The Federalist Society Responds to Cathy Young

The Federalist Society aims to host programs on law school campuses and elsewhere on important and controversial legal topics by offering top libertarian and conservative thinkers a small speaking fee and defraying their travel expenses.

Cathy Young recently posted a piece objecting to our decision no longer to include her on the list of speakers we encourage our student chapters to invite in this manner. We had included her initially because we appreciate her columns and her willingness to tackle important and controversial topics, often from a perspective that is insufficiently heard.

As anyone familiar with the Federalist Society knows, we don’t shy away from controversy, and we continue to host events with speakers on the range of topics that Ms. Young claims we are unwilling to address, including  “Civil Rights on Campus,” a featured topic at our largest event of the year, the upcoming Lawyers Convention, an event last month with Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute and others in Los Angeles on “The Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic”  and one featuring an extended discussion of this question by Civil Rights Commissioner and Professor Gail Heriot at our panel on “Passion and Prudence in The Political Process: The debate Over Civil Rights Policy.” (Commissioner Heriot’s remarks begin at the 9:08 mark).

We appreciate Ms. Young’s contributions to the public debate on these questions. But based on feedback from Federalist Society student chapter members who had invited her because they were eager to hear her point of view, at the present time we are opting to recommend other individuals (who share Young’s basic perspective) to debate and speak about these issues.


49 thoughts on “The Federalist Society Responds to Cathy Young

  1. “Credibility and how it is lost in a single decision brought to by The Federeralist Society.

    America was lost due to a lack of spine when things became real.”

    The Federalist Society’s most famous alumnus, Mr. John Roberts, will laugh in your face as he agrees with you.

  2. There is a simple solution to this for the Federalist Society. Recant.

    Say that this was a policy mistake, but after further discussion, they’ve realized that it is wrong, and reinstate her as a fellow in good standing, or however they’d prefer to say it. Problem solved.

    But they won’t do that. Almost no one ever admits they are wrong. It’s one of the greatest human weaknesses there is.

    And one of the most gutless.

  3. Credibility and how it is lost in a single decision brought to by The Federeralist Society.

    America was lost due to a lack of spine when things became real.

  4. “an event last month with Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute and others in Los Angeles on ‘The Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic'”

    The fact that you submitted an event with that title as evidence that TFS is not buckling to pressure groups only serves to reinforce Cathy Young’s argument. You’ve accepted the very premise that Ms. Young argues against, so it’s no wonder you fired her. She no longer accurately represents TFS position on this matter. You should have just plainly stated as much.

  5. When did the Federalist Society become an adjunct of the Republican National Committee ?

    If all of their speakers need to conform to the electoral narratives of a GOP that’s too timid to stand up to leftist media, their discussions are going to be rather narrow and tepid affairs. It’s bad enough that the Republican Party is afraid of its own rhetorical shadow, but for a think tank it’s almost self-parody.

    If campus organizations want to hear RNC-vetted “Go Team” talking points, why not just call Chariman Preibus for a apeaker and eliminate the Fed Society middleman?

  6. All I heard was “we caved to pressure groups”.

    Maybe you could have told the Federalist Society student chapter members that confronting ideas they don’t necessarily agree with, without demanding somebody gets fired, is one mark of an educated person. And in the process, you could have stood for intellectual engagement and advancing the debate by allowing all reasonable viewpoints.

    If we can’t even allow people to challenge orthodoxy because of pressure and smears, what kind of society do we have?

  7. This still feels like a capitulation to “just shut up” tactics. The response cites to the Society’s sponsorship of other programs to address the handling of sex assault complaints on campus, such as one entitled “The Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic.” But adopting the flawed premise of the totalitarians as a program title leads me to believe the bullies have won again. Whatever her public speaking qualities, de-listing a distinguished warrior for freedom in these circumstances is not quality control, it is going wobbly.

  8. The official comment: “but based on feedback from Federalist Society student chapter members who had invited her because they were EAGER to hear her point of view”…

    Another commenter said that the “FS’s refusal to allow a local group to have her speak”. No way of knowing if that’s accurate, but if that IS true, it certainly seems that TFS will find itself frequently uninvited based on feedback from people who were PREVIOUSLY eager to hear their point of view.

  9. It’s amusing, disappointing and entirely predictable when academic organizations expose themselves as hypocrites. The Federalist Society states they “Debate. Discuss. Decide.” while decrying “a form of orthodox liberal ideology”. Yet, when the time comes to stand by their believes, they cower in fear.

