What Is Going On At Yale Law School?
June 20, 2021 3:21 PM   Subscribe

The prestigious institution has tied itself in knots over a dispute involving one of its most popular—and controversial—professors, Amy Chua. The question has arisen, in online comments sections and on Twitter, why anyone is even talking about Amy Chua. Who cares about a parenting memoirist’s removal from a law-school teaching roster? The answer is, in part, because this story manages to touch on seemingly every single cultural flashpoint of the past few years. Chua’s critics see a story about #MeToo—because of her husband, but also because Chua supported the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, even after he was accused of sexual assault. Meanwhile, Chua’s defenders see a morality tale about liberal cancel culture. “What they’ve done to you is SOP”—standard operating procedure—“for conservative allies but chills me to the bone nonetheless,” a supporter tweeted at her, earlier this month. Megyn Kelly weighed in, tweeting, “Make no mistake: this is retribution for her support of Brett Kavanaugh, & it is disgusting.” Chua’s allies have also suggested that anti-Asian bias is involved. “The woke academy reserves a special vitriol for minority faculty who don’t toe the line politically,” Niall Ferguson, a historian, tweeted.
posted by folklore724 (80 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nearly every one of the people quoted or mentioned in the article seems to have the nonexistent EQ (and enormous ego) of a charging rhino. This whole situation adds to the argument that the Supreme Court and other federal courts should be stocked from now on with way more graduates of NON-Ivy League law schools.
posted by PhineasGage at 3:46 PM on June 20 [49 favorites]


“The woke academy reserves a special vitriol for minority faculty who don’t toe the line politically,” Niall Ferguson, a historian, tweeted.

Professional bigot calls people opposed to him bigots. Every accusation a confession, indeed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:51 PM on June 20 [63 favorites]


Archive.is link for those who may have run out of free New Yorker articles.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:58 PM on June 20 [9 favorites]


LGM posted their dissection of an earlier piece on Chua that seems relevant here. The matter is pretty simple - there is solid evidence that Rubenstein (who, let us not forget, was last seen arguing for the First Amendment right of anti-vaxxers to openly lie) is a sexual predator, which is why Yale Law took the steps of removing him from actively teaching and in prohibiting his wife - Chua - from holding small group events in the home she shares with him, for what I would hope are obvious reasons. Chua, being both an enabler and also of the opinion that rules are for the little people, told Yale Law to fuck off, hence why Yale has responded with sanctions against her.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:12 PM on June 20 [101 favorites]


I liked some of what I read in the article, but yes. Chua slightly seems like the Amy Winehouse of her section.

And well, can you really blame the dean for saying, "Uh, Amy please just don't bring students there right now, don't, please don't.. oh, you did."
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:23 PM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Chua and her husband always seem dubious AF. In everything I ever see about either/both of them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:23 PM on June 20 [8 favorites]


They're "provocateurs." *Horse sound*

I do see some likeable qualities, but without curbing the destructive qualities, well?
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:25 PM on June 20 [7 favorites]


Why do we have quotes from three of her "defenders" (one unnamed) and none from her "critics"?
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 4:30 PM on June 20 [26 favorites]


Because she knows people who write for the NYer?

The summary of this:
Yale, "Amy, you're partying too hard. Please stop. Also, your husband needs to seriously calm down."

Amy, "No."

Yale, "Now you're going to."
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:31 PM on June 20 [8 favorites]


The best part is where she blames her daughter for her terrible PR decision!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:35 PM on June 20 [20 favorites]


When I saw her daughters suggestion of, "you have to come out swinging." I knew it was going to go further down hill.

She clearly has valuable qualities, if she can't place an egotistical override, those qualities will look messy or unseen. Sorry, Mrs. Chua.

I don't blame her daughter (obviously), but it does seem like a general mess.
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:37 PM on June 20


Every accusation a confession, indeed.

I have somehow missed that particular aphorism concerning the right-wing grift train's predilection for projection, but it will definitely be part of my verbal arsenal from now on!
posted by TedW at 4:57 PM on June 20 [25 favorites]


There is not enough therapy in the world for the daughter. She's a product of a profoundly disturbed family system, and instead of getting away and establishing any kind of independent identity, she's enmeshed herself completely in her parents' world. She didn't have to go to law school. If she wanted to go to law school, she didn't have to go to the law school where her parents were celebrities/ power-brokers/ whatever. She didn't have to pursue the kind of clerkship that her mother specializes in helping people get. I cannot imagine being a grown-up adult who is such a total extension of their parents. (Any parents, and especially those parents.) It's bizarre.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:59 PM on June 20 [35 favorites]


What it sounds like, is that she might like beer. Sometimes too many beers. Perhaps in exchange for powerful clerkships.

So, Yale?
posted by eustatic at 5:39 PM on June 20 [4 favorites]


> She didn't have to pursue the kind of clerkship that her mother specializes in helping people get. I cannot imagine being a grown-up adult who is such a total extension of their parents.

My parents weren't even close to a hundredth as power-drunk and wacko as the Chuas (I know the dad's name is different but whatever), and my parents' enmeshment training of me all through childhood ended with them kicking me out of their home when I was 21! the ultimate rejection - my ticket out of the enmeshment, right? And yet it still took me until my early 30s to break free of their programming that I had completely internalized, to stop defending them and their ideals and their methods inside my own head.

