale Law’s actions were “highly inappropriate and completely incompatible with maintaining a free speech culture in a law school.”

“There is no question that such actions send a chilling message across the student body and convey clearly that the law school is a hostile environment for conservative students,” Whittington told the Free Beacon.

The imbroglio started when Colbert, a member of the Native American Students Association and the Federalist Society, invited classmates to a happy hour cohosted by the two groups. In a Sept. 15 email, he announced that Popeyes chicken would be served at his “trap house,” a slang term for a place where people buy drugs.

The message elicited nine discrimination complaints in under 12 hours, according to administrators, which prompted Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Diversity Director Yaseen Eldik to summon Colbert to a series of meetings in which they pressured him to apologize for his email—with Eldik going so far as to imply that Colbert could face trouble with the bar if he didn’t apologize. When Colbert didn’t send a written apology drafted by the administration, Cosgrove and Eldik emailed the second-year class about his initial message, which they characterized as “pejorative” and “racist,” adding that the administration condemned it in “the strongest possible terms.”

The student complaints emphasized Colbert’s membership in the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that Eldik said was “oppressive to certain communities.” {snip}

“The pooled legal knowledge of our membership cannot name every [Federalist Society] decision that has harmed our communities,” Yale’s Dred Scott Society wrote in a 2,555-word email on Oct. 18—”a testament to the extensiveness of this violence.”


The president of the Black Law Students association, Marina Edwards, likewise rejected the idea that Colbert had been “cancelled.”

“Black students did not attempt to cancel Trent,” she wrote in an Oct. 17 email to the law school. “Calling out someone who behaves irresponsibly toward historically marginalized communities, regardless of their own identity, is not an act of oppression; it is an act of love and compassion for those whose lives are daily ripped apart and trampled upon by systems (and people) of oppression.”


If students are not attempting to cancel Colbert, they are attempting to remove him from his position as a student representative. In response to “concerns surrounding Trent Colbert’s conduct,” the law school’s student government said in an Oct. 16 email that it drafted an entirely new set of procedures for removing student representatives. It remains unclear whether the student government will use those procedures against Colbert.