Professor Amy Chua was a popular and accomplished teacher at Yale Law School in every way. However, Chua’s life (and reputation) seemed to change dramatically in 2018 when she published a comment in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Kavanaugh is a mentor to women.” She reports that she immediately became a pariah in school and academy. Now Chua claims that in an action that lacked the most basic guarantees of termination and due process, she had to be removed from small classes in the first year.
Chua’s allegations have received little attention outside of conservative websites, but they do raise very serious questions about the basis and handling of claims made against them. In fact, Chua has claimed that the core claim is demonstrably false.
Chaua claims that material from her personnel file was leaked to a student journalist who knew of her punishment before she did. In a counter-argument, Chua pointed out blatant errors in Julia Brown’s Yale Daily News article. The article started by announcing:
Law professor Amy Chua will no longer lead a small freshman group at Yale Law School for the next year after students alleged she was still having private dinner parties at the house she suspended with her husband, the Law professor Jed Rubenfeld, shares. although it was agreed in 2019 to stop all interactions with students outside of class. “
In her memo to the entire faculty, Chua shares how shocked she was at the article and the inclusion of non-public information. She complains that “confidential information about my agreement with Heather was shared with students or the press. To this day, ten days after I was removed from the list of small groups for the next year, I have still not received any explanation from the dean’s office as to why this decision was made. “She denied having a federal judge for a party in her home or hosting such parties with students during the pandemic.
When Chua reached out to law school dean Heather Gerken, Chua said the dean had confirmed what the article said about her punishment and had confronted her with these allegations.
If that’s true, that seems like an odd approach for any school, let alone a law school. Chua insists that she was never given an opportunity to refute the allegations and that non-public facts (and the punishment) were leaked to the media before being informed of the decision.
Chua says the article brought together key facts and misinterpreted them. It is specifically alleged that in a 2019 letter, Chua violated an agreement to stop drinking and interact with students outside of class. This was linked to a two-year suspension reportedly imposed on her husband, Professor Jed Rubenfeld, for alleged verbal harassment, unwanted touch and attempted kisses by students – allegations Rubenfeld has denied.
Chua claims Gerken repeated the false claim at the Zoom session that she placed a federal judge in her home and with other parties. She says the claim is “insane” and never happened. This seems like an essential fact that a law school may want to confirm before imposing such a sanction, let alone before someone inappropriately relays the information to the press. Chua wrote:
While I worry my head trying to imagine what student “dinner parties” they might be referring to, I can only envision a few options that I am not only into but proud of. As many of you know, there have been a number of major crises for our students in the past few months, including one student sending (and then disappearing) racist and horrific violent messages to other students, allegations of racism in the Law Journal, and most of the others recently the outbreak of anti-Asian violence that was on the news. During these events, some students in extreme need have turned to me feeling that they have no one to turn to. Many of them feel that the law school administration does not support them. Since we couldn’t meet in the law school building, we met at my house, and I did my best to support and comfort her. One of the students had received death threats; Another student sobbed at violence against her mother. Jed wasn’t there. In my spare time, I have responded to the students’ calls for help and tried to care and comfort the students in times of crisis when they feel hopeless and alone – and for this I seem to be punished and publicly humiliated without anything that is proper The process is remotely similar.
It is impossible to judge the merits of these claims from statements made in letters or articles. However, that is the point. There is no evidence that Yale went to the trouble of corroborating these facts with the full participation of Professors Chua and Rubenfeld. The leakage of history and the inclusion of non-public information also reveal evidence of animus against Chua.
The actions against Chua also appear to be in sharp contrast to other faculties such as CNN analyst and Yale professor Asha Rangappa, who have been accused of doxing a student critic. Other Yale professors have written controversial comments as well as Trump’s declaration of genocide. Many conservative or libertarian faculty members fear that any allegation or alleged error will result in investigation and sanction. A kind of zero tolerance environment for any controversy involving faculties with opposing views. Yale, like most top law schools, has few conservatives or libertarians on its faculty. The intellectual balance in most of these schools of law seems increasingly to be left-to-left.
However, the main concern is not ideology, but clarity about how such cases will be handled. A high profile professor from Yale was recently fired, but her case actually raises similar questions due to a lack of clarity about the standards applied by the university. Dr. Bandy Lee, a former faculty member of the School of Medicine and Yale Law School, violated the Goldwater Rule for four years by remotely diagnosing President Trump. Neither Yale Law School nor its medical school have objected. However, after Lee received a letter from Alan Dershowitz about their similar diagnosis of his mental state, he was eventually released. There is no explanation of the standard used and why it hasn’t been used in the past four years when Lee was one of the most visible faculty members in the law school. Although I have written numerous columns criticizing Lee for her unethical behavior, I remain concerned about the unclear reasons for her resignation and the implications for freedom of expression. There seems to be a lack of attention and clarity regarding the rules for faculties that conduct public debates outside of school. As in the Chua case, everything seems dangerously improvisational and informal.
Professor Chua has asked for an investigation, and I believe that the entire faculty should support this request. Whatever is found to be true regarding the merits, there is little doubt about the abusive process. The lack of notification and due process is appalling. Combined with the leak, it is difficult not to view this action as hostile and as retaliation.