Dear Reclaim Harvard Law,
You broke me today. I am shocked and appalled by the actions you have taken in the last couple of days. But I am writing to you because I still have hope that you might stop this madness and come to your senses. Before you read on, let me make one thing clear: Since the day you arrived on campus, I have been a staunch supporter of your cause. When the pictures of our black faculty were defaced, I was outraged just like you. When the administration refused to sufficiently engage with your demands, I was angry just like you. And when Royall finally fell, believe me, I was happy just like you. But now things have taken a turn in a very unsettling direction. You have taken over Belinda Hall not just physically, but mentally. Everyone who dares to disagree with you is labeled a racist or an extremist. People are being silenced, posters are being taken down. You have made it your exclusive right to decide what is being said and done in our very own student lounge, and opposing views are simply not welcome. Oh wait, they are, but only after they get approval from your “plenary committee.” Seriously? You are turning from the oppressed into the oppressor, and you don’t even notice it.
When I look at your movement now, I see not only rightful indignation, I also see self-righteousness. I see people who are so invested in their mission that they think it is actually okay to tell every member of the Harvard community what to think, what to feel and that it is okay to silence everyone with a different view. I want to strongly caution you against this. For the sake of your own movement, for all the good things that you are trying to achieve, you should stop it now. Don’t you see that you are creating an atmosphere where everyone who is not of your opinion, and your opinion alone, is not allowed to express themselves? The way to convince people of your mission can never be to suppress critical voices; it can only be to out-argue them. And that includes the risk that they argue back. That can sometimes be hard, and yes, it can sometimes hurt. Deeply. But that is the very nature of argument, of discourse. That is academic freedom; that is free speech. That is the very foundation of democracy. To erode it, in the name of whatever “good” purpose, is the first step down a very dangerous path. And to go so far as to make free speech subject to “majority approval” is an outright disastrous proposition. It scares me that a group of astounding and intelligent people like you could come to such a conclusion.
Marlen Thaten is an LLM of the Class of 2016.