What happened in the UC Berkeley law dean’s backyard

by Admin
What happened in the UC Berkeley law dean's backyard

To the editor: UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky invited his third-year students to dinner at his home, a gesture of kindness and caring that isn’t typical in graduate schools. (“‘Please leave!’ A Jewish UC Berkeley dean confronts pro-Palestinian activist at his home,” April 10)

The dean, known for his advocacy of free speech, was then “thanked” by a small contingent of pro-Palestinian law students, disrupting the party with their smuggled-in microphone and speaker. This had been preceded by the posting of antisemitic signs around the law school saying, “No dinner with Zionist Chem while Gaza starves.”

When Chemerinsky and his wife, UC Berkeley law professor Catherine Fisk, tried to get the protesting students to leave, they said that their free-speech rights were being ignored. However, the constitutional law class I was in clearly taught us that the free speech guaranteed by the 1st Amendment applied to acts of Congress, not to antisemitic disruptions at a private home.

Chemerinsky’s and Fisk’s offer to host students, their measured response in asking the protesters to leave their home and Chemerinsky’s well-written public response clearly show what mensches they are.

Ken Goldman, Beverly Hills


To the editor: Speaking as the mother of a recent UC Berkeley law student who graduated in the top 10% of her class, I want to express my shock and outrage at the behavior of Fisk, who physically confronted the student, an act that was thankfully caught on video.

There is never a reason for any teacher to put their hands on a student who is simply exercising their right to speak. In my opinion, as a “consumer” of Berkeley Law’s very expensive services, Fisk showed deplorably poor judgment, causing me to question the value of my investment in this university.

Grabbing a third-year graduating law student from behind to stop her speaking at a university-sponsored dinner event to honor graduating law students? Did this have to do with the fact that the hijab-wearing female student was offering a blessing in Arabic? Would she have grabbed my blond, blue-eyed daughter, had she offered a blessing in English?

The fact that this physical aggression toward a Muslim student occurred during the religious day of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, adds to the insult.

Eileen White Read, Santa Barbara


To the editor: Far be it for me to argue constitutional law with Chemerinsky, but he may be on shaky ground here when he says that the 1st Amendment does not apply to dinner at his home.

The event in question was clearly a law school activity (rather than a simple private dinner), organized by Chemerinsky in his capacity as law school dean (rather than as a private citizen), and funded by the university itself.

Rather than considering calling in the police, perhaps a better strategy would have been to call in Larry David: The entire sorry spectacle, complete with rude behavior, shouting and (especially) the struggle over the microphone would seem to have the makings of a new “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode.

Mark Fisher, Irvine

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