We need to cut that kid a break. She has no way of knowing better for a while yet.
posted by MiraK at 5:45 PM on June 20 [58 favorites]


Ugh. When this story broke on Twitter a while ago, the big concern that *I* saw, which is not mentioned in this article ~at all~ was that students were pressured or felt pressured to lie about being invited to her house.
posted by bq at 6:16 PM on June 20 [21 favorites]


Whenever I see her name mentioned it is so bizarre, because everyone seems to know her in the context of the "Tiger Mom" thing, while the reason I know about her (and how she got famous) is because of her influential first book (pull quote from Wikipedia) - World On Fire (2003) - a New York Times bestseller, selected by The Economist as one of the Best Books of 2003, and named by Tony Giddens in The Guardian as one of the "Top Political Reads of 2003" - which examines how globalization and democratization since 1989 have affected the relationship between market-dominant minorities and the wider population.

For someone whose claim to fame is an influential book on political and economic science, to be only remembered as a "parenting memoirist" must be quite disappointing. Lol.

I was half thinking of doing an FPP on globalization and inequality touching on concepts from her book at some point but then here she is!
posted by xdvesper at 6:26 PM on June 20 [3 favorites]


For someone whose claim to fame is an influential book on political and economic science, to be only remembered as a "parenting memoirist" must be quite disappointing. Lol.

I was editing parenting content when that book came out and trust me, there was a lot of promotion and if memory serves, Chua was all over promoting.

Also, while I didn’t enjoy the book which I did have to read — it read like an abuse memoir to me — writing about parenting issues can be important, profound work. This memoir wasn’t that but I find the ‘lol’ pretty dismissive of a topic that is pretty societally important.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:32 PM on June 20 [22 favorites]


She told me that her Gen Z daughter Lulu, the former violin prodigy, encouraged her to come out swinging.

Obviously this was revenge for threatening the stuffed animals.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:35 PM on June 20 [17 favorites]


I feel like there are multiple axes of power abuse here, and not all on Chua & Rubenstein. There's the sexual-predator husband. There's the Mommie Dearest thing. There's the thing where minority and underprivileged law students are significantly disadvantaged in the competition for clerkships and other promising positions.

And there's the thing where Chua helps her minority/underprivileged students. By leveraging her political/legal connections into getting them positions in the institutional hierarchy -- clerkships and the like, which then redounds to her benefit by reinforcing her connections with the institutional hierarchy. Just how many Appellate and Supreme Court clerks has she helped find jobs? How close is she with Justice Kavanaugh?

In other words, she may think she's doing this for the minority students at Yale, and maybe some of them do benefit, but I suspect the real motive is her own prestige. Much like billionaire philanthropy.
posted by suelac at 7:43 PM on June 20 [23 favorites]


“The woke academy reserves a special vitriol for minority faculty who don’t toe the line politically,”

Whereas the conservative academy welcomes free expression of all political views, particularly from minorities.


Sorry, my head just exploded from too much sarcasm.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:46 PM on June 20 [49 favorites]


While we're expanding the Supreme Court we also need overhaul of the entire clerkship system. Then people like Chua will become the nonentities they deserve to be. You have to understand, "helping people find clerkships" is literally only "calling up friends." She's not like a gifted college counselor, helping people develop their self-presentation and choose the best fit in competitive schools. It's just guanxi (odd that we don't have a closer English word for this concept, as we certainly have the function in Western society).
posted by praemunire at 8:20 PM on June 20 [20 favorites]


You have to understand, "helping people find clerkships" is literally only "calling up friends."

And clerkships are restricted to an incredibly small percentage of law graduates every year. (I went to a small second-tier law school, and I didn't know anyone who clerked for a federal judge after graduation. Nobody ever even mentioned it as a possibility.)

I wonder how many people Chua could help if she expanded her outreach to law firms, non-profits, government agencies, and other graduate programs.
posted by suelac at 10:25 PM on June 20 [5 favorites]


I wonder how many people Chua could help if she expanded her outreach to law firms, non-profits, government agencies, and other graduate programs.

None of these entities have any particular interest in or use for her. They have their own special interests to satisfy in hiring, and they could give a shit about one law prof's opinion. Also, the students mostly don't need her, either. The Yale name and a decent performance will get you through most any door that's open to new graduates, and she's not particularly useful even on the margins (that is, for, like, a really competitive PI fellowship, she won't be highly influential even if she does write a useful recommendation). It's only the artificial shortage of the handful of feeder appellate and Supreme Court clerkships, combined with the extreme opacity of the hiring process, that gives her her leverage in this situation.
posted by praemunire at 11:09 PM on June 20 [4 favorites]


It's just guanxi (odd that we don't have a closer English word for this concept, as we certainly have the function in Western society).

Given that Chua was born and raised in the United States, it feels Orientalizing to me to label it as guanxi. There are words enough in the English language for what she's participating in here, which range from "networking" to "nepotism" depending on your viewpoint.
posted by coolname at 12:02 AM on June 21 [30 favorites]


And, allowing that Chua's "connections" sounds pretty much the same as Old boy's club type of social order, we could critique this as she's just doing what American classism taught her, without committing reductionism to Confucian doctrine.
posted by polymodus at 12:30 AM on June 21 [14 favorites]


I didn't bother to read the article and I assume the entire mess is an exercise in right wing trolling.