    The words of Thomas Paine seem especially appropriate: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country…”

    The Federalist Society are the sunshine patriots who, ultimately, have no integrity. Any member of that society should be deeply embarrassed and oust the leadership that has openly betrayed their ideals. It shows that all organizations become corrupt and self-serving without the vigilance of its members.

  10. I definitely can’t make heads or tails out of this article and have no idea why she was turned . I think the Federalist Society has some problems they have to address.

  11. One doesn’t cancel engagements one has already made on grounds of mediocrity.

    McDonald has staked out her position in favor of Yes Means Yes.

    Young has not.

    That is all.

  12. The TFS response would be a lot more credible if they had at least given plenty of specific examples (possibly with names redacted) of what the “student complaints” actually were. And the low attandance charge could have arisen from what she taloked about, with leftists destroying flyers and otherwise stopping publicity for the talks. Ad if several event planner said they wantede to invite her back she could not have been that bad. Why not just let each individual TFS campus group decide for themselves.

  13. Federalist Society–

    The weasel words in your statement confirming your blacklisting of Cathy Young speak very loudly. Those weasel words say it’s all over for the Federalist Society. Look for your membership to crumble, and your influence to evaporate.
    You are dead to me. Any politician which bears your endorsement or approval will now get much closer scrutiny from me when it comes time to cast a vote. Participation in the Federalist Society will be a big black mark.

    Les Waldron

  14. So, “feedback” from unnamed “students” is responsible for the black list. Other speakers who are less controversial will apparently be used instead.

    If we knew what the real reasons were, it might be possible to judge the actual validity of the response. With all the carefully nuanced, weasel worded lawyerly tap dancing in this explanation, it must be assumed to be a case of TFS losing their cojones and backing away, allowing the other side to set the terms of debate, and decree who will be acceptable to debate using their lexicon. Thanks, TFS>

    1. Feed back from students IS the reason you get to keep presenting or get booted. After each event the Chapter president is supposed to rate the speaker and if the speaker gets too many bad ratings then they are removed from the list. This is a student oragnization, not a political organization. This lady is not the first person to be booted and won’t be the last. She is just bitter that she was booted and is crying about it.

      1. OK. And also OK that FS doesn’t want to open themselves up to specific charges by quoting – thereby seeming to validate – the student chapter president evaluations. However, it would be wise to anticipate the kind of criticism seen in these comments, and provide some data – perhaps anonymized statistics on numbers or percentages of bad ratings, categorized if that information is available.

  15. What a load! This is nothing but political dissembling rather than frankly stating a position. Can’t you state your actual position rather than reveal yourself to be Grade C political consultants? Hey Federalist Society, you’re digging the hole deeper with these prevarications.

  16. Maybe Ms. Young is just a poor public speaker. Her screed yesterday did nothing to convince me that there is some conspiracy afoot. She seems a bit too full of herself. Maybe you’re just not all that, Ms. Young.

    1. Ms. Young did not allege there was a “conspiracy” and no one who read her piece could claim she did. Rather, she described the events that, among other things, led to her being removed from TFS’s approved speakers list and TFS’s refusal to allow a local group to have her speak.

      You commented on a piece that you either didn’t read or couldn’t understand. There’s no doubt you’re not all that.

    2. Which deficiency has, for aught appearing, never been suggested by TFS? And was ostensibly discovered only after “student activists” organized a complaint that her views were unacceptable to them?


  17. Shame on The Federalist Society. It has apparently forgotten that these kind of unfair, behind-the-back “protests” are identical to the ones used against it – which are still used against it – to shut TFS up and out. It goes against everything TFS is and has fought for, to either silence debate – and specific debaters – or to knuckle under to such fascist tactics as this repugnant attack by poison keypad.

    I’m ashamed of the cringing weakness of the Federalist Society. I’m crossing it off my “good guys list” unless and until it proves differently.

  18. It seems like there are two issues here: 1) Young’s topics, and the form she used to express her opinion, and 2) her value as a compelling speaker whose speaking opportunities should be subsidized.

    I have no insight into the first issue, but as a former chapter head at a law school where Young came to speak, we had abysmal numbers at her events. I heard about similar experiences from other chapter presidents. Her content seemed great, but she seemed to not be a big draw, and not a particularly dynamic speaker.

    It sounds like FedSoc mangled this whole process (and the blame for that lies squarely with Meyer and the manner he chose to take). They conflated the two issues above and left us all wondering about their true motives, when I don’t think anyone would have blinked if they just removed her for low performance.

    It sounds like, at a minimum, they need a better system for providing feedback to speakers.

    1. If Young is an inept speaker, you’d think it would have been discovered a little quicker than in fifteen years. Has the Society been deliberately inflicting a dud on suffering audiences all this time?

