A student organization at Cornell Law School has encouraged their peers to not take courses from a professor who has garnered controversy for his criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Cornell Black Law Students Association posted a letter to the Law School community on Facebook on Monday calling on students to not take courses by Professor William A. Jacobson. According to the letter, Jacobson has engaged in “anti-Black rhetoric” by claiming that the movement was “Marxist” in nature and wanted to “tear down our society.”
“This is a clear attempt to ‘red-bait’ Black activists with McCarthyist rhetoric while refusing to acknowledge the tangible harm caused by structural racism and oppression,” stated the BLSA in the letter.
“Jacobson reinforces the construct of ‘otherness’ in many of his posts when he suggests that some ill-defined ‘we’ needs protecting from ‘them.’ If it is ‘anti-American’ to demand more of the officials who are sworn to protect and serve their citizens, then whose America are we really protecting?”
The student group went on to say that their executive board will “refrain from participating in the Securities Law clinic that Professor Jacobson supervises” and tell students to “reconsider studying under an individual whose views perpetuate hatred towards their fellow students.”
Jacobson responded to the BLSA letter in a blog post on Wednesday, labeling their claims “false and misleading” and explaining that the boycott call came after he offered to debate them.
“Open debate, having your views challenged in an environment that allows a give-and-take, and taking courses from professors with whom you might disagree politically, apparently is the latest thought crime,” wrote Jacobson.
“I’ve offered to debate people on the history and trajectory of the Black Lives Matters Movement, and how much of what takes place under that banner has other goals. That offer of debate has been rejected. What are they afraid of from an open exchange of ideas?"
"With the slogan 'Silence is Violence' being used at the law school, there will be enormous pressure for student groups to go along. Not to do so would be deemed an act of 'violence.'
"This is an attempt not just to scare students away from my course, but to scare students away from speaking their minds, and to create a faculty and student purity test."
He argued, "This isn’t activism, it’s anti-intellectualism."
Cornell Law School Dean Eduardo M. Peñalver recently addressed the controversy over the posts of Jacobson, as some have called for disciplinary action against him.
Peñalver said that he finds Jacobson’s views on the BLM movement “offensive and poorly reasoned,” but he will not pursue disciplinary action against Jacobson.
“We can simultaneously affirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion and equal justice while employing someone who has written the sorts of things about the protests that Professor Jacobson has, because, as an institution of higher learning, we also value academic freedom,” stated Peñalver.
“… to take disciplinary action against him for the views he has expressed would fatally pit our values against one another in ways that would corrode our ability to operate as an academic institution.”
Following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer, many have taken to supporting the phrase and movement “Black Lives Matter” through demonstrations and social media posts.
A notable proponent is Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, who expressed his support for the sentiment behind "black lives matter," but not the organization.
“I realize that the movement and the website have been hijacked by some political operatives whose worldview and policy prescriptions would be deeply at odds with my own, but that doesn’t mean that the sentiment behind it is untrue,” stated Greear.
“I know that we need to take a deep look at our police systems and structures and ask what we’re missing. Where are we missing the mark? And I’ll say that we do that because black lives matter.”
Ryan Bomberger, chief creative officer and co-founder of The Radiance Foundation, argued that the movement is too corrupted by radical agendas.
“Yes, #BlackLivesMatter. But Truth matters. As a Christian, the Church should be leading on these issues instead of sheepishly following a movement hostile to the Gospel,” wrote Bomberger.
“The founders of the movement, the #BlackLivesMatter Foundation (BLMF), created it to radically shift culture … MFBL released a shocking manifesto of policy positions that are deeply political and deeply disturbing.”