Any time conservative jerks accuse "liburls" of racism/sexism/homophobia/etc it's a pure propaganda move. Remember they are post-truth and lie compulsively. When it comes to anyone on their side of the fence the completely opposite standard is applied. They either claim no malice was intended, they're perfectly OK with saying/doing vile things, or they pretend nothing happened.

Don't fall for the trap. Liberal guilt is self indulgent and self defeating. If there is a problem, admit it and do better. Engaging with trolls is a waste of attention. Conservatives know this and that's why they do it.
posted by Metacircular at 1:49 AM on June 21 [21 favorites]


If MIT can compel the resignations of Media Lab faculty over their relationships with and support for Epstein, it should be expected and uncontroversial that Yale can do the same with Chua, over her public support for Kavanaugh.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:50 AM on June 21 [6 favorites]


Let's do a deep dive into guanxi.

The Western idea that cash is king in commerce goes all the way back to Vespasian's quip that pecunia non olet ("money does not stink").

In current-day North America, we can generally be confident that our money is good in businesses and bureaucracies. This is the default, most of the time. For high stakes, like college admissions, venture capital, and regulatory capture, personal connections (guanxi, 關係) definitely is a thing even in the US. And people understand and accept that.

The Western astonishment at guanxi is that it applies by default, with some carve-outs. It applies to the little everyday transactions, and all the way up to the big ticket items. Surprise and confusion ensues, as well as a cottage industry in explaining it to each other.

The funny thing in this discussion is that one carve-out is education, where guanxi is trumped by meritocracy, currently in the form of the gaocao (高考), the national examination that serves as an implacable sorting hat for tertiary education.

Scholarly meritocracy is very much a Confucian ideal. Since the Tang dynasty, a scholar with a first-class result, the zhuangyuen (狀元), has been as adulated as Achilles. There have been only 596 of them. By acing an exam, they gained high government postings and were set for life, along with their families and their villages, who now had mega guanxi.

This is the cultural tradition that feeds the Tiger Mom psyche. And so then, perhaps surprisingly, Chua's favoritism and string-pulling with her students can be seen to go against some deep tenets of Confucianism.
posted by dum spiro spero at 4:18 AM on June 21 [26 favorites]


How would you feel if you're just as smart and worked just as hard, but your influential professor somehow just clicks better with your rather attractive classmate, and lavishes time and party invitations on them, in a very obvious, very public way?

She's built a cult of personality and seems drunk on power. Maybe other professors do this, and maybe the students only feel empowered to take down the small, lone lion. If that were the case, a curb on one will still serve as a signal to the others. To live up to our shared ideals, we need to turn the dial down on blatant favoritism, especially in education.
posted by dum spiro spero at 4:28 AM on June 21 [8 favorites]




How would you feel if you're just as smart and worked just as hard, but your influential professor somehow just clicks better with your rather attractive classmate, and lavishes time and party invitations on them, in a very obvious, very public way?


This often seems to get left out when people talk about, eg, "should professors be able to drink with students", "can professors and students be friends:", etc etc. When I was younger and more enmeshed in it, who professors "liked" and who was on whose "side" in various department conflicts (this seems more endemic to comp lit/cultural studies than the sciences) seemed like a really big deal and took up a lot of emotional energy, and now it just seems abusive and a sign of a failed department culture. Humans being what they are, it's impossible for there to be 100% equal sharing of engagement and scholarly energy among students, but habits and structures which are systematically unequal really need to be dismantled.

Honestly the whole Ivy league law school system seems pretty foul and destructive but Chua is especially bad.
posted by Frowner at 5:17 AM on June 21 [23 favorites]


There are words enough in the English language for what she's participating in here, which range from "networking" to "nepotism" depending on your viewpoint.

I used it because I couldn't think of a better word. "Networking" doesn't fit; the student trying to make friends with her might be, but she is not in passing them along. And "nepotism" doesn't fit, except for with her daughter. So I'd be interested in hearing what word does (I note that the original article seems to lack for language for it, too).

(BTW, she also literally wrote a book about how she and her husband were super-awesome because people with Jewish or Chinese cultural heritage are just better at doing stuff, which I'm surprised to see hasn't come up here much. How much can you "help less privileged students" at law school if you think Black Americans have an inferior culture?)
posted by praemunire at 7:58 AM on June 21 [23 favorites]


How would you feel if you're just as smart and worked just as hard, but your influential professor somehow just clicks better with your rather attractive classmate

Speaking of:

"Yale Law professor Amy Chua told a group of students last year that it was “no accident” that Kavanaugh’s female clerks “looked like models.” Chua also reportedly recommended that a female student send Chua photos of the outfit she planned to wear to an interview with him, apparently to confirm it included a skirt." (link) I've heard informal comments confirming this claim, but lack first-hand knowledge.
posted by praemunire at 8:02 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]


I used it because I couldn't think of a better word. "Networking" doesn't fit; the student trying to make friends with her might be, but she is not in passing them along. And "nepotism" doesn't fit, except for with her daughter. So I'd be interested in hearing what word does (I note that the original article seems to lack for language for it, too).

Influence, pull, clout. I'd also argue that putting people forward for positions is absolutely a form of networking, and a powerful one at that. It reinforces the relationship between Chua and the judge, makes the student somewhat beholden to Chua for the remainder of their career, and gives Chua a considerable amount of power in her role as gatekeeper.

