Last semester, a coalition of students, staff, and their allies came together and formed Reclaim Harvard Law to combat the systemic racism that pervades our school. The students and staff met daily to identify the sources of systemic oppression and to debate and discuss ways in which this oppression might be remedied in the immediate environment of the law school. We then presented the results of our deliberations to the law school and to Deans Martha Minow and Marcia Sells of the law school administration. We were met with administrative intransigence. Our recent efforts are intellectually descended from the numerous student movements that have arisen time and again at HLS, because of a long-true reality: Harvard Law School is not an inclusive institution. It does not promote diversity. It is not a leader in promoting racial justice. Instead, it is a leader in the further entrenchment of the status quo. It is a leader in perpetuating systemic violence against marginalized peoples everywhere, and its influence extends far beyond the isolated halls of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yet time and again, the law school has refused to change.
The members of Reclaim Harvard Law believe in this institution’s mission to “educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society.” The leaders that emerge from this institution must not continue to perpetuate patterns of violence and oppression that have existed in the United States of America for centuries. Therefore, since the law school refuses to provide adequate institutional support for an office of diversity and inclusion, since it refuses to hire critical race theorists, since it marginalizes staff of color in the workplace, and refuses to promote them to management positions in their due course, since it refuses to provide adequate contextualization in curricula, since it refuses to educate its professors, its staff, and its students around cultural competency, since it refuses to take the steps that are necessary to accord adequate and equal dignity to marginalized students and staff we, the members of Reclaim Harvard Law, will provide that space at the law school. We will assume the burden of educating ourselves and others in spite of this institution and not because of it. We will force this institution to become the educational environment which it has hitherto only pretended to be. In service to the goal of educating leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society, we hereby rename the fireside lounge in WCC the Belinda Memorial Lounge. As of 8:00 PM, Monday, February 15, 2016, we reclaim that space for the students of color who are marginalized by this institution. We now occupy that space in service to the advancement of justice in our community and we invite all who are interested to join us in actually fulfilling the mission of the school.