Editor’s Note: This poll was created by Deputy Opinion Editor Nic Mayne ’18; thus, any questions concerning the poll should be directed to him at email@example.com.
A recent Harvard Law Record op-ed questioned if the shield conversation really has two sides. This week, we polled members of the HLS community to find out.
We fashioned the poll questions after the list of “Collective Demands” posted on the Reclaim Harvard Law webpage. The poll required an HLS login and limited everyone to a single response. The Harvard Law Record unfortunately does not have the budget to employ a statistician, but we endeavored to make a reasonably fair poll that would give some insight into where members of the community stand on various Reclaim HLS related issues, and provide a space for members of the community to share their thoughts anonymously. Nonetheless, the poll is, of course, not a scientific one.
We received 517 individual responses. In addition, nearly 100 responses included expanded comments. Some of these comments are highlighted in this article, and all are published below the poll results. We appreciate all of those who took the time to thoughtfully respond and to share their feelings on the shield, Reclaim HLS, Belinda Hall and more.
Do you support the creation of a new official HLS seal?
This question was one of just two that was favored by over 50% of those who responded. 54.6% said that the HLS shield should be replaced with a new official shield. Just 1% wanted to create a new seal, but continue using both. 40.5% opposed creating a new seal, with 31.1% of those in favor of acknowledging the seal’s legacy of slavery, but continuing its use. The other 3.9% of students didn’t agree with any of our suggested responses.
Anonymous comments regarding the shield further highlighted the diversity of views. One student wrote: “I am not a student of color, but agree with the decision to change the seal. What are the arguments against replacing it? Is it that HLS letterhead is too costly to replace? I think a majority of HLS alumni would be hard-pressed to remember what the seal even looks like without the current controversy…” Another wrote: “Even though I’m not certain the seal should not be changed, I think there should be a monument to the Royall slaves on the HLS campus.”
Others recognized the reason many desire change, but disagreed with replacing the current shield. “Regarding the seal, I think it has multiple meanings, but the one related to slavery should be explained and acknowledged, not simply erased. Regarding institutional diversity measures, I think official actions like the ones suggested do more to ossify opinion and indifference than informal dialogues and interactions among classmates in a diverse setting.” Another wrote: “The seal does reflect a legacy of slavery, just like Pound Hall reflects a legacy of vehement anti-semitism. If we replace the seal and attempt to wash away the school’s history, it does nothing but sweep it under the rug.”
These and the many other comments published below reveal there are indeed at least two, perhaps many more, sides to the shield debate. Many students commented on their discomfort sharing views that differ from those of the Reclaim movement with regard to the shield. One student chastised the movement, stating “You have created an environment in which views contrary to your own are not expressed for fear of ostracism from the community. Ultimately it only harms your cause; you are not exposed to views that challenge your own, so you do not develop the skills to defend your ideas.” Another wrote: “From the viewpoint of many students, it feels as though we’re not allowed to disagree for fear of being labeled (racist, intolerant, etc.). The only times that I feel like an outsider here are when I try to engage in a meaningful discussions about the movement, respectfully disagree, and then get shamed for it.” Another claimed: “They shut anyone who has a dissenting view up. People are scared to voice their opinions.” Even those who supported changes had comments like ““I support changing the seal, incorporating marginalized narratives into HLS curriculum, improving financial access to marginalized students, and (especially) increasing the hiring of professors of color as well as female professors. However, I’d like to point out that I believe that the Reclaim movement would benefit from a more inclusive and coherent strategic vision” and “[w]hile I might have supported Reclaim Harvard’s movement, I have felt less inclined to do so as a result of tactics that end up excluding large portions of the student population.” Still others had concerns regarding finances: “I support most of RHLS’s proposals though I think we need to look into their budgetary impact.”
Ultimately, there was a majority of students, though not a large majority, who want the official shield replaced. There was a diversity of views on if, why, and how the shield issue should be handled, and many thoughtful comments from those on each side of the debate are included below the rest of the poll results.
Do you support the establishment of a Critical Race Program?
Though only slightly more than 50% of students wanted a new shield, there was much more division concerning Reclaim Harvard Law’s other propositions. 42% of students supported hiring a Critical Race faculty and allocating funds to establish a program. Another 7.6% said they would support the program if it was possible to utilize current faculty and reallocate funds. 19.5% opposed establishing a program, but supported working Critical Race Theory into existing curriculum. Another 25.4% simply opposed a Critical Race Program outright. Another 5.5% selected “Other.”
The comments were again divided. Many expressed surprise that the administration is just now beginning to consider incorporating Critical Race Theory. One student wrote “The fact that the administration hasn’t come out and said ‘we’re going to start the process of looking for a critical race theorist to give tenure to’ is baffling.” Another wrote, “I absolutely think that Critical Race Theory has a place at this school. It is unacceptable that we do not have a faculty member here who specializes in this.”
On the other side, some expressed confusion at just what a Critical Race Program might encompass. “What is Critical Race Theory?” asked one student. “I honestly just want to know Reclaim Harvard Law’s answers to these questions; I might then agree with them.” Another shared a similar sentiment: “I do not know what a ‘Critical Race Program’ would be. I suspect that ‘marginalized narrative’ does not include the currently marginalized conservative perspective. I do not know what a ‘marginalized student’ is.”
Do you support reforming mandatory HLS curriculum to ensure integration of marginalized narratives?
The most divided answers came on this question regarding mandatory curriculum reform. Just 24.7% of students supported mandatory faculty diversity training and reforming 1L curriculum. Another 6.2% said they would support a mandatory 1L course focused on racial justice issues, if it replaced PSW. Another 24.7% of students said they supported some, but not all, of Reclaim’s proposed curriculum reforms. More students, 37.7%, wanted to keep the mandatory curriculum as is. 6.6% chose other.
Many comments expressed opposition to mandating reforms. “I would support greater sensitivity towards and general inclusion of the role racism has played in leading to current racial inequalities, but not in any of these heavy-handed ‘mandatory’ manners that are being so aggressively suggested” said one student. Another student who largely supported other Reclaim goals expressed some skepticism concerning efficacy: “I am concerned about the possible counterproductive backlash that some of the other efforts might have, such as mandatory diversity training for faculty and required 1L learning. I think this education should be mandatory, but to ensure that it is effective and that it does not engender resentment and breed hostility may be tricky, and I’m not so sure that a required 1L course would do the issue justice…”
Others defended the current curriculum. One student wrote “I believe that the proposals for curriculum change are misguided, regardless of one’s views on the broader points that Reclaim Harvard Law seeks to address. People who are, to various extents, “socially conscious” will be so anyway without the inclusion of mandatory 1L classes to that effect. People who are not interested in using their legal training to address issues of class, race, and so forth will merely find mandatory 1L classes on those areas boring and useless. The curriculum does an excellent job, as is, at developing legal skills and, to use a cliche, helping us to “think like lawyers.” That is something that is useful to everyone.” Some were greatly offended by my PSW suggestion: “…PSW is the most important class in the mandatory curriculum. Getting rid of it (for any reason) would be a monumental mistake.” Others were less hostile to the idea: “I wouldn’t totally replace anything, but it seems like adding racial justice issues into PSW would be easy and useful.”
It should be noted that, though more people opposing this demand took the time to respond (and, thus, have their comments included above), nearly 30 percent did support some version of the demand. Thus, there was considerable support, albeit not a majority, for changing the curriculum in the way Reclaim suggested.
Do you support the establishment of an Office of Diversity & Inclusion?
46.1% of students wanted to create an Office of Diversity & Inclusion and provide support and resources to that office. Another 8.8% said they would like to establish an Office if funds and resources could be reallocated from existing offices. 31.7% would rather support efforts to promote diversity & inclusion through the Dean of Students Office. 11.3% wanted to leave things as is. 2.1% chose “Other.”
Again, some dissenters from Reclaim said that didn’t totally understand the concept. One student wrote “What would an Office of Diversity and Inclusion do? How, specifically, are non-white people not supported at HLS?” while another simply said “I do not know what an Office of Diversity & Inclusion would do.”
On the other side, however, many students support the creation of an Office of Diversity & Inclusion. They question why Harvard Law would even be against such a measure, arguing that it is common sense that all participants in our community should feel included, and that an office of Inclusion would be suited to precisely that goal. “I hope substantive change happens soon,” said one student.
Do you support improving financial access and affordability for marginalized students?
This was the only other question, along with the shield question, that garnered over 50% support for Reclaim Harvard Law’s full proposition. 50.8% of responses were in favor of expanding aid and support for students of color, those from low socio-economic backgrounds and other marginalized groups. Another 32.3% wanted to improve access and affordability for all students, without taking race or socio-economic background into consideration. 8% agreed with leaving financial aid and related support as is. 8.9% had various other responses.
One student advocating for additional support said “I strongly support additional funding for marginalized and low-socioeconomic status students. More financial aid in grant form and less loans!!”
Another student advocated for increased funding for all students, stating “I think financial services should be improved for all students, regardless of race. Some students of color at HLS actually are from really rich backgrounds.”