The US is a hypercompetitive society full of power brokers and patronage networks. I don't think we need to look too far to find terminology for all of that. We even have our very own predilection for standardized and placement exams as a means of accomplishment, even if there's a greater number of tests involved and they haven't been around for quite so long.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:24 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]


I mean, I really don't have anything invested in the use of that particular word, and thinking about it, I don't want to derail the discussion, so call it whatever you want.
posted by praemunire at 8:30 AM on June 21


I do think it is worthwhile comparing how we could describe this situation in other languages and cultures. Other than structural racism, I do not think there a relatively common word that everyone in the U.S. that stress the importance of social networks,gatekeepers,etc for getting things done and how it can enable behavior like this. The self-made man myth goes pretty deep in the U.S. even though we cognitively aware that social networks can overpower individual efforts I don't think we have emotional depth of understanding. My parents came from India and would frequently recommend using social contacts for help and I use to turn it down thinking it was cheating and it was the way of the old country. Nope, my parents were right. White people just did not talk about their networks and how they used them. White folks report all their accomplishments for themselves or maybe a token praise to "God". I think my parents had intuitive understanding that social power is can be more useful than money due to how apparent it is in India. I think part of the mistake that Amy Chua was saying and doing the quiet part aloud while her husband doing things that Yale considered embarrassing(rather than just straight up vile).
posted by roguewraith at 8:57 AM on June 21 [11 favorites]


It is an interesting question: why does Chua in particular come under fire?

It is partially that Yale, having the least meaningful grading system of all the top schools, therefore exposes the ugly coziness at the top of this system most clearly. Most other law schools that produce a lot of clerks have normal GPAs, and those do matter a lot in the selection process. OSCAR at least used to be set up to allow you to filter/sort by GPA, and it was my impression that many judges did indeed use that function. There are calls made, but their weighting is less extreme. Without meaningful GPAs, personal recommendations of any kind become much more important.

It's partially that her friends are SCt/feeder appellate judges, because the process for SCt selection especially is opaque and not, I think, subject to antidiscrimination laws. I think we tolerate a system in which personal recommendations play some role in an otherwise allegedly meritocratic selection process (which is how it tends to be for non-SCt/feeder appellate clerkships), as opposed to one in which certain recommenders can effectively gatekeep.

These factors aren't unique to Chua, though. Where she seems to make herself particularly objectionable is how blatant she is about personal favoritism in making her choices. I got into an extremely competitive top grad school program based in some real way on a call from my undergrad advisor, but he was my advisor, not my friend. We didn't mingle socially. I have no reason to think he even found me particularly attractive. She, on the other hand, is so blatant about cultivating personal relationships with students that she won't give it up even under instructions from the school to avoid any hint of alleged misconduct regarding her husband!

And of course she's courted controversy in other ways. But there is undoubtedly some element of "gatekeeping is okay when practiced by old white men, not cool when it's an Asian-American woman" in the response to her.
posted by praemunire at 9:14 AM on June 21 [6 favorites]


Nearly every one of the people quoted or mentioned in the article seems to have the nonexistent EQ (and enormous ego) of a charging rhino. This whole situation adds to the argument that the Supreme Court and other federal courts should be stocked from now on with way more graduates of NON-Ivy League law schools.

That's as obnoxious and wrong-headed as insisting that federal courts should only be stocked with Ivy League law school graduates.
posted by carmicha at 9:16 AM on June 21


I didn't bother to read the article is not, to me, an acceptable way to approach this or any other discussion in Metafilter. It's perfectly okay to skim an article or otherwise lightly graze the material(s) that are provided to open a discussion, especially if you are already familiar with the topic, but completely refusing to do so while also wanting to engage in discussion is not productive or respectful of other discussants and original poster who opened the discussion by sharing material(s) with us.
posted by ElKevbo at 9:17 AM on June 21 [20 favorites]


I was struck by the contrast between Chua the Tiger Mother and Chua the professor. In the book, Chua describes herself as harsh and authoritarian. But with the students she’s chosen as mentees, she seems to be very different: supportive and encouraging—almost an ideal mother.

It's hardly surprising, though, is it? If you're thrown into a high-pressure, hyper-competitive academic environment, where the workload is relentless, and you and your fellow-students are competing for a small number of highly prestigious jobs, you're naturally going to be drawn to the teacher who says, in effect, "I am your loving and nurturing mother, cling to me and I will support and protect you". In other words, the culture of Yale Law School enables, and is enabled by, professors like Amy Chua. It's the academic form of Stockholm Syndrome, where the hostages bond with their captor.
posted by verstegan at 9:20 AM on June 21 [11 favorites]


That's as obnoxious and wrong-headed as insisting that federal courts should only be stocked with Ivy League law school graduates.

No it isn't.
posted by biogeo at 9:32 AM on June 21 [35 favorites]


(Possibly carmicha skimmed "way more" as "only"? )
posted by clew at 9:53 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Amy Chua (and possibly her husband, though he sounds more predatory to me) strikes me as the result of the typical path that many hard-charging academics take. After sacrificing their social and personal lives to get their position, they find themselves without any social outlet and, lacking the hard-won knowledge of the importance of work-life boundaries, act in ways that are really unprofessional. I've seen it happen so many times...at least in this case, there are no accusations of assault?
posted by Hutch at 10:08 AM on June 21 [8 favorites]


It is a weird fact that of the top ten schools sending students to federal clerkships, only three are in the Ivy League. Some schools that you'd think might be there (e.g., Columbia) instead mostly send their students straight into Biglaw jobs (check out p. 13 of that article). The problem is more overrepresentation at the Supreme Court and feeder appellate level (but there isn't good data on that).
posted by praemunire at 10:10 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


If anything, she reminds me of Christian Ott in that respect, in kind at least, if not in degree.
posted by Hutch at 10:10 AM on June 21


She's built a cult of personality and seems drunk on power.

