An Apology to the Dean, and to Our Readers

On September 30, the editors-in-chief of The Record conducted a brief interview with Dean Minow to discuss topics of interest to the Harvard Law School community. We had hoped to make these Q&A’s a regular feature of The Record, with the intention of fostering frank, substantive dialogue between the HLS administration and the student body. Ahead of the interview, we provided the administration with a general overview of the kinds of topics we hoped to cover. HLS’s public relations director, Michelle Deakin, agreed to the interview on the condition that the Dean would be allowed to review the article ahead of publication, and approve or reject the wording of individual quotations.

Upon receiving our initial draft, however, the administration indicated that they would not allow us to publish the interview at all. To quote from the e-mail Ms. Deakin sent us:

When I spoke of the interview being “off the record” and that any quotes would need to be reviewed by Dean Minow in advance of publication, that was with the understanding that this was an informational interview and that you might develop a story idea or two from the conversation.   You have no permission to use any quotations.  Neither the Dean nor I were aware that you were hoping to present these answers as a q and a, and the Dean will not be granting permission for her quotes to be condensed and presented in this manner.

To which we responded:

I’m not sure what you see as the particular difference between review and permission, but to be clear, we do intend that the Dean has the ability to withhold her permission for us to use her words. Of course, we hope that the Dean will give us permission to use her words or send us edited copies of her answers as you mentioned she would when you and I spoke over the phone. It would seem unnecessary that the Dean review her quotes if there was never any intention to approve any quote. Certainly, we think the HLS community would be very interested to hear what the Dean has to say about the variety of topics we asked about.

To which Ms. Deakin sent the following:

It was our understanding that you were seeking off-the-record information on a variety of topics to develop stories. It was never my understanding that you would present a sweeping list of questions on topics ranging from the presidential election to articles in other publications to admissions to the curriculum and combine them all into one piece. Clearly there was a misunderstanding. Let me be as clear as I can be: we will not be reviewing and approving the Q and A that you sent for publication.

We hasten to clarify that we do not blame the administration for taking this step. Though we, the editors-in-chief, are youthful and impulsive, we have reflected on our actions, and we now recognize that asking the Dean questions, writing down her responses, and submitting the transcript for revisions was muckraking of the most appalling character. We deeply regret having compromised our journalistic integrity in this way.

However, we do feel that we owe a duty to our readers, who are constantly clamoring for words of guidance from Dean Minow, and who will be devastated that we have failed to satisfy their hunger. Since we cannot publish the interview itself, here is a complete list of the questions we asked. We entrust this list to you, our readers, with full confidence in your rectitude and discretion. Under no circumstances should you speculate wildly about the Dean’s answers, wondering which of them were so controversial as to warrant the heavy hand of administrative censorship.

1. This is the first year in HLS’s history in which Harvard Law School’s entering JD class was more than 50% women. How did that end up happening and what do you make of it?

 

2. Women still make up a minority of spots in the upper echelons of the legal profession. What do you think has to change before we make more progress there?

 

3. HLS has changed the 1L orientation to focus more on issues of diversity, but one of the hardest things for people to do is to have those conversations with one another. How can students and HLS improve?

 

4. In the Fisher v. University of Texas decision this summer, the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in universities. How do you see affirmative action’s role at HLS?

 

5. Many people are alarmed by the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency because many of his statements seem to indicate a willingness to flout domestic and international law, and because he has proposed policies that target specific demographic groups, such as immigrants and Muslims. How do you see the role of Harvard Law School in the event of a Donald Trump presidency?

 

6. Having been a Harvard Law professor for many years, what have you learned since becoming dean?

 

7. Have you read the Harvard Magazine article on “The Purpose of Harvard Law School” that was published this summer? What did you think?

 

8. The 1L international law classes have mixed reviews. What’s HLS doing to improve those classes?

 

9. How do you feel about incorporating a history or legal history requirement into the 1L curriculum?

 

10. Are you following the Cubs this year?

Comments