Rooting Out Dissent

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In past decades, civil disobedience had been at the core of the Harvard Law School experience. In the 2000s, however, such activism has gone out of style-often belittled as meaningless and transitory, in contrast to the now preferred methodologies of alternative dispute resolution and cost-benefit analysis.

It was refreshing, therefore, that the HLS chapter of Lambda sparked meaningful debate about the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy this week by imploring students to protest their presence on campus. Lambda asked students opposed to the military’s discriminatory policy to sign up for interviews through the Office for Career Services and either ‘come out’ to their interviewer half-way through, or go into the interview and simply say that they wanted to talk the military’s discriminatory policies.

The Record editorial board will leave the politics of this action to our guest columnists on the pages that follow. What we at the Record applaud is the courage to act in the pursuit of one’s heartfelt political goals, and to do so in a non-violent, innovative, and provocative manner. We decry an administration seemingly uncomfortable with the very notion of dissent and the consequences that dissent necessarily produces in any democratic society, including Harvard Law School.

Of course, just as students were beginning to speak up against a discriminatory body, the administration cut their actions short. Mark Weber, Assistant Dean for Career Services, issued an email to students proclaiming OCS’ neutral position on the issue while simultaneously making the following statement, “As a precautionary measure, we will reserve slots on all of the military interview schedules to ensure that students who desire to interview with the military have the opportunity to do so.”

The administration’s response to this action is unfortunate, but surely not surprising given its all-too-familiar refrain of not wanting to ruffle feathers. A neutral position would have been to allow students who want to protest and those who want to interview for a position to have an equal opportunity to get interview slots. Instead, the administration snuffed out dissent for the sake of the mighty American military. Indeed, according to Lambda’s president, Lee Strock ’09, no one signed up to interview with the military recruiters in order to protest Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

One wonders whether the administration would have taken similar steps to protect the interests of a firm known to engage in race or gender discrimination. Indeed, the action of OCS only lends credence to the most cynical belief regarding the administration’s true motive: to suppress political action by its students because it fears the political fallout of a campus engaged with something more critical than the search for employment that pays enough to pad Harvard’s endowment.

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