The respected law firm Sullivan & Cromwell recently rescinded its offers of summer employment to seven Harvard Law School students who had signed letters addressed to school administrators in protest of Harvard’s investments in Israel.
The messenger for the job offers’ withdrawal was none other than Sullivan & Cromwell’s CEO Joseph Shenker. Reportedly, he wrote that the law firm “strongly disagrees” with the opinions expressed through the letter and said that it “considers them antithetical to our core values and the mission of S&C,” adding that the law firm has “long held the view that reasonable people can and do disagree on this difficult topic but that the manner in which the students chose to express themselves was entirely inappropriate.”
Sullivan & Cromwell’s decision to rescind the job offers sparked a huge debate about the nature of free speech and the potential consequences of expressing an opinion. Some opined that the firm was wrong to punish the students for voicing their opinion on a sensitive matter while others argued that the firm has the right to set its own standards and was within its rights to hold the students accountable for their words.
Regardless of the differing opinions, one thing is clear – the issue of free speech has gained even more importance in the professional world. Companies now have the right to retract job offers for potential employees if they find any matter of their statements or actions to be contrary to their core values. For potential employers, this situation serves as a timely reminder to be mindful of the consequences of publicly expressing an opinion or belief before accepting a job offer.
In conclusion, Sullivan & Cromwell’s stance is interesting for what it says about the future of free speech in the context of job offers. It is a reminder to potential employers of the delicate balance of considering the consequences of voicing beliefs and opinions before agreeing to a job offer. As for the seven Harvard Law School students, they have a valuable lesson to take away from the situation – the messages they share publicly can have far-reaching consequences.