Email From Yale Law Student Sparks Controversy

Yale Law

An email from a Yale Law student has thrust the university into national spotlight.

The university pressured Trent Colbert, a 2L student who is a member of the Native American Law Students Association and the Federalist Society, to apologize over the email invitation that was sent to classmates, in which he referred to his apartment as a “trap house,” The Washington Free Beacon reports.

“Sup NALSA,” the Sept. 15 invitation reads. “Hope you’re all still feeling social! This Friday at 7:30, we will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day bash in collaboration with FedSoc. Planned attractions include Popeye’s chicken, basic-b- – – – American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.) … Hope to see you all there.”

After the email was sent out, nine students filed complaints with the Office of Student Affairs. Colbert was then requested to meet with Associate dean Ellen Cosgrove and diversity director Yaseen Eldik, who advised Colbert to apologize over his email.

In a statement released by Yale Law, school officials had the following to say over the matter:

“Yale University and Yale Law School have strong free speech protections, and no student is investigated or sanctioned for protected speech. When the law school receives complaints about offensive communications, the dean of students routinely tries to help students talk to one another and resolve their disagreements within the community. At no time was any disciplinary investigation launched or disciplinary action taken in this matter. While any person may report concerns about a lawyer’s character and fitness to the bar, the law school has a longstanding policy of reporting only formal disciplinary action to the bar association. Any media reporting to the contrary is false.”

Colbert has refused to apologize over the email but has stated that he would welcome conversations with anyone hurt by his words.

“I was never aware of the word ‘trap house’ having any racial connotations. I thought of a ‘trap house’ as like a frat house, just without the frat,” Colbert says in an interview. “I had been calling our house the ‘NALSA trap house’ for months before this incident. I had been calling it that in messages with other NALSA board members for months, and nobody had said anything to me about it.”

Sources: The Washington Free Beacon, David Lat, ABA Journal, Yale Daily News

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