Dean Kagan strikes again! In announcing that the Hemenway Gym will be renovated this summer, Dean Elena Kagan has once again demonstrated the same decisive leadership that she showed in quickly renovating the Harkness Commons upon first being appointed Dean of the law school. Dean Kagan is to be applauded for choosing to quickly tackle both renovations, both in the sense of taking on these tasks early into her tenure as Dean, and quickly in the sense of fast-tracking both projects as summer-long projects.
Also worthy of note is the degree to which students were involved in the whole process. From a survey of the entire student body, to an open student meeting, to the appointment of a student group during the design phase, the degree of student input into the Hemenway renovation should serve as a model for future law school decisions. It is evident from the practical changes being made to the gym that student concerns were foremost on the minds of the design team. The inclusion of handicap access also follows the addition of an elevator to the Hark, making Harvard Law School a more accessible place for physically handicapped individuals.
It is often the case that schools will engage in massive fundraising while students remain in the dark as to where all the money is going. Here at HLS, the renovations of the Hark and Hemenway clearly demonstrate where our money is going. Despite being locked in by historic landmark standards, the Hark renovations exceeded expectations and it is likely the Hemenway renovations will do the same.
Having a near billion dollar endowment at her disposal, Dean Kagan is using the money HLS has to make HLS look…well, look like a school that has a near billion dollar endowment. The old Hark evoked images of an impverished law school stuck due to budget shortages with old, decaying buildings. The new Hark summons up feelings of being at a modern, wealthy, law school. Hopefully, the renovated Hemenway Gym will similarly evoke feelings of being at a modern gym.
After Hemenway comes the creation of a new student center, a process that has already begun soliciting student input despite its lengthier timeline. If the same process of consultation and speed is followed there, Dean Kagan will have established quite a legacy during her short time at HLS as the Dean who modernized the law school.
Now if only Dean Kagan would do something about those Gropious dorms…