NEW HAVEN, Conn. — On March 26, a group of students at Yale Law School approached the dean’s office with an unusual accusation: Amy Chua, one of the school’s most popular but polarizing professors, had been hosting drunken dinner parties with students, and possibly federal judges, during the pandemic.
康涅狄格州纽黑文——3月26日,耶鲁大学法学院(Yale Law School)的一群学生来到院长办公室,提出了一项不同寻常的指控:该校最受欢迎但也最有争议的教授之一蔡美儿(Amy Chua)疫情期间一直在举行有学生——可能还有联邦法官——参加的纵酒晚宴。
Ms. Chua, who rose to fame when she wrote “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” is known for mentoring students from marginalized communities and helping would-be lawyers get coveted judicial clerkships. But she also has a reputation for unfiltered, boundary-pushing behavior, and in 2019 agreed not to drink or socialize with students outside of class. Her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, also a law professor, is virtually persona non grata on campus, having been suspended from teaching for two years after an investigation into accusations that he had committed sexual misconduct.
因撰写《虎妈战歌》(Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother)一书而声名鹊起的蔡美儿,以指导来自边缘社区的学生、帮助未来的律师获得令人觊觎的法官助理工作机会而闻名。但她的无所顾忌、突破界限也很出名。2019年,她同意不在课外与学生喝酒或社交。她的丈夫杰德·鲁本菲尔德(Jed Rubenfeld)也是一名法学教授,在学校里基本上是不受欢迎的人,被指有不当性行为后被停职两年
The dinner parties, the students said, appeared to violate Ms. Chua’s no-socializing agreement, and were evidence that she was unfit to teach a “small group” — a class of 15 or so first-year students that is a hallmark of the Yale legal education, and to which she had recently been assigned — in the fall. “We believe that it is unsafe to give Professor Chua (and her husband) such access to and control over first-year students,” an officer of Yale Law Women, a student group, wrote to the dean, Heather K. Gerken.
学生们说,这些晚宴会似乎违反了蔡美儿的禁止社交活动协议,并且证明她不适合在秋季教授“小组”——一个由15名左右一年级学生组成的班级,是耶鲁大学法律教育的特点,也是近年分配给她的工作。“我们认为,让蔡美儿教授(以及她的丈夫)这样接触和控制一年级学生是不安全的,”学生组织耶鲁法学院女性(Yale Law Women)的一名工作人员在给院长希瑟·K·格肯(Heather K. Gerken)的信中写道。
The students provided what they said was proof of the dinners, in the form of a dossier featuring secretly screen-shotted text messages between a second-year student and two friends who had attended. That touched off a cascading series of events leading to Ms. Chua’s removal from the small-group roster.
Ms. Chua says she did nothing wrong, and it is unclear exactly what rule she actually broke. But after more than two dozen interviews with students, professors and administrators — including three students who say they went to her house to seek advice during a punishing semester — possibly the only sure thing in the murky saga is this: There is no hard proof that Ms. Chua is guilty of what she was originally accused of doing. According to three students involved, there were no dinner parties and no judges; instead, she had students over on a handful of afternoons, in groups of two or three, mostly so they could seek her advice.
“I met with Professor Chua to discuss a deeply distressing experience I had, an experience that hinged on my race and identity,” said one of the students, who is Asian.
It may appear to be a simple matter, one professor losing one course, but nothing is simple when it comes to Ms. Chua, who seems perpetually swathed in a cloud of controversy and confusion. “Dinner party-gate,” as Ms. Chua wryly calls it, has turned into a major headache for the school.
蔡美儿教授在康涅狄格州纽黑文的家中。 Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times
The story has been adjudicated all over social media and picked up in outlets ranging from The Chronicle of Higher Education to Fox News. Ms. Chua’s retweet of a tart Megyn Kelly comment (“Tell the damn whiners to sit down,” Ms. Kelly tweeted) raised suggestions that Ms. Chua was positioning herself as a victim of “cancel culture.”
这个故事已经在社交媒体上得到广泛的裁判,从《高等教育纪事报》(The Chronicle of Higher Education)到福克斯新闻(Fox News)等媒体都在报道该事件。蔡美儿转发了梅根·凯利(Megyn Kelly)的刻薄评论(“让那些唧唧歪歪的人闭嘴吧,”凯利在推特上写道),这表明蔡美儿把自己定位为“取消文化”的受害者。
At the law school, the episode has exposed bitter divisions in a top-ranked institution struggling to adapt at a moment of roiling social change. 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.
A feature of this difficult year has been increased demands from student groups. Against this backdrop, Ms. Gerken’s critics in the faculty worry that she acted too hastily in the Chua matter, prioritizing students’ concerns over a professor’s rights.
Particularly problematic, several professors said in interviews, was her reliance on the text-message dossier, prepared by a student who learned that two of his friends had gone to Ms. Chua’s house — and believed that the visits made them complicit in her, and Mr. Rubenfeld’s, behavior.
It is a curious document. Among other things, the aggrieved student’s text messages show him repeatedly asking one of the friends to admit to meeting judges there, and the friend repeatedly denying it. (“if you promise to keep it between us, i’ll tell you — it was Chief Justice John Marshall,” the friend finally texts, in an exasperated reference to the long-deceased jurist.)