    2. Thank you for your insight.

      If Young is not a sufficiently good and compelling speaker that is a fine reason to discontinue using her, and I can see where Fed Soc’s lawyers may be telling them not to elaborate on why the stopped their relationship for fear of litigation. Its a shame however that their handling of the issue leaves open the possibility of them “caving” on what is an obviously controversial topic.

  19. Yes, very squishy. Forbes also gave in to PC censorship on a similar issue, with a writer who just listed allowing drunk women at frat parties a serious risk. When you give in to this, you only encourage more censorship. Is insisting that there are sometimes false accusations, and that the accused has due process rights really something that is beyond the pale?

    I’m sure the “basic perspective” will be run by the censors. I’m so disappointed the FS; thought this was one of the defenders of basic freedom.

  20. Well, there goes the Federalist Society’s credibility in all issues. Right out the window. Self-defenestration.

  21. The Federalist Society response should be enshrined as a classic and best of breed for the definition:
    Weasel Words.

    1. LOL, That pretty much sums up the idea of “we got some bad reviews, but we aren’t going to tell you about them. Trust us”.

  22. When you blacklist someone (and especially when you blacklist someone the Left wishes to silence) you really ought to say why. I have zero interest in following TFS now, and I shouldn’t have thought that possible seven days ago.

    “Some students — unnamed, of unknown number or intelligence — told us to blacklist Cathy Young.” Impressive stuff, that.

    This kind of self-censorship is what NPR did to Juan Williams, and that move proved very harmful to NPR.

    1. “Blacklist” and “censorship”? Perhaps you should reevaluate the meaning of those words. It’s not as if Cathy is in a Federalist Society gulag. She’s free to speak at any group she wants. They’re just not encouraging *their* students to invite her.

      Additionally they’re still hosting talks on the same topics! Isn’t it more likely that Cathy wasn’t a great speaker than they’re caving to some sort of mysterious pressure?

  23. From the description of one of the events:
    “At this luncheon event, Heather Mac Donald, the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and Caroline Heldman, associate professor of politics at Occidental College, will discuss the campus sexual assault epidemic and the response to it.”

    Does anyone else see the problem here? This description simply assumes there really is a “campus sexual assault epidemic”, without first asking the crucial question, “What is the evidence for this claim?” And, even if it’s true, does it justify depriving college men of due process when accused?

    A crucial principle in an intellectual battle is not to accept the language or premises of your enemy. In apparently throwing Cathy Young under the bus in favor of what appears to be a blander, less controversial event such as this one, it seems the Federalist Society has forgotten this.

    1. “will discuss the campus sexual assault epidemic and the response to it.””
      Good point. Honest non biased wording would have been “discuss the evidence for the alleged sexual assault epidemic, and what, if anything, should be done in response to it.”

  24. I think an open airing of the feedback is due. As in, “Open for all to examine, with only identifying data redacted.” If Young really is a flop at the microphone, let her face the music.

    So many supposedly conservative & liberty-loving organizations have gone squishy on this and so many other topics, that the way to bet is that the Federalist Society has been yet another of the auto-castrati, letting the left determine the scope of respectable debate..

    1. If it was about the topic and not the speaker, why would they continue to host events on that topic? Even as recent as last month?

      1. Well, it’s sort of on the same topic. But from the description (see my other comment), that event’s perspective on the topic appears to quite different from Cathy Young’s, in a more appeasing, cowardly direction.

    2. The word “supposedly” is the operative word here. It seems the Federalist Society has knuckled under and refuses to face controversy any longer.

      1. Some many are cowed by the PCTs. In my opinion the way to fight back is through confrontation. We are losing the culture war on every front. The best way to deal with Political Correctness Totalitarians is to point and laugh at them. When you concede their premises you surrender the narrative.

  25. I expect your statement is true – ‘From a certain point of view’;
    I cannot be sure because you provide no specifics; Why is that ?

  26. The parenthetical in the last sentence–specifically, the phrase “basic perspective”–looks like an admission that everything she claimed is correct.

    1. Seems that if they are inviting others to discuss the various issues, then her accusation that they are unwilling to address the issue is without merit.

      1. Not a fair assessment. Who knows what positions the other hold, how well thought out they are, etc. etc. Just saying you have other speakers does not mean it is so.

    2. Not at all; what is evident is that, while the Federalist Society is perfectly willing to host people who “share (her) basic perspective,” they were unwilling to accept her specifically. Of course, hearing some of the actual feedback comments (was she too strident? engaging in rude/ad hominem attacks? a raving “progressive” (so-called) lunatic?) would be helpful.

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