Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 to the United States Supreme Court amid strong backlash from Yale Law School students, student organizers are taking time to reflect before taking further action.
In recent weeks, a coalition of law students formed Yale Law Students Demanding Better — a group that helped vocalize student concerns about Kavanaugh and the internal culture at the Law School. The group organized anti-Kavanaugh events at the School, including a sit-in on Sept. 24 which rallied over 300 students. Despite three sexual assault allegations and protests against him, Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate in a 50–48 vote on Saturday. Now, the students behind the Law School’s organizing efforts are planning what to do next.
“In terms of next steps, Yale Law Students Demanding Better is working to create more avenues for student input in administrative decisions and is having an open meeting this week to rethink how we can use our position at this elite institution for the betterment of all,” wrote John Gonzalez ’14 LAW ’20, a member of the group, in an email to the News.
Gonzalez said that the energy students used to organize efforts against the Kavanaugh nomination has now been channeled into a “new phase of advocacy.” Law students are becoming more politically involved by registering voters and participating in grassroots movements, Gonzalez told the News.
Another member of Yale Law Students Demanding Better, Mary Ella Simmons LAW ’20 said the students will need to take a step back to re-examine the diversity within the group and how active they will be in the future.
Simmons noted that the group’s original membership did not include everyone who “should be involved going forward” because of how quickly the group formed and because of its grassroots nature. Moving ahead, Simmons said, the group will address the diversity of its membership.
Simmons also pointed out that the students’ lives “paused” during the five-day period when the group organized its events. She noted that students have other commitments, many of which extend to broader communities in New Haven and the rest of the world outside of the school. Simmons said she would not want advocacy for internal reform to come at the expense of ignoring “the whole world of problems outside” of the community at the Law School.
“[Yale Law Students Demanding Better] went from not existing to putting on three huge events in 48 hours,” Simmons said. “No one did their class work, no one slept, no one ate anything besides pizza, and it was remarkable. I feel so lucky to have been part of it, but that’s not a sustainable model [in the long run].”
Briana Clark LAW ’20, another member of the group, said that moving forward, it is important for students to learn how to use the “power and privilege” they gain by attending the University.
Additionally, Gonzalez said many current students are reassessing what a “successful legal career” looks like and how they could make a difference with their degrees “outside of traditional paths.”
“I see many of us reflecting on our own experiences at [the Law School] and thinking about how we can make it a place that is more inclusive, more transparent with its resources and more sensitive to the needs and experiences of all people,” Gonzalez told the News. “The positive response to student organizing has been inspiring and has made us reflect on how we can use our platform to better serve others.”
Of the nine current justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, four attended Yale Law School.
Asha Prihar | firstname.lastname@example.org