TWELVE ISSUES LATER AND The Record has hit its midway point for the academic year. The paper began the year with a call to the Harvard Law School community to use the public forum this paper provides; that is, a call for individuals and groups to express themselves on a range of issues and ideas that, while a consensus may not seem likely, a better understanding of one another’s positions can emerge.
Two issues dominated the public forum this past semester. First, the military recruiters on campus two months ago reminded students that the Law School’s non-discrimination policy was not an absolute prohibition, but a qualified statement. The Bush administration’s interpretation of the Solomon Amendment meant the fragile peace that emerged in the late 1990s whereby law schools could remain consistent in banning discrimination on campus while at the same time forwarding military recruiters the names of interested students shattered. The Law School could not resist the federal government’s demands with hundreds of millions of dollars of government money at stake for the University.
But we have seen in this paper a determination to take the fight to the courts. Professors and students from Yale and Penn have filed suit against the federal government. The FAIR lawsuit has faced its first obstacle with the denial of its preliminary injunction request, but the suit continues. In October, HLS faculty members published an open letter in The Record to President Summers urging him “to initiate or join litigation designed to challenge the Solomon Amendment.” Lambda also requested that Pres. Summers file a lawsuit on behalf of the University against the federal government, though Summers ultimately rejected those requests.
In addition to the overshadowing legal arguments over Solomon, there has emerged a discussion about the issue of homosexuality. Some have focused on what they perceive as the sinful nature of that lifestyle. Others have admonished those who unfairly criticize the military for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since it is the President of the United States who makes the policy. Still others have attempted to refute both views. What has hopefully emerged is an understanding of how a diverse student body has come to terms with such a controversial issue.
The second issue that has dominated the semester is Law Review and the gender disparity problem. Like Solomon, this is an issue with its own history – a twenty-year history. The discussion intensified over what, if any, steps the Law Review should take to fix the problem and whether the administration would be better equipped to handle the issue.
The Record itself joined the debate through two editorials, one advocating that the Law Review release its confidential report. That report was later obtained from an anonymous source and published in this paper. What the report showed was that the Law Review had been working on this issue and had seemingly exhausted the different schemes it could adopt to correct the problem. Different sides can disagree over affirmative action in the Law Review and whether it would damage the institution or place a badge of inferiority on women who later get on the Review, but all sides can agree that this is a problem the Law Review has taken seriously and undoubtedly will continue to take seriously until the disparity disappears. They should be commended for that work.
What emerges from these two issues is not so much how they will be resolved. Rather these issues demonstrate the importance of knowing one another’s positions, however much they may frustrate a person, and respecting the person who adopts a particular stance. The Record hopes to continue in its role next year as a forum for sharing ideas and challenging assumptions, while maybe eliciting a laugh or two as well.