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.
Micah Burbanks-Ivey: I was the 1L Representative for Section 1, so I was able to see how Student Government worked. As a 1L, I didn’t do too much. One of the things I’m working on right now for Student Government is Prison Divestment, but what I really saw is a need for diversity on Student Government. Having more diverse voices on Student Government could bring some issues that I find important to the forefront to make sure that those don’t get overlooked when we talk about the important things that Student Government does.
Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of an ongoing series of fables that were originally published in Green Bag. This set was published between 2014 and 2015.
The Magpies’ Conviction
Owl tried conscientiously to render fair decisions for the Pine Forest denizens. She consciously considered her biases in favor of winged creatures and strove to overcome them. She also consciously recognized that, unlike her, some creatures preferred light to darkness and she tried to set that prejudice aside. Nevertheless, the Magpies who wrote the Forest Glen Gazette and hosted its webpage were convinced that Owl was always affected by her own heritage and her customs, and that no one in public life could set aside such predilections. As a result, every story the Magpies wrote about Owl’s decisions started with: “Owl, who is a bird of the night, decided [as follows].” The premise helped to sell newspapers and advertising, because many denizens of the Pine Forest were ready to assume that all judicial decisions were pre-ordained by prejudice.
Moral: Those who live their lives based on prejudice assume that others must do so as well.
Excessive use of cell phones, largely due to social media and addictive news alerts, makes it harder to think critically, to practice self-care, and to be creative. My plea to my fellow graduates this semester is this: quit refreshing your phone and start refreshing yourself.
This semester before graduation is a great time to experiment with what exactly these blinking devices mean to you. Did you know that pulling down to refresh a feed has the same addictive effect as playing a slot machine?  You already have an instinctive sense of the impact your phone has on your life. After graduation, you will be on call for work nearly 24/7. Now is the time to better your relationship with your phone.