RECORD Editorial: Shame, outrage, and the Harken bailout

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Depending on who you ask, Harvard Law School either runs rampant with outrage or apathy. We have seen many bursts of popular activism in recent months, from students’ protest of last year’s racial incidents to the powerful recent rally against “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Students on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict have rallied to their causes, and conservative students continue to bring their own brand of activism to bear through speakers, editorials and organizing.

But some of the same people voicing their outrage against racial and sexual discrimination find time for interviews with law firms who routinely defend corporate clients in despicable cases, such as those of Arthur Andersen and WorldCom.

The latest revelations about Harvard University’s role in bailing out Harken Energy elucidate this conflict all too clearly. Liberals and conservatives alike on this campus are all too ready to oppose whomever they deem to be this week’s “evil-doers.” Yet many of these students — and apparently, their University — support corporations whose crimes, whose absolute moral culpability, cannot be debated. Harvard professors and administrators inveigh against the Bush administration even as the University has, apparently, contributed to the President and his friends’ failing corporate enterprises, at great financial cost.

If the HarvardWatch allegations are true — and nobody in the administration will deny them — then students must demand that Harvard University make drastic, radical and immediate changes to its mode of governance.

We are students at this University, yet this scandal shows all too clearly how powerless we are to affect the way it operates. The institution we are all so eager to put front-and-center on our resumes, it turns out, has apparently now made us complicit in something bigger and not necessarily benevolent.

Whether HarvardWatch’s allegations are true or not, the administration is clearly guilty of stonewalling its students. Not a single University administrator has fully explained the University’s role in the Harken situation to The RECORD or The Harvard Crimson. The University either has something to hide, or it is exercising a revolting degree of arrogance that any living person affiliated with this supposedly “liberal” institution should be ashamed of. The administration should be capable of making its case for why more transparency in governance would not be beneficial. If it is not, then transparency should be inevitable.

Although as yet the Law School’s own finances are not directly implicated in HarvardWatch’s allegations (the HLS endowment, as that of all graduate schools, is independent of the University’s), the Law School is hardly removed from the greater goings-on at the University. All HLS representatives and graduates at all levels of the University hierarchy should immediately demand a full explanation of the University’s role in the Harken bailout, including, but not limited to, a basic explanation of why the University apparently made such a financially risky deal with a company that presented numerous conflicts of interest.

As HLS students throw on their pin-striped suits and stride off to Charles Hotel interview rooms, they should think about the firms they are choosing and the clients those firms are willing to work for. They should, at least, ask if they are willing to be part of what appears to have gone on here. We should all ask ourselves if we want our names attached, not only to the name of this University, but potentially to future scandals that may look a lot like this one.

The details of the Harken bailout are far from complete. But if what has appeared to happen did, HLS students, administrators and alumni should lead the way in finding out what happened, and being sure this never happens again.

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