Earlier this year there were a whole host of articles at prominent publications—New York, the NY Times, etc.— about Yale Law School professor Amy Chua. Chua had allegedly done something outrageous, prompting the school to take action against her. But despite all of the outrage and the ink and pixels spilled about it, it was actually pretty hard to work out exactly what she had done which angered so many people.
Eventually, Elizabeth Bruenig wrote a detailed piece for the Atlantic in which she spoke to everyone involved. Her take was that there was no there there.
It appears to me that what transpired amounts to a skirmish between a notorious professor and an administration that seemed so eager to relieve itself of her presence that it lunged at an opportunity to weaken her position at the expense of two students who were left to deal with the consequences of the ultimately aborted campaign.
Bruenig’s piece described how this whole kerfluffle started. She gave the three main people involved (besides Chua herself) pseudonyms to protect their identities. Here’s how I summarized it previously:
The Guest is a male student who went to college at UCLA. The Visitor is a female student from Atlanta, GA. The two became friends at Yale’s Law School after working on a project together. Both students also became concerned about issues of minority representation at Yale Law School and that led to an invitation to meet with Chua…
But there was someone else in the house when the Guest got invited to Chua’s house. This person, who she calls the Archivist, happened to be in the Guest’s house doing laundry and overheard plans to go to Chua’s house. For whatever reason, he began documenting everything…
Anyway, the Guest and the Visitor go to Chua’s house. They decide to bring a bottle of wine as a gift for inviting them. Chua offers them cheese and crackers but tells them she has dinner plans later. One of the students opens the wine and drinks some but Chua doesn’t have any. Both students felt Chua’s advice was helpful and made them feel better about the situations they had asked her about.
Meanwhile, the Archivist, who wasn’t invited and didn’t attend, began sending messages to other people, seemingly trying to get them worked up about the meeting with his two friends. “I think it’s deliberately enabling the secret atmosphere of favoritism, misogyny, and sexual harassment that severely undermines the bravery of the victims of sexual abuse that came forward against Rubenfeld,” he wrote…
A month later, the Guest and the Visitor had a second meeting with Chua to discuss the same issues. This time they brought a “date-and-cheese plate” to her house. The Archivist was outraged by this second meeting. He contacted Ellen Cosgrove, the Dean of Student Affairs who also happened to be the school’s Title IX coordinator. He sent her screenshots of text messages to back up his story about the meetings at Chua’s house. He then wrote a 20-page pdf which in which he included the same screenshots but also took some editorial shots at his friends. That document began circulating and became known as “the dossier.”
A week later, Chua was stripped of her ability to lead a small group she was supposed to lead in the fall semester. She found out about it when someone from the Yale Daily News called her for comment about it. At first the Guest and the Visitor were confused by what all the fuss was about. But it gradually became clear to them that Dean Cosgrove was looking for more than just a slap on the wrist. She was hoping to nail Chua.
The Guest specifically told Bruenig that he felt pressured to say something critical of Chua even though he didn’t know what the issue was and didn’t believe she’d done anything wrong. Today, Yale News reports that two students have sued Yale Law School administrators for retaliation after they refused to endorse complaints against Chua. The students aren’t identified by name in the report but it’s a fair guess that Jane and John Doe are The Guest and The Visitor from Bruenig’s story.
The students, referred to as Jane and John Doe throughout the lawsuit, sued the University and Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken, Law School Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Yaseen Eldik on the grounds of breach of contract, intentional interference with prospective business relationships and defamation, among others. The complaint — a copy of which was obtained by the News — was filed in the United States District Court of Connecticut, and requests damages of at least $150,000.
“Two Yale Law School deans, along with Yale Law School’s Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, worked together in an attempt to blackball two students of color from job opportunities as retaliation for refusing to lie to support the University’s investigation into a professor of color,” the complaint reads…
The Monday complaint says that Jane and John Doe were the subjects of a 20-page dossier of emails and text messages which became central to the Chua investigation.
According to the complaint, when the Law School administration became aware of the dossier, Cosgrove and Eldik pressured the two students to substantiate the claims in the dossier by submitting a formal complaint against Chua. The complaint claims that the dossier, and by extension the complaint, would have contained “knowingly and materially false statements.”
A university spokesperson said the “lawsuit is legally and factually baseless.” I don’t know if that’s the case but this is now the second time in which Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Diversity Director Yaseen Eldik have been accused of pressuring a student to sign a statement. At some point maybe someone higher up at Yale will notice the pattern and decide this isn’t how things should be run.
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