Updated: Oct 20
October 19, 2023
Dean Troy McKenzie
New York University School of Law
Vanderbilt Hall 406D
New York, New York
AN OPEN LETTER
IN SUPPORT OF RYNA WORKMAN!
Dear Dean Troy McKenzie,
The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) urges you to demonstrate the grounding of New York University School of Law in the United States Constitution including the Bill of Rights.
NYU’s condemnation of Ryna Workman (they/them), for a statement concerning Palestine and Israel brings into serious question whether the law school is fulfilling its mission as the foundation of the judicial system in the United States or is more identified with Israel and Jewish people than with the fundamental principles of the right to freedom of thought and speech.
While you may disagree with Ryna Workman’s analysis, any decision to punish them for it is a demonstration of rank disdain for the very rules of law and process that law schools in the United States are purportedly charged to uphold.
The school’s condemnation of Ryna Workman’s statement and subjecting them to possible review for purposes of disciplinary action, including expulsion, suggests that its bias toward Israel outweighs the United States Constitution’s protections of speech and thought.
Your failure to protect Ryna Workman’s constitutional and human rights, despite your disagreement with their statement, has put them in physical danger. It has also served, almost as importantly, as a chilling effect on speech, creating and sustaining a belief that if any student dares to share an analysis of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict that calls into question Israel’s actions, both historic and currently, that they will be punished by the school and any law firm, such as Winston & Strawn, which offered employment or are considering employing the student.
This is coercive thought policing and constitutes a violent act, undermining the ideals of fairness, integrity and independent analysis that law students are encouraged to adopt and practice, both as students and as attorneys and judges after graduation and passage of the bar.
It is a form of reprehensible and unconstitutional censorship that aligns with the banning of books and the teaching of classes on racial justice and critical race theory, because they challenge the “white-washed” view of the historical treatment of Black people.
NCBL urges you to support the right, both human and constitutional, to freedom of thought and speech, both in your words and deeds.
We urge you to issue a statement in support of the right to be critical of Israel, as well as Palestine.
We urge you to issue a statement that counters statements posted around the campus that “You either stand with Israel or you stand for terrorism” and “Justice for Jewish students”.
As a law school dean, you surely know that a criticism of Israel is not a statement against Jewish students.
You surely know that a criticism of Israel’s historic policies towards the Palestinian peoples is not supporting terrorism.
You should find such analysis to be so tainted with bias that it defies the legal process and analysis that should be taught in law school.
Consequently, the NCBL demands that you and the law school publicly support Ryna Workman's constitutional rights, including freedom of speech.
Laura Webb, President
David A. Tanner
Chairman Of the Board of Trustees
New York University Schoolof Law
Board of Trustee members: Helam Gebremariam
Damaris Hernandez Evan Chester
Stuart Coleman Debo Adegbile