President Trump is attempting to install Brett Kavanaugh, a right-wing judge, on the Supreme Court, which would make him the fifth member of a right-wing majority on the court. Many people, including myself, believe that this would enable the court to pass laws furthering the oppression of women, people of color, workers and other marginalized groups. Thanks to the courageous testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford in the Senate, millions of people learned about the allegations against Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick are two other brave women who have spoken out to inform the public by making allegations against Kavanaugh. All of this came after the public had already learned about his record as a judge in ruling against abortion rights.
Thanks to the survivors’ courage in speaking out, widespread public outrage and direct action against politicians, there is a weeklong delay in the confirmation vote so the FBI can investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh.
Students and other members of the UC Berkeley campus in particular should take the problem of sexual misconduct very seriously. This campus has seen scandal after scandal of powerful men sexually harassing or assaulting women and then trying to get away with it. As more survivors speak out, more people show solidarity with them and more people say #MeToo, there is finally some accountability — things are finally changing. But as survivor Eva Hagberg Fisher wrote recently for The Daily Californian, the change is not happening quickly enough.
Reflecting on her experience of speaking out, the stonewalling she faced and how this institution has been changed in the past, Fisher gives good advice: “These changes happened because of the brave students who came before me, who spoke up loudly and publicly, who put their careers on the line and who refused to back down. We can too.”
The law is not sacred, and justice must be fought for. In his Senate testimony, Kavanaugh ranted about being “at the top of his class,” as if those who practice the law magically attain moral status.
This is complete nonsense, and I learned that very bluntly 2 1/2 years ago, in March 2016. I had been thrilled when I received my acceptance letter to the UC Berkeley School of Law the previous month. Then, I saw this headline: “Berkeley Law dean resigns amid sexual harassment allegations, lawsuit.” His former executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, alleged that then-dean Sujit Choudhry repeatedly touched and kissed her without her consent over a period of a year. As Sorrell explained it, he used her like “a tool.” I was furious. Then I arrived at the law school for Admitted Students Weekend and saw posters plastered all over the building. These posters had slogans such as: “Survivors’ safety is more important than abusers’ careers.” There were many people there who were ready to stand up for survivors, and it’s time for us to mobilize again.
Members of the legal community are watching as, before our eyes, the word “justice” is distorted beyond all recognition. We have to take to the streets to rectify this, not just as lawyers and law students, but as feminists, anti-racists and fighters against all forms of oppression. Justice has to be fought for.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, was not benevolently handed down by an apolitical institution. It was a victory that was won by a massive women’s liberation movement. There were large national demonstrations and hundreds of local speak-outs in the early 1970s, and they were effective. California’s Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan signed a state law decriminalizing abortion in 1967. By the early 1970s, more than 20 states had passed similar or stronger legislation. Anti-abortion President Richard Nixon had appointed four justices to the Supreme Court before it decided Roe in 1973, but the women’s movement had shifted consciousness on abortion so greatly that one of those justices wrote the Roe decision, and two of them joined it!
On Thursday at noon, we will rally on Sproul Plaza to oppose Kavanaugh. Then, we will march to the Berkeley chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, or DKE. DKE was founded at Yale University and Kavanaugh joined it when he was a student there. There has been controversy in the past surrounding Yale’s DKE chapter, including incidents of parading stolen underwear and allegations of mistreating and harassing women. Even recently, members of Yale’s DKE chapter have faced allegations of sexual assault and were caught on film chanting offensive things such as “No means yes, yes means anal” during a march on campus. Deborah Ramirez alleges that, while they were both at a Yale party, Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and laughed.
The Berkeley chapter of DKE has a similarly horrid history of allegations of sexual assault, the chapter isn’t officially sanctioned by the university. It is time for members of the UC Berkeley campus to show these fraternities, our administration, the legal system, Kavanaugh and Trump: We will defend Roe and the right to an abortion! We will not go back! We believe survivors!
Mukund Rathi is a third-year law student at UC Berkeley.