Letters: Advice for the RECORD and “difficult conversations”


‘Difficult conversations’ didn’t seem to happen

This week, the Law School held a workshop entitled “Difficult Conversations,” a revised version of a program conducted in several 1L sections last semester. Advertised around campus and in the Adviser, the workshop was to be dedicated to “focusing on honest and effective ways to discuss race, gender and other important issues that impact the HLS community.” It does not take a genius to recognize that this program was inaugurated in response to recent “incidents” that have taken place in the Law School community.

Attendance at the workshop was purely voluntary, but surely, I thought, turnout would be substantial, given all that I heard last year as an admitted student about the alleged problems on this campus, and the continuing fallout that appears to linger during my current 1L year. I was especially appreciative that the administration, which has been skewered for its supposed failure to respond appropriately to these incidents, was taking steps to address these issues by arranging for the workshop to be offered.

Dropping by the workshop at its scheduled time, then, and expecting a large turnout of concerned and interested students, imagine my surprise when I counted a grand total of 16 individuals who showed up. Moreover, six of these individuals were clearly not HLS students but faculty, staff or other members of the Harvard or Cambridge community (and this is a conservative estimate).

For all the purported student uproar regarding matters of diversity and dialogue in the law school community and the administration’s supposedly inadequate response thereto, I thus find it peculiar that out of 1,800 Harvard Law students, a grand total of ten attended a workshop specifically instituted by the administration as an attempt to begin addressing these student concerns. I find it especially ironic that this absurdly meager turnout occurred fewer than 24 hours following a rally sponsored by a group backing these very issues and after several days of petition-signing supporting diversity and lambasting supposed administration inattention to such concerns. I wonder as well if any of the individuals who attended the rally or signed the petition actually attended the workshop in an effort to forge progress toward mutually desired goals. This did not appear to be the case.

To be sure, academic or other conflicts may have prevented some students from attending the workshop. But the near-absence of attendees indicates strongly that Harvard Law students would much rather clamor about supposed administration inattention rather than acknowledge and participate in constructive activities the school has instituted to address the very topics in which students claim to have a significant interest. I can only conclude that it is with good reason the administration seems not to take student concerns seriously. Or perhaps such poor turnout at events specifically designed to address these issues suggests that, beyond the posturing and the postering, the issues are not as substantial as they first appear. Otherwise, where was everybody?

— George Hicks, 1L

Federalists give advice to RECORD

However generous your recent advice to conservative and libertarian students as to how they should approach free speech issues on campus (“Conservatives should shut up about silencing”), it is, I’m afraid, entirely unnecessary. Although one does occasionally hear complaints that conservatives and libertarians are silenced, I myself have never adopted this position, nor do I know very many who have. On the contrary, despite often being in the minority, conservatives and libertarians have typically rejected the conflation of dismissive disagreement with suppression.

That said, I hope you will permit me to offer some advice of my own:

First, remember that the reason that conservatives and libertarians are concerned about free speech is that any restrictions are more likely to chill their speech than anyone else’s.

Second, do not be afraid if conservatives and libertarians “consistently demonstrate themselves to be one of the most organized and powerful groups on campus.” If they have succeeded in influencing campus debate, it is not because of any conspiracy, but because their views reflect those of the emerging moderate, conservative and libertarian majority at HLS.

Finally, consider carefully the sort of education that Harvard Law School is now providing. Leftists may find the Federalist Society nettlesome, but a school that needs a student organization to bring in opposing viewpoints is failing its own students. In the meantime, if Harvard truly wants to provide the best legal education it can, it would try to overcome its institutional obstacles to hiring more pro-free-market, pro-life or pro-limited-government faculty.

— Brian Hooper, 3L