Also drunk on wine.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:21 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


That's as obnoxious and wrong-headed as insisting that federal courts should only be stocked with Ivy League law school graduates.

Nope. Many of the major structural issues in our legal system can be traced back to the rise in dominance of the Ivy League in legal education and in the feeder paths to higher levels in the legal system - the Ivy League teaches a certain view of the law that has been growing more and more out of step with the public. Even a short term stop on the promotion of Ivy League graduates in our legal system would go a long way in improving the diversity of opinion and background in the judiciary as well as breaking the stranglehold that these schools have on our legal system.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:28 AM on June 21 [18 favorites]


It is a weird fact that of the top ten schools sending students to federal clerkships, only three are in the Ivy League. Some schools that you'd think might be there (e.g., Columbia) instead mostly send their students straight into Biglaw jobs (check out p. 13 of that article). The problem is more overrepresentation at the Supreme Court and feeder appellate level (but there isn't good data on that).
posted by praemunire at 10:10 AM on June 21


is there some relationship with the Federalist Society? Are there other legal societies that organize and rank their judges for future appointment, or just the fascists?
posted by eustatic at 10:31 AM on June 21


The Fed Society tries to put its tentacles everywhere, but some of the highest-ranked schools aren't in the top ten (or 25!). Clerkship with a reasonably amiable judge can be a great experience, but if your goal is just to become a lawyer and make $$$, it's a delay, and the bonus the firm gives you afterwards doesn't make up for it. You can see where some NY state/NYC schools, highly- or very highly-ranked, send a far higher percentage of their students into Biglaw, so that their combined clerkship/Biglaw percentage outstrips Yale's--that's the proximity to that legal market, and, to a lesser degree, this applies to Stanford and SV, too. It's easier to get a Biglaw job than to get a federal clerkship, but not by that much. (Conservative students need to aim for government jobs, as while Biglaw is overall a culturally conservative force propping up the power structure, most of the lawyers would probably call themselves liberals, and they certainly aren't "saving spots" for conservative junior associates the way conservative judges do for conservative applicants, who then become the conservative power structure.)
posted by praemunire at 10:53 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Heck, I'm 40, and someone saying "I am your loving and nurturing mother, cling to me and I will support and protect you." Sounds like the best deal ever.
posted by Jacen at 10:54 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


- Why do we have quotes from three of her "defenders" (one unnamed) and none from her "critics"?
-- Because she knows people who write for the NYer?

Chua knows at least one: Ronan Farrow (contributing writer to The New Yorker) was a mentee. Chua was his thesis adviser.

The Tiger Mom and the Hornet’s Nest, How Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld Became Yale Law Pariahs (NY Mag, June 7, 2021 -- predating the New Yorker piece by nearly two weeks) has the Farrow detail, and takes a much deeper dive into the "Yale Law power broker" couple's 20-year history at the school. There are quotes from "critics," in part because the writer, Irin Carmon, researched and sought interviews: Over the past few months, I’ve read hundreds of pages of confidential documents from multiple sexual-harassment complaints against Rubenfeld and spoken to some of the accusers who went through the Title IX process. The oldest formal allegation against him involves events as far back as 20 years ago, and as recently as 2017.

Another excerpt from NY Mag: The student who wrote the letter to Chua said she was drawn to the thrill of her confidence, the willingness to tell “institutional secrets” — not just about barriers for underrepresented students but also the professors who had married their own students. Soon, though, “I started to see and hear things from you that I couldn’t justify, despite what I don’t hesitate to call my love for you.” Chua, the student wrote, would speculate about her students’ sexualities, sometimes disclosed private details of professors’ lives, and mimicked a student with a disability in class one day.

Yale alum Courtney Milan's letter to Chua from last month (first published on Twitter), notes Chua's speculations, her inappropriate disclosures, and remembers Chua "in class, talking about how small and pitiful Ronan Farrow was as a student, and physically miming his then-disability." [About Farrow's then-disability: At age 16,"during a trip to Sudan, Ronan contracted a bone infection in his leg and would spend much of the next four years in a wheelchair and on crutches as he endured multiple operations. Nonetheless, he kept up a full schedule, including work on Capitol Hill. And in 2005, still only 18, he entered Yale Law School." (The Hollywood Reporter, Jan. 10, 2018)]
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:30 AM on June 21 [24 favorites]


talking about how small and pitiful Ronan Farrow was as a student, and physically miming his then-disability

Wow, I missed that one. Awful. (It's also kind of weird, because I interacted with him very briefly during this period, and he was in a cast and I guess he is a slighter guy in build, but not in a way that would particularly stand out.)
posted by praemunire at 11:34 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


R. Farrow does come across as slight- I had no idea. I appreciate his work, this(^) adds another level of weird to the narrative.

Ronan would later push waves in culture relative to harassment (#meetoo), etc. which in all likelihood, affected her husband and Kavanaugh. Tender irony? This is why we don't insult our students: some later become our influencers.

