A Yale Law School professor who supported Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is fighting back against allegations that she held “dinner parties” with students amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Amy Chua, known nationally for her best-selling “Tiger Mother” memoir about aggressive Chinese-American parenting, denied the claims and accused the administration of “selectively leaking personnel files” in violation of Yale Law rules and “quite possibly” the law as well.
The Yale Daily News published a report Tuesday night that in response to the allegations Yale Law had stripped Chua of leading a “small group” of around 15 first-year students next year.
It also mentioned, but did not provide, a 2019 agreement between Chua and Dean Heather Gerken that purportedly required the professor to stop drinking and socializing with students outside of class and office hours.
Chua’s Thursday letter to colleagues said the 2019 agreement had been “mischaracterized” by the newspaper and that “I do not believe I have violated” it. The report is “so out of sync with the truth I don’t know where to begin,” Chua wrote.
She has only met with a few students “in extreme distress” in recent months at her home, because the law school building is closed. Chua has not been “hosting wild parties during COVID,” she tweeted about the News “hit job.”
Blowback against Yale Law has been fierce. Legal personality and former Fox News host Megyn Kelly accused the administration of “trying to cancel” Chua “for absolutely nothing,” tweeting that “this is retribution for her support of Bret[t] Kavanaugh.”
Yale Law must stand up for “one of its most beloved teachers & tell the damn whiners to sit down,” she said.
Journalist Abigail Shrier, whose book on transgender ideology’s effects on teen girls got briefly removed from Target, called Chua “the single best professor I ever had.”
Yale Law made a “giant unforced error” with its “attempted cancellation of Chua,” who is a “stalwart advocate of women & minority students,” Shrier tweeted before Chua publicly defended herself.
“The effects of this disgraceful witch-hunt will reverberate to every academic institution, as professors become ever more fearful of their students,” she continued.
On Friday morning, Chua posted 50 pages of supportive letters to administrators from current and former students, stripped of their names, and tweeted a few examples, including one from a former Black Law Students Association official.
“Removing Professor Chua’s small group is racist and classist,” wrote a self-described “poor Black bastard raised by a single-mother” who accused Yale Law of “structural racism” against Chua.
Without the professor’s leadership of a small group, the winners of “prestige jockeying” within Yale Law “will be whiter, wealthier, and more male than they already are,” the former student said.
The student letters moved Christina Hoff Sommers, the American Enterprise Institute scholar and host of the “Factual Feminist” show. “Shocking how Yale is treating this brilliant and beloved professor,” she tweeted.
Yale Law didn’t respond to questions from Just the News Friday about Chua’s allegations, particularly why it didn’t notify her of student allegations before removing her from the small group.
The administration told legal blog Above the Law that it “does not comment on, or even acknowledge the existence of, faculty disciplinary cases, and it strictly maintains the confidentiality of faculty employment files.”
Chua has not responded to a query from Just the News about what specific law and internal rules administrators may have violated. Her assistant just provided her public email.
Students intimidated by her ‘immense power and influence’ on clerkships
The student allegations reviewed by the Yale Daily News were prompted by Chua’s identification as a small-group leader in a March 22 email. She hadn’t led a small group since her 2019 agreement with Dean Gerken, the report said.
Law students met with administrators March 26 to claim that Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld continued inviting students to their home for “dinner parties.” One submitted an affidavit that said the couple had students over for dinner “on multiple occasions this semester.”
Three days later, Chua was removed from the small group.
Rubenfeld was put on a two-year suspension from Yale Law last summer for sexual misconduct allegations that administrators have still not specified. A vocal critic of the watered-down definition of “sexual assault” on campus, the professor reportedly was accused of harassing and trying to kiss students in class and at the couple’s house parties, which he has categorically denied.
The News also pointed to a report by two law student groups last fall that said Chua and Rubenfeld held “monthly soirees” as early as 2008, and that Rubenfeld had been removed from his own small group in 2015 following an “informal” Yale Law investigation into his classroom and home behavior.
