’05-’06: The Postgame Wrap

BY CHRIS DRAKE

As we wrap up another school year, and as the book closes on another volume of The Record, I figured it might be a nice time to take a look back. You know, see where we’ve been so we can better figure out where we’re going. As I boil it down, ’05-’06 goes a little something like this…

The 2005-2006 academic year was a turbulent one at HLS that saw a number of challenges conquered and a number of issues surface that remain works in progress. Even the weather was more unpredictable than usual. In all, it’s probably not too far-fetched to say that the year was out of the ordinary. The year began in late August and early September with a mix of tragedy and jubilation. Two grand openings immediately come to mind. In a mid-September ceremony, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice opened its doors, solidifying the school’s commitment to the work that Houston, one of its most distinguished graduates, pioneered. Thanks to tireless renovation efforts over the summer, the remodeled Hemenway gymnasium opened to critical acclaim. Students who avoided the gym during its grungier days now had little excuse to stay away from the revamped, sparkling athletic haven. Nevertheless, the physical modification to the Harvard Law School campus paled in comparison to that of the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina roared ashore on August 29, and by the time she had made her statement, much of coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were in ruins. The devastation left millions displaced in one of the most horrific natural disasters this country has ever seen. The displacement reached HLS with a contingent of students from the region enrolling during the fall semester. Admirably, many HLS students answered the call in a time of great need. Some donated money and supplies to relief efforts. During the following months, and as recently as a few weeks ago, others even made trips to the Gulf Coast to help in any way they could, from gutting houses to providing free legal services to distributing supplies. The saga continues, but the HLS community, and several of its members in particular, showed great heart in their commitment to bringing the region back stronger than ever.

And that was only the beginning.

In October, which turned out to be one of the area’s wettest in recorded history, the world encountered another natural disaster, and students mobilized once again. After a powerful earthquake rocked Pakistan, the need for more rounds of massive aid was again clear. However, even with so much focus on resurrecting the Gulf Coast, students managed to donate their time, money, and energy for another cause. The work continues in Pakistan as well, but HLS laudably contributed again to the care of humanity, this time literally halfway around the world.

The school lost a number of its family this past year, some of whom had been part of the community for decades. Former Dean of Students Suzanne Richardson passed away in June of 2005. Six months later, Professor David Westfall passed on, and then Professor Arthur von Mehren left us in January of this year. More recently, 2L Shirin Shakir perished in a rafting accident in Peru over Spring Break. They will all be sorely missed, but their valuable contributions to HLS will continue to enrich the community, just as they did when they were here.

The shakeup down Mass Ave reached its breaking point on February 21, when Lawrence Summers announced his resignation as Harvard’s President, effective at the end of June. His five-year tenure, the shortest of any Harvard President in well over 100 years, was marked by vision and innovation and marred by controversy, including several well-publicized clashes with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. While Summers has certainly left his mark on Harvard as a whole, his departure punctuates a time of transition for the entire University. Changes might be afoot for HLS due to the administrative turnover, but that will be a mystery carrying over into the months and years ahead.

The annual parody went on as scheduled this year, but it incited a student uproar with strong feelings on both sides. Despite the controversy itself, many hope to sustain the discussion and interaction it triggered in fostering broader dialogue about how to address complex and emotional issues. The aftermath of the show reflects a desire to turn what was an unfortunate and negative experience for some into a positive experience for all.

On a lighter note, the school continued to provide extraordinary opportunities to students and faculty. The faculty strengthened in a number of key areas, with several professors receiving tenure and many providing fresh perspectives and cutting-edge scholarship as visiting professors. Students won awards for their scholarship and their service. They worked on projects literally all over the world, and they helped to expand the scope of projects conducted from the Cambridge base. In sum, HLS students took advantage of opportunities to develop their skills in order to serve everyone from their families to their clients to the world at large.

One of the more pleasant surprises of ’05-’06 had to have been the weather. Sure, there were some rainy and gray stretches and a couple of nasty snowstorms. The age-old adage continued to ring true: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes and it’ll change.” But global warming might have treated the Greater Boston area to greater climatic comfort this time around. Both the fall and the winter were considerably warmer than average, probably a welcome change after three straight rough winters in New England. And last week, just before the adage kicked in again, the area was treated to a few glorious spring days. Even after a year filled with trials and tribulations and moments both draining and uplifting, it was hard not to smile as the warmth brought out so many inner children.

So, as we close out another school year, we can count it as one where HLS was tested repeatedly and rose to the challenge on all levels. The path is set for good times to come. Luckily, at 189 years and counting, this place doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Chris Drake, 2L, is from San Francisco and is proud to bring the West Coast flava to the Eastern Seaboard.

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