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Dinner With Erwin

He was forewarned in a stunningly offensive manner that there would be trouble, but he refused to be bullied out of holding a 3L dinner to compensate for the 1L dinner that Covid stole from Berkeley law students.

The dinner went on, and the promise was kept by a third-year law student named Malak Afaneh.

Crazy Footage out of UC Berkley

UC Berkeley Law Professor Catherine Fisk and her husband, Dean Chemerinsky, hosted a dinner for all graduating law students. During the dinner, law student, Malak Afaneh, stood up to decry the law school’s investments in Boeing, Lockheed Martin,… pic.twitter.com/7rwM9bzZTr

— Stu (@thestustustudio) April 10, 2024

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky issued a statement, as deans are wont to to do, afterward.

I write this with profound sadness. Since I became a dean, my wife and I have invited the first-year students to our home for dinner. We were asked this year by the presidents of the third year class to have the graduating students over for dinner because they began in Fall 2021 when COVID prevented us from having dinners for them. We were delighted to oblige and designated three nights – April 9, 10, 11 – that graduating students could choose among. I never imagined that something that we do to help our community would become ugly and divisive.

Last week, there was an awful poster, on social media and bulletin boards in the law school building, of a caricature of me holding a bloody knife and fork, with the words in large letters, “No dinner with Zionist Chem while Gaza starves.” I never thought I would see such blatant antisemitism, with an image that invokes the horrible antisemitic trope of blood libel and that attacks me for no apparent reason other than I am Jewish. Although many complained to me about the posters and how it deeply offended them, I felt that though deeply offensive, they were speech protected by the First Amendment. But I was upset that those in our community had to see this disturbing, antisemitic poster around the law school.

The students responsible for this had the leaders of our student government tell me that if we did not cancel the dinners, they would protest at them. I was sad to hear this, but made clear that we would not be intimidated and that the dinners would go forward for those who wanted to attend. I said that I assumed that any protest would not be disruptive.

On April 9, about 60 students came to our home for the dinner. All had registered in advance. All came into our backyard and were seated at tables for dinner. While guests were eating, a woman stood up with a microphone, stood on the top step in the yard, and began a speech, including about the plight of the Palestinians. My wife and I immediately approached her and asked her to stop and leave. The woman continued. When she continued, there was an attempt to take away her microphone. Repeatedly, we said to her that you are a guest in our home, please stop and leave. About 10 students were clearly with her and ultimately left as a group.

The dinner, which was meant to celebrate graduating students, was obviously disrupted and disturbed. I am enormously sad that we have students who are so rude as to come into my home, in my backyard, and use this social occasion for their political agenda.

The dinners will go forward on Wednesday and Thursday. I hope that there will be no disruptions; my home is not a forum for free speech. But we will have security present. Any student who disrupts will be reported to student conduct and a violation of the student conduct code is reported to the Bar.

I have spent my career staunchly defending freedom of speech. I have spent my years as dean trying hard to create a warm, inclusive community. I am deeply saddened by these events and take solace that it is just a small number of our students who would behave in such a clearly inappropriate manner.

Erwin

Putting aside the unadulterated idiocy of the National Lawyers Guild, the group that believes wearing green “legal observer” hats entitles them to participate in mostly peaceful protests with impunity, advising Afaneh that she had a First Amendment right to disrupt a private dinner on private property, not to mention her disproving any claim by Berkeley law school that its students are well-educated, Dean Chemerinsky, of all people, didn’t deserve this. He’s been a generally stalwart defender of free speech, as well as a fairly strong supporter of progressive causes. The Leopards Eating Faces Party meme comes to mind.

At VC, Josh Blackman sums it up in one sentence.

Things will only continue to get worse.

I fear he’s right. I’ve feared this for a while now, as every incident serves to reinforce and extend the existential need to prove virtue by pushing the envelope further. I can hear the arguments, that it’s genocide, and genocide matters more than being rude at a dinner. That it was peaceful, so what’s the big deal about a little speech? That these same school teach students that it’s their duty to be activist, and activism doesn’t end at the dean’s property line. That the cause is virtuous and it’s meant to create discomfort, as that is the way to achieve change.

Yet again I’m reminded of the words of Lyrissa Lidsky.

Nevertheless, I know that in the war of generations, the younger always wins.  I just wonder what victory looks like.

This is what it looks like. Will the next dean of Berkeley law school try to stop the student from making her speech or applaud her for being a brave warrior in the battle for social justice?

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