Letters: Sexism at the Law Review and HLS’ corporate bias

BY

Law Review should assume enviornment is sexist

I commend Greg Lipper on his self-critical piece on the Law Review’s procedures.

Sometimes discrimination is so normal, it becomes indescribable. In court, one theory to prove a discriminatory environment requires proof of critical moments of discrimination. In climatic terms, a five-minute downpour proves it is humid. Another legal theory turns on evidence that people acted on their knowledge of the environment. That is, the umbrellas carried in case of rain prove it is humid.

Why can we not claim simply that it is humid? Maybe we lack the language or vision to characterize environments. Indeed, legal claims present isolated, arrested controversies. However, the injury of discrimination may not be caused by critical moments (e.g. posting an outline with degrading language). I do not mean to say those moments are not injurious, but I do not consider them the essential cause of injury. The injury of discrimination may be felt daily, caused by the way we speak, think, look at each other, dress, laugh.

Duncan Kennedy writes, “You will pick up mannerisms, ways of speaking, gestures, which would be ‘neutral’ if they were not emblematic of membership in the white middle class male universe of the bar.” Seen separately, these gestures are meaningless; seen collectively, in the context of the history of law and of our Law School — seen as an environment — these gestures become highly suspect.

Perhaps we might at least make presumptions about the environment, until we can see in the aggregate and articulate harms that arise, not out of one controversy, but from the history, the patterns, the environment. For instance, the Law Review might begin from the presumption that its environment is sexist, and then ask, “How do we make this untrue?” Indeed, we know Harvard Law was a sexist environment in 1915, when President Lowell feared the “injurious” effect of educating women with the men of HLS. And we have heard about more recent examples of the Law Review’s sexist environment, including the 1992 scandal surrounding the parody of work by Mary Jo Frug. Why should we assume the environment has changed? Prove it.

— D. Hara Sherman, 3L

HLS is pro-corporate law

Adam White’s column lamenting the lack of support for corporate law at Harvard was very amusing. Saying that “HLS does take steps to promote corporate law” (with the implication that these steps are few and far between, unless I misread him) is like saying that President Bush has made a few desultory comments about the benefits of attacking Iraq.

White must be aware of the vast differential in the annual budgets of the career services office and OPIA, for example. And surely he doesn’t think that fly-out week was created so that NGOs could pay for Harvard Law students to fly to London for interviews and expensive dinners?

But what about White’s claim that HLS doesn’t actively remind students of “the importance of corporate legal expertise?” First, Harvard has one of the strongest corporate law faculties in the country, and the Dean of the Law School is a prominent corporate law scholar whose address to the incoming class was on the importance of corporate responsibility. If it’s a matter of comparison between corporate law offerings and public law offerings, then I’m guessing that White hasn’t taken a look at the course catalog lately: private/financial law courses significantly outnumber public law courses. In fact, Harvard is particularly weak in its public international law course offerings: What it has on offer is often first-rate, but there’s precious little to choose from. White specifically laments the lack of a journal devoted to corporate law, but a number of Harvard’s law journals, including the International Law Journal and the Law Review, all regularly publish on corporate law issues and private law issues more generally. And I think he can look forward to an avalanche of articles addressing the need for corporate reform in the wake of Enron, Tyco, WorldCom and the rest.

White wrings his hands over the fate of corporate law at HLS, but he should stop worrying and learn to love the small but growing public interest sector here at the law school. I can assure him that corporate law at Harvard is alive and well, and that the administration, though he doubts it, is staunchly behind training in corporate law.

What OPIA, clinical program opportunities including Legal Aid, and other extra-curricular programs do is serve to remind Harvard Law students that there are other opportunities out there. These programs are a key part of the Law School, and all are both worthy of and in need of greater support from the law school administration. None of them deserve White’s derisive commentary.

— Tom Kellogg, 3L

Comments