Thursday, June 11, 2020

SMU Law School "Revokes Incoming Student's Admission Over Allegedly Racist Posts"

By Eugene Volokh - June 11, 2020 at 08:04PM

So reports the Texas Lawyer (Angela Morris, paywalled); here's the school's statement:

 

The Texas Lawyer article adds that, "The law school did not release the student's name or any details on the allegedly racist social media posts."

I assume that, if the statements threatened violence or aimed to incite violence or some such—and the school had wanted to stress that it disapproved of such views (or even just of racist threats or racist advocacy of violence)—the statement would have said that. Likewise, if the statements used racist epithets to insult people, and the school had wanted to stress that it disapproved of racist epithets, it would have said that.

But I think the message the law school is trying to send, based on its statement, is precisely that it disapproves of racist speech generally, and that anyone who holds and expresses racist views is at risk of being denied admission ("Racism has no place" …). And I wonder to what extent the message that applicants will receive, whether or not it's intended, is that anyone who expresses views that administrators label "racist" (potentially quite a large category) is at similar risk.

SMU is a private law school, and it's entitled to act this way, assuming that revoking the admission didn't breach any contract, and I expect it didn't. (California has a statute limiting speech codes at private universities, and it's possible that California courts would read it as applying to admissions decisions; but other states don't, and the acceptance of government funds doesn't subject universities or law schools to First Amendment constraints.) But I think the decision is worth noting and discussing, partly because what one law school does others (public or private) may well follow in doing.

One question one might ask would be this: Do you think that private law schools the 1950s should have revoked admission of students if administrators had concluded that the students had engaged in "pro-Communist offensive behavior"? I expect some would have and did, and again they would have been legally entitled to, but my question is whether they should have.


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