LETTERS: Questioning free speech and Law Review


Questioning free speech at HLS

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read your article “Undergrads Silenced by College Administrators.” It is sad to see the price students have to pay for “free” speech at Harvard, particularly when the shake-down order comes from the faculty.

Mr. Lamberson writes that “our own school’s commitment to these ideals can be debated.” I don’t think the debate would last long.

Current students may be aware of HLS’ censure of Profs. Rosenberg and Nesson under the guise of “racial sensitivity,” and those with a little institutional memory are aware of HLS’ efforts to impose a “speech code.”

Current students may be less familiar with the efforts by Prof. Nesson and other faculty members to silence Fenno’s rantings. Ad Board charges were filed against me and other editors of The Record five years ago when we refused to identify the student author behind Fenno. Nesson even threatened us with a libel suit! We refused and the charges were quietly dropped.

The year before, Prof. Miller took offense to comments made in a Record article by 1L Section Reps. Apparently, Miller was not happy that his students revealed the fact that he frequently failed to show up for class, often without notice. The day after the article appeared, Miller proceeded to berate these students in his Civil Procedure class under the guise of a “hypothetical” libel suit that a “Civ Pro professor” might bring against two students. It was quite an impressive shake-down by the master of the Socratic Method. Cha-ching!

There are, of course, strong advocates for free speech among the HLS faculty, most notably Prof. Dershowitz; but the free speech witch hunt can easily overrun the Law School, particularly when a faculty member’s fragile ego is bruised. To borrow from William Congreve: Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor Hell a fury like a Professor scorned.

-Rob Friedman ’98

Law Review Needs Stronger Leadership

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed on this page by my former Law Review colleagues. I also wish to note publicly the paucity of leadership on this issue displayed by current Law Review president Daniel Kirschner.

When Kirschner was elected last February, the need for action to address the Law Review’s gender problem was more than manifest, and the gender gap was by far the most common topic of discussion in the nearly ten hours of debate that preceded his election. A few days later, moreover, the five other most sought after positions on the Review’s executive board went to white males. The need for strong leadership to address the Review’s chronic representational issues could not have been more clear.

Kirschner’s initial decision – to remain neutral on the issue of gender affirmative action – was not, in and of itself, a cause for criticism. The issue was and is a divisive one, and his desire to stay above the fray was defensible, if not ideal. But if he was unwilling to display leadership on that particular measure of reform, then it was incumbent upon him to discuss, propose, and implement other steps. Kirschner has failed to do so.

Members of the Law Review, including myself, repeatedly implored Kirschner to act. Each time, Kirschner acknowledged the need for more leadership, and yet continued to do little. No formal discussions were scheduled; no brainstorming sessions initiated; no strategies devised or disclosed. A modest attempt to hold a recruiting event targeted at women was delegated to others to organize, and even the task of forming a committee to investigate solutions other than affirmative action was beyond the capacity of his administration.

I have no doubt that Kirschner’s intentions are good – he really does seem to care. That a caring individual, however, who was elected to address the gender gap has been nearly invisible on the issue further highlights the need for this problem to be addressed by those outside of Gannett House.

-Greg Lipper ’03

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