Eyes glued to TV screens, around 200 Yale Law School students gathered in the Sterling Law Building as the first woman to accuse Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 of sexual misconduct testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
At the hearing, Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford presented two opposing views to the Senate Judiciary Committee. While Ford testified that she was “100 percent” certain that Kavanaugh had assaulted her, Kavanaugh denied all accusations of sexual misconduct and said the confirmation process “has become a national disgrace.” After hearing both accounts, 14 students, alumni and professors interviewed by the News, many of whom had protested the judge’s confirmation in the days preceding Ford’s testimony, continued to stand by their condemnation of Kavanaugh. Several professors and alumni also noted that they were disappointed by the partisanship and polarization displayed by the senators during the hearing.
“We are watching the collapse of the judicial nomination process in the era of extreme partisan ideological polarization,” said law professor John Fabian Witt ’94 LAW ’99 GRD ’00. “Yale has a tradition of cultivating the nation’s leaders in public service, and as we are in an era of crisis for public service, it doesn’t surprise me that Yale is in the headlines. … I still stand behind the law school professors’ letter last week.”
Last Friday, 50 faculty members, including Witt, signed an open letter calling for the Senate to conduct a “fair and deliberate confirmation process.” Following a second allegation of sexual misconduct from Deborah Ramirez ’87 — first reported in The New Yorker on Sunday — more than 300 Yale community members flooded the halls of the Sterling Law Building for a sit-in. As of Thursday evening, more than 2,500 female alumnae have signed an open letter in support of the three women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
According to Lauren Nathan LAW ’20 and Faith Barksdale LAW ’20, most current Yale Law School students have condemned Kavanaugh for the allegations of sexual misconduct, though they are divided on whether they support Kavanaugh’s judicial views.
“There is an obvious division about his record as a judge, but I haven’t talked to anyone who continues to support his confirmation after all the allegations that have risen,” Barksdale said. “A lot of us found it emotionally devastating to hear Ford’s testimony in front of the [Senate Judiciary Committee] today.”
Rebecca Steinitz ’86, who helped draft and distribute the letter from female alumnae and students, said that there was “no reason” not to believe Ford.
And John Gonzalez ’14 LAW ’20, who organized the Yale Law student protests in Washington, D.C., said that just one day of testimony is insufficient. He emphasized that the civically responsible course of action would be to postpone tomorrow’s Senate vote.
“The least Dr. Christine Blasey Ford deserves is a thorough FBI investigation to determine the facts and question key witnesses, like Mike Judge,” Gonzalez said. “The thought of Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed as our next Supreme Court justice by Saturday with so much unknown is scary, disheartening and increases the already growing doubt that many have with our judiciary.”
Gonzalez also said he was disappointed to see the partisanship displayed at the hearing today. He questioned whether Kavanaugh — whom he believes “abandon[ed] the impartiality required by our judiciary” — can fairly adjudicate in the nation’s highest court if appointed.
Steinitz, the author of the letter, said she was “discouraged” to see the senators “take stance according to their party lines” without considering the weight of the sexual misconduct allegations made against Kavanaugh.
“I’d like to have faith in the few who present themselves as being open to changing the course of this confirmation procedure, but I think it will be decided along the party lines,” Steinitz said. “Senators are under intense pressure from their constituencies.”
Several students interviewed by the News voiced their admiration for Ford and her bravery in telling her story.
“Even though there are so many people calling her out, she is baring herself in front of everyone and reliving that moment,” said Carl Jiang LAW ’20. “I think that it is important that she has a platform to speak, and this speaks to the accuracy of her statements.”
President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9.
Jever Mariwala contributed reporting.
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Correction, Sept. 30: A previous version of the article incorrectly quoted Jiang as saying Ford was “burying herself in front of everyone,” rather than “baring herself in front of everyone.”