Well, I don't know her, but now I find her less likeable/with less BOTD(benefit of the doubt).
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:55 AM on June 21


Oh weird, I thought that I'd read this article, but I now realize that I read the New York Magazine one. (And I was confused by the characterization of it, because I didn't remember it being particularly pro-Chua/Rubenfeld.) And now I'm thinking that I don't actually want to read this one, because life is too short to read more than one article about these terrible people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:00 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Well, rather than making the article "about them," it does have valuable information relative to the culture of at-times critically influential institutions, and changing cultural directions.

I personally found the New Yorker article produced a 50/50 opinion piece - some empathy, some criticism, readers open to decision. It did end on a note somewhat more empathetic to Chua, but it didn't smooth over the ugliness of the situation.
posted by firstdaffodils at 12:04 PM on June 21


Nah, it should be expected and uncontroversial that Yale gives Chua the boot for writing and profiting from "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" which gleefully promotes abusive parenting practices

Perhaps her continued employment at Yale is more of an indictment of her employer, at this point. She has already outed herself as a terrible human being in numerous ways. If it is ultimately the positive choice of HR to keep her on the payroll, that decision was not hers.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:08 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Neither Chua nor Rubenfeld belong in a classroom, and their employer's model ("approximately 200 in each entering class;" "students are set afloat on even smaller boats of 16 to 18 students — the “small group” — captained by a single faculty member who introduces them to the world of the law and of Yale Law School") increases student vulnerability in general.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:14 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


If it is ultimately the positive choice of HR to keep her on the payroll, that decision was not hers.

She's a tenured professor.
posted by praemunire at 1:15 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Yes, thanks, I know. Tenure is not inviolate; it does require severe violations, but it can be revoked. More to the original point that I made, faculty at other high-ranked schools have been encouraged to "retire", as well.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:29 PM on June 21


Sorry; attributing the decision to "HR" made me think you were not aware of the dynamics here. Even if she were somehow to be fired, HR wouldn't be making that call.

Tenure is not inviolate; it does require severe violations, but it can be revoked.

I can see a potential argument for her husband's being fired, depending on the truth/substantiation of the allegations made against him. What do you think she's done that rises to the level of tenure revocation, by current standards (as opposed to what we might establish if we were designing the system de novo; writing a book advocating for otherwise legal parenting practices some find appalling would not qualify)?

faculty at other high-ranked schools have been encouraged to "retire", as well.

Not midcareer people not facing major allegations of misconduct.
posted by praemunire at 1:45 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]


What do you think she's done that rises to the level of tenure revocation, by current standards

But that's the problem - the system of tenure in higher academia is a failed one. Tenure is meant to be a system to protect inquiry, not to give an elect few in academia near-guaranteed job security. Thus I reject the request, because it is a demand to work under a broken system as if it isn't.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:52 PM on June 21


This isn't about her books.

[Law School Dean Heather] Gerken outlined the terms of Chua’s punishment in her 2019 letter to Chua. In the letter, Gerken explains that Chua would not teach any required courses — which include small groups — for the 2020-21 academic year and would not resume teaching required courses until the Law School is “assured that the kind of misconduct alleged will not occur.” Chua also agreed to a “substantial” financial penalty, the amount and nature of which remains unclear. [...]

On March 26 [2021], multiple law students met with Law School administrators to discuss Chua’s appointment to lead a small group. The students alleged in the meeting that Chua has continued inviting current Law School students to her and Rubenfeld’s house for dinner partiesdespite having agreed in 2019, according to Gerken’s letter, to cease drinking and socializing with students in all out-of-class settings. After the meeting, a student submitted to Law School administrators a written affidavit detailing allegations that Chua hosted law students at her household for dinner on multiple occasions this semester, as well as documented communication between themself and other law school students who acknowledged having gone to Chua’s household. - Yale Daily News

Chua violated her 2019 agreement. Inviting students into her home also broke then-current COVID-19 safety protocols and endangered their health. (That she shares that home with Rubenfeld, under suspension and "restricted in social gatherings with students," is a different type of endangerment.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:27 PM on June 21 [13 favorites]


Gripped by ‘Dinner Party-gate,’ Yale Law Confronts a Venomous Divide

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — On March 26, a group of students at Yale Law School approached the dean’s office with an unusual accusation: Amy Chua, one of the school’s most popular but polarizing professors, had been hosting drunken dinner parties with students, and possibly federal judges, during the pandemic.

Ms. Chua, who rose to fame when she wrote “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” is known for mentoring students from marginalized communities and helping would-be lawyers get coveted judicial clerkships. But she also has a reputation for unfiltered, boundary-pushing behavior, and in 2019 agreed not to drink or socialize with students outside of class. Her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, also a law professor, is virtually persona non grata on campus, having been suspended from teaching for two years after an investigation into accusations that he had committed sexual misconduct.

posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:53 PM on June 21


(As regards the "writing a book advocating for otherwise legal parenting practices some find appalling would not qualify" comment.)
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:54 PM on June 21


The article says that Chua tends to promote immigrants, students of color, particularly those who come from poverty. Also other non-mainstream students who (at least at Yale Law) include conservatives and people pursuing non-law careers like business and journalism.

Taking this at face value, I have no problem believing that at least part of what is happening is the traditional power structure putting an outsider in her place.

Most federal clerkships (and all other elite lawyer gigs) go to exactly who you would expect - rich white men with family connections. If you fit the bill, you don’t have to hope to impress some upstart like Chua with your good lucks and witty repartee. Instead your connections put you in touch with the power players, and your prep school manners do the rest.

