More Professors Should Be Activists


The wide acclaim given to the standup reformist advocacy and wise interrogations by Professor Elizabeth Warren during this period of chronic abuses by many in the financial industry is a refreshing wind coming from the Harvard Law School to Washington, D.C.

Professor Warren combines rigorous scholarship with a superb sense of needed change and clear ways to communicate those needs to families and individuals around the country. Let’s say that in consumer circles, the recent chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel and now the Treasury Department’s organizer-in-charge of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is a superstar!

Her example (along with some other HLS professors, such as Lawrence Lessig’s launch of Fix Congress First! and Lucian Bebchuk’s work on executive compensation) should stimulate a broader discussion among students about what conditions produce activist professors and how to motivate more of them who are already on the faculty to move their knowledge to actions, possibly with student involvement.

Students of Elizabeth Warren have been directly enriched by her teaching and advocacy. There is a moral imperative to knowing in detail about injustice and making some effort to help put corrective forces in motion.

I propose there be an open forum some day next fall so that students and faculty discuss concrete ways to activate more of the latent talent among the faculty for long overdue changes in our corporatized and bureaucratized legal systems writ large and small. Perhaps such an initiative also will catch on at other law schools once HLS sets an example.

Any interested readers may wish to contact me at info [at]

The 600-year-old Chinese saying that “to know and not to do is not to know” may not apply to the Harvard Law faculty, but it does send a provocative message in this age of gigantic manipulation or violation of the law to serve the interests of raw power.


Ralph Nader

PO Box 19312

Washington D.C., 20036

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