BY HUGO TORRES
Prior to University President Lawrence Summers’ town hall meeting Tuesday, nearly a hundred students gathered on the cold, windy steps of Austin Hall to rally in support of greater student participation in the search for a new dean of Harvard Law School. The rally was organized and led by Diversity in Education: Action Now! (D.E.A.N.!), a coalition of BLSA, SALSA, LAMBDA and La Alianza members.
During the rally, various student representatives aired their views to a receptive audience. For example, La Alianza members 3L Armanado Rosquete and 1L Joe Rodriguez spoke of the need for greater awareness of Latino issues in faculty and student representation.
“We want the school to have a permanent Latino faculty member,” said Rosquete, urging that the new dean take into account the lack of any tenured Latino faculty at the Law School.
Rodriguez, who followed Rosquete, addressed the problems minority students face in even getting to Harvard Law. “I can’t say there is equal opportunity for all students. This is a systemic problem,” he said, calling for greater outreach efforts to be made to underrepresented minorities.
Other students spoke of personal experiences in which they directly encountered a lack of awareness of racial issues. Three-L Sharmila Murthy, a SALSA member, recounted a story of an interview with a firm where she was stereotyped due to her appearance. “Are you a citizen?” asked the interviewer, to which Murthy replied, “Yes, from New York.”
“Well, you don’t look like a New Yorker.” Murthy said she went on to express uncertainty as to what exactly New Yorkers are supposed to look like.
Throughout the event, D.E.A.N! members circulated a petition calling for Harvard University President Lawrence Summers to “ensure selection of a dean responsive to challenges posed by affirmative action’s uncertain legal status,” and to “increase student participation in the administration’s decision-making process.” D.E.A.N! members also gave out ribbons for those wishing to visibly show their support for the goals of the rally and petition.
The shadow of last year’s incidents of racial insensitivity at the law school loomed over the rally. Two-L Yohannes Tsehai, a BLSA member, recounted the series of events that roiled the campus last year. He urged the audience to recognize that calls for change were not coming from a specific group or asking for special preferences. “It’s not coming only from students of a particular background. It’s coming from students of diverse backgrounds.”