On April 3, 2015, the Coalition on Law and Representation (CoLR), an NYU Law student group whose mission is to push for faculty diversity within the law school, released a public letter which condemns the repression that NYU law students have been facing in connection with their support for the Statement of No Confidence in Harold Koh. Their statement is included below.
Greetings and Happy holidays. We write to address the recent suppression of student voices by members of the faculty. About a month ago, several of our peers wrote a statement criticizing the decision to bring Harold Koh into our NYU Law family. In the finest tradition of student engagement, our peers asked if other students would voice support, and some did. Professors quickly responded.
One response was submitted publicly to the student body, and disagreed with the statement’s arguments on the merits. This response added to the public debate on hiring Harold Koh, and was exactly the kind of response that contributes to a more informed dialogue. However, this was not the only response.
Dissenting students received other emails. A number of faculty members sent private email messages to every student who signed the letter of concern regarding Mr. Koh, asking them to withdraw her or his support. Some students received more than one email.
Students have received emails from their current professors. Students have received emails from professors who manage programs in which those students are currently participating. Students have received emails from professors currently serving as their advisors or job references. Students have received emails from professors who head the students’ scholarship programs. Students have received emails from professors at other universities.
All of these emails shared a theme: signatories, withdraw your support, and, students, you must not speak out. No voice. No loyalty. Just exit.
We are troubled by the faculty’s tactics because they worked. We spoke with students who withdrew or withheld their support not because they disagreed with the statement, but because they were concerned with reprisal. At least one prominent faculty member has repeatedly denounced the petition to his class, leveraging his authority as a leader and a professor to silence the issue in exactly the environment in which it should be freely discussed.
In offering this statement, we take no position on Harold Koh or his employment at NYU. We take no stand on our national security policy. We offer this statement in support of student voices.
Student voices must be fostered, bolstered, and heard. We are, after all, training to be advocates. We cannot stand by while the faculty of this institution and others silence dissenting student voices. We find these actions inappropriate, and we find their chilling effect worrisome.
We also think the presence of robust, structured engagement of diverse student opinion regarding potential faculty members or guests prior to their appointment would help to direct student and faculty differences through less personal channels.
Fellow students, we encourage you to remain engaged, to continue sharing your affirmative or dissenting opinions. We encourage you to continue speaking. This is what our profession calls us to do.