Yale Law Students Wrestle With Kavanaugh Nomination

Sep 27, 2018

Opposition by students at Yale Law School to Supreme Court nominee and alumnus Brett Kavanaugh reached a new peak Thursday as many of them gathered to watch his Senate hearing.

Law students squeezed on couches and filled the empty floor space in several wood-paneled common rooms to watch Christine Blasey Ford appear before the Senate committee.

Yale students gather to watch the testimony together on campus.
Credit Cassandra Basler / WSHU

A few students said that Ford was brave, but they were still upset about the hearing.

“A lot of us are really pissed,” said Jenny Tumas, a second year law student and member of the group Yale Law Students Demand Better, which organized protests in Washington, D.C., earlier this week calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh.

“A lot of us are really angry about the way this is being rushed through. A lot of us are really angry about the way we feel our school has been complicit and has played a large role in propping up Kavanaugh.”

Tumas says the student protest started before Ford’s allegations were made public. She says it was triggered by a law school statement that students saw as praising the nominee.

“There was a press release released by the school that was lauding his character and his credentials, which we feel like was an endorsement of the nominee, and then students and alumni organized very quickly to say we don’t laud this person’s credentials,” Tumas said.

On Monday Yale students protested outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. In New Haven others held a sit-in at Yale Law School and town hall meetings between faculty and students.

Yale student Jishian Ravinthiran raises his fist during a protest against Judge Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill on Monday.
Credit Alex Brandon / AP

More than 100 Yale Law students stayed on campus and held a sit-in to protest the nomination.
Credit Davis Dunavin / WSHU

Carl Jiang, who is also in his second year, says some students have felt a little apprehensive addressing the issue with the teaching staff.

“Professors are sort of the gatekeepers for prestigious clerkships for different positions, for entry into academia, and for us it’s hard for us to navigate.”

But Jiang says he thinks this conversation is changing things for the better at the law school.

“I think that this is a moment of community building and...hopefully…yes, there is a lot of grief, there is a lot of sadness, there is a lot of incredible anger in the room, but I am hopeful for Yale,” Jiang said.

In a statement earlier this week, Law School Dean Heather Gerken declined to take a position on the Kavanaugh nomination. But says she was “so proud” of her students’ advocacy and their support for what she called the integrity of the legal system.