Still others wanted to address other issues first. One student chided the admissions office: “There should be more of an emphasis on changing admissions. Too many international students in the JD program, instead of real, American diversity of students of color.”
Do you support a sustained commitment to recruitment, retention, promotion and professional development of Staff of Color at HLS?
Reclaim Harvard Law advocates for an annual diversity audit, clear and published hiring targets, training, and mentorship. 49.6% of students polled agreed. Another 23.3% supported the idea, but believe a sufficient commitment to these goals already exists. 22.2% of those polled want the administration to recruit and promote based on merit alone, and not consider race. 4.9% chose “Other.”
A significant number commented on the commitment to recruiting diverse scholars already demonstrated by the administration. One student wrote: “Harvard intensely pushes diversity in a number of areas. To fault them is to pretend that there are world class minority scholars “out there” that Harvard is refusing to hire. This is not the case, since Dean Minnow and others currently court minority scholars aggressively.”
Just as many others, however, wanted specific action. “We don’t have a single tenured Hispanic professor. Let’s work on that…” said one student.
Although slightly less than a majority supported the full position, it’s nonetheless worth noting that nearly 50 percent supported Reclaim’s full position on this issue.
Do you support the implementation of measures to ensure Staff of Color are respected and supported in their work?
Some of those polled had issues with this question, which like other questions was worded closely to Reclaim’s published demands. One student wrote “Who in the world would choose an answer such as “no, do not implement new measures to support Staff of Color.” That student may be surprised to see these results.
48.2% of those polled wanted to establish mandatory cultural competency training. 24.1% wanted cultural competency training, but only if it is optional. Another 19.4% were opposed to implementing new measures to support Staff of Color. 8.2% of students didn’t agree with any of the provided answers.
Do you support the adoption of a Diversity Committee?
Finally, we asked the community if they would like to see a committee established in line with Reclaim Harvard Law’s published proposal. 47.3% said they would. 42.2% opposed establishing a committee. 10.5% selected “Other” with some expressing a lack of understanding regarding what the committee would do, and others expressing reservations about the Reclaim Harvard Law proposal.
Belinda Hall/Fireside Lounge Comments
We received a significant number of comments regarding the occupation of “Belinda Hall” even though none of our poll questions directly deal with that issue.
Some expressed support. “Belinda Hall is amazing” wrote one student. “Belinda Hall is the only place I’ve felt comfortable since coming here. I am disappointed at the lack of cultural spaces here and about the recent e-mail from Dean Sells on the use of this area” said another. A third commenter said “I was very dismayed by Dean Sells’ e-mail to the student body about the use of the WCC lounge. The purported justification, that the sit-in is monopolizing the lounge at the expense of other students, seemed pretextual”
Others sought to distance the occupation of the lounge from the broader goals of Reclaim Harvard Law. “…I think the Belinda Hall people are a minority within a minority. They do not speak for all minorities here, in their accusations but especially in their demands. More committees and administrative offices will solve nothing, and occupying the lounge just frustrates students who are trying to learn.”
And there were many who expressed frustration with the occupation of the lounge. One comment said “I do not support the co-option of the Caspersen Lounge. While this is stated as intending to promote inclusion, the sit-in has in fact taken a neutral space and turned it into one where students just wanting to converse or study feel uncomfortable.” Another student said “I’m very bothered by the continued occupation of the Fireside Lounge. I feel like if any other student group tried to indefinitely use a campus space, that would be stopped. The Fireside Lounge is not one of the rooms any student organization may reserve on the HLS room reservations site, though it has been used for events like the Super Bowl party, reunions and admitted students receptions. I now actively avoid the lounge and go around outside due to being the victim of pervasive harassment by the occupiers when walking through.” That same student recalled a personal interaction, sharing, “Part of the social justice movement includes “call outs,” which is a form of aggressive re-education. If I want stop and be re-educated, I’m called [names.] The re-educators claim to just want you to sit and have a dialogue, but don’t seem to understand that a dialogue, by definition, includes more than one person speaking, not just someone talking at you. When I engage the occupiers and attempt dialogue, I am told that as I am white, my privilege precludes me from the ability to voice an opinion…”
Others couldn’t distinguish the goal of the occupation. “I do not support the takeover of the fireside lounge. I feel that I can no longer use that space due to the furniture being rearranged and monopolized and it is frustrating because I am not sure what the purpose is.” Others called for administrative action: “The administration should remove Reclaim Harvard Law from the Fireside Lounge. I’m not sure if there’s a clearer physical manifestation of entitlement than a group of students sleeping on couches that are meant to be used by all students. This is a silly tactic meant to draw the administration’s attention to ‘problems’ they’re already well aware of at the expense of the rest of the student body… what about my subjective feelings? Shouldn’t administration validate me and take action to ensure that I feel safe? Enough is enough. I demand change.” For some, the occupation affected their feelings on the movement as a whole: “the occupation of the lounge has negatively impacted my perception of the movement and its merit” said one student.
Ultimately, our poll revealed that there are many students on every side of these debates, and many students who are open to more conversations. Below, you’ll find all of the comments from the poll, unaltered and uncensored. The Harvard Law Record fervently defends every student’s right to be heard, and if there is anything you want to say to the community, even anonymously, feel free to reach out to our Opinion team. We do not intend this poll to speak for anyone, but hope that these responses from nearly a third of our community shed light on the diversity of opinion that exists, and encourage students to have meaningful, open-minded conversations regarding these issues. If you have additional questions about this poll, contact Deputy Opinion Editor Nic Mayne ’18.
Full List of Anonymous Responses from the Community
“Regarding the seal, I think it has multiple meanings, but the one related to slavery should be explained and acknowledged, not simply erased. Regarding institutional diversity measures, I think official actions like the ones suggested do more to ossify opinion and indifference than informal dialogues and interactions among classmates in a diverse setting.”
“I love the activism, but not to patronize as a black person, I find it plain ridiculous that changing the seal is symbolic enough to heal often “self-inflicted” feelings of marginalization.”
“Even though I’m not certain the seal should not be changed, I think there should be a monument to the Royall slaves on the HLS campus.”
“Just from speaking with friends and random other people, I do feel like plenty of people oppose changing the shield, but don’t speak out due to concerns of being labeled racist or insensitive. I hope the school/shield committee takes this into consideration when evaluating the discourse and recognize that there is a group of silent individuals who oppose.”
“I am not a student of color, but agree with the decision to change the seal. What are the arguments against replacing it? Is it that HLS letterhead is too costly to replace? I think a majority of HLS alumni would be hard-pressed to remember what the seal even looks like without the current controversy. That said, I would like the WCC lounge to return to its normal use. I worry that the current treatment of the lounge is rapidly turning allies of the Reclaim Harvard Law movement into opponents (as was the case in Occupy Wall Street). The lounge was once a great place to study, but I no longer feel comfortable going there, as I would like to read quietly and not engage in discussions.”
“A) I think the *better* end result is to have CRT taught normally as part of the standard toolkit for analyzing cases. It’s better if it’s everywhere B) I think it’s impossible to force faculty to teach it if they don’t want to C) It may suffice if it’s not everywhere, but it’s in enough mandatory classes that it’s normal.”
“Not sure if a critical race theory class should be required, but I do think that more options should be available for students who want to pursue courses in that area. I definitely think there should be a required, short, online (or in-person) training on respect for diversity and racism in law and legal institutions.”
“Any major changes to the curriculum, the governance of the law school, the availability of scholarships, the law school’s disciplinary processes – especially if they are made with the implicit or explicit goal of favoring one group over another – should not be implemented without public consideration and a public vote by the entire student body.”
“It is not infringing on academic freedom to require faculty to give more context on the cases that they teach, especially in criminal law. That would not even require a fundamental reform of the 1L curriculum, just the addition of new information. By failing to do so, faculty create the false presumption that judges are not at all influenced by human prejudices and other considerations when making their decisions. Classes which have done this well, such as Sitkoff’s Trusts and Estates class, have made much more sense by taking into consideration those factors external to the law which go into a judge’s decision.”
“I think this school owes it to the diverse students it admits to have an explicit role for Diversity/Equity/Inclusion and the Law within the first year curriculum. Right now the school is sitting on its diversity numbers without making a full commitment to ensuring that all entering 1Ls are receiving a clear message from the school about the value of diverse perspectives. HLS is currently failing to make its best faith effort to support its very own mission of “educat[ing] leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society.” Diversity/Equity/Inclusion and the law is not something that students should be able to opt into, at least not in their first year. Anything less would be failing the diverse students who have entrusted the school to be a safe place, and would be failing the entire community who is not ever forced to engage with these pertinent issues.”
“I am hesitant to support additional administrative offices as I believe that increasing the administrative org chart may lead to a siloing of interests within the administration. A more effective strategy may be to push for reform of the internal makeup of existing administrative offices. Ballooning administrative costs are a major contributor to the rising cost of higher education, so hiring additional administrators may also be counterproductive to the goals of an inclusivity movement. Finally, any administrative office funded by the law school will inevitably be incentivized to align themselves with the senior management who write their paychecks. Merely titling an office “the diversity office” will not correct this basic incentive problem.”
“Honestly, I think more transparency about the role of any office or committee would be useful.”
