More than two dozen major U.S. law firms have sent a letter to more than 100 law school deans asking them to take an “unequivocal stance” against anti-Semitic harassment on their campuses.
The letter, which was signed by firms including Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz LLP, comes after some law students had their job offers rescinded due to comments on the October 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,400 Israelis. Israel’s retaliatory bombing of Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, has fueled protests across the country.
Anti-Semitic incidents have increased since the war began, and the conflict has deeply divided dozens of campuses, including Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania. The presidents of Harvard, Penn and Columbia universities announced the creation of working groups on anti-Semitism.
At Cornell University, a series of anti-Semitic incidents culminated in the murder of an engineering student. accused by making online death threats against Jewish students. A swastika Was found drawn in Columbia’s International Affairs Building, and videos have circulated what appears to be Harvard students harassing a Jewish student during an anti-Israel demonstration.
“Anti-Semitic activities would not be tolerated in any of our businesses. We would also not tolerate outside groups engaging in harassment and threats of violence, as has also occurred on many of your campuses,” the law firm’s letter said.
The letter was written this week by Joseph C. Shenker, chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell, after being contacted by Jewish law students at top universities. He circulated the draft to the other firms, each of which sent a copy to the law schools they work with Wednesday evening, Shenker said in an interview.
Asked if companies would reduce recruiting at schools where they saw concerning behavior, Shenker said, “People can draw their own conclusions. The letter speaks for itself.
“We ask deans to create a safe environment for all their students, where everyone is treated with respect,” he said. “This is what we need in our businesses. I believe that the deans are working in this direction.
Anti-Semitic incidents, including assaults, harassment and vandalism, have soared 400% in the United States since October 7, with 54 incidents reported on campuses, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The group documented 110 anti-Israel rallies on campus during this period, 27 of which included expressions of support for terrorism.
Hours after the attack by Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, more than 30 Harvard student groups blamed Israel for the violence. It took criticism from former Harvard President Larry Summers before the school’s leadership denounced the attack and said the students were not speaking for themselves.
At New York University, the president of the student bar association also blamed Israel in a message to law students. Law firm Winston & Strawn rescinded a job offer to the student, who was previously a summer associate, after learning of the “inflammatory” comments. Davis Polk and Wardwell also canceled job offers to three Harvard and Columbia law students after the organizations they were part of made controversial statements about the Hamas attack.
“As employers who recruit from each of your law schools, we rely on you to ensure that your students who hope to join our firms after graduation are prepared to actively participate in work communities that apply zero tolerance policies for any form of discrimination or harassment. , much less like what has happened on some law school campuses,” the law firms’ letter states.
Yvette Ostolaza, chair of the Sidley Austin LLP management committee, said she was grateful that Shenker took the lead in ensuring the legal industry was unified in its statement to law schools.
“It’s important, when you see bad happening and it affects your colleagues and your customers, to speak up and stand up for what is right,” she said.
President Joe Biden this week announced measures to “counter the alarming rise” of anti-Semitism in schools and college campuses, including directing the Department of Education to accelerate updating the process for receiving complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to declare that certain forms of discrimination against Jews are against the law.
A Harvard Law School spokesperson declined to comment, and Yale Law School did not respond to requests for comment.