Law School Community Mobilizes in Defiance of Donald Trump

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

There is one topic of conversation dominating the halls of New York University School of Law – the hectic first days of President Donald Trump’s term in office. Following through on his campaign promise to impose a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslim immigration into the United States, Mr. Trump ordered a “travel ban” on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen). While much of the law was stayed by multiple federal court rulings, thousands of protesters, including many NYU Law students and alumni, are crying foul.

Posted on Salon.com, 50 members of the Class of 2007 sent an open letter to their classmate, Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, raising “serious concerns regarding Mr. Trump’s stated policies and policy proposals.” Citing Mr. Kushner’s status as the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, the alumni encouraged their classmate to “use his deep sense of compassion to influence the Trump Administration in a positive way.” According to the posting, an earlier version of the letter sent last December received no response.

The Muslim Law Students Association released a statement condemning a policy that they felt unfairly, and unconstitutionally, targeted individuals based on their faith and country of origin. “This order is very clearly a ‘Muslim Ban.’ During his campaign, President Trump repeatedly promised that he would ban Muslims from entering the United States. The President’s intent to establish a Muslim ban was corroborated by top Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani in a recent interview with Fox News, where he remarked that President Trump asked how to make such a ban legally possible,” said Nealofar Panjshiri.

In a letter to the Law School community, Dean Trevor Morrison raised objection to Mr. Trump’s travel ban, pledging to support the students, faculty members, and their families who hail from the affected countries. “We are committed to doing all we can to keep them safe,” said Dean Morrison. When reached for comment, Law School Public Affairs Director Michael Orey confirmed that no NYU Law students, faculty, or administrators have been refused entry to the United States as a result of Mr. Trump’s executive order.

Although no members of the Law School community have been directly impacted by the travel ban, appeals for students to volunteer their legal services or to participate in protests have proliferated across the campus in recent days.

Freshly returned from a regional meeting in Boston with over 20 chapters of the National Black Law Students Association, where responses to the Trump Administration were discussed, Kayla Vinson of the Black Allied Law Students Association released a statement calling on students to join protests and make their voices heard. “Implementation of this Executive Order will only lead to further harassment and racial profiling of marginalized communities. BALSA strongly opposes the Administration’s attempt to spread fear, racism, and Islamophobia.”

Frances Hartmann of Resisting Injustice and Standing for Equality (RISE), a student advocacy group founded by alumni from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign last December, encouraged students in need to make use of resources available at the Law School. “Students and staff seeking immigration legal advice should contact NYU’s Immigrant Defense Initiative (IDI) at 212-998-6640 or immigrant.defense@law.nyu.edu for a free consultation. The IDI is being coordinated by NYU Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic in partnership with WilmerHale.”

Professor Alina Das, director of the NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, is providing legal services to those who have been detained at airports and other points of entry, according to Dean Morrison’s statement. Professor Das will also join colleagues Adam Cox and Nancy Morawetz for a forum discussing the impact of the travel ban on Wednesday.

Claudia Carvajal and Nicolas Duque-Franco, co-chairs of the Latino Law Students Association (LaLSA) were concerned that the “travel ban” did not appear to undergo enough scrutiny from within the Trump Administration before it was signed.

“We are appalled that the President would issue a categorical ban on travel, or any such policy based on race or national origin, that violates the Constitution. Reports that (1) [Customs and Border Patrol] officials have, in certain places, ignored Judge Donnelly’s stay, and (2) that the travel ban was issued without [Homeland Security] or [Justice Department] review, are alarming to say the least. This raises serious concerns about the legitimacy of future policies issued by the White House.”

 

Fall Ball Bigger Than Ever

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief

Last Thursday, October 27, Fall Ball, the annual New York University School of Law student costume party, went off without a hitch, with more students attending than ever before. Held off-campus for the first time, over 1,300 law students and their guests made the trek to Terminal 5, a multi-level concert hall in Midtown Manhattan, filling two levels of the trendy venue to capacity, according to event organizer Marissa Prieto ‘18 of the Student Bar Association (SBA).

Sponsored by the SBA and the Office of Student Affairs, Fall Ball is generally the most widely-attended social gathering at NYU Law. Because of its popularity with students, planners were initially hesitant to move the event away from Law School facilities. However, with mounting concerns about liability and requested attendance outpacing available space, then-SBA Social Chairs, now SBA President and Vice President, Evan Shepherd ‘17 and Samantha Coxe ‘17 began exploring external options, eventually identifying Terminal 5 as a prospective location last spring.

Asked for his thoughts after the event, Shepherd said, “[Samantha and I] believe the event was a success! We first want to thank [SBA Social Chairs] Neesha and Marissa for all of their hard work planning and executing Fall Ball. There are kinks that will be ironed out, but that comes with hosting an event for the first time.”