“Diversity and inclusion efforts should be run through DOS or other standard, established law school offices. An Office of Diversity & Inclusion is relevant to ALL students and staff at the university. Creating a new office could lead that office to only serve students who seek them out. Incorporating such an operation within DOS or other established processes sends the message that this is an important issue relevant to ALL students and important enough to be incorporated in the core mission of the school. Regarding a sustained commitment to recruiting and retaining staff of color, I firmly believe that law school professors should be chosen on merit alone. As a student, I want to learn from the best professors, regardless of race or ethnicity. I am confident that there are many potential candidates of color who are among the most qualified and sought-after current and future legal scholars, and a system based purely on merit will give them an equal opportunity to obtain an appointment at elite institutions such as HLS. I would expect a purely merit-based policy to lead to a diverse faculty, as there is diversity among the most qualified candidates for professorships and promotions.”
“I do not know what an Office of Diversity & Inclusion would do. I do not know what a Diversity Committee would do. I do not know what a cultural competency training is. I do not know what a “Critical Race Program” would be. I suspect that “marginalized narrative” does not include the currently marginalized conservative perspective. I do not know what a “marginalized student” is.”
“The rights of students of color or their requests based on their experiences should not be put up for a vote. The views of the community are actually not super relevant here.”
“I strongly support additional funding for marginalized and low-socioeconomic status students. More financial aid in grant form and less loans!! Increase the amount of SPIF funding! On SPIF funding, I hear some students take the funding even when they don’t need it…..they live at their parents’ house so they don’t need to pay rent, or a significant other is proving for them. I hear stories of people who use the SPIF funding to buy new purses or go on vacation. Meanwhile, others like me have to stretch the tiny amount to cover rent for two and a half months, food, and travel.”
“I think financial services should be improved for all students, regardless of race. Some students of color at HLS actually are from really rich backgrounds. I do not like that Reclaim Harvard Law has been so disrespectful to the administration. I think the word “demand” is too disrespectful. I think Reclaim Harvard Law should be cognizant of how hard it is to run a law school and respect the staff that keeps our law school program.”
“There should be more of an emphasis on changing admissions. Too many international students in the JD program, instead of real, American diversity of students of color.”
“Harvard intensely pushes diversity in a number of areas. To fault them is to pretend that there are world class minority scholars “out there” that Harvard is refusing to hire. This is not the case, since Dean Minnow and others currently court minority scholars aggressively.”
“We don’t have a single tenured Hispanic professor. Let’s work on that.”
“HLS is an incredibly diverse and tolerant environment. I’m embarrassed by the protest movement. It’s a group looking for a valid cause and unable to even articulate why it exists. The protesters increasingly show themselves to be rebels without a clue. We’re supposed to be lawyers here … chained to reason, logic, and alternative explanations. This protest demonstrates, if anything, the ineffectiveness of the current legal education model in creating commitment to these core principles. The protestors are intolerant, illiberal, judgmental, and seemingly disinterested in alternative or (gasp) opposing views. They’re dead set on resenting something, and woe betide the fellow “community” member who disagrees … especially if that person happens to be a white male. I came here to study law and rub elbows with the leaders of tomorrow’s America. This is an embarrassment, and beneath this institution.”
“the occupation of the lounge has negatively impacted my perception of the movement and its merit”
“Belinda Hall is amazing”
“The administration should remove Reclaim Harvard Law from the Fireside Lounge. I’m not sure if there’s a clearer physical manifestation of entitlement than a group of students sleeping on couches that are meant to be used by all students. This is a silly tactic meant to draw the administration’s attention to “problems” they’re already well aware of at the expense of the rest of the student body. I also would like to note the hypocrisy of many Reclaim Harvard Law activists. These activists are all about their subjective experience – if they feel offended, even if unjustifiably so, administration should support and validate their feelings. However, many students such as myself feel uncomfortable walking through “Belinda” Hall. I’m sure the activists would argue that we shouldn’t feel uncomfortable because they’re just trying to create a more inclusive space. But what about my subjective feelings? Shouldn’t administration validate me and take action to ensure that I feel safe? Enough is enough. I demand change.”
“I do not support the takeover of the fireside lounge. I feel that I can no longer use that space due to the furniture being rearranged and monopolized and it is frustrating because I am not sure what the purpose is.”
“Belinda Hall is the only place I’ve felt comfortable since coming here. I am disappointed at the lack of cultural spaces here and about the recent e-mail from Dean Sells onthe use of this area. I hope that in the future, HLS really does reflect their vision for justice and diversity in the way they teach students and not just as empty rhetoric. I will unfortunately have to warn other indigenous people that wish to come here that HLS is not a place that encourages diversity in its education nor provides a space for critical indigenous thought. Belinda Hall has however stepped in to do this.”
“I’m very bothered by the continued occupation of the Fireside Lounge. I feel like if any other student group tried to indefinitely use a campus space, that would be stopped. The Fireside Lounge is not one of the rooms any student organization may reserve on the HLS room reservations site, though it has been used for events like the Super Bowl party, reunions and admitted students receptions. I now actively avoid the lounge and go around outside due to being the victim of pervasive harassment by the occupiers when walking through. Part of the social justice movement includes “call outs,” which is a form of aggressive re-education. If I want stop and be re-educated, I’m called “a white cunt.” The re-educators claim to just want you to sit and have a dialogue, but don’t seem to understand that a dialogue, by definition, includes more than one person speaking, not just someone talking at you. When I engage the occupiers and attempt dialogue, I am told that as I am white, my privilege precludes me from the ability to voice an opinion. I am also told that because I am privileged, it is not “wrong” for occupiers to make derogatory remarks such as said “white cunt” reference. This is not dialogue. One of the things that’s struck me since coming to HLS (I’m a 1L) is the ability to engage in good faith dialogue here about difficult issues. In the past I’ve never been able to have frank political discussions with people without it resorting to anger and name-calling. But here I’ve met people who support most every candidate (even the ones since dropped out) and had engaging conversations – all of which likely rely on a good faith presumption. Yet it seems that race is the one area where we seem incapable of extending good faith. An example: In my Crim class this semester we recently talked about the death penalty. I have bad allergies here that manifest in watery eyes and a stuffy nose. We had a case involving an African American male contesting the death penalty due to the egregious discrepancies in conviction and sentencing based on race. After class I was cornered by a group of peers from my section, who accused my allergic, watery eyes of having been me deliberately crying in an attempt to call attention to my white “bitch” self and purposely discredit and insult the students of color in the room. Since the incident it’s been difficult to go to class. No good faith presumption here. I agree with many of Reclaim Harvard Law’s proposals (I was honestly shocked that there was no Diversity Office – I thought everywhere had one!). But these experience the past semester have made me reconsider even coming to Harvard.”
“The DOS needs a clear stated policy on long-term use of HLS facilities (I.e. Wasserstein) for semi-permanent demonstrations.”
“I was very dismayed by Dean Sells’ e-mail to the student body about the use of the WCC lounge. The purported justification – that the sit-in is monopolizing the lounge at the expense of other students – seemed pretextual. There are many other places on campus to study and to hang out, I do not see how the harm of losing one space on campus for a short period of time outweighs the benefit of allowing student activism to flourish on campus, regardless of whether you agree with Reclaim Harvard Law’s proposals. I often find WCC to be a bit sterile for a campus building, and it was heartening to see handmade posters made by students and other markers of active student life in the WCC lounge.”
“I would support greater sensitivity towards and general inclusion of the role racism has played in leading to current racial inequalities, but not in any of these heavy-handed “mandatory” manners that are being so aggressively suggested. I also feel there is a monopoly of the “marginalization” story by certain groups which is counterproductive to real engagement and conversation on these issues.”
“I do not support the cooption of the Caspersen Lounge. While this is stated as intending to promote inclusion, the sit-in has in fact taken a neutral space and turned it into one where students just wanting to converse or study feel uncomfortable.”
“First, I think the Belinda Hall people are a minority within a minority. They do not speak for all minorities here, in their accusations but especially in their demands. More committees and administrative offices will solve nothing, and occupying the lounge just frustrates students who are trying to learn. Second, there should be more diversity in the faculty. It seems ridiculous and hypocritical to me that Harvard justifies its use of affirmative action in student admissions as improving the classroom environment, and yet has 1 Korean-American professor, 2 Chinese-American professors, and essentially half of an Indian-American professor for a student body that is almost 20% Asian.”
“Why do we find it important/necessary to poll students who have no stake in these issues? An office of diversity and inclusion would have no impact on the daily life of a white student; nor would the creation of financial pathways for low-income students influence students from financially-stable backgrounds.”
“I really appreciate the publication of this poll, I think its a good first step. I think also that the high attendance at community meetings last semester show real interest among the student body in addressing diversity and inclusion issues. However, I think participation in the conversation has been disappointing and the student government and administration need to create spaces to have open conversation and debate among groups that disagree with each other.”
“This poll is illegitimate. Issues of justice for minority groups shouldn’t be put to a majority vote.”
