After a weeks-long frenzy of impassioned debate, the Harvard Law School Dean of Students was forced to intervene in a student group’s efforts to pass a rule that would prohibit the participation of some members based on race and sex. The offending student group was none other than Lambda, Harvard Law’s LGBTQ student group. (“Q,” to this author’s dismay, doesn’t mean “quiet.”).
Lambda, a “social and political organization” claiming to play “an active role in the national debate on LGBTQ civil rights,” initiated a firestorm of racist and sexist vitriol when it successfully passed constitutional bylaw B.15, mandating strict racial and gender quotas in the organization’s Executive Board. Specifically, board members of a single race or gender must make up less than 2/3 of the board, regardless of any other diversity criteria or individual merit. If, at the close of Board elections, the quotas were not met, B.15 would invalidate the entire election, and duly elected student representatives would be stripped of their hard-earned titles. When asked what would happen in the event of a failed election, one pro-bylaw Board member said, “I dunno. I guess we would all, you know, come together in solidarity and feel good that we, as a community, just accomplished something. And then some white person would probably have to not be on the board.”
Last Friday, Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove recommended that the Lambda group remove B.15. In response, the Lambda’s Board voted unanimously to halt a public, online poll in which any individual could vote to uphold B.15, replace it with a similar provision, or repeal it altogether. Asked why she had to step in, Dean Cosgrove stated, “Harvard Law School’s non-discrimination policy precludes student organizations from preventing participation based on ethnicity. Sorry kiddos, but DS for effort!” Dean Cosgrove, responding to an influx of emails, quickly sent a follow-up message to the Lambda Board informing students that they had missed the registration deadline to have the course Effort added to their transcripts, so no one would actually be receiving a DS.
Dean Cosgrove’s message was circulated among the voting members of Lambda, which, as it turns out, comprises not only the entire HLS student body, but the entire WORLD. Yes, all of you reading this are members of HLS Lambda. It says so in their Constitution. You might be wondering how, in light of such liberal voter rules, a student group can achieve electoral legitimacy. Several Board members wrote to this author to say “We just don’t want our elections to be like ACS. You know, when people show up who aren’t really involved in the org or the community, but they come anyway on election night? That would be THE WORST. So we removed all restrictions on voting. Pretty smart, huh?”
Some voters in last week’s online vote came forward to comment on what informed their vote. Kinny Sitz, 34, a barista in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said, “Well I saw a post on Facebook saying something like ‘Support diversity at Harvard!’ so I clicked the link and voted for the first one.” On the merits of Proposition 1 versus the other options, Maria admitted, “I didn’t feel like reading it, so I figured, hey, a vote for Prop 1 is a vote for diversity, right?” Bon Jackson, 57, an industrial arts teacher in Buffalo, New York, told the Record, “I heard they were trying to stop women from taking over the gay group at Harvard Law School. Total no-brainer. Everyone knows that shit gets done when the women are in charge. So why do they want to prevent more than 2/3 of the board being women? Repeal baby, repeal.”
In light of Dean Cosgrove’s ethnicity-only justification for removing the bylaw, several pro-bylaw students demanded a new vote permitting a gender quota. Sources indicate that fierce arguments on Facebook and e-mail ensued, with the pro-bylaw camp insisting that Cosgrove’s decision did not include gender, while anti-bylaw folks insisted the opposite (though, come on guys, she didn’t even say the word “gender”–where are you getting this stuff?!). Dean Cosgrove was able to clear up the matter: “Gender? Oh right, gender. Yeah, that too! You can’t discriminate based on ethnicity or gender. Because of the law. And also tokenizing. And shit. Wait, why didn’t anyone just call me to ask? Can I go to Yale now please?”
There are lessons to be learned from this hullabaloo. First and foremost, Harvard Law School is still a sexist and racist institution. Several women and men of color lobbied hard against the bylaw, but an anonymous blog, Socratic Shortcomings, gave all the credit to white men! Tsk tsk, Students for Inclusion. Second, we should seriously question the reasoning abilities of today’s generation of Harvard-educated lawyers. In a survey of approximately 30 student groups at Harvard Law, Lambda was the only organization whose executive board actually did meet the race and gender quotas of the now invalidated policy. Of all the possible vectors for diversity efforts, and of all the possible targets for such efforts, it strikes this author as… queer that Lambda of all organizations would tread down this road in the first place.
To Harvard Law School Lambda, I offer you this message: No T, no shade, but let’s all be friends and try to get along. It’s hard to bitch about Chic Fil A being served on campus when the gays are too busy fighting each other (<3 you all, FedSoc). Stick to what you're good at: advocating on behalf of the unique needs of queer students. Be social! Be political! Sign onto more amicus briefs! Maybe even write one instead of just signing your name and stealing the spotlight! As you have shown time and time again, creating a community of LGBT students and accomplishing meaningful change are your greatest strengths. Author’s note: This piece is satirical. If you haven’t figured that out yet, the sense of humor E&E can be purchased at the Coop for $49.99.