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Following their election as social chairs in March, Neesha Chhina ‘18 and Marissa Prieto ’18 worked with Dean of Students Jason Belk and Assistant Director of Student Affairs Sarah Bowman to finalize the details, signing a contract with Terminal 5 earlier this fall. In an email to the Student Bar Association obtained by The Commentator, Belk praised the efforts of the SBA, calling Fall Ball “amazing” and saying how “incredibly proud” he was of the way the event was executed.

Said Belk, who attended Fall Ball along with Director of Student Affairs Israel Rodriguez, “From what I gathered, students enjoyed themselves and appreciated the enormous amount of time and thought [the SBA] put in to the event.”

To expand on this year’s success with students at the helm, the SBA has plans to create a social committee to work with the social chairs to improve upon the event and incorporate more student input.

“I think the venue was the biggest highlight for sure. The atmosphere was way more of a party than when it was in [Vanderbilt Hall]. I also think one of the highlights was the fact that people were able to bring more guests, and the event didn’t feel supervised by NYU administrators/staff. We’re also really proud of the fact that our event was safe and had no major mishaps. Thankfully everyone was able to have a good time and do so safely,” said Chhina.

 

Editor’s note: Naeem Crawford-Muhammad is the current Law School student senator and a member of the Student Bar Association.

What’s in a Name: How Mercer Became Hayden

Written by James Yang and Natasha Goss

When law students moved into the dormitories at 240 Mercer Street this August, their new home had a new name: Hayden Hall. The residence, which was once simply “Mercer”, received a rebranding along with a remodel this summer.

Many returning residents were caught by surprise. One 3L who lived in the residence hall last year recalled: “I didn’t figure it out until they put the residence hall sticker on my ID.” A Hayden Hall front-desk employee also learned of the new name when he saw the signs. He felt it was “just a name change,” and said that the building’s function and culture hadn’t changed.

Indeed, even the name has not changed in some students’ minds. According to second-year student Jordan Chafetz, “all the 2Ls I know still refer to it as Mercer, partly out of stubbornness and partly out of habit.”

New residents also knew the building as Mercer. Throughout the housing application process this spring, NYU referred to the dorm by its former name. In fact, it was not until mid-June that students received housing assignments in Hayden rather than Mercer. At the time, law school administration did not explain the reasons behind the change.

This change arose from the decision to rename a neighboring undergraduate dorm from Hayden to Lipton. The Hayden name was then transferred to Mercer. Lipton Hall was originally named Hayden in recognition of a gift from the Hayden Foundation. Thus NYU’s transfer of the Hayden name was made to show continued recognition and appreciation.

Martin Lipton, a 1955 graduate of NYU Law, is the new Lipton Hall’s namesake. He has long served as a trustee of both the University and the Law School, and is a founding partner of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a prominent New York law firm. As a law student, Lipton lived at the newly named Lipton Hall, which was then a law school dormitory. Nowadays, Lipton Hall is primarily reserved for first year undergraduate students and is known for its delicious cookies. Lipton Hall’s new name reflects its heritage as a law school building.

Fall Ball Policy Memo Confirms More Changes Than Just Venue

Written by Gianna Walton, Managing Editor

Last week, the Student Bar Association (SBA) and the Office of Student Affairs announced several additional changes to the Fall Ball Policy Memo for this year, in addition to moving the event to an off-campus venue. As previously reported, SBA revealed last spring that Fall Ball 2016 would be held off-campus at Terminal 5, a concert venue in Hell’s Kitchen, instead of its traditional location in Vanderbilt Hall.

Though tickets for Fall Ball will still be free this year, drink tickets are now limited to two per student. Drink tickets are first-come, first-serve and will not be provided to guests. Terminal 5 will also have a full cash bar for those who wish to purchase additional beverages. Last year, attendees received a maximum of five drink tickets each.

In addition, students are now free to bring up to two guests each. In past years, Student Affairs utilized a Guest Lottery in which students wishing to bring a significant other to the event could enter to win one of 200 guest tickets available.

The event will also start several hours later than in past years, beginning at 10:00 p.m. and running until 2:00 p.m. Last year’s event was held from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

In an email statement, Neesha Chhina and Marissa Prieto, SBA Social Chairs, on behalf of the SBA, said that the decision to move Fall Ball off-campus had been contemplated for a long time and was made jointly by SBA and Student Affairs.

“For liability purposes, Student Affairs began slowly imposing additional limitations on Fall Ball, such as limiting the amount of alcohol they would purchase, instituting a guest policy, and implementing drink tickets in order to limit how much any one person could drink,” said Chhina and Prieto. “Over time, students wanted more control over the event (decorations, start and finish times, etc.), and the only way to receive that was to move the event off campus.”

Jason Belk, Dean of Students, said in an email that the change in location was also driven by space limitations of the Law School.