“The phrasing of the answers to several of these questions seemed to be biased in favor of certain viewpoints…”
“A lot of the questions and answer options are really basic. Also, it’s surprising that a university would think it’s okay to question issues of race and diversity faced by student and staff, a historical issue that we are all aware of. Yet the dean of students thinks it’s okay to send out an email in support of a few students who, both inside and outside this institution, have never felt marginalized without even questioning it.”
“Some of the questions are phrased in a loaded manner. For these I responded not on how the question was literally phrased, but on what I assumed the question was intended to get at.”
“Learn how to design unbiased polling questions.”
“I find this poll remarkable to the extent there’s any impression it might not be slanted completely in one direction. Had the questions been formulated impartially, it might have lead to meaningful insight. As is, the results are bound to be meaningless.”
“If you only get, say, 60% of the student body voting (and you find a majority in favor of one thing or another), that vote is pretty useless, because that remaining 40% may really not support these things at all. You had better be very clear about what percent of the students your findings represent. It will likely not be enough to tell us what people are thinking – only what people who are activist enough to vote are thinking.”
“This seems like another echo chamber. Who in the world would choose an answer such as “no, do not implement new measures to support Staff of Color.” Also, “Do you support a sustained commitment to recruitment, retention, promotion, and professional development of Staff of Color at HLS?” but one of the answers is about faculty – are you asking about faculty or staff?”
“This survey skews pretty badly towards the Reclaim Harvard Law perspective. Asking “Do you support…” in each question and placing all of Reclaim Harvard’s demands as the first options in the questions biases the respondent towards that perspective. If you’re going for a story with good numbers for the movement, it’s a good survey. If you’re trying to accurately capture the student response to the movement, it’s not very good.”
“Is there any way to monitor (1) whether survey respondents are HLS students or (2) how many responses an individual has submitted? If not, this seems like a worthless endeavor.”
“Allowing students to voice opinions in a simple survey without asking them to justify those opinions with evidence or logic invites and legitimates opinions based purely on discrimination.”
“I would feel warmer towards the Reclaim Harvard Law group if they showed me that they were serious about respecting dissenting viewpoints. I am wary of giving them any power until I know they will not use it to engage in a witch hunt.
I think that one of the reasons why many students aren’t willing to speak publicly is that the cost of speaking is far too high. Anyone who is critical of the protest movement runs the risk of being explicitly or implicitly called a racist (the prime example being the EIC of this very newspaper). We, as a generally risk adverse bunch, aren’t necessarily willing to put our careers on the line. Most of us would rather keep our heads down and hope that someone else would bear the cost. However, if none of us are willing to bear the costs, then perhaps a small vocal minority will be able to dominate the discussion. Perhaps they will create a law school in which honest debate is replaced by an echo-chamber and academic diversity is replaced with recitations of critical legal/gender/race studies stricture. If that does occur, both liberals and conservatives would be worse off. Conservatives wouldn’t have a voice on campus, and liberals would be stuck in an echo chamber fosters intellectual laziness. Ultimately, looking at this as a whole, it seems like perhaps we have a classic collective action problem within the student body.
I love the idea of mandating faculty diversity training, but expect it to go over about as well as a fork in the microwave. I don’t think that’s a request that will actually accomplish the objective of making the faculty teach in a more race-aware way. (or however you want to frame that).”
“Incredibly meaningful and important changes proposed here, whose incorporation truly hurt none and benefit many in important and previously unaddressed ways. – Anonymous white student”
“I support the movement and agree that some changes need to be implemented here in order to better address racism on campus.”
“I support Reclaim, but I hope that it acknowledges the inherent limits of its goals. Creating an inclusive and more comfortable environment for students of color, women, etc is a worthy goal, but the law school is a result of — and contributor to — white supremacist and economic oppression not just within its own halls, but within this country and, consequently, the world. No level of diversity training, no number of staff and students of color will be able to change this fact, because it is in the final instance a result of market imperatives. We supply law firms with a workforce that enables them to support companies that exploit people and the environment in the never-ending pursuit of profits. We send people into a government which bombs hundreds of thousands, locks up millions of poor and POC, and imposes austerity upon all. We can’t send more people into non-governmental “public interest” (I sometimes question the actual good that most nonprofits do) because there are no jobs in the field — because there is no profit to be made. The law school can’t help but reproduce the social relations that Reclaim seeks to change, because without societal change outside these halls, there is nothing else for law students to do. Only with the destruction of capitalism, which necessarily includes challenging white supremacy (among other forms of oppression), can we hope to end all axes of oppression and inequality. And with the end of capitalism, so goes the law school. So the question for student activists is: Reclaim Harvard, or Abolish Harvard? Having attended a few discussions in Belinda Hall, I know some people in the movement are already confronting these contradictions. Maybe there is no way to reconcile them, but I think Reclaim should acknowledge they exist and further ask: Inclusion to do what? Do we just want students to feel more comfortable in a law school that oppresses people worldwide? Maybe that’s the best we can do. I’m not sure, but I hope that Reclaim finds a solution. I think they are on the right path.”
“These movements only serve to highlight differences in the community, not bring us together.”
“I believe that the proposals for curriculum change are misguided, regardless of one’s views on the broader points that Reclaim Harvard Law seeks to address. People who are, to various extents, “socially conscious” will be so anyway without the inclusion of mandatory 1L classes to that effect. People who are not interested in using their legal training to address issues of class, race, and so forth will merely find mandatory 1L classes on those areas boring and useless. The curriculum does an excellent job, as is, at developing legal skills and, to use a cliche, helping us to “think like lawyers.” That is something that is useful to everyone. I would argue that anyone who wants to change the world in a progressive direction would be far better served by learning how to actually do the law than by going to a class that reinforces their already-existing thoughts about what should be done with the law. Furthermore, I will note that the treatment of ALL staff here is pretty disgraceful, and the problems I have observed, as committed by students, cross political and ethnic lines. Anyone who lived in the dorms, and saw the utter disrespect showed for shared spaces, because “the staff will clean it up for us,” knows or should know that this is a problem.”
“Reclaim Harvard seeks to highlight past wrongs, and instead of working towards togetherness, encourages an “us vs them” mentality, blaming current white students for the transgressions of others.”
“I didn’t think I was as in favor of reclaim Hls as this survey has shone me. I originally was semi apathetic to the movement and thought it was a bit overzealous but if these are the specific measures they are seeking then I stand with them.
I came to HLS to have my perspectives challenged. You want yours coddled. Grow the fuck up.”
“You don’t want diversity, you want more people like you. This “Reclaim Harvard Law” sit-in stuff is an insult to those who participated in sit-ins during the civil rights era. They weren’t fighting for “safe spaces” and intellectual coddling, they were fighting for basic human rights that every student at Harvard has equally. Sack up. The administration isn’t even fighting you, you have institutional support — rejecting it as “condescending” doesn’t change the fact that they’re taking concrete steps to address the “problems” you’re identifying. Maybe it isn’t enough, but acknowledge that it’s something. But, hey, this is the product of that institutional tendency toward “diversity” and the kind of people who HLS admits. This survey will show overwhelming support for Reclaim Harvard Law, and that’s disappointing.
A movement that aims to teach that law is power might find it difficult to give a reason as to why others should not exercise power as they fit. Law as reason, however, might afford resources for the protection of minorities of all kinds. One should not confuse skepticism about the Reclaim Harvard Law movement for skepticism about the importance of fighting injustice.”
“It appears that the shield process and other processes are strongly biased in favor of Reclaim Harvard Law’s efforts. The committee is heavily stacked in favor of changing the shield. And social pressures such as Socratic Shortcomings act to shame dissenting views. Frankly, it is just not worth expending one’s social capital to oppose Reclaim Harvard Law’s efforts at any serious level. I’m also unsure about some of the premises underlying these questions and Reclaim HLS’s concerns. For example, how have staff of color been disrespected and unsupported? How are historically marginalized groups at any more of an economic disadvantage than middle class students taking out the same amounts of loans? We have the exact same career opportunities at graduation. How has the administration not responded properly? They have moved the whole weight of the law school behind the shield movement. Indeed, Reclaim’s concerns are presented as irrefutable assertions of fact. When combined with the Socratic Shortcomings-esque rule that any challenge to someone’s own experience is unacceptable, reasonable discussion and opposition is impossible. For evidence of this, one need only review the response to Randall Kennedy’s NYTimes editorial that contradicted the party line. Specifically, Reclaim HLS activists recommended you not read his opinion piece and instead read pieces outlining his “strange career.” Finally, I question any recommendation that more bureaucracy is the answer. The Dean of Students office is the perfect vehicle for these programs. And such an expansion of bureaucracy is at odds with their own goal to significantly reduce tuition and fees. Tuition and fees in higher ed have exploded, in large part, due to the unsustainable growth of administration. HLS needs to cut, not grow, its administration. There is no reason these concerns cannot be better defined in existing offices and positions.”
“You have created an environment in which views contrary to your own are not expressed for fear of ostracism from the community. Ultimately it only harms your cause – you are not exposed to views that challenge your own, so you do not develop the skills to defend your ideas. Your ideological opponents are exposed to your arguments every moment they are at HLS outside of Fed Sox, and they are able to sharpen their skills through practice. I beg of you – encourage a culture of open, respectful debate. You will only benefit.”
