Ilya Shapiro Is Shouted Down At U.C. Hastings

2018 was the year I was yelled at by the CUNY Law School. The experience has been chronicled in detail, with a article published in First Amendment Law Review. The experience is still surreal, almost four years after it happened. It’s hard to describe what it is like to be surrounded by dozens of screaming students shouting abuse at you. We often refer to the harm and violence caused by social media, tweets, and similar. However, I was subject to personal attacks. The best thing about the CUNY incident is that I managed to disarm the crowd, engage students in conversation and finally start a rational discussion, though not about the subject I wanted to discuss.

Ilya Shapiro, my good friend and colleague was unfortunately not as fortunate. His Tuesday speech was at the U.C. Hastings Law School spoke about the Supreme Court confirmation procedure. Ilya has presented this lecture numerous times throughout the country. Because of the current circumstances at Georgetown, this lecture will be different. Ilya was yelled at for almost an entire hour. On Instagram, students streamed the protest live.

Ilya’s mouth was always open and he heard a flurry of students banging the table. He was unable to speak. Physicality was another element. Ilya stood just inches from the students and they got into his face. Ilya stood firm throughout the entire process.

The academic dean Morris Ratner warned students about the violation of the code. However, he did nothing to make the code more enforceable or ensure Ilya was able to speak. Students yelled profanity at him.

Rory Little was asked to make a comment about Ilya’s talk. Little began banging the table and chanting as the camera zoomed in on him.

Ilya was also the target of bizarrely personal insults by protestors. One student said, “When did you start balding? Is it sad to see you’re going bald? It’s hard to say this to students, but it is true. All go bald.

A student shouted, “Freedom to speak, baby!” at the 22:02 mark. My understanding was that her student protest was, in itself, an exercise of freedom of speech. No. It isn’t a place for public discussion. Students organizations can reserve the space to their preferred speakers. Priority is given to students. Howard Wasserman and Eugene Volokh describe the doctrine. This disruption wasn’t short. The disruption lasted for the entirety of Ilya’s scheduled time. At my CUNY protest the Dean, now self-cancelled, insisted that my speech be protected as the protest lasted only eight minutes.

What will happen to students? It is unlikely. The professors and administrators either fear the students to death or are sympathetic. However, I know that future FedSoc chapters on campus may find it hard to host debates. The protestors asked FedSoc officers repeatedly to explain their invitation of Shapiro throughout the demonstration. They were mocked, booed and ridiculed by the officers. A student warned that the officers would be fired if they did it again at 51:00.

The one bright spot of all this is the possibility to revisit it. CLS v. MartinezThe U.C. Hastings. It’s not enough to have an “all-comers” policy. Unpopular speakers will result in student groups on campus being shut down and protested. A conservative member could join these affinity groups. This would be an excellent test case. The current Court will resolve the dispute in a different way, I believe. We owe Hastings students a victory.