Response or Comment
Hofstra Law Review
law schools, free speech, mental health
First Amendment | Law | Legal Education
Let's start with the antecedent question that both the theme of this conference and all three papers in this session present. That is, before we ask how law schools might better advance the freedom of expression on campus, and even before asking what role law schools play in protecting or suppressing free speech more generally, we must ask the first order question: whether freedom of expression at U.S. law schools is indeed imperiled?
There is an underlying assumption in all three papers that something is amiss, that things are not quite at their optimal, that improve- ment is needed. And to be fair, each of the papers brings receipts. They correctly mention the rise in academic censorship by state and local governments; catalogue instances in which law school administrators have suppressed speech or speakers; and recount examples of students shouting down or forcing out certain speech and speakers. Professor Franks additionally looks at how powerful graduates of elite law schools are suppressing speech and manipulating public discourse about the freedom of speech, leading her to conclude that something must be rotten in the free speech ecosystems that molded and produced these leaders.'
But the antecedent question--whether any of this indicates that the state of free expression at American law schools is unhealthy--better illuminates the pathology we are studying, and ultimately lends good sup- port for several of the suggested correctives these papers propose. In these brief comments, I want to address these two points. First, I want to recast the "free expression problem" we are experiencing at U.S. law schools as less one of speech suppression and more one of speech temerity. Second, I want to respond to that problem by highlighting the proposed correctives in these papers that are most likely to encourage creative and searching dialogue amongst students and within the law school community more generally.
Comment, 51 Hofstra Law Review. 663
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty-publications/1373