In law school, the episode exposed bitter divisions in a high-level institution that is struggling to adapt in a moment of troubled social change. Students regularly attack their professors and each other for their scholarship, career choices, and perceived political views. In a place full of rumors and anonymous accusations, almost no one would get on record.
A feature of this difficult year was the increased demands of student groups. Against this background, the critics of Dean Gerken in the faculty fear that she acted too hastily on the Chua matter and put the concerns of the students above the rights of a professor.
Particularly problematic, several professors said in interviews, was their trust in the SMS dossier, which was created by a student who learned that two of his friends had gone to Ms. Chua’s house – and believed the visits were complicit, and Mr. Rubenfeld’s behavior.
It’s a curious document. Among other things, the text messages of the offended student show that he repeatedly asked one of the friends to admit that he met judges there, and the friend repeats this. (“If you promise to keep it between us, I’ll tell you – it was Chief Justice John Marshall,” the friend finally writes in an angry allusion to the long-dead lawyer.)
Ms. Gerken referred to the dossier at a faculty meeting on April 21st as evidence of Ms. Chua’s wrongdoing. Several professors who saw the material said in interviews that they were shocked by how unconvincing it was.
“Proof of what?” Asked one. Another called it “Tattletale Espionage”.
“Where are we – 1953 in Moscow, when children were asked to tell about their parents and siblings?” Said the professor.
Ms. Chua admits that she warned students to keep quiet about the meetings (“I told them all, ‘Don’t mention this because I get in trouble for everything I do,” she said) but that she didn’t break any rules.