Chua does seem to make some bad choices, but if she is actually helping to elevate minorities and working class students into elite jobs I’d bet she’s doing more good than harm. And I bet there’s a ton of Yale Law students and professors who resent the shit out of her for it.
posted by lumpy at 4:04 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


"Chua does seem to make some bad choices, but if she is actually helping to elevate minorities and working class students into elite jobs I’d bet she’s doing more good than harm. And I bet there’s a ton of Yale Law students and professors who resent the shit out of her for it.

The ending para of the NYorker article, in a way, was essentially, "I am not apologetic the students like me."

In combination with some very messy/unacceptable other entanglements, I'm not sure how to feel or what's needed right now.
posted by firstdaffodils at 4:19 PM on June 21


They asked her to stop having students over to her house. Where her husband lives.

Right? That’s it?
posted by orange ball at 4:35 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Yep. The context being that, the husband is a sex pest, and they specialize in getting exclusive clerkships for women of color with a supreme court sex pest, himself nominated to the supreme court in order to exonerate a president sex pest.

So, if you are an elite educational institution, priding itself on elite placements, what do you do when those placements are with a supreme court that has been packed with sex pests and enablers, in order to protect the powerful from the law?

It seems then, that the situation has compelled Yale to then develop the most elite, hands-on sexual harassment training course in the nation.
posted by eustatic at 5:54 PM on June 21 [10 favorites]


I'd like to know more about her publication record. Tenured professors at R1s are expected to keep up a demanding publication schedule. I find it a little hard to believe that this would not be the case at Yale Law.

But also, while she's very probably doing important things in opening doors for those who might otherwise find them closed, and while I think it's for sure the case that she's an outsider being put in her place, there's a lot that's downright repellent about the behavior as reported in this piece.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 5:55 PM on June 21


Yeah, I mean another possible interpretation is that she's cultivating relationships with the most vulnerable students with the fewest avenues of support outside of her, forcing those students to choose between an unprofessional and possibly uncomfortable relationship with her or no support network at all, and potentially placing them in dangerous situations at her home with someone else who has allegedly behaved inappropriately with students. Of course I have no personal knowledge of what's going on there, but just to say that providing opportunities to underrepresented minorities may not be an unqualified good act if it is done with some form of abusive quid pro quo, or if she is selecting only those students willing to play the game of stroking her ego. Underrepresented minorities shouldn't have to pay homage to a patron in order to be given resources to compete on a level field.
posted by biogeo at 5:58 PM on June 21 [27 favorites]


Underrepresented minorities are also not exactly a homogeneous group. According to this open letter (slight correction to the comment above: it seems to have been made public by Courtney Milan, but not to have been written by her), Chua's patronage came with some requirements that are not only demanding but also restrictive:
Our small group members would regularly joke about how you had, often at the last minute or late in the evening, “summoned” us to meet you at a bar. And we would go, how could we not? We knew you liked us best when when we were a rapt audience for your repetitive, albethey scandalous, stories. You rewarded those of us who drank with you and who listened to your off-color stories and comments with the most praise and attention. My friend used to joke that I was lucky to be one of the “ChuaPets”. In contrast, you were noticeably disinterested in the students who avoided your act.
Don't drink? Have family/work responsibilities and can't hang out at night? Find "off-color stories and comments" uncomfortable, or crowded environments among drunk people difficult? Have religious or cultural considerations that restrict you from this scene? Have an excellent legal mind but atypical social skills? Have trouble affording all these drinks? You're not in the "in" group, apparently.

That letter in general is something.
I went from thinking I was both fortunate and deserving to be at YLS among the greatest minds, to thinking I was a pawn amid sloppy powerbrokers. I decided never to clerk. It felt impossible, or at least unfair, to apply for clerkships without a letter from my small group professor. But more broadly, I decided never to play the game. Never to need you. Never to put myself in a position where you could comment on me or affect my career in any way. Never to need anyone like you. I stopped gunning.
And
You do not have to believe that Prof. Chua is all good, or that she is all bad, or that she is mostly one or the other. She has done a lot of good for a lot of students. That is part of why she has gotten away with this for so long. And it’s part of why the bad hurts so much. It’s true that Prof. Chua builds relationships with students in a way that is important and abysmally rare at YLS. There is no excuse for the dearth of women of color on the YLS faculty, or the fact that those women provide such a disproportionate share of mentorship for students. It is still wrong for her to misuse those relationships and betray the trust students place in her. Good and bad don’t cancel out. There is no balancing test. It’s just all true.
posted by trig at 6:53 PM on June 21 [27 favorites]


My point was not that Chua is a good and admirable person. The entire system is fucked up and so is Chua’s behavior.

What I was clumsily trying to say was that that the “opportunity” for elite law students to stroke the ego of law professors with drinking/sex abuse issues in exchange for a career boost was traditionally limit to rich white kids. And you don’t hear any uproar about that.

But when an Asian woman engages in the exact same quid pro quo with underprivileged students it suddenly generates headlines.

I also doubt that some other Yale Law professor without Chua’s baggage is going to step in and open doors for her mentees once Chua has been marginalized.
posted by lumpy at 7:28 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


You do realize that she keeps inviting students to her house, getting them drunk around her husband, who has been accused of sexual assault? And that she was telling students to dress pretty for Kavanaugh? This doesn't quite sound like a straightforward boosting of minority students. See biogeo, etc.'s comments above.
posted by sagc at 7:40 PM on June 21 [16 favorites]


I do realize that, which I why I said that Chua’s behavior is fucked up. I just think the article raises some broader issues as well.