Seven students and alumni spoke to the newspaper about “the immense power and influence” Chua wields at Yale Law and within the legal community, especially her prior service on a clerkship committee. (Chua’s daughter got a clerkship with Justice Kavanaugh after he was confirmed.) The News said another 11 students reached out to defend Chua.
Chua’s 2019 agreement with Dean Gerken detailed allegations by alumni that Chua “drank heavily” and “remarked inappropriately” with Rubenfeld on students’ appearance and personal lives at their house parties, according to the News. In a letter to students, also obtained by the newspaper, Chua apologized for any interactions that might have upset them, saying she can be “unguarded or unfiltered.”
Gerken took away Chua’s required courses for the 2020-2021 academic year, including small groups, and said they would only be reinstated when the law school believes “the kind of misconduct alleged will not occur.” Chua agreed to pay an unspecified but “substantial” financial penalty, the agreement stated, and resigned from the clerkship committee.
Disrespect for ‘only Asian American woman on the academic faculty’
Contrary to hosting dinner parties, Chua has “comforted a small handful of students who reached out to me in moments of crisis,” some prompted by reports of anti-Asian violence and discrimination, she tweeted.
“As the only Asian American woman on the academic faculty, I can’t imagine any other faculty member would be treated with this kind of disrespect and utter lack of due process,” Chua wrote.
In her letter to colleagues she said they should all be concerned “at a bare minimum” that her personnel file had been leaked, and requested an outside investigation.
Chua first heard the “ridiculous allegations” about her house parties on March 28 from a News reporter, who also mentioned she had been taken off next year’s small group.
In a Zoom call with Gerken later that day, Chua was treated “like a criminal.” The dean didn’t explain how the News received her personnel file, which was “known only to the Dean’s office,” or how it knew Chua’s fate before she did, but rather Gerken asked her repeatedly to be “candid.”
Gerken has ignored her requests for an explanation while “insinuat[ing]” to the News that Chua was removed “on the basis of allegations of misconduct” without notifying her.
Chua had “desperately not wanted” to lead a small group, but Deputy Dean Ian Ayres had insisted, Chua claimed. And if her 2019 agreement applied to leading a small group, she wouldn’t have been able to do the job: Yale Law was “obviously expecting me to socialize with students” in the role.
The only thing close to “dinner parties” with students was counseling a few who felt the “administration was not supporting them” amid racist incidents and the “outburst of anti-Asian violence” in recent months. Rubenfeld, her husband, was not present, she said.
“I’m being punished and publicly humiliated without anything remotely resembling due process” for consoling students in crisis, according to Chua. She said several students had protested her removal to the administration, arguing it was prompted by a few students who don’t like Chua’s views.
Go-to professor for marginalized students
The trove of student and alumni letters Chua posted Friday emphasized her importance to marginalized students at Yale Law.
“I know that many first generation, low-income background, and ethnic and racial minority students — like myself — deeply appreciate her support,” one wrote, blaming a few “quite vocal” but “unrepresentative” students for attacking Chua.
Another self-identified student of color said they would have left Yale Law except for Chua, to whom “I owe all my success.” Unlike other Yale Law professors, Chua never made the student “feel like I did not have what it takes” to do well academically.
A former official with the Black Law Students Association said Chua kept them from dropping out of Yale Law. She was the only professor who volunteered to host BLSA and admissions diversity events with the student, and Chua made it a point to offer “safe spaces” for students of color.
A group letter claimed to be signed by black students who are “first-generation professional students, queer, and from singleparent [sic] households.” They were inspired by Chua’s personal stories of working “tirelessly to gain confidence and excel as a woman of color and daughter of immigrants in the male-dominated field of law.”
An Asian-American female student denounced the “overwhelming disdain” she has heard about Chua from students “spinning rumors out of whole cloth after admitting they did not know the truth.” Removing Chua from a first-year small group “almost feels criminal,” she said.