Dean Minow Encourages Students to Create a “Community of Respect”

The following letter was emailed to students by Dean Minow on May 3, 2016:

Dear students,

As the term ends, I write to express my best wishes for a productive and successful finish after a year of many accomplishments, challenges, and important discussions — and for all that is yet to come.

The idealism and concern demonstrated by so many this year point toward ways to build stronger communities here and elsewhere. I commend the creative and generous efforts by so many in clinics, journals, and student organizations, and the compassion and care that you have shown for each other during some difficult moments. These gifts of personal generosity and community are vitally important, especially when constructive dialogue has sometimes been overshadowed by expressions of prejudice, misguided fears and other emotions.

For an academic institution — and especially for one devoted to the study and advancement of law and justice — diversity in viewpoints is crucial, and constructive and respectful engagement is essential. As a laboratory, we explore ideas; sadly, sometimes that means we fall victim to expressions of the kinds of reactionary exchanges so visible in our current national and cross-national political contexts. Alongside positive and constructive conversations, there have also been troubling expressions of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim prejudice, and intolerance of conservative and progressive viewpoints alike. This has been particularly evident online, expressed anonymously and mostly from beyond our own community. But some of this has surfaced even here.

Given the talents, commitments, and opportunities represented by you, this remarkable group of students, we are better than that. Collectively, we can create the community of respect we expect and deserve, both here and in the larger world. That means work, and it is work for which we are each equipped and of which we are each worthy. To those graduating, I look forward to the work you will do in the world, and to welcoming you back in the future. To those who will return after the summer, I look forward to continuing our work together.

Warmest wishes,

Martha Minow

Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor

Harvard Law School

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