Getting an elite clerkship is like joining an exclusive country club that opens up all sorts of business opportunities. To join the country club, you need to get introductions to the board members, buy them drinks, laugh at their racist jokes, and turn a blind eye when they get handsy with your spouse. PLUS you gotta be white and come from money.

Now there’s a new board member. You still need to buy her drinks, listen to her awful stories and deal with sexual harassment. But she can get you in the club even if even you aren’t white and/or wealthy.

In order of priority my targets are: 1) the corrupt system; 2) the corrupt board members who only let in white men; and 3) the new corrupt board member who lets in people who were traditionally excluded. Especially when we’re not talking about a country club but rather clerks who have a significant influence on important legal decisions.

With that said, there are lots of valid reactions to the article, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. I can think that Chua is an unlikeable person who engages in bad behavior, while also wondering why Chua is getting taken down rather than all the other professors doing the same thing. Or, even better, reforming the system so that (per Phinneas’ initial comment) the most influential clerks don’t all come from the same handful of law schools.

Anyway, I hope this doesn’t come off as fighty. I think this article raises some really interesting issues and I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments.
posted by lumpy at 8:56 PM on June 21 [5 favorites]


I guess I'm just confused as to why you're focusing on the hypothetical good that she can do, while not really addressing the harm she actually is doing. And someone who's tight with Kavanaugh is hard to distinguish from the old boys club in a lot of ways.

I don't think she's creating an alternative system; she's just replicating the harms of that system on a different, even more vulnerable group.
posted by sagc at 9:04 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Yeah, that's exactly what struck me about Chua's behavior as described. She's letting some new members into the club, but at the same time she's also very much reinforcing the nature of the club itself -- it's still all about who you know, how well you fit in culturally (better drink the right kinds of drinks and wear the right kinds of clothes and laugh the right kind of laugh at the right kinds of stories), and how well you can afford the requisite consumption.
posted by trig at 9:10 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


Most top-tier law schools have small-group first year classes, to help acculturate students to law school, and ideally to help those without law-privileged backgrounds to assimilate to law-school expectation and give them a professor to write recommendations.

This article reminded me, with a start, that my time at Duke Law overlapped with Chua's. And I had like two interactions with her, but one of them was her telling me that my small-group professor was having an extramarital affair with another law school employee, and I felt SUPER WEIRD about learning that in my first two months at law school. (Although, AFAIK, it turned out to be true.) It also seemed kind-of unimportant within the context of the Con Law professor (who was on a Supreme Court shortlist) fucking a new 1L every semester and openly giving her top marks, and propositioning a BUNCH of the 1Ls and downgrading those who turned him down. Like me. Worse, he went to teach a visiting professorship year at another law school (apparently because his sexual harassment locally was out of control) and my BROTHER had him for 1L con law, and he remembered me turning him down for 1L con law, and harassed my BROTHER because I'd turned him down TWO YEARS EARLIER AT AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SCHOOL. That was not even the grossest proposition I received in my first two years of law school, and, anyway, I'm basically not a practicing lawyer because male law professors are hella gross and some women like Chua enable them and I was not nearly jaded enough to cope with the grossness at 22.

I was kind-of shruggo about this story and Chua's involvement -- typical top-tier law school nonsense! -- until I realized I actually interacted with her and it was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my 1L year. AND THAT IS SAYING A LOT because not one but two male profs tried to get me to sleep with them, AND NOT SUBTLY, and I was not that hot.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:22 PM on June 21 [40 favorites]


From the letter posted by Yale Law School alum and famous romance novelist Courtney Milan that was linked by Iris Gambol:
In my eyes, you went from being a person who identified and criticized power structures to being a person who retreated into them. I saw a woman who I once thought was not only good but honest, irreverent, and unrepentant abandon all of these qualities so quickly, to throw students under the bus and protect your already-colorful reputation.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:29 PM on June 22 [2 favorites]


p.s. I was wrong about Milan being a YLS alumna, I misunderstood.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:34 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


It's been said that Chua has taken an interest in the well-being of "minority/underprivileged students," but I've seen scant evidence of that.

The identities of very few of her beneficiaries are public, but of the ones that have been identified, we have her daughters (privileged children of her union with a white law school professor) and Ronan Farrow and J.D. Vance, both tall, blonde, straight white men.

Meanwhile, she defended the definition of old boy privilege, Kavanaugh, and anecdotally told students that it was “no accident” that Kavanaugh’s female clerks “looked like models.”

As pointed out elsewhere, she also literally wrote a book about the superiority of people with Jewish or Chinese cultural heritage.

The assertion that she was helping the underprivileged is dissonant to me. Is it just spin? Or is the definition of "underprivileged" so broad to just include a few Asian women or light skinned black women for Kavanaugh's ranks of model-clerks?

Maybe the "underprivileged" ones she helped were just the ones most vulnerable to her seductions because they had no network to fall upon.

Did the "underprivileged" include the overweight, the dark-skinned or the non-neurotypical? Given her criteria, I find it hard to believe they would.
posted by Borborygmus at 8:13 AM on June 23 [11 favorites]


« Older The Lingua Franca of Booze is Inherently Nebulous   |   Can the American Recovery Plan's Child Tax Credit... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments