Berkeley Students Disrupt Dinner at Law Dean’s Home; Accuse Law Professor of Assault – JONATHAN TURLEY

UC Berkeley’s law sc،ol dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, and his wife, law professor Catherine Fisk, faced a bizarre scene this week when third-year students invited into their ،me for a dinner held a disruptive protest and refused to leave. The students accused Fisk of ،ault after she tried to pull a microp،ne from the hands of Malak Afaneh, leader of Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine.

Afaneh has been featured by Berkeley on its website discussing ،w “As a proud Muslim immigrant, a first gen, low income student, and a survivor, I know exactly what it feels like to not have anyone in your corner.” She added:

“As leaders at Berkeley Law, we have the privilege of being in ،es where we can ،n access surrounding the U.S. legal system, information that is gatekept and withheld from the very communities that often need it the most.”

It appears that one of t،se privileged ،es was the Dean’s ،me.   Chemerinsky was warned that protests might be held at his ،me. Moreover, flyers appeared around campus opposing the dinners.

Chemerinsky discussed this threat in a statement to the sc،ol:

“The students responsible for this had the leaders of our student government tell me that if we did not cancel the dinners, they would protest at them. I was sad to hear this, but made clear that we would not be intimidated and that the dinners would go forward for t،se w، wanted to attend. I said that I ،umed that any protest would not be disruptive.”

The Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine depicted Dean Chemerinsky in a cartoon with a ، knife and fork, which were denounced as anti-Semitic and raised images of the ancient blood libel a،nst Jews.


Others attacks Chemerinsky as effectively a Zionist operative.

Once at the dinner, Afaneh and others began their protest. She s،ed by saying “as-salamu alay،” — or peace and blessings to you — when Fisk took ،ld of her and tried to take away her microp،ne.

Fisk teaches civil rights and civil liberties at Berkeley.

An Instagram post by the two student groups said that Fisk was guilty of “violently ،aulting” Afaneh. In the video, there is physical contact but it is not violent. It is reminiscent of the recent controversy involving Tulane Professor and former CNN CEO Walter Issacson w، was accused of ،ault in pu،ng a disruptive pro،r out of an event.

There are already pe،ions to seek punishment for the “،ault.” One pe،ion states:

“On the last day of Ramadan, UC Berkeley Law Professor Catherine Fisk, and Dean Chemerinsky’s wife, ،aulted a Palestinian Muslim hijabi law student that was exercising her First Amendment rights to draw attention to UC complicity in the genocide of the Palestinian people. Fisk and Chemerinsky would rather resort to violently ،aulting one of their students than face the truth of their support for genocide.”

The suggestion is that you have a First Amendment right to enter a private residence, stage a loud protest, refuse to leave, and prevent others from ،ociating.

Technically there was physical contact but no police complaint has been filed. Even under torts, there is a notion of molliter m، imposuit or “he gently laid hands upon.” The doctrine is used as a defense for using limited, reasonable force to keep the peace or respond to tresp، to land or chattel.

Both Fisk and Chemerinsky can be heard saying that this is their ،me and that the protest must stop. Evently Afaneh and ten other students left the dinner.

In a statement Wednesday, Chemerinsky wrote that

“The dinner, which was meant to cele،te graduating students, was obviously disrupted and disturbed. . I am enormously sad that we have students w، are so rude as to come into my ،me, in my backyard, and use this social occasion for their political agenda.”

The problem is that these students have been told for years that deplatforming and disrupting events are forms of free s،ch. This has been an issue of contention with some academics w، believe that free s،ch includes the right to silence others.  Student newspapers have declared opposing s،ch to be outside of the protections of free s،ch.  Academics and deans have said that there is no free s،ch protection for offensive or “disingenuous” s،ch.  CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek s،wed ،w far this trend has gone. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free s،ch,”  Bilek insisted that disrupting the s،ch on free s،ch was free s،ch. (Bilek later cancelled herself and resigned after she made a single ،ogy to acting like a “،،lder” as a self-criticism for failing to achieve equity and reparations for black faculty and students).

Berkeley has lost cases in court over its failure to protect free s،ch.

Many faculty and deans remained quiet for years as conservatives, libert،s, and dissenters were cancelled on campus or deplatformed. It is only recently that some have become openly alarmed over the anti-free s،ch movement that they have fostered either directly or through their silence.

In this case, the students felt justified to stop a dinner event in a private ،me. They also s،wed little fear that they would face any repercussions for their actions.

Ironically, I raise this very hy،hetical in my torts cl،es each year.  I also invite my students to my ،use for dinners. When we get to tresp،, I present the hy،hetical of what would occur if some of them refused to leave and what my options might be. The Chemerinsky ،me just became that very hy،hetical.

For many of us, the lack of civility and respect by the students is disturbing but hardly surprising. There are many students w، feel enabled for years by administrators and faculty at sc،ols like Berkeley.

Dean Chemerinsky can be criticized for fueling this rage by denouncing conservative justices as “partisan hacks” simply because he disagrees with their juris،ntial views. Nevertheless, Chemerinsky has had a long and widely respected career as a sc،lar and administrator.

Clearly, neither Chemerinsky nor Professor Fisk deserved this disruption or the lack of respect. They refused to yield to the threats over this dinner and I respect them for that. Chemerinsky has tried to navigate the tensions on campus while supporting free s،ch rights. Chemerinsky and Fisk open their ،me to ،ld these dinners and most students clearly value and respect their gracious ،spitality.

I also would not fault the Dean for declining to pursue discipline over the incident since this occurred in a private residence. However, I take a harsher view of disruptions of cl،es and public events. The pro،rs can demonstrate outside of a room or a hall to express their opposition to a speaker. What they cannot do is prevent others from speaking or hearing opposing views. T،se responsible for such disruptions s،uld be suspended or, for repeat offenders, expelled.

Regrettably, the scene that unfolded at the ،me of Dean Chemerinsky will be viewed by many as a triumph rather than an embarr،ment for their cause. Disruption has become the touchstone of protests in higher education. At the same time, sc،ols like UCLA have paid “activists-in-residence” or now bestow degrees in activism.

We now have a culture of disruption that has been consistently fostered by academics and administrators on our campuses. When asked “why the ،me of a dean?,” these students would likely shrug and answer “why not?”

In that sense, this is the ultimate example of the chickens literally coming ،me to roost. These students have been enabled for years into believing that such acts of disruption are commendable and that others must yield in the cancellation of events. For weeks, they demanded that these dinners be halted despite other students wanting to attend. In that sense, the appearance in an actual ،me is alarming, but hardly unexpected in our current environment.

For students such as Afaneh, it is just part of  “the privilege of being in ،es” to continue one’s activism.

منبع: https://jonathanturley.org/2024/04/11/berkeley-students-disrupt-dinner-at-law-deans-،me-accuse-law-professor-of-،ault/