I attended Yale Law School from 1988-1991, and the atmosphere of political correctness, enforced via social sanction (e.g., one could get socially ostracized by a significant segment of your classmates for a host of pecadillos, such as referring to a very young woman as a “girl,” or, worse yet, arguing in Contracts class that Williams v. Walker Thomas Furniture was wrong*), was almost unbelievable.
So here I am visiting at another elite Law School, the University of Michigan, fourteen years later. A student walks into my class proudly wearing a JAG t-shirt, which would have gotten him virtually tarred and feathered at Yale (because of the military’s anti-gay policies); the student newsletter has a photo spread of the Law School Senate’s Halloween party featuring, among other things that I’m sure I never would have seen at Yale Law, five women dressed up as “St. Pauli’s girls”, and one woman dressed as a Playboy bunny; several men dressed as women; and two students dressed as Michael Jackson and Prince, respectively. Meanwhile, to top it off, the executive editor asks elsewhere in the issue, “Why don’t undergrad girls wear clothes anymore?…. Do these girls own pants that fit?”
So, I’m wondering: has political correctness at elite law schools declined across the board, or is [was?] Yale just a “special place?”
*[Update: This is a slight exaggeration, but a classmate of mine told me [only recently] that a significant number of my Yale classmates shunned me [first semester] because of “what you said in [first semester] Contracts class.” I responded that I don’t remember saying anything all that controversial–after all, we didn’t discuss abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, or any other especially hot button issues in Contracts class, and my views on such issues were not especially out of the mainstream at Yale, anyway. My classmate responded, and I swear he seemed at least 80% serious, “yes, but you kept saying that contracts should be enforced.” By contrast, a friend of mine who attended University of Chicago at the same time told me that his classmates gave a student a bit of a hard time for arguing that Walker was correctly decided, which suggests individual school differed greatly then, and perhaps I shouldn’t generalize from my Yale experience.]
FURTHER UPDATE: I’m glad to see from some of the commenters that the atmosphere at YLS has apparently changed for the better, though I’m not sure why they seem to believe that this means that my account of the atmosphere a decade earlier is false. Also, I’m only referring to the student atmosphere; the faculty, led especially the dean, Guido Calabresi, were scrupulously fair and open to students of all political persuasions, in my experience; they, and good friends, made my time there very happy.
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