“As noted in my responses, I support much of the substance of the aims of Reclaim Harvard Law. I do have a serious concern about the way that the movement–and it’s hard to say what is caused by those formally involved and what is done by individuals–has created a surveillance state at HLS. There have been some articles that have made me uncomfortable because of the tendency of students to report on private conversations in a public (and permanent!) Internet forum. This is obviously predated by the problems inherent in Socratic Shortcomings. The easiest example is the article written by Bianca Tylek about whether there are “two sides” to the shield issue. If every conversation you try to have about a topic is liable to be reported online (and even when they’re anonymized, they’re not really anonymized), then that DOES create a silencing effect, especially when the reporting is one-sided and, frankly, often inaccurate. Liberals have been loathe to admit that this is true, but it’s a really prominent side effect of the style of advocacy Reclaim (and associated individuals and groups) has engaged in at times. The result is a feeling that if you misspeak, even making a good faith mistake or literally just saying something not very eloquently, you get reported to the online thought police, which memorializes that forever; an uncomfortable moment becomes an uncomfortable monument to your sins. My second concern is with the huge emphasis on cultural competency training. Reclaim seems to put this forward as a solution in lots of different areas. I have seen these kinds of programs put forth on unwilling or unenthusiastic participants, and it either engenders derision or solidifies opposition. I agree that many people need to LEARN the content that would be presented in these trainings, but the trainings themselves seem to be self-defeating without active/willing participation, especially if they’re perceived as being imposed by student activists. If I could choose how to prioritize, I would put cultural competency training last (or not at all), while really prioritizing affordability, faculty ideological diversity, some sort of revision of the 1L curriculum (perhaps through reading group-esque seminars that are small enough to make people comfortable discussing these issues; huge classrooms are not an ideal place to talk about them), and taking down the seal.”
“Reclaim is an unauthorized occupation of public space that forces students to either side with a rude, exaggerating, dishonest and slur-hurling group or be labeled “white supremacist.” It is unacceptable that the administration has allowed this group to inflict psychological harm on the community–both for those who have been hurt from accusations and for minorities who at every turn are faced with the message that they are not welcome or worthy. As a minority at this school, I object to Reclaim’s tactics and constant misstatement of the administration’s actions and goals. Reclaim has made this school an unhealthy environment for minorities and the majority alike. I object to Reclaim’s assertion that there is only one side in this debate. I object to Reclaim’s denigration of faculty and administration. And I object to the continued use of school resources to fund the bougiest “occupation” in history.”
“Reclaim HLS is a disgrace. Professional protestors. Sadly the political climate is such that this movement cannot be called what it is without baseless and prohibitively damaging accusations of racism. Liberals need to grow a backbone.”
“I feel like they want to tell me I’m racist because I don’t agree with them on everything. Or even because I want to think about what they’re saying before I agree with it. That’s not expanding my viewpoint, it’s shrinking it.
Reclaim Harvard Law is doing important work, and I largely support them, but some of their tactics are alienating many people who would otherwise be supportive. The “policing” of the sticky-note wall is one example.”
“Keep up the great work~”
“We need movements like Reclaim to give marginalized students a voice on this campus. I fully support the movement and everything they stand for, and I thank those who have taken the time to organize it!”
“You guys are doing awesome work.”
“1) I absolutely think that Critical Race Theory has a place at this school. It is unacceptable that we do not have a faculty member here who specializes in this. However, I am concerned about the possible counterproductive backlash that some of the other efforts might have, such as mandatory diversity training for faculty and required 1L learning. I think this education should be mandatory, but to ensure that it is effective and that it does not engender resentment and breed hostility may be tricky, and I’m not so sure that a required 1L course would do the issue justice. 2) Study after study has shown that admission of people of color is not enough to guarantee their success, and that diverse populations are not necessarily inclusive ones. There is no reason that an institution with as much money as Harvard Law School does not have an Office of Diversity & Inclusion already, separate from any existing offices, to ensure the school is meeting the standards it sets for itself. If the administration is so confident that the law school already does this well, I fail to understand why it seems so hostile to this idea. 3) Students of color and students from other marginalized backgrounds are speaking up about their experiences at this institution. Even if someone doesn’t agree with their proposals, there is no excuse for not listening to their narratives. There is no reason to not attempt to change and improve this institution, and it’s quite clear that the vast majority of the students who are against these changes are the ones who benefit from the institution remaining as it is. 4) The idea that a person’s “merit” is separate/separable from their background and identity is absolutely bogus. Merit depends on context, and race or other facets of a person’s identity can be critical to understanding context. Furthermore, it is frustrating to see large swaths of people continue to act as if things like faculty appointments and promotions are rewards rather than opportunities Merit entitles you to rewards, sure. But no one is entitled to opportunity, and the people who are in charge of granting opportunities to others would do well to see and recognize potential in all forms beyond what they’ve been taught to call “merit.” Beyond this, in things where building community is key, like at an academic institution, “diversity for diversity’s sake” is a defensible goal in and of itself. Communities and teams rarely benefit from having one type of person. Instead, they are shown to do better when there is true diversity of perspectives and backgrounds and a willingness to engage with and understand those perspectives. Diversity on the faculty and diversity and inclusion in the student body do not need any more justification than that.”
“I agree with what the Reclaim Harvard movement is trying to accomplish, but I don’t agree with many of the procedures. There’s a fine line between including staff/students of color and being so forcefully inclusive that it becomes a form of separation. Overall, as a conservative female student of color, I feel that this movement is more divisive than unifying most of the time based on the tactics chosen by the movement. From the viewpoint of many students, it feels as though we’re not allowed to disagree for fear of being labeled (racist, intolerant, etc.). The only times that I feel like an outsider here are when I try to engage in a meaningful discussions about the movement, respectfully disagree, and then get shamed for it. Also, comments like “acknowledge your privilege” are not conducive to getting people to accept your point of view. It feels like bullying. I don’t want to speak for others, but I will say that I’ve heard the same thing from a large number of students. I don’t really feel as though there’s a genuine effort by the majority of students/the movement to truly understand and be accepting of alternative points of view here at Harvard. I do appreciate that y’all have put out this form though. I don’t mean to sound angry because I really do, in my every day life, actively try to be an inclusive person. As I said before, I believe in the effort, just not the process that has been chosen. But I applaud y’all for being courageous enough to work towards making Harvard a better place.”
“This is all gobbldegook intended to impose a new thought police over HLS.”
“I believe the administration was adequately addressing race and diversity before Reclaim Harvard Law came onto the scene, and I believe it has been more than generous in it’s response to Reclaim Harvard Law. I believe the seal is inconsequential. I don’t want to be forced to take cultural sensitivity or critical race classes, though I don’t oppose their optional implementation. I believe the school suffers financial access problems that are not specific to people of color and there is room for improvement for all students. Furthermore, there is a stigma to publicly expressing anything other than full support of Reclaim Harvard Law and its mission. As a result, people will share privately rather than risk facing the social repercussions. Reasonable minds can disagree on many of these points, but it feels like there is little room to do so without facing shaming, name calling, etc.”
“More financial, administrative, and counseling support for public interest students.”
“I’m really inspired by all of the work that the Reclaim students have been putting into bringing positive changes to this school. I wish more students would take responsibility for what goes on in this institution. I also find it interesting that the opposition to the movement has only criticized the tactics of the movements and “feeling silenced” when the movement has been so inviting to everyone and has opened up conversations that would not otherwise exist. I haven’t heard a compelling argument from the opposition on the substance. Until I hear one, I support the Reclaim movement because it’s actually making us more of a justice school and has offered solutions with careful analysis of why there is a problem here.”
“I support the idea of making HLS and its curriculum more diverse and inclusive, but I have serious reservations about the tactics that have been used by the Reclaim group thus far. The seal does reflect a legacy of slavery, just like Pound Hall reflects a legacy of vehement anti-semitism. If we replace the seal and attempt to wash away the school’s history, it does nothing but sweep it under the rug. Also, I question the extent to which critical race theory should be given priority over other issues of diversity and inclusion, like LGBT issues. If we hire a critical race theorist to the faculty, will there also be a push to hire someone whose focus is LGBT issues? These demands are a curious combination of radical and conservative, don’t make sense as a cohesive goal, and certainly don’t make sense as short term objectives that necessitate an occupation. Additionally, though it is not mentioned in this survey, I take issue with the ongoing occupation of the fireside lounge. It is billed as an open place for community, but many students feel that the primary place for student life in WCC is now only open to students who want to talk about race issues in the hyper-specific way dictated by a handful of Reclaim members. Some people want to use that area to study or simply eat their lunch in peace, and that should be okay. There are close to 1800 students at this school, and a few dozen students’ priorities are being forced on the entire student body. Many people here are working on issues of vital importance – including but not only race issues – and they shouldn’t be painted as racists simply because they are not exclusively focused on race. This whole thing is just really fucking exhausting and the people pressing the issue do not appear to have clear and cohesive goals that would actually change any aspect of systemic racism, which I thought was supposed to be the point. Oh, and they endlessly conflate individual racism with systemic racism in a way that tells me they just want to make as much noise as possible.”
