Free Speech And Cancel Culture at the DC area law schools

David Lat:

The nation’s capital is also the latest front in the law-school culture wars. Two law schools in D.C., American University Washington College of Law and the George Washington University Law School, have experienced free speech and cancel culture controversies in the past week. Here’s what’s going at American University (“AU”), per Karen Sloan of Reuters:

American University is investigating eight law students after a conservative classmate claimed they harassed him during an online group chat about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, one of the students under investigation confirmed Monday.

The incident followed the May 2 leak of a draft of the decision, which was released in final form on Friday and overturned Roe v. Wade, reversing a Constitutional right to an abortion.

A male law student who described himself as Republican and “deeply religious” filed a complaint with the university alleging his classmates harassed and threatened him due to his political affiliation and religion, according to a May 25 letter from the university’s Office of Equity & Title IX.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (“FIRE”), which is assisting one of the students under investigation, has published an article about the episode, which links to a transcript of the GroupMe chat in question. As even cursory review of the chat reveals, it contains nothing remotely “harassing” or “threatening”; it’s just a heated disagreement between law students about a controversial topic. And it’s not even that heated, to be honest; the NYU Law listserv dust-up, which led to accusations of anti-Semitism, was far more contentious.

There are no threats, explicit or implicit, in the chat. Yes, there are some comments that are rude and uncivil—e.g., “can we shut the f**k up about personal opinions while people process this,” “no one asked for your personal opinion,” “[you should] have the decency to shut up while people come to terms with the fact that they’ve just lost a constitutional right”—but none of this rises to the level of harassment or threats.