RECORD Editorial: Nixing sports and entertainment journal a poor decision

BY

The students on the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law saw one of their greatest goals crushed recently by the administration when the Journals Committee rejected the group’s application to become the Law School’s newest journal.

The Law School currently hosts journals encompassing a variety of perspectives, including the Journal on Public Policy, the Women’s Law Journal, the Environmental Law Review, the Journal on Negotiation, the International Law Journal, the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and the Journal of Law and Technology. One would hope that (aside from the scads of resume padders stocking their ranks) students who spend a great deal of their time editing, subciting and making content decisions for these journals do so because they hope to be part of a larger legal community dedicated to the field of law in question. As HLS students, they are uniquely positioned to one day have an impact on their chosen fields, and their road to making a difference starts here.

Like many HLS student groups, the Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law has been an extremely active presence on campus. The group has hosted a variety of industry-related panels. It created its own clinical program, the Recording Artists’ Project, which not only allows students to help real clients with real problems, but also can help them earn classroom credit. It has recruited a large and active membership, and many of its members have gone on to careers in the entertainment industry. Along with the student group’s activities, Professor Paul Weiler’s Entertainment, Media and the Law class continues to be a popular choice for students hoping to learn more about the field.

Yet the Journals Committee, and by extension the entire HLS administration, does not seem to think that these activities are important. Amid Committee Chair Professor Terry Martin’s various comments to The RECORD last week was at least one good shred of truth: The administration would be and has been willing to consider a number of new journal ideas, he said, but “Specialty journals don’t offer the same appeal.”

Explaining how exactly sports and entertainment is more of a “specialty” than negotiation, environmental law, technology or even international law would be a difficult semantic stretch even for most lawyers. Indeed, the study and practice of law is virtually defined by specialization. Prof. Weiler, one suspects, would likely take issue with Martin’s dismissal of a “specialty” to which he has dedicated his entire career.

The Committee’s other excuse — that there is a lack of space and full-time staff to support another journal, does not seem to hold water. Would-be Journal on Sports and Entertainment Law Editor Marina Bonnani already has made clear that the JSEL was not asking for additional resources, planning instead to utilize the independent, privately-funded model used by JOLT. Given the fact that entertainment law is a lucrative practice, it seems likely that JSEL could have supported itself easily with private funding. And, it should have at least been allowed to try.

The Journals Committee told The RECORD that there is a “responsibility to see that the journals published at the Law School reflect well on Harvard.” Based on this statement, it would appear that the Committee does not believe CSEL’s other administration-sanctioned activities — including running its own clinical program for credit and having entire courses devoted to both entertainment law and sports law — are “reflecting well” on HLS. If this is the case, HLS should presumably reconsider its support of those activities as well.

It is true that entertainment law is not generally thought of as an altruistic practice. As a new field of study, perhaps it as yet lacks the intellectual gravitas of more established fields. But unlike HLS, other top law schools have decided to lead the way and offer their own entertainment law journals. HLS has a talented, enthusiastic and thus far successful group of students here who want to do the same, without help. Surely, these students could help HLS be a leader in yet another field. It is a shame that they and the JSEL are being denied the chance to make the attempt.

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