David Lat on the anonymity of law students

Some very interesting observations and questions worth checking out. Excerpt:

Should law students be able to protest anonymously? I look at school as a period of experimentation and exploration, and one of the reasons I’ve opposed keeping college records against judicial candidates is the chilling effect it would have. Students would be much less willing to experiment, research, write, and say controversial things—all valuable parts of the educational process—if they felt their words and actions would come back to haunt them years later.

When I was in charge of Above the Law, we had a policy of generally not naming law students involved in controversy; instead, we’d come up with (often cute) nicknames for them (eg Johnny Applethief). We did this because we don’t think it’s fair that a law school controversy—often a pretty stupid law school controversy—dominates a student’s so-called “Google trail,” i.e., what comes up when the student is the subject of a Google search.

One of the reforms Yale Law initiated after last year’s protest debacle was a ban on covert filming. Announcing the ban, Dean Heather Gerken noted that it “reflects policies put in place by the University of Chicago and other similar institutions to encourage the free expression of ideas.” And although the ban has received criticism (both from the left and from the right), its logic can be seen. Students would be much less willing to participate in a debate, especially to express a controversial opinion or play “devil’s advocate,” if a clip of their out-of-context remark could find its way onto Twitter or TikTok.

So that’s the case for anonymity. There’s an argument against anonymity, which professor Nancy Rapoport makes in this blog post (discussing a situation where anonymous law students filed complaints against professors—complaints that a university investigation found to be unfounded):

Read the whole thing.

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