LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

BY

Adam White: a good representative of The Record’s annoying pomposity

I am an editor of the Law Review – go ahead and print that. Despite its efforts, The Record has not made me ashamed of the fact. And print this as well: I find the Record’s pomposity – as best exemplified by Adam White’s diatribe “defending” his character and the accompanying Record editorial (and also by the continually unfunny “The Verdict”) – incredibly annoying. The Record writes that “[i]t is insulting that the student [accusing Adam White of plagiarism] wishes the burden of evidence to rest on the party being accused.” Well, thanks for that insightful and arrogant criminal law review, but I did just fine in that course, thank you.

When we speak of “innocent until proven guilty” and “placing the burden of proof on the accuser,” we normally refer to public accusations that will produce public consequences. Clearly The Record and Adam White ignored the fact that the “accusing” student’s e-mail was addressed specifically to White and, as White admits, explicitly stated that the e-mail was not for “public consumption.” Indeed, it was White’s own decision to publish the e-mail that turned it into a “public accusation.” I thus don’t see the logic of maligning the “accusing” student for not placing the burden of proof on himself before privately conveying his concerns that he had been illegitimately scooped.

Moreover, it is simply absurd for White to characterize not only the “accusing” student, but all Law Review editors, as “self-important.” Indeed, given that the e-mail was meant to be and remain private, White’s unilateral public disclosure of the e-mail makes White the obvious self-important self-promoter. It is transparent that the e-mail was used as another excuse to make inflammatory remarks about the Law Review, something that has become something of a sport at The Record – a sport that, I dare say, has been at the expense of good journalism. Either that, or White’s story was just an excuse to pompously inform the HLS community know that he sometimes (and presumably illegally) enjoys “fine Cuban cigars.”

On a side note, because I know more facts about the scope of “information leaks” than were made public by White and The Record, let me say that I also have my doubts about whether White learned of Hastie through something other than his Amtrak reading. But, alas, I could honestly care less how he came across his story idea. And thanks for your invitation, Mr. White, but I’ll pass on speaking with you “in person.”

While I find The Record’s continued pomposity incredibly annoying, that is not what drove me to write this e-mail. Rather, it was a desire to beg those at The Record to stop worrying so much about zinging Gannett House and start working on their journalism. During my last three months here at HLS, I’d really like to look forward to a school paper that is more informative and educational than The Improper Bostonian.

Aaron Katz, 3L

ADAM WHITE RESPONDS:

Mr. Katz misrepresents my position in at least two crucial ways:

I did not disparage “all Law Review editors.” My criticisms were directed only to those who believed that I was conspiring with other editors to steal an unpublished Review note. Such should be clear to Mr. Katz, given that the second half of my column was written to defend suspected Law Review “co-conspirators.”

Second, whispered attacks on my character were already sufficiently public to warrant my public response. The initial letter to me alluded to discussions with “persons big and small,” with no indication that this was limited to Review editors. Moreover, for the same editors claiming that the Review is a leak-prone operation to claim that their discussions were safe from leaking outside of Gannett House is disingenuos at best.

In Response to “My first-hand look at gay marriage”

Mr. Giovinazzo’s opinion piece warrants response. First, opponents of same-sex marriage do not have to cite specific harms to society in order to prevail. Granting numerous affirmative benefits at considerable cost to society demands we ask what the benefits are. Traditional marriage has been subsidized for many reasons including child bearing and rearing and familial stability. Those proposing a new form of marriage should carry a similar burden of demonstrating the benefits of such a substantial, irreversible social change. They should also explain why their relationships are more deserving than other loving, supporting relationships not given aid by the government via marriage (e.g., an adult caring for an elderly parent) (Glendon, WSJ, 2/25/04). Pointing to opponents’ arguable lack of evidence regarding a new, untried proposition does not meet this burden.

Second, Mr. Giovinazzo mistakenly argues at the individual rather than the macro level. True, a single gay couple’s marriage is unlikely to harm any one heterosexual marriage. But what will happen to the institution of marriage as a whole? While we should not expect conclusive evidence on a relatively new phenomenon, what information does exist suggests caution (Kurtz, Weekly Standard, 2/2/04). Individual experiences, though emotionally compelling for many, including myself, are not informative as to same-sex marriage’s broader impact on society.

Third, I can only assume Mr. Giovinazzo did not really mean to implicate that arguments against same-sex marriage are “supported only by personal animosity.” To the extent true animus is involved, it should be condemned; but both sides of the issue must guard against it.