“I support changing the seal, incorporating marginalized narratives into HLS curriculum, improving financial access to marginalized students, and (especially) increasing the hiring of professors of color as well as female professors. However, I’d like to point out that I believe that the Reclaim movement would benefit from a more inclusive and coherent strategic vision. Many (but of course not all) of Reclaim’s most vocal proponents have taken up an exceedingly narrow vision for what the future of HLS should look like with respect to these critical, urgent issues. I agree with most, if not all, of their demands. But, as a pragmatic person who cares about things actually getting done, I very strongly question the sometimes unnecessarily aggressive tone of some proponents of Reclaim. [Or perhaps I’ve just unduly tone-policed.] I agree with 99.9% of what Reclaim stands for. So then why do I feel unwelcome in conversation with many Reclaim advocates? This is certainly my own fault to some degree. But it is also a serious failure of Reclaim that a genuinely supportive ally like myself — someone who intends to spend his career working on many of the issues underlying most of Reclaim’s policy positions (something that cannot be earnestly said for some of the most vocal Reclaim advocates, many of whom, to the best of my knowledge, are little more than social-media activists who will be working at Big Law firms in a year or two) — does not always feel comfortable in Belinda Hall. A similar critique also applies to Reclaim’s approach to Deans Minow, Sells, and Soban. To the best of my knowledge, these women are brilliant, well-intentioned, hardworking advocates of the causes to which Reclaim subscribes. So then why has Reclaim developed a narrative where these Deans (among others) are the problems? Shouldn’t we be grateful to have three strong, responsive women in HLS leadership? Or must Reclaim maintain its divisive position (à la Trump) that its every last demand must be satisfied or else the opposing (rather than supporting) party is an enemy to be ridiculed. To the extent that I’m describing the current state of affairs incorrectly, I sincerely apologize. Perhaps the tone and narrative of this conversation has improved recently, and I’m simply unaware of it. But I’m continually disheartened and disappointed by the unkindness and lack of compassion demonstrated toward well-intentioned (predominantly female) leaders like these three deans and many other faculty (e.g., Professors Suk and Halley, among others). The cornerstone of this campaign should be a demand for compassion demonstrated toward all people. Especially marginalized and underrepresented students who have long neglected to receive their due respect and compassion. This campaign rightly demands administrative action. But the exact wrong approach to take is to choose to be dismissive of the reasonable, forward-thinking efforts of leaders like these deans and professors. This strategy is highly effective at getting the names of certain Reclaim advocates in the daily “News at Law” emails, but I suspect that the strategy is not only failing to secure broad-based support for its policy agenda but also pushing away well-intentioned, would-be allies in the process.”
“I imagine that most students are not actively opposed to changing the shield, including racial justice classes in the curriculum, funding a diversity office, etc. If the HLS administration had randomly announced to the student body that they were changing the shield because of its history, I do not think most students would think twice. The controversy then, seems to derive from the processes undertaken in an attempt to “Reclaim Harvard Law.” The results of this survey based on the above questions may not be able to gauge such feelings, but there is a population of students here at HLS that are opposed to the processes behind the activist movements (Royall Must Fall/Reclaim Harvard Law). The methods undertaken by the student activists might appear to be an attack on the institution, from both administrative and student perspectives, and I have heard multiple people regard such actions (like issuing a list of “demands”/taking over neutral study spaces) as negative manifestations of entitlement and anger. This, I imagine, is the source of dissent and compels more equivocal parties to disengage. Regarding the takeover of the student lounge specifically, in my opinion, WCC ought to be a space that reflects the professionalism of the institution. I have heard arguments that WCC as a whole is too “cold” or “sterile.” We are in graduate school. We are not in summer camp. We are not at home. The school is not our living room, and it by no means needs to accommodate students beyond offering them a sufficient space in which to study. That the interior of the building is beautiful and, in fact, more than sufficient for this purpose does not mean that we are to turn it into something other than for what it was intended.”
“I think HLS actually does try. No need to demonize Dean Minnow/ the administration.”
“I support most of RHLS’s proposals though I think we need to look into their budgetary impact–they would all cost money and undermine another RHLS proposal: lowered tuition. That said, there are so many much more pressing problems of racial justice: 1/3 of black men will go to prison in their lifetimes, schools are more segregated than they were before Brown, affirmative action is all but dead, the racial wealth gap keeps growing and is larger than apartheid SA, black men get shot by the police every day, and an explicit white supremacist is about to be a major party presidential nominee proposing ethnic cleansing. Occupying WCC because a well-meaning administration is taking to long to consider student demands seems like a bizarre and tragic waste of activist energy. Also it’s worth noting that this survey will disproportionately attract those with strong opinions one way or another and will not reflect the broader HLS community.
Even regarding the few things I do support or are indifferent about regarding Reclaim Harvard Law’s demands, I don’t personally agree with the villification of the administration and life at Harvard Law. Of course there’s room to improve HLS, but using terms like “oppression” or “colonization of education” is overstating the issue. If you can’t handle life at HLS, you can’t handle life anywhere. It’s fine to have your subjective beliefs about how you feel at Harvard until you want to objectively change education for everyone else.”
“I believe there is significant truth to the statements by Bill Barlow and others with regards to the silence of those who oppose the specific demands of Reclaim HLS. The problem is this: whilst we care about many of the goals of Reclaim HLS (even if we disagree on the means to approach those goals), public disagreement incurs significant personal reputational costs given an environment in which arguments are not–indeed, by the logic of Reclaim HLS, necessarily cannot be–separated from the speaker. Of course this dynamic works throughout politics. It’s why Israel continues to enjoy the support of the US, why the NRA is so powerful despite most people supporting gun restrictions, why Cuba has been so isolated by the US for so long.”
“HLS has spent decades cultivating a uniformly left-of-center community of passionate people unafraid to broach any subject or engage any viewpoint. Almost everyone here sympathizes with the struggles of minority group members trying to make there way in a majority world; the administration has taken conscious steps to ensure their representation and fair hearing both in and out of class. What seems to be at issue with Reclaim HLS is whether their cause should predominate; whether every student studying every area of law must see it through Reclaim HLS’s ideological lens. That seems to me a step too far, especially considering my (I think sensible) view that conservative voices are far and away more marginalized, shamed, and alienated here than any others, despite roughly representing to views of 40% of this country’s population. In their push to have their own voices count for more, it seems Reclaim HLS implicitly aims to snuff out the last fading embers of even more marginalized people who happen to be their ideological enemies.”
“First, about the HLS Seal. It is a symbol. Symbols only have the meanings we give to them. There is no inherent meaning to three bundles of wheat. I acknowledge that the HLS seal has it origins in the Royall Family Crest. But I also think the current seal stopped being a symbol of Royalls a very long time ago. Does Isaac Royall have a monopoly on bundles of wheat? No, he does not. Symbols change their meaning all the time. The HLS seal is only a symbol of racism to the extent that WE make it one. My impression is that the HLS seal long ago became the symbol of Harvard Law School – an institution that I am incredibly proud of. I do not consider it a symbol of the Royalls. I have yet to meet anyone who sees the crest and who’s first thought is not “Harvard Law School”. People will not attribute this symbol to the Royall family unless we start telling them to. Devoting all this energy and emotion to a movement that ultimately acknowledges Royall and his crest seems to be giving way too much power to an irrelevant figure that probably deserves to be forgotten. Rather than change some abstract symbol, why don’t try to change ourselves? Second, PSW is the most important class in the mandatory curriculum. Getting rid of it (for any reason) would be a monumental mistake. I’m not from the US but I’m going to assume “integration of marginalized narratives” is a reference to racism, sexism, and other diversity issues of prevalence in the US. While these issues are important, I see no reason why they need to displace anything in the mandatory curriculum. There are plenty of issues that are important which fall outside the scope of the mandatory curriculum. Climate change for one. Health Care is another. I don’t mean to downplay issues of diversity, but only to suggest that this is law school, not diversity school or climate school or health care school. To the extent that these important issues affect doctrinal legal classes, they should be incorporated IN THOSE CLASSES. Don’t get me wrong, we should absolutely have classes and seminars and speakers focusing on “marginalized narratives”; People who wish to pursue such topics should have every avenue available to them. But it should not displace any element of the mandatory curriculum as it stands today.”
“This movement claims to be “grassroots” and “inclusive” but my experience last semester was that moderate voices were shouted down and shut out from the conversation. For this reason I haven’t paid much attention to what’s going on this semester. I’m concerned that many minority students–including many members of APALSA– have decided to disengage from the movement. The APALSA community has been criticized for not being more involved, but if they want our involvement, they have to be willing to listen to us, including our dissenting and/or alternative viewpoints. Instead, I’m concerned that our viewpoints are being silenced. That’s fine, because there’s a time and a place for everything, and different racial groups have different issues/different forms of racism to deal with. Maybe this is a movement that needs to focus on the needs of the black community at HLS. But if Reclaim Harvard Law wants to claim that it’s a “diverse group of students and staff” and that it represents/advocates for diverse students generally, it can’t ignore an entire community that contributes to HLS’s diversity.”
