Lewis & Clark Law Faculty Sign Free Speech Statement After Students Derail Christina Hoff Sommers Event


The Lewis & Clark Law School faculty unanimously signed a free speech statement last month after a group of students derailed a guest lecture from Christina Hoff Sommers.

Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was shouted down by a group of students during an event at the Portland law school. A group of students stood at the front of the lecture hall with a massive sign that read “Rape Culture is Not a Myth.” At random moments, students would chant and sing, successfully drowning out Sommers’ voice from traveling past the podium from which she spoke.

Now, the faculty at Lewis & Clark Law School have signed a statement affirming the right of students and invited guests to express themselves. The statement claims that the law school is committed to cultivating a free marketplace of ideas.

The law school is committed to both (1) welcoming and empowering students of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideologies, including those who have faced barriers to enjoying equal opportunity in our profession, and (2) fostering a robust and free marketplace of ideas in which students will inevitably encounter views they perceive as misguided, offensive, or even hateful. Such views may be confronted with civil engagement and alternative speech, or ignored as unworthy of engagement, but they cannot be subject to attempted disruption or silencing.

The professors conclude the statement by arguing that law students must be prepared to encounter sharply different viewpoints in the legal profession.

Some may perceive a tension between the law school warmly welcoming people of all communities and with all life experiences and simultaneously offering to expose students to views they may find distinctly unwelcome or harmful. But we cannot prepare our students for the profession they will be entering if our campus is not open to vigorous debate among people with varying backgrounds and sharply different viewpoints. In short, pluralism, professionalism, and First Amendment values are all essential to our mission, and we as a faculty reaffirm our commitment to each.