Law Firms Issue Warning About Not Hiring Students Advocating Antisemitism on Campuses

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully
November 3, 2023US News
Law Firms Issue Warning About Not Hiring Students Advocating Antisemitism on Campuses
A security command post stands along a street in a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, on Oct. 12, 2023, with a large Orthodox Jewish community. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Some of the biggest American law firms wrote a letter to law schools in the country, warning they may not take in students from campuses that allow anti-Semitic activities.

“Over the last several weeks, we have been alarmed at reports of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism, and assaults on college campuses, including rallies calling for the death of Jews and the elimination of the State of Israel. Such anti-Semitic activities would not be tolerated at any of our firms,” the Nov. 1 letter said. “We also would not tolerate outside groups engaging in acts of harassment and threats of violence, as has also been occurring on many of your campuses.”

“Everyone at our law firms is entitled to be treated with respect and be free of any conduct that targets their identity and is offensive, hostile, intimidating, or inconsistent with their personal dignity and rights. We prohibit any form of harassment, whether verbal, visual, or physical,” the law firms wrote.

The letter insisted that there is “no room” for anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and other forms of hatred or bigotry on college campuses, workplaces, and communities.

Higher learning institutes are obligated to provide students with the guidance and tools necessary for the “free exchange of ideas” even on emotionally charged issues, it said.

“As employers who recruit from each of your law schools, we look to you to ensure your students who hope to join our firms after graduation are prepared to be an active part of workplace communities that have zero tolerance policies for any form of discrimination or harassment, much less the kind that has been taking place on some law school campuses,” the letter said.

The letter, directed to 14-top ranked American law schools, was initially signed by 27 law firms. Several more law firms have since become signatories.

Some of the firms that have signed the letter include Boston-based Ropes & Gray, New York-based Sullivan & Cromwell, and Chicago-based Vedder Price, and Sidley Austin.

The letter was written by Joseph C. Shenker, senior chair of Sullivan & Cromwell after Jewish law students from several universities contacted him. In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Shenker said that he sent a draft of the letter to other law firms, each of which then sent a copy to the law schools they work with.

Regarding the question of whether law firms would restrict taking in students from schools where concerning behaviors have been seen, Mr. Shenker replied that “people can draw their own conclusions. The letter speaks for itself.”

“We’re asking the deans to create a safe environment for all their students where one is treated with respect,” he said. “That’s what we require at our firms. I believe the deans are working towards that.”

Yvette Ostolaza, chair of the management committee at Sidley Austin LLP, told the outlet she was grateful that Mr. Shenker took a stand on the issue.

“It’s important during times when you see evil happening and it affects your colleagues and your clients to speak up and stand for what’s right,” she said.

Anti-Semitism on American Campuses

The letter from the law firms comes after Steven Davidoff Solomon, who teaches corporate law at the University of California, Berkeley, triggered a controversy by writing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled “Don’t hire my anti-Semitic law students.”

In the Oct. 15 op-ed, Mr. Solomon pointed out that last year, a student university group, Law Students for Justice in Palestine, asked other student groups to adopt a bylaw banning supporters of Israel from speaking at events. He blamed it as part of a “broader attitude” against Jews at universities.

When interviewing law students from Berkeley, Harvard, NYU, or other schools, law firms should inquire about the organizations the students belonged to—specifically whether they support acts and resolutions that blame Israel and Jews for the Hamas massacre last month, he wrote.

If a student is found to endorse such actions, law firms should not hire them, Mr. Solomon said. He asked the firms to follow what Winston & Strawn did to a student who was found to endorse such a stance.

Law firm Winston & Strawn pulled a job offer to the president of the NYU Student Bar Association last month after the individual blamed Israel for the current conflict.

Several anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities have been reported in universities across the United States since the Hamas massacre last month.

On Tuesday, a student from Cornell University was charged for allegedly making online threats to kill Jewish male students and rape Jewish female students on campus. He also allegedly threatened to shoot up a building.

On Nov. 1, Columbia University announced a “task force on anti-Semitism” following a “series of anti-Semitic incidents on campus.”

“We are taking this step as part of a commitment to ensuring that our campuses are safe, welcoming, and inclusive for Jewish students, faculty, and staff, and all of us,” it said.

According to an Oct. 25 press release by the Jewish advocacy organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a total of 312 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the United States between Oct. 7 and Oct. 23, up from 64 incidents during the same period in 2022.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning universities and colleges for rising anti-Semitism and allowing the support for Iran-backed terror groups like Hamas on campuses.

The resolution called on universities to “condemn all forms of anti-Semitism on college campuses; to ensure Jewish faculty, students, and guests can exercise the same Free Speech rights as are guaranteed to all other faculty, students, and guests without intimidation; and urges enforcement of Federal civil rights laws to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism.”

The measure was passed by a vote of 396–23, with 22 Democrats and one Republican voting against the resolution.

From The Epoch Times

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