“Overall, I am very against this movement. HLS is not a racist institution and people shouldn’t act like it is one. The way that the movement has chosen to act is incredibly unprofessional and uncalled for given the openness, receptiveness, and progressiveness of HLS faculty and administrators. HLS definitely isn’t perfect, but doing the things proposed by Reclaim HLS will not make our school a better place.”
“The question about “implementing measures to ensure Staff of Color are respected” is incredibly leading. It’s written in such a way that in the event you don’t support adding new programming, it is implied that you don’t support Staff of Color. This is a false dichotomy.”
“Reclaim Harvard Law has already had a broadly positive effect on HLS, and I applaud their continued, sustained efforts. I hope substantive changes follow.”
“While I might have supported Reclaim Harvard’s movement, I have felt less inclined to do so as a result of tactics that end up excluding large portions of the student population. Specifically, the claiming of the WCC lounge has turned what was a neutral and inclusive study space for all, into a place where many now feel uncomfortable at best and completely excluded at worst. Progress and change are laudable goals, and goals with which I can get on board, but the call for change has veered toward an attempt to strongarm administration and other students, and this ostracizes those more neutral parties.”
“As I understand, the central claim of Reclaim Harvard Law is that minority students feel excluded and/or not supported. I sincerely wonder how much of this sentiment is a result of affirmative action. In Richard Sander’s 2004 Stanford Law Review article on affirmative action, Sander noted that over 50% of black law students were in the bottom 10% of their class. Realistically, this must have an impact on how comfortable black students feel on campus–and I believe it might be a major driver of the current unease. Assuming the administration wants to keep large racial preferences in admissions, I think it has a responsibility to better address the consequences of that practice in order to avoid the types of discomfort that some minority students feel as a result. The list of demands issued by Reclaim Harvard Law will not remedy this issue, and most of those demands are seriously inefficient allocations of the school’s limited resources. It might, however, be beneficial to provide additional academic support, etc. instead.”
“Two disparate points: (1) I myself anonymously signed the Responsible Speech open letter, and know of several people who refused o sign it – even anonymously – out of fear that the fact they’d sign it would get back to them. And this includes even some ACS types! This applies to discussion of any sensitive topic in general – I’d rather just not engage instead of speaking my mind and be afraid of winding up on Socratic Shortcomings.] – and specifically the issue at hand. So yes, the campus culture has clearly become one of fear, and merely the fact that this form requires an HLS domain to access it means that you will have people who oppose Reclaim HLS but are too scared to answer this survey. Please acknowledge that when the results of this are published: there will be clear selection bias in your sample. Even the three students selected to represent the student body on the shield committee ended up being an unrepresentative sample, for this same reason: those opposed are afraid to speak up. Of course, the fact that at least two out of the three selected students are intimately involved with Reclaim makes the group unrepresentative even without the selection bias issue. (2) Whether or not I disagree with Reclaim HLS – and obviously I do – I would like to point out the fact that even the administration seems to think it has to be in fear of these people. I guarantee you that no other student “movement” would be able to break school rules with impunity and have the administration just ignore it. That’s what is happening with the ridiculous occupation of the fireside lounge, unauthorized posting of signs everywhere, etc. [Tangent: Thanks, you know some students really liked to use the lounge but don’t feel comfortable doing it anymore, not selfish at all guys.] And some of this was BEFORE the black tape incident; after all, these people had already begun putting tape and signs over the seal for their “educational art” before that even happened. I’m not saying a few signs is ruining my law school experience; I’m just saying that no students should be favored over any others. Even Dean Minow pre-judging the incident to be a “hate crime” and announcing as such to alumni – there was no evidence of that! I don’t agree with the Royall Asses website people – neither in style, nor in substance – but you have to admit that there’s a decent chance the tape was put up as part of a protest than by a racist student. But no, the administration has to be so fearful as to cower in front of this group! It’s ridiculous and backwards, and I think Reclaim HLS have taken advantage of this attitude and severely mistreated the administration and faculty – particularly Deans Minow and Sells – and owe them apologies.”
“Incredibly liberal faculty v. even more liberal student body = I’m going to stay out of this loony battle.”
“HLS is the most racially tolerant place I’ve seen, and it’s not even close. Protesting historical/administrative issues like this in a cushy fireside lounge seems like a particularly lazy form of activism, one step up from applying a French flag or rainbow filter to a Facebook profile picture. A journey off law school grounds would show these protesters issues more worth their time and effort.”
“The goals of diversity and inclusion are worthy ones. However, this does not automatically mean that every measure called for by the “Reclaim HLS” movement is an optimal solution or method of inclusion. They deserve to be scrutinized and criticized just like anybody else, without their critics being labeled “racists” just by virtue of their disagreement. Not every method is justified simply because the intent may be noble. There is absolutely no proof that any of these measures called for by the movement will have a substantial impact on race relations on campus. If anything they allocate resources in a wasteful and counterproductive manner. I say all this as a member of a ethnic minority group that is rarely ever even mentioned in these debates and practically ignored in nearly every race-related controversy in America. It is also my belief that it is not the HLS administration’s duty to solve all of these multifarious societal issues by itself. Their duty, in my opinion, should be to provide top-notch legal education, and based on my experience they have done so. I applaud these students’ attempts to be activists, but they should not blame the HLS administration for not creating the environment that they seek; they should go out into the world and create that environment for themselves. If HLS is so terrible, I am highly skeptical that any of these protesters will fare very long in a law firm environment.”
“I support all of the goals of Reclaim HLS, and most or all of its concrete proposals. However, it is hard to know the specific forms certain structural changes would take and how significant they would be – for example, what exactly would an “Office of Diversity and Inclusion” do? Perhaps most important, I think Reclaim should try to build a broad movement of marginalized communities (e.g., white people from working-class backgrounds) and also think broadly about how the classroom experience needs to change. Sometimes, problems that exacerbate racial divisions are not racial in themselves (like wooden 1L curriculums that make us uncomfortable and less communal). I know Reclaim can’t do everything all at once, but I think it is very difficult to tackle racial problems in isolation and also falls short of the universal values that give the group and its causes moral authority.”
“The Reclaim Harvard Law movement got off to a rocky start. The “demands that must be responded to by [a few days following]” left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouth. The movement did not appear to be truly inclusive, and only certain students seemed to be invited to participate. The demands themselves seemed unrealistic, at least in part. And the movement itself focused on the seal when, at least many students, feel that there are more pressing issues. And the way that Dean Minow, and, to a lesser degree, Dean Sells — both of whom have spent their lives challenging the status quo — were treated was abhorrent and counter-productive. I think that the recent occupation of the lounge has been a positive change and a huge step in the right direction. But more of this must be done. Systemic racism and oppression absolutely do exist in our country and criminal justice system — and Harvard Law School — as well as most top law schools in general (perhaps NYU a recent exception) — has not adequately prepared students to tackle this pressing issue of our time. Scores of students go to law school inspired to change the world for the better — and because of the absurd and unjustifiable cost, leave planning on working for a corporation or firm. We can do better, and this movement is calling attention to real problems and real ways in which change needs to be made. But I hope that as the movement matures and progresses, it remembers to not so quickly shoot down the views of those who many not agree with every demand — that it accepts faculty and others into the discussion — and it becomes an umbrella of understanding and tolerance.”
“Please make this a place where students of color don’t ever, ever have to wonder if they belong.”
“Even where I disagree with their proposals, I support unambiguously Reclaim Harvard Law’s right to bring them. HLS, like every other university, has hard institutional problems to face. It can survive an open and honest airing of grievances and discussion of solutions.”
“While I do support the public show that Reclaim is not going anywhere and that there is broad student support for an inclusive environment, I have several section-mates who have been met with hostility in the WCC fireplace area for asking questions or holding differing views. Also, I do want to make sure the lounge continues to be a space where all students feel comfortable existing, so it is important to me that Reclaim continues to self-reflect on that balance.
I was grateful for the DOS’s email today reminding Reclaim Harvard Law that HLS spaces are for ALL students to make use of and that disruptions of our spaces will not be tolerated, but I doubt that anything will be done by the administration in addition to the email. Before this protest, that room was my favorite study space, and it is currently in a very unprofessional and distracting state that wouldn’t allow studying. The current methods of protest does not raise awareness or open the discussion because students who are disagree are put off by the antics of one small group taking over a common space, especially now that there are people sleeping there who do not attend HLS. It seems unfair to allow non-students the use of the room as sleeping quarters when HLS students who are paying so much money to attend no longer have use of this space. I also object to the signs and posters placed throughout the room. Not everyone agrees with them, and some find them offensive. I do not want to walk through a room that is now named for a slave and see the HLS seal redesigned to represent cruelty. It is not fair for the group to purposefully rebrand our institution by posting them on common walls without approval (which are not bulletin boards). Last academic year a protesting group interfered with the faculty photos. Again this year someone interfered with them. It was never found who did this, but only Professor Kennedy has had enough courage to even question whether the black tape incident was a hoax. Now students are putting their messages all over HLS’s walls. So, there is a pattern here of a small group of students claiming they lack access to the university by, so very ironically, decreasing access of it to others. This is not an accident, and neither is it a harmless side effect of the protest. I have also noticed that due to a protest where disproportionately minority students are hanging out in one room, other study spaces now have become less diverse. In other words, Reclaim Harvard Law may actually have the effect of racial segregating its student body in social spaces.”
