Amy Chua: the Kafkaesque attempt to cancel me

June 8, 2021
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“I felt like it was straight out of a Kafka story.” Those were Yale law professor Amy Chua’s words when she spoke to UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers recently. Chua had been accused by the Yale newspaper of hosting drunken dinner parties with students, and possibly federal judges during the pandemic.

Chua rose to fame when she wrote the bestselling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. At Yale she is known for mentoring students and guiding would-be-lawyers towards ultra coveted judicial clerkships. She also has, as the New York Times put it, a reputation for “boundary-pushing behaviour.” In 2019 she agreed not to drink or socialise at all with students outside of class. Meanwhile her husband, Jeb Rubenfeld, also a Yale law professor, was booted off campus, having been suspended from teaching for two years after an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct against him.

When Chua spoke to UnHerd, the student paper’s allegations had lead to a further blow: the university removed her ability to teach a “small group” — a class of around fifteen students that is a key part of the Yale legal education. The accusation was “whacko”, according to Chua.

“I got smeared” Chua said, “and dragged through the mud.” It looked like a cancellation attempt.

Further light on the story was shed today by a long New York Magazine report that delved in the accusations against Chua and Rubenfeld. More than just a story about the couple, it exposes the fault lines in top American universities like Yale, between the old ideals of meritocracy and the new social justice beliefs of many students in them.

Students regularly attack their professors, and one another, for their scholarship, professional choices and perceived political views. In a place awash in rumor and anonymous accusations, almost no one would speak on the record.
- New York Magazine

“There’s a weird schism among the students where they want the place to be utterly transparent and utterly equitable,” one anonymous professor told the mag , “but they also want to keep the prestige and privilege that the place affords.”

It seems likely that long after Chua’s battles are over, the ideological war on American campuses will continue. Below, Amy gives her full story on UnHerd:

I was having a very good semester. I am a pretty popular professor. It’s the only class at Yale Law School where you have both conservatives and liberals actually in the same class talking. I worked really hard at that. I’m very proud of it. But about a month ago, I suddenly heard from a student newspaper if I wanted to comment that I’m being stripped from teaching this small group? It’s like a little student seminar, which I didn’t even want to do in the first place. They got in touch because I’ve supposedly been hosting drunken dinner parties with students and federal judges during Covid.

I really felt like this was straight out of a Kafka story. I mean, sometimes there’s like a little bit of truth in something. This was wacko. I’ve been in sweatpants for a year with my dogs, wearing masks, and we don’t see anybody.  To make a long story short, it was a relatively small group of students who maybe saw some text of other people cut and pasted. And I did something I’ve never done before. I fought back. I’ve always been a team player at my school. I was so outraged. I emailed the dean, and I said, “Are you going to stand by me? This is ridiculous”. Instead, I was interrogated. You know, “this is the time to come candid — have you had these dinner parties?”

So I ended up writing a letter explaining that there were absolutely no dinner parties. It’s ridiculous that I have to hear this from the Yale Daily News.  I tweeted it, which my Gen Z daughter said that I should do that to correct the narrative. I’ve never done that before. But I survived. It actually came out well. An investigative reporter found that there were no dinner parties, and I got smeared and dragged through the mud and called, like, I was operating nefarious rings from my house.

- Amy Chua, UnHerd


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