“In recent years, the number of people wishing to attend the Fall Ball has grown significantly, and by moving it to an offsite venue, we no longer have the capacity constraints that we faced with Greenberg Lounge,” Dean Belk said.

The budget for this year’s Fall Ball is the same as last year’s budget, according to Dean Belk.

Chhina and Prieto said that SBA’s control over the event is one of the primary benefits of having Fall Ball off-campus.

“When the event was on campus, it was run by Student Affairs alone, and there was limited [to] no input from the SBA,” they said. “That means that this year, we were able to prioritize how we thought students would best want the funds allocated when it came to food, drink, DJ, decorations, etc.”

One such example is the decision to offer specialty cocktails. Drink tickets will not cover the specialty cocktails, but the price was negotiated with Terminal 5 from $10.00 down to $7.00, according to Chhina and Prieto. Other prices, including the $4.00 coat check, are at Terminal 5’s discretion, they said.

Chhina and Prieto also emphasized that even though students may be used to receiving five drink tickets in past years, the amount of available alcohol has always been limited. Given budget constraints, they said, “it is not possible to simply pay for what we would like to consume and then distribute an unlimited amount of drink tickets. . . .”

“We cannot guarantee that every single student will get 2 tickets, but we will have a system in place to ensure that no one receives more than 2 in order to evenly distribute them as best as possible,” they said.

Also evident from the Policy Memo is that transportation from campus to the event will not be provided for students. Last year, SBA stated that it planned to try to arrange busing from campus to Terminal 5, which is located about 30 minutes away from the Law School campus by subway or car.

After looking into the costs of using NYU’s shuttles and alternatives such as ride-sharing services, however, SBA ultimately determined that providing transportation was not within its budget.

“[I]n the end, we decided that it was not possible or necessary seeing that transportation has never been provided for a Fall Ball or weekly Bar Review in the past,” Chhina and Prieto stated. “[W]e determined that it would not be prudent to spend student funds on an expense that we deemed as non-essential to the event.”

In addition to the main event being moved off-campus, students may also be unable to find places on campus to celebrate before the event due to the closing of the journal offices in the basement of D’Agostino Hall and various other common areas in D’Agostino Hall and Hayden Hall. Those areas were also closed off to students before last year’s Fall Ball.

“We will be closing journal offices and common areas in residence halls in advance of Fall Ball to avoid the extra cleaning costs The Law School has faced in the past,” Dean Belk said.

Heather Garvey, 3L, said that she appreciated the change in guest policy and thought it was nice for people who wish to bring significant others. At the same time, she said, it seemed strange that guests would not be provided drink tickets.

She also worries that the off-campus venue might make Fall Ball less relaxed and more similar to Spring Fling, which was held last March at Union Square Ballroom.

“It seems like the budget went towards having a venue as opposed to the experience,” she said.

UPDATE: According to an email sent by Dean Belk to the journal Editors-in-Chief on Tuesday afternoon, journals may in fact hold pre-Fall Ball gatherings in the journal offices in D’Agostino Hall before 10 p.m. on Thursday. The basement of D’Agostino will be closed from 10 p.m. on Thursday until 7 a.m. on Friday morning. Alcohol is not permitted in the common area of the basement of D’Agostino, but may be served in individual journal offices. The journal offices in Wilf Hall, however, will be closed beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday. 

What do you think of the new Fall Ball venue and changes to the event policies? Send us your comments at law.commentator@nyu.edu.

Op-Ed: Law Schools Can Help Crack the Glass Ceiling

Written by Aditi Juneja

As many public interest 3Ls interview for post-graduate opportunities and 2Ls interview for internships, there may be one thing we are forgetting: the glass ceiling. Students applying to firms have access to the Chambers Associate Guide to inform them about benefits, vacation time, flexible work arrangements, paid parental leave, retirement plans, and healthcare coverage. The Chambers Guide also provides students applying to firms with statistics regarding diversity, both at the associate and partner level, for women, ethnic minorities, and LGBT people. However, students interested in public interest organizations may have to research this information independently. As a result, a range of information may or not be available to public interest law students depending on the employer. Thus, public interest students don’t have the information necessary to choose internships and jobs with employers where they will be supported and have the greatest chance of advancement.

Of course, the glass ceiling in law firms also continues to be a problem. Although the reasons are unclear, a recent study found that female partners at law firms earn 44% less than male partners. In fact, three black women were so frustrated with the culture at law firms that they banded together (beginning on Twitter) to start their own law firm. But law students choosing the firm route have the information to know which law firms make more or less of an effort to retain lawyers through their benefits policies and which law firms actually promote lawyers who are not straight, white, men.