这是一份奇怪的文件。此外,这名忿忿不平的学生的消息显示,他多次要求其中一名朋友承认曾在那里见过一些法官,而这名朋友则多次否认。(“如果你保证不告诉别人,我就告诉你——那是首席大法官约翰·马歇尔[John Marshall],”这位朋友最后发去消息,恼怒地提到这位早已去世的法官。)
Ms. Gerken referred to the dossier at an April 21 faculty meeting as evidence of Ms. Chua’s misconduct. Several professors who saw the material said in interviews that they were shocked at how unpersuasive it was.
“Evidence of what?” one asked. Another called it “tattletale espionage.”
“Where are we — in Moscow in 1953, when children were urged to report on their parents and siblings?” the professor said.
A couple beset by controversy
Provocative and gregarious, Ms. Chua and her husband have long attracted attention at Yale Law School.
But the two are divisive figures, and not just because of “Tiger Mother,” Ms. Chua’s tough-love parenting memoir, or the rumors dating back years of Mr. Rubenfeld’s inappropriate behavior toward female students. At a time of left-leaning orthodoxy, Mr. Rubenfeld seems intent on pushing the envelope. After he wrote a New York Times opinion essay in 2014 questioning the fairness of campus sexual-assault findings, dozens of students signed a letter of protest.
For Ms. Chua, similar trouble arrived in 2018, when Brett M. Kavanaugh, a Yale Law graduate, was nominated for the Supreme Court and she praised him as a fine mentor of women. (Her older daughter had been hired to clerk for him, and took the job after his elevation.) On a campus wracked by bitter anti-Kavanaugh protests, her views were regarded as a betrayal, especially when it emerged that she was said to have told students that Judge Kavanaugh’s female clerks “looked like models.” Suddenly, her reputation as someone who could help students get judicial clerkships was regarded as a negative.
蔡美儿在2018年遇到了类似的麻烦,耶鲁大学法学院毕业生布雷特·M·卡瓦诺(Brett M. Kavanaugh)被提名为最高法院大法官,她称赞他是一位优秀的女性导师。(她的大女儿被聘为卡瓦诺的助理,并且在他升职后继续从事这份工作。)在这座充满激烈的反卡瓦诺抗议活动的校园里,她的观点被认为是一种背叛,尤其是她据称曾经告诉学生,卡瓦诺法官的女性助理们“长得像模特”。突然之间,她能帮助学生获得法官助理职务的名声变成了恶名。
‘The matter is closed’
Promises of change did little to allay the concerns of the students who, in March, saw Ms. Chua’s name on the small-group list and told the dean they had proof that Ms. Chua had broken her agreement.
The mention of evidence seemed to energize the administration. “Dean Gerken is taking this news VERY seriously and wants to move forward asap,” Ellen Cosgrove, the dean of students, wrote on March 26 to the students. “Would you be able to share the texts with me?” She asked them to keep her request private.
这里提到的证据似乎让院方打起了精神。“格肯院长非常严肃地对待这一消息,希望尽快推进,”学务长艾伦·科斯格罗夫(Ellen Cosgrove)在3月26日致学生的信中说。“能否请大家把短信分享给我?”她要求学生们不要和外人提起这一请求。
Two days later, Ms. Chua got an email from The Yale Daily News, the student newspaper, which said it had heard that she was about to be stripped of her small group.
两天后,蔡美儿收到学生报纸《耶鲁每日新闻》(The Yale Daily News)的来信,信中提到他们听说蔡即将失去在小组的职位。
蔡美儿和她的丈夫、同在耶鲁法学院任教的杰德·鲁本菲尔德。 Peter Kramer/NBCUniversal, via Getty Images
That was news to Ms. Chua. Later that day, she met over Zoom with Ms. Gerken. It was not a pleasant meeting. The dean mentioned alcohol and judges, Ms. Chua said, before announcing that she had decided on a “different lineup for small group professors.”
Ms. Chua stepped down rather than be pushed, she said.
The dean’s office responded that Ms. Chua had ample opportunity to defend herself.
“Throughout my deanship, I have made no decision about disciplinary action involving a faculty member until the person accused of misconduct receives notice of the allegations and has an opportunity to respond. Period,” Ms. Gerken said in her statement.
She added, “If a faculty member offers to withdraw from a course and I accept that offer, the matter is closed.”
Students and faculty split
The matter might indeed have been closed if The Daily News had not published its article the following week, referring to “documented allegations” that Ms. Chua had hosted “private dinner parties with current Law School students and prominent members of the legal community.”
Ms. Chua fired off her angry letter to her colleagues and posted it on Twitter. “As the only Asian American woman on the academic faculty, I can’t imagine any other faculty member would be treated with this kind of disrespect,” she wrote.
耶鲁大学法学院院长希瑟·K·格肯。 Mark Ostow
Then all hell broke loose.
In the anti-Chua camp, one alumna released an anguished five-page letter describing how her adoration of Ms. Chua had soured in 2018, when Ms. Chua decided to “throw students under the bus” by denying their claims that she had made the comments about Judge Kavanaugh’s law clerks.
“From the bottom of my heart, Amy, you gutted me,” the alumna wrote.
Equally impassioned were dozens of letters supporting Ms. Chua, who posted them on her personal website. The letters spoke of her highly personal support for students of color, for first-generation professionals, for students from state colleges, for foreign students.
To suggest that she had harmed students by inviting them to her home, a pro-Chua student said, “is ludicrous in the first place, even if they were actual children. But these are adults.”
As the spring semester wound down, the whisper network was in full force. Some professors were weary of Ms. Chua’s continuing dramas; others had lost faith in Ms. Gerken; others were calling for more transparency in faculty disciplinary matters.
“This is my fourth firestorm,” Ms. Chua said, “and I just kind of want to survive and write my books.”