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On July 9, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 was nominated by former U.S. President Donald Trump to serve as a Supreme Court Justice. His confirmation, on Oct. 6 of that year, followed an outpouring of protests here at Yale and across the country along with an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh, as he was accused of sexual assault on numerous accounts, along with heavy drinking. 

In July 2018, shortly after the nomination was announced, the Law School released a press release, which is no longer available online, in which Law School Dean Heather Gerken and four other professors commended Kavanaugh’s accomplishments. 

In response to this press release, Yale Law school students and alumni signed a petition on July 10 condemning the University for “boasting of its alumnus’s accomplishment.”

On July 12, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua also released an article entitled “Kavanaugh is a Mentor to Women,” and Chua never withdrew her endorsement. Allegations were later made in The Guardian that Chua herself made suggestive comments in class about Kavanaugh’s preferences regarding the appearance of his female law clerks.

In the midst of his nomination, media coverage focused on Kavanaugh’s membership in Delta Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity at Yale that has come under fire in recent years over sexual misconduct allegations against its members. Some alumni told the News that DKE in Kavanaugh’s time was less prevalent on campus than it has been in recent years and was “more tame.” Alumni also told the News DKE was known for heavy drinking and derogatory comments towards women, and photos from Kavanaugh’s rush process show DKE members holding flags with women’s underwear.

The News has previously reported on DKE’s “inspiration week” that involved pledges experiencing emotional and physical abuse, and the group made national news in 2010 after a video of pledges shouting “no means yes, yes means anal” on Old Campus. After losing their lease and being banned from campus for five years, the group has been revived in recent months.

Sasha Carney ’22 told the News that the current danger with DKE is the lack of memory of DKE’s wrongdoings due to the fact that most students were not on campus when they faced allegations of sexual misconduct. 

“Campus outrage cycles, even though they’re very valuable and a lot can come from them, can only last for so long,” Carney said. 

In addition to DKE, Kavanaugh was also a member of an all-male secret society Truth and Courage that some Yale alumni have called a glorified fraternity and was known to be centered around drinking

Later in July 2018, Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford who sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, but told her not to report it. Yet, in the midst of his nomination hearings, which began on Sept. 4, Feinstein sent the letter to the FBI, and the allegations later surfaced in a story by The New Yorker without Ford’s name. 

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ford allowed for the release of her name and explained details of the assault. 

In response, students at Yale quickly organized and formed the activist group Yale Law Students Demanding Better — to call on Yale administrators and elected officials to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

On Sept. 19, 2018, 50 faculty members at Yale Law School signed an open letter addressed to the Senate Judiciary Committee that called on the Senate to conduct a “fair and deliberate confirmation process” and make a statement over the potential rushed judgment on Kavanaugh by the Senate. 

On Sept. 23, second sexual assault allegation was made against Kavanaugh by Deborah Ramirez ’87 in an article by The New Yorker. Following this second allegation, hundreds protested at Yale Law School and at the Hart Office Senate Building on Sept. 24. Ramirez’s allegation included an instance at an Old Campus dorm party while they were both at Yale during the 1983-1984 school year, where Kavanaugh exposed himself to Ramirez. 

On the day of the protests, Gerken released a statement that commended students, staff and faculty for raising concern about the allegations against Kavanaugh and for working with the Law School to promote discourse around the nomination. However, Gerken reiterated that, as dean, she could not take a position on Kavanaugh’s nomination but said she was proud of the community for engaging in a “long-standing Yale Law School tradition as they engage with the most important issues of the day.”

The protests led to the arrest of two Law School students, Jacob Schriner-Briggs LAW ’21 and Jesse Tripathi LAW ’21, who protested at the Senate Office Building along with 100 other law students. On campus, 300 Yale community members held a sit-in at the Law School, calling for the Law School administration to condemn Kavanaugh’s nomination.

As of the evening of the protest, 1,200 female alumni signed a letter supporting the two allegations and calling for a thorough investigation. 

In anticipation of the protest, faculty at the Law School canceled 31 of 49 classes on the day of the sit-in. The sit-in itself began with 30 minutes of silence and student speeches on Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Senator Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn., was present for the sit-in, and Senator Chris Coons LAW ’92 DIV ’92, D-Del., later joined for a joint press conference with Blumenthal. 

“I sit with you, I’m proud to be here in a hallway I spent three years of my life traversing,” Blumenthal said to students. “Today is an opportunity and an occasion to show we stand with survivors of sexual assault.”

On Sept. 26, Kavanaugh was also accused of sexual assault by Julie Swetnick, and on Sept. 27, Kavanaugh and Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. After the hearings, Gerken joined the American Bar Association in calling for an investigation into the allegations. 

During the hearings, Kavanaugh was also questioned about a bar fight at a bar called Demery’s which was detailed in a New Haven Police Department report from 1985 obtained by the New York Times. While he was not arrested, Kavanaugh, along with four other men, were questioned by the NHPD at the time, and Charles Ludington ’87, who witnessed the event, previously told the News that Kavanaugh threw beer at and cursed at a man at the bar. 

Yet, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to nominate Kavanaugh, and he was confirmed on Oct. 6 after a week-long FBI investigation and a 50-48 Senate vote. 

Kavanaugh’s nomination created a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, which recently drafted a ruling that, if ultimately delivered by the Court, would overturn Roe v. Wade.

SARAH COOK
Sarah Cook covers President Salovey's Cabinet and works on the social media team. Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, she is a first year in Grace Hopper majoring in Neuroscience.