Law students interested in public interest, who may not find these to be immediate concerns, are often only in a position to learn this information if they ask during the hiring process. Unfortunately, women who “lean in” and negotiate about money often face a backlash for doing so. Women might be equally hesitant to ask about employee benefits. Similarly, a recent study shows that women and minorities who promote other women and minorities receive worse performance reviews by their bosses. It would, therefore, make sense that women and other minorities would be reluctant to ask about diversity numbers during hiring.

Fortunately for us, NYU Law has a wonderful Public Interest Law Center that puts together information about the hiring practices of public interest employers, including information on the experiences of interns and recent graduates employed at those places full time. They also work with the Office of Career Services to bring many public interest employers to NYU for On Campus Interviews and the Public Interest Legal Career Fair. As an institution, NYU Law can go beyond asking the basic questions like starting salary and expected responsibilities of newly hired attorneys and ask public interest employers what benefits they provide and statistics on diversity within the organization. This would allow public interest students to have access to the same information that students applying to firms have, without risking any potential backlash from interviewers for asking the questions.

Public interest students should also be able to assess if an employer has supportive policies and if they are likely to face challenges in advancing within an organization. And, as a highly-ranked law school, NYU has the opportunity to be a leader amongst law schools in asking these questions on behalf of their students.

The current JD student body is diverse: we are fifty percent women, thirty-one percent students of color, and we have a thriving LGBT community. I know that NYU works hard to constantly improve in creating an inclusive environment for its students. Shouldn’t we also work hard to make sure that our students are taking jobs with employers who will support them in achieving their full potential?

Editorial: NYU Must Make Greater Effort to Stabilize Law School Tuition

Written by The Commentator Editorial Board

Recently, a new class of students started at the Law School. While they attended orientation, befriended new classmates, and began their legal career, most of them probably missed the fact that they are paying nearly five percent more in tuition and fees for their first year of law school than when they accepted NYU’s offer in the spring.

New York University has come under fire for its undergraduate tuition hikes. And we commend President Andrew Hamilton’s efforts to stem the tide. However, the cost of a legal education at NYU should be setting off alarms, too. It now costs almost $90,000 per year to attend NYU Law, about $60,000 of which goes towards tuition.

The tuition hikes are unacceptable. As NYU Law works to elevate its status as a top law school, it must also renew its focus on keeping tuition within reasonable limits. The cost of hiring new faculty, developing new programs, and purchasing cutting-edge technology should be a collective investment that propels students forward, not a burden that holds them back.

This summer, some law firms increased their starting salaries for associates by as much as $20,000. While this can help alleviate the debt burden for those students who pursue private-sector careers, it is no excuse for raising tuition on the front-end. Recent history reminds us that law students cannot rely on the viability of Big Law. So, the assumption that students will be able to reliably work off their hefty debt misses the point that raising tuition itself can have detrimental effects on the law school community.

The argument that students will be able to repay their student loans after a few years at a large firm dismisses the nearly 20 percent of students in the class of 2018, for instance, who entered law school with an interest in pursuing a public interest career. It also ignores the countless number of brilliant potential students, especially students from diverse backgrounds in a profession devoid of much diversity, who were deterred from pursuing a degree at NYU Law because of the school’s ticket price.

At its core, this kind of feedback cycle doubles down on the status quo at the student body’s expense. It benefits law firms who can attract the most intelligent, capable future lawyers. It allows the school to maintain its competitive status. But it is also a system that requires those who have the least to pay the most, and that’s not a fair shake. That runs contrary to the values of this community. Simply put, that is not NYU.

NYU Law must redouble its efforts to stay the rising cost of tuition. As NYU strives to be more competitive globally and more people look to NYU as a leader in legal education, the more urgent and important matter is that the school make the cost of attendance a priority. Not addressing the issue could have long-lasting effects on the law school community, including impeding our ability to remain the leading “private university in the public service.”

NYU needs to take a hard look at the way it is paying for legal education. The NYU community – and the legal profession – would be better off for it.

BALSA Honors Brooklyn DA, NYC Corporation Counsel, and Law Professor at Fourth Annual Black History Month Gala

Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad | Photography by Ajani B. Husbands

Greenwich Village, NYC – Over 200 guests descended on the Rosenthal Pavilion, at New York University’s Kimmel Center, for the Fourth Annual Black History Month Gala. Sponsored by the Black Allied Law Students Association of NYU Law – the first such chapter of its kind in the country – the Gala drew esteemed guests and honorees from all across New York City’s legal community.

This year’s theme was Keep the Fire Burning: Promoting Social Justice Through the Black Lives Matter Movement. Honorees included Paulette Caldwell, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law; Zachary Carter ’75, New York City Corporation Counsel; and Kenneth Thompson ’92, Kings County District Attorney.

For more of Ajani B. Husbands’ photos of the Black History Month Gala, click here.

Editor’s Note: Naeem Crawford-Muhammad also chaired the Balsa Fourth Annual Black History Month Gala Committee.

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