Fourth, Mr. Giovinazzo astonishingly asks that moral arguments be taken out of the legislative discussion. Proponents of same-sex marriage make moral arguments based on principles like acceptance and fairness. So, what moral arguments are to be disqualified? Often the line is drawn between those with religious origins and those that are based on a secular sense of humanity or justice. I hope Mr. Giovinazzo was not proposing to banish only religious-flavored moral arguments. One need not agree with such arguments, but to silence them truly is to walk over the Constitution.

Zeke Johnson, 2L

Clarifying findings on Women’s Experiences

As the group behind the Study on Women’s Experiences at Harvard Law School, we are happy with the discussion the report has generated. However, we are concerned that some of the findings are being misinterpreted and wanted to try to address some of the main issues.

It is critical to keep our findings on first-year course grades in perspective. It is true that our study found that, on average, women received somewhat lower 1L course grades than men. These gender differences illustrate a problem, but the practical significance of the disparity should not be exaggerated. Women – like men – receive grades along the entire spectrum, from A+ on down. For instance, of the only two summa cum laude recipients during the past seven years, one was female and one was male. Similarly, as seen in the graphs in the appendix to the report, the distributions of course grades for women and men are similar overall. Additionally, gender explains a small percentage of the overall variation of grades. Other factors – ranging from hard work to luck – must explain most of the variation. However, that a student’s gender explains 1L course grades at all – and does so to a statistically significant degree – signals that there are likely problems with the current grading system.

Additionally, the view that the study provides insight into the experiences of female students is both over- and under-inclusive. It is over-inclusive because the study deals with averages only, and should not in any way be viewed as representing all women’s experiences here. Women – just like men – participate in classes, receive grades, choose careers, and are confident along the entire possible spectrum.

Viewing the study as a description of women’s experiences is also under-inclusive. Just as our findings do n
ot represent all women’s experiences, neither do they represent all men’s. And if it is a problem that 43% of 1L women never volunteered a comment during 12 class meetings, then it’s also a problem that 29% of men didn’t.

In this sense, the closing paragraph in Jeremy Blachman’s opinion column is right. The study is not just about gender differences but about broader problems facing many students, both female and male. The gender differences we found demonstrate that there are problems at HLS that need to be addressed.

However, we hope the discussion about how to proceed is done with an appreciation that it is not just women but all students who could benefit from change.

Working Group on Student Experiences

Difficulties apply to all students

Although we appreciate The Record’s concern about the issues raised by the “Study on Women’s Experiences at Harvard Law School,” and certainly echo that concern, we are troubled by several aspects of the editorial “‘Women’s Experience’ Raises Concerns.” The editorial’s focus on gender differences seems to lose sight of the fact that an accurate picture of student experiences here must acknowledge the difficulties that this institution’s structure imposes on all students. In “The Miner’s Canary,” Professors Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres forcefully argue that issues of race serve to expose problems in society that affect everyone. At HLS, gender disparities are similarly signaling larger problems with the structure of HLS that affect all of us.

The editorial also suggests that women consciously choose to allow men to dominate in the classroom, and that it is women’s duty to speak in class to remedy gender differences in participation. If The Record meant to empower women, we congratulate this sentiment. However, these statements might also, regrettably, be construed to mean that gender differences are women’s problem to correct. From our experience, women here may choose not to speak in class for a host of different reasons, but few if any women consciously choose to allow skewed male participation. Moreover, a focus on women’s duty results in the structural aspects of the HLS experience that might be leading to these gender differences to remain largely unquestioned.

As Professor Coquillette noted at the panel last week, women have not been at HLS in sizeable numbers until about 20 years ago. Harvard Law has been actively hostile to women for the vast majority of its history, and it would be absurd to conclude that such hostility would not have continuing effects. Moreover, the curriculum, pedagogical methods, and educational philosophy of this school were created decades ago without women (or any students) in mind. Rather than trying to get women to fit the (perhaps outdated) mold of the Law School, the Law School should be trying to fit the needs of all of its students.

Additionally, it is important to question the definition and measures of success that The Record, and indeed many of us, implicitly apply when we interpret the results of the study. As Dr. Byers noted on the panel last week, a difference is not necessarily a deficit. For example, although active engagement in the classroom undoubtedly contributes to learning, we need to think about how we define this engagement. Speaking frequently in class might actually reduce a student’s learning experience by impeding her ability to listen to and value contributions from her peers. Therefore, it is imperative to question the norms by which we measure difference.

Because gender differences at HLS indicate deeper and broader troubles within this institution, the answer is not as simple as getting women to speak more in class. Rather, the study reveals the need for a transparent dialogue between faculty and students that reexamines the structure of the HLS classroom and broader academic experience. We look forward to facilitating such a discussion.

The Gender Justice Working Coalition

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