BY ERIN ARCHERD
Last Wednesday, the Law School’s Administrative Board (the Ad Board) dismissed charges against a group of 14 LLMs, at least some of whom served alcohol from their native countries at February’s International Party.
Dean Cosgrove has written a letter clarifying the reasoning behind HLS’s alcohol policy. It appears in this issue of the Record. She was not able to speak about the specific case of the LLMs charged, but did stress that the only time the administration involves itself in student alcohol consumption “is when your are drinking at school on our liquor license, or with Law School money.”
Although neither the Ad Board nor the students involved are at liberty to speak about what happened during last Wednesday’s hearing and the exact reasons why the charges were dropped, based on 2007’s International Party and mixed messages as to how the alcohol policy was enforced, there was legitimate confusion among the LLM students as to whether or not they could serve native alcohol at the party. A petition circulated among the LLM class said, “Based on information provided by current JDs, SJDs, former LLM students, and by a member of the Graduate Program Curtis Morrow, we believed that this was consistent with a long tradition of International Parties held at the Law School.”
The annual International Party is organized by the LLMs and features tables of food and drink from a wide range of countries in addition to native costumes and performances. According to the “Help Support Your Fellow LLMs” group started on Facebook, tables which were charged included Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, the Mediterranean Alliance, and the Slavic Alliance. Each table is only given an $80 budget, but students spend out of pocket to improve their table’s offerings.
Livia Franca, one of the students charged with violating the school’s alcohol policy, described the environment as “like a fair” and emphasized that tables were serving small samples for people to taste, not trying to get people drunk. Her table representing Brazil, for example, had caipirinha, a cocktail make from cachaça (similar to rum), sugar, and lime. Several, though not all, tables had their alcohol confiscated by Sodexho, but students were surprised to be called into the Dean of Students Office (DOS) the following week.
“On Monday, some LLMs were called to the Dean of Students and told that the party served large amounts of alcohol and we were at risk of disciplinary actions,” said Franca, “We thought it was like every other year.”
Franca stressed that while her feelings reflected those of many LLMs, it was a diverse group of students involved and any opinions she gave the Record were her own.
The students proposed a settlement that they would ensure that next year’s LLM were aware of the alcohol policy, and continued to negotiate with DOS office over the following weeks. The week before Spring Break, some of them were told that they would be facing a formal disciplinary hearing. Although expulsion and suspension were ruled out as punishments, students still faced the possibility of a reprimand by the Law School.
Franca, who will be doing human rights work in Angola, explained that most of the students charged were anxious about how a disciplinary ruling against them would affect their futures. The charges came at a time when many LLMs are still seeking jobs.
“It can be bad for your career, like political careers in 20 years, or for people who want to pursue academic careers,” Franca said. “Employers will have a questions about that. Law firms don’t like that kind of behavior.”
The week before the LLMs’ hearing before the Ad Board, the LLM Class Representatives and a group of “Harvard 14” supporters began to circulate petitions to the JD students. The petitions included a disclaimer that “I do not express any disagreement with the actual alcohol policy. I acknowledge that having an efficient clear, well understood alcohol policy is important to the whole HLS community.”
The students had free counsel appointed for them by HLS from the local law firm Salsberg & Schneider, which provides academic discipline counsel to students at several universities, including Harvard, Northeastern, and B.U. Dean Cosgrove said free legal counsel is unique among the Ad Boards of the various schools at the University, but the Law School feels it is important to offer.
Even with counsel, however, the students devoted a great deal of time to clearing their names.
“I saw how they suffered, and missed so many hours of work and had to constantly meet our lawyer,” said Franca. “We exchanged so many emails, reviewing documents, everyone had to comment. People even more involved than me. People were really stressed. For those people, it would be a big deal.”
Dean Cosgrove explained the composition of the Ad Board, which hears any kind of exception to HLS policies, things like dropping above or below the allowable acadmenic credits, medical leave, and disciplinary matters. The nine-member board has six faculty and staff members appointed by Dean Kagan, and three students, one from each JD class. This year’s Ad Board is composed of faculty members Lloyd Weinreb (chair), Bob Bordone, and Harry Martin, staff members Cheryl Burg-Rusk, Leslie Sutton-Smith, and Dean Cosgrove (ex officio); and students Stacey Moore (3L), Doug Tilley (2L), and Chehani Ekaratne (1L). Student members serve for three years.
One of Franca’s concerns about the process was the access the LLMs had to the evidence against them. They did not receive the Sodexho report until 2 days before their hearing, and were receiving evidence up to an hour before the hearing.
Franca felt grateful for the support of almost the entire class, but troubled by the way LLMs are treated at HLS.
“We LLMs have this feeling we’re second class citizens,” said Franca. “Would they do something similar if we were JDs?”
The charges highlight growing dissatisfaction with the divide between the Graduate Program, which oversees the LMMs, and the DOS. Franca said she had not had any bad experiences with the administration, but that her “classmates have so many complaints.”
“I don’t know how the link between the graduate program and the DOS works,” she said. “People aren’t satisfied.”
Franca observed that most of the time the LLMs don’t mix, though she met JD students through her human rights work, the journal Unbound, and Lucie White’s course on Community Action for Social and Economic Rights.
Dean Cosgrove said that the LLM/JD relationship is a challenge for many law schools because LLM tend to come to law school more seasoned in the practice of law and have trouble making friends with both the starry-eyed 1Ls and the 3Ls who already have close-knit social circles. The Law School has been trying to implement programs to help bridge the gap between JDs and LLMs.
“It’s not a Harvard only issue,” Dean Cosgrove explained. “One challenge is we have a larger LLM program. When you’re about 170 people, it’s a robust community on its own…Student organizations might try to have an LLM rep to see if LLMs are attending their events…The Class Marshals do a lot of activities that LLMs are invited to, and the International Law Society has a big sib program. We’ve also done some collaborative orientation, [but] the most successful integration is in the dorms.”
Dean Cosgrove observed that one of the most unfortunate things about the events surrounding the International Party is that it is one of the most successful integrations of JDs and LLMs each year.
While the DOS and the Graduate Program are in touch throughout the year, LLM-only programs are run solely by the Graduate Programs. The DOS does organize larger events that include all students, like Barrister’s Ball or tonight’s dinner with Dean Kagan.
One piece of advice Dean Cosgrove had for JDs who would like to make LLMs feel more included at HLS was to consider the legal expertise many LLMs hold and remember to invite them to panels and other events where they can speak about their legal experience.
After all the turmoil
was resolved, how does Franca feel?
“Really relieved,” she said. “I’ve been sleeping lots.”