“Regarding the administration: I would like to see more faculty members of color and more financial support for marginalized students. The administration made some mistakes in its response to the black tape incident (speaking almost the entire time at one of the early community meetings being one of them), but I’m not sure focusing on those mistakes is a good thing. I hope that the administration worries less about how it appears and worries more about taking action in ways that are important. And the two changes I’ve listed above are what I view as the most important. Regarding Reclaim HLS: I support many of Reclaim Harvard Law’s goals. I have heard some students complain that they have taken over too large of a space; I do not share these complaints. But I do agree with concerns I’ve heard voiced regarding the friendliness of some of the people “manning the couches.” My friend – a supporter of all of Reclaim Harvard Law’s proposals – was essentially interrogated about his views on what constituted an ethical career choice after he grabbed a piece of pizza. The member of Reclaim HLS seemed to insinuate that we were acting rudely by eating the pizza and not instantly starting to have a conversation with her. The pizza was leftover from unrelated event, not pizza bought by Reclaim Harvard Law. Before, left over food from other events would be available in that room without strings attached. Now if you’re to grab that leftover food on a break between class, you’re seen (by some members of Reclaim HLS at least) as rude. This doesn’t seem to be a great way to win people to your side; neither do the somewhat condescending, “we’re nice and we don’t bite” type of signs. Of course not all members of Reclaim HLS are like this. I have a lot of friends who are part of the group, and I respect what they’re doing. But I do agree that some need to work on being welcoming.”
“The reclaim harvard law movement has gone bizerk. They shut anyone who has a dissenting view up. People are scared to voice their opinions. No one wants to be screamed at, publicly shamed or called “racist.” Let’s stop bullying and actually have an honest dialogue.”
“Whether or not I’d change the seal depends a lot on what the replacement would be. My preference would be to design a new seal that riffs off the old seal — so it acknowledges the legacy of slavery while maintaining a connection to the school’s history. Re: Mandatory curriculum. I wouldn’t totally replace anything, but it seems like adding racial justice issues into PSW would be easy and useful. Re: Improving student access – I’m not sure what the difference is between “expand aid and support for students of color, students from low socio-economic backgrounds and other marginalized student groups” and “improve access and affordability for all students equally….” It seems like the Reclaim HLS demands DO focus on all students (except in the sense that financial aid inherently takes financial resources into account.) A lot of Reclaim HLS’ demands call for increased student involvement in administrative decisionmaking. I think this is a very good idea — not just for the problems we have right now, but for problems we may have in the future. Whatever changes are made, I think the school needs to focus on measuring impact in a rigorous way. As a model, I’d point to the measures Brown is taking now, or the approach HBS took to gender issues a few years ago.”
“I think there is already a lot of support for racial diversity at this school. I think that poor students face the greatest difficulty at HLS. Not just keeping up with the costs of maintaining a social life, having to work during school etc, but in fitting in to the ivy league environment. Students who were not raised in intellectual homes & schools often don’t have the same confidence in their intelligence and don’t know the lingo of academia. Many students of color at HLS come from very advantaged backgrounds and have had the benefit of attending elite undergraduate institutions. Although students of color from poor families must deal with marginalization on two fronts, they at least have the support of affinity groups. In some cases I think poor white students from the south and midwest can be the most marginalized and ignored. It’s important to not rank groups of students based on perceived disadvantages and provide financial aid or other resources in that way. The school should focus on improving the situation for all students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and encourage HLS to come together as a community instead of splitting along racial lines. It is sad and disturbing to me that students at HLS only seem to socialize with other students of the same race. And I think a lot of the emphasis that is put on racial prejudices and privileges just reinforces this. If the school is worried about issues of diversity, then I think it should focus it’s efforts on finding ways to force students from different backgrounds to interact. Students are more likely to understand where their peers from are coming from if they interact socially and academically. A mandatory critical race theory class will just teach students that there are certain opinions they must hold, certain situations in which they must be silent, and further divide students.”
“Enough is enough.”
“So much time on this, For what?”
“Reclaim Harvard law merely wants to divide, separate, categorize, and reduce students based on race, no matter their treacly rhetoric of inclusion. Their vision of a world where academic thought should be determined by racial grievance should be rejected completely. Their protest in Caspersen and their self-victimization narrative are merely the height of narcissism.”
“It is hard for me to vote on some of these issues with confidence, because while I support reform, I don’t truly know how much HLS currently does or the extent of funding that would be required to achieve goals.”
“Find a better use of students’ time. Movements like these don’t get to the heart of the problem. And to be honest, the “movement” has not been very clear about what the “problem” is. Clear that up and then we can discuss what needs to be done.”
“I see myself as largely supporting Reclaim Harvard/Royall Must Fall, but I have criticisms to offer both for the movement and the administration. The Dean’s email citing the protest and dissent guidelines was offensive. The fact that we have protest and dissent guidelines is offensive and contrary to the idea that HLS wants to create leaders of social change. The fact that the administration hasn’t come out and said “we’re going to start the process of looking for a critical race theorist to give tenure to” is baffling. Why would you not do that? The fact that professors so frequently gloss over race issues in the classroom is ridiculous. On the other hand: I think it’s ironic that Reclaim Harvard calls for transparency, but the author(s) of the demands are missing from the document. I think it’s crazy that people would ask for increased financial aid based on race, independent of socioeconomic status. Maybe that’s not what the writers intended to say, but that’s what the comma placement in demand #5 indicates. Imagine going to a grocery store and seeing two sets of prices, one for white people and one for black people. That’s absolutely insane and I can’t believe that anyone actually supports that idea. We definitely need more support for people who are interested in public interest careers. Summer funding, barbri funding, all of that stuff sounds good, and not too challenging financially. However, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who complain about tuition. We all knew the price tag when we bought HLS. We all know about LIPP. If we lowered tuition, where would that money come from? If you think tuition is too high, the options are generally: get a LIPP eligible job, or get a private sector job and become a millionaire. The people who fall through the cracks into a non-high-paying, non-LIPP eligible job have a legitimate complaint to make, but that’s not the complaint articulated by the movement. The frequent mentioning of the staff at Harvard is a little perplexing. I have never seen custodial staff or Hark staff participating in any Royall Must Fall related activities. The demands purport to be written by a diverse group of students and staff. How many staff members participated? I have no idea. I’m a little concerned about the possibility that the unnamed writers of the demands are pulling the staff into their movement without responsibly and thoroughly asking staff members what issues are most important to them. If the staff really care about the movement, why aren’t they protesting? The seemingly obvious answer is that they do not see their problems as being serious enough to merit sacrificing their free time to protest. Apart from those criticisms, I think the movement has good goals, although perhaps they could be better articulated.”
“From my perspective, Reclaim Harvard Law’s statements are too vague regarding (i) the problem that they perceive and (ii) the solutions that they propose to address those alleged problems. I cannot support or oppose many of the group’s positions because I have yet to hear concrete descriptions of their positions. What is “institutional racism”? What is “white privilege”? What is Critical Race Theory? What would an Office of Diversity and Inclusion do? How, specifically, are non-white people not supported at HLS? I honestly just want to know Reclaim Harvard Law’s answers to these questions; I might then agree with them.”
“I am generally in support of Reclaim HLS’s goals, but I believe the movement as a whole would benefit from being more “outward-focused.” What I mean by this is a more focused effort to expand and support public interest career options for students, particularly legal careers in service of marginalized groups. It goes without saying that the current HLS career services model is overwhelmingly oriented toward corporate work. To redirect campus recruiting and career services toward work serving poor and marginalized communities would truly be to “reclaim” Harvard Law.”
“I don’t understand the problem the protestors are trying to solve. Minorities are treated better than the Majority at this university. Minorities are allowed to speak radical ideas and are catered to by the faculty while those who were born under different situation are silenced. This movement seems more motivated on wanting special treatment than equal treatment. Moreover, the demands are pretty far reaching and seem to be motivated to make Harvard more “progressive” and communistic than more representative or fair. Take the unusual claim demanding an adjusted pay scale for staff and faculty, for instance. I must be missing the racial connection here. If Reclaim Harvard was really interested in diversity, they would be advocating for the most underrepresented population at Harvard: Conservatives. Conservatives make up half of the US population but perhaps 10% or less of the students and faculty here. I must be missing the demand for ideological diversity at this academic university. Overall, this protest seems to have ulterior motives and simply hijacks so called racial injustices at Harvard in order to push a far left “progressive” agenda.”
“I look forward to the new school logo and renamed fireplace lounge saving our country from the Ted Cruzes, Antonin Scalias, and John Robertses currently at HLS
I support Reclaim’s purpose, but I don’t support or agree with every one of the “collective” demand. As a person of a marginalized group, I am finding it challenging to continue to support Reclaim when I don’t agree with all of the demands and they are taking an all or nothing strategy with the administration. I feel marginalized by HLS and by Reclaim.”