Many Yale Law students and faculty members have been visible in the last six months as liberal activists — suing the Defense Department, defending former patients of Yale-New Haven Hospital, and filing briefs on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees. But a minority of the Law School community maintains more conservative views.
Through organizations like the Yale Law School Federalist Society and the Yale Law Republicans, Law School students who do not share the opinions of their left-wing classmates have found forums for discussion, debate and camaraderie.
Neither group boasts an enormous active membership, but Federalist Society President Alex Cooke LAW ’04 said as many as 100 Law School students are on his group’s e-mail list.
Federalist Society Vice-President Nick Muzin LAW ’05 said he did not consider himself to be particularly conservative before coming to the Law School; he said he even worked for the Gore/Lieberman Presidential Campaign in 2000. But he said he feels far to the right of the politics of many Law School students.
“I would say I’m a centrist, but when I got to law school I found myself to be conservative [by comparison],” Muzin said. “I find that the student body here is ultra-liberal and extremely intolerant; I realized it shortly after I started here.”
But Cooke said he has not felt isolated as a self-proclaimed conservative and does not think the Law School is a “bad environment” for those who share his views.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’ve never felt terribly intimidated,” Cooke said.
Muzin said he considered unnecessary protests by Law School students against military recruitment policies at a career day in the fall, when he was interviewing with several law firms. Muzin said while he supports the rights of gays to join the military, he had not planned that a protest of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would be the backdrop to his interviews.
“My larger concern is I feel that the law school is really marginalizing itself — they’re fighting for causes that were already lost 30 years ago,” Muzin said. “I think they’re really doing a disservice to their students, producing students who will not be leaders in mainstream America.”
Muzin also said he thinks there are only two or three conservative faculty members at the Law School, but he said many faculty members are more tolerant of different opinions than are other law students.
Cooke said that while there are not many overtly conservative professors at the Law School, there are also not as many “far-left” professors — faculty who focus on critical legal studies, critical feminist theory, critical race theory — at Yale Law School as there are at other law schools.
Federalist Society Treasurer Tim Schnabel LAW ’05, who is also administrative chair of the Yale Law Republicans, said the extent to which the political views of faculty members become apparent in class “varies.” He said he feels that some liberal professors assume their students share their views and “would be ignorant not to do so.”
“Sometimes points that ought to be seen as debatable are just left unquestioned,” Schnabel said in an e-mail.
Cooke said the Federalist Society’s main focus is to bring speakers to campus and host debates on various issues, usually with an emphasis on perspectives that might otherwise not be heard at the Law School. Cooke said recent events included a speaker Tuesday who discussed how anti-discrimination laws hinder free speech and a talk by former independent counsel Kenneth Starr on campaign finance reform.