Editor’s note: This is Part 4 of an ongoing series of fables that were originally published inGreen Bag. This set was published in 2015 to 2017.
The Unknown Unpredictability of the Visiting Condor
At one point, Owl’s caseload became so heavy that her docket fell seriously into arrears and she had to seek assistance from away. As a result, Condor, a well-regarded but tough arbiter from a distant jurisdiction, was brought in to preside at trials. Strikingly, the Forest Glen advocates resolved an unusually high percentage of their disputes by agreement just on the eve of trial before Condor, unlike their experience before Owl, where far more cases refused to settle.
Moral: Because advocates value predictability in their professional pursuits, they prefer a known arbiter, whatever her weaknesses, to an unknown arbiter, no matter how brilliant, and therefore do what they can to avoid the unknown arbiter.
Editor’s note: This is Part 3 of an ongoing series of fables that were originally published in Green Bag. This set was published in 2015.
The Beneficial Ritual
When a Forest Glen creature wanted to plead guilty to a criminal charge rather than go to trial before Owl, Owl required answers to a lengthy list of questions to ensure that the creature was acting voluntarily and intelligently, understood the rights the creature was giving up by pleading guilty, and had in fact committed the offense. Indeed, the Three Vultures insisted that Owl be assiduous in asking these questions. Since the advocates knew all the questions in advance and coached their clients on the correct responses, the process became ritualistic and predictable. Nevertheless, in preparing their clients on how to answer, the advocates were compelled to educate them on all their rights and risks, and the danger of an uninformed plea was reduced to near zero.
Moral: Ritual has a purpose when preparing for the ritual compels a defendant to consider carefully the choices to be made.
A couple weeks ago, a BBC interview went viral in which conservative commentator and Harvard Law alum, Ben Shapiro, cut his interview short, telling his interviewer, Andrew Neil, that “I’m popular and no one’s heard of you.” Shapiro later walked back his position on Twitter, admitting he wasn’t properly prepared for the interview.
The interview lasted for roughly sixteen minutes, and prior to the juicier moments making headlines, Neil and Shapiro engaged in some substantive discussion. While Shapiro’s early exit from the interview made for good clickbait, I’m far more concerned with a stance on President Trump that Shapiro put forward during the interview.
In these perilous times, we must do no less than they [our ancestors] did: fashion a philosophy that both matches the unique dangers we face, and enables us to recognize in those dangers opportunities for committed living and humane service.
– Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well (1992), 195
On Tuesday, Harvard hosted “Harvard Hears You: The 2019 Summit for Gender Equity,” a University-wide event sponsored by the Title IX Office and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. The Summit’s organizers hoped the event would address pressing questions about gender equity at Harvard. Ostensibly, this was an important step in what must be a long-term school-wide reckoning with gender justice.
As current students, there are many things we wish we had known before enrolling at Harvard Law School. As members of the Labor and Employment Action Project and the Harvard Graduate Student Union, we have been fighting since we arrived on this campus for our right to form a union, better conditions for student workers, and real protections against harassment and discrimination. We asked our fellow activists with official and unofficial student groups, including the Financial Justice Coalition (FJC), Affinity Group Coalition (AGC), Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign (HPDC), and Pipeline Parity Project (PPP), what they wished they knew as well.
The pressure on Harvard to divest from the prison-industrial complex is heating up and the debate is raging on campus. As organizers with the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign, we caught wind of some misinformation circulating around campus about the campaign, the endowment, and divestment. We figured now was a perfect time to clear up this misinformation and do some mythbusting. So without further ado, here are your top five myths about prison divestment.
Martin Drake President Harvard Law School Forum Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Dear President Drake:
You are an honorable man. Board Members of the Harvard Law School Forum are honorable. That explains my chagrin at the surprise O Henry ending to my invitation to address the Forum about limitless executive power on March 1, 2019.
A faculty member harasses a student while discussing their research. The student is working as a research assistant, and doesn’t want to lose their job. What can they do? If they complain, will the professor be held accountable? Or will the student face retaliation while the university ignores their complaint?
I got sucked into debunking a fake news story. I spent two days tracking its spread and responding to the lies. Here’s the story of what happened and what I learned.
Last week an acquaintance on Facebook posted a screenshot of a headline which read “CA Democrats Introduce LGBTQ Bill that would Protect Pedophiles who Rape Children.” He captioned his post “truth or fiction? #horrifying if true.”
This social media move was a paradigmatic example of lazy yet insidious partisan pot-stirring. By posting a screenshot of the headline rather than a link to the article itself, the poster put the burden on the audience to figure out what the hell was going on. He also increased the likelihood that others would believe the headline by failing to provide the most convenient method for additional assessment (clicking on the article). And by writing a banal question and hypothetical “if” claim, the poster likely sought to distance himself for any flak if the headline turned out to be false or misleading. (Spoiler alert: the headline was false and misleading.)
Record: Your opponents keep saying you haven’t made any concrete changes. Have you?
Daniel Egel-Weiss: Absolutely. As Vice President of the Harvard Graduate Council this year, I founded the External Affairs Committee, which is the first advocacy subcommittee in the history of the Harvard Graduate Council. I would bring that expertise in how to advocate for Harvard students generally into the law school. Additionally, this year’s Student Government created the Hark Box, which provides a community space for all law students. We reformed the Student Funding Board, and the first weekend of orientation is now filled with community building exercises like Boda Borg and HLS Talks. So we would continue having Student Government be effective, but make it more known.
Record: Why did you decide to run as Co-Presidents?
Jake Weiner: We want to make sure the different groups on campus will not be left out to dry, fighting for their initiatives on their own. Individually, we each have a limited platform, but as one unit we can really make change. Many of these initiatives being pushed by specific groups not only affect those groups, they benefit all of us. When my friend tells me that our affinity group coalition conducted a multi-year study and recommended an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which is thereafter shut down, that’s when I want Student Government to speak up. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t felt like Student Government is involved in our lives. The roles are about more than expending whatever resources the administration allocates to them. We want to continue providing free massages and bringing in dogs for us to pet, but we have to go beyond just spending money. We have to make lasting change.
Sarah Rutherford: I never saw myself at HLS. Both my parents were immigrants who came to this country from Caribbean islands, and so I’m a first-generation college student. I’ll be the first person in my family to graduate from law school, so as soon as I got to Harvard, I said “I’m gonna be a part of everything that I can possibly be a part of. I’m so thankful that I’ve been in community in BLSA, I’m a student attorney for the Tenant Advocacy Project, and I’m also active in First Class, which supports first generation and low-income students. It’s been so nice to have group that are so focused on inclusion and diversity, and I really want to help to lift up the work that those organizations are doing. I’m so impressed at the student orgs’ ability to create community at this campus.
Record: Has anything changed in the past year for you as far as how you would approach student government?
Hannah Dawson: I don’t think my general approach has changed. One of the things that I have learned from my experience as a 2L Rep is just how important it is to get out there and reach out to the constituencies that are going to be affected. Law school is incredibly busy, so as much as people may care about a particular issue, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have time in their schedule to make it out to a Wednesday night Student Government meeting. One of my goals is to figure out how to be as accessible as possible to people and to meet them where they are.