Record: Why are you guys running?
Adrian Perkins: I’ve always felt like Student Government was in a unique position to change things for the better. Academic institutions come with stressors and this is an opportunity to for us relieve those stressors and to make the community better. Since joining Student Government, I’ve worked on everything from the [Student Government] constitutional working group, to changing the printing, to appointing the committee that decided to change the crest, to getting the MPRE administered at HLS. I’ve had the opportunity to see things through and make student life better here.
Amanda Lee: The HLS community matters. We spend 3 years of our lives here. I’ve seen intimately the needs of a thriving student organization that’s put so much work and care into making the school an amazing place. Adrian and I work really well together because we have a wide breadth of experience. We’ve spent the last two years building relationships, and so we’re really excited to bring others to the table and let students have that voice through student government.
Record: What do you think distinguishes you from the other candidates?
AP: First is the experience we have with solving problems. For example, students weren’t able to take the MPRE here at Harvard until this year. We heard complaints from students that they were driving to places like New York to take the MPRE. So we took it to DOS and within a couple of weeks, I talked to the company who runs the MPRE and we were able to get 200 slots here at HLS for students. Another example is that we got a bar prep company, Kaplan, to cover some public interest students so they don’t have to seek out one of their friends who are going to a firm to get their bar prep covered.
AL: Through the HLS Affinity Coalition, which includes groups such as WLA, BLSA, APALSA, Lambda, and others, we put together a project last fall to put up posters of law faculty throughout the school that all of our membership nominated to highlight the importance of having different perspectives and identities in legal education. That something we did for the community to have people interact with the posters, write notes on them, and generally to do something that’s better for HLS as a whole.
Record: One of your campaign issues is transparency. How are you guys going to accomplish that and how can students push for progress?
AP: Right now, DOS is the primary go-to for whatever problems student or student orgs have. But a lot of orgs want things such as data from admissions. We want to have town halls where we invite the administrators responsible, such as Dean Soban, to answer the questions we students have.
Record: How do you address the concerns that these town halls might not be very effective and that students won’t actually be able to ask substantive questions, or as we sang in Parody, “at the end we [administrators] might let you hold the mike”?
AP: Don’t get me wrong, the administration has done a really good job of deflecting. At these town halls, students might see an administrator decline to answer a question or say “we aren’t gonna do that,” but that actually can help a lot because it prevents amorphous “we can’t do that.” It also helps to know the pressure points of the system.
AL: Transparency and accountability requires a conversation. Town halls are just a first of many steps. One thing we recognize is that Student Government is a soft power. We don’t have the same institutionalized power the same way a dean does. But the student body has a lot of leverage. We are really excited to support students and leverage what students bring to make the administration [more transparent]. And that’s why we care so much about uniting students. When student groups unite around a particular issue, it’s much harder for the administration to deflect.
Record: But how do you unite students? What’s the process there?
AP: Experience and relationships. When you go to these groups, go to their meetings, you get to know people and know their concerns. And that engagement allows you to bring their concerns together. We can incorporate everyone’s concerns and push those pressure points that we know that are there.
AL: And if elected, Adrian and I would be totally excited to work with student groups to discuss what groups are looking for.
Record: You’ve talked a lot about working with student leaders, but how do ordinary students get their voices heard?
AP: Most students here are leaders. Just because they aren’t the president of a [student] group, they still lead here, they still set the tone here, they’re still gonna go out into the world and be Harvard Law School graduates. But that’s why we want to have things such as the monthly town halls. You can be any student at HLS and voice your concerns, voice your opinions, and we’re gonna be here for you and we’re gonna listen to you. And one of the things I worked on this year was to get 1L and 2L class representatives access to the listservs for their class. Before I had this conversation in March, elected [representatives] could not email their class.
Record: What are some things that you think we can do for returning students to improve their experience?
AL: Adrian and I are really focused on that everyone here feels that this campus is theirs, and that even if they’re not involved in everything, that there’s a sense of community for everyone.
AP: One of the ways we want to get after that is to have a fall Barrister’s Ball for everyone. That Barrister’s Ball wouldn’t just help 2Ls who are now out of their sections to meet other 2Ls and 3Ls, but it’d also help LL.M.s meet people. And we’d want to have reduced ticket prices, like $10-$15 to get everybody into it.
AL: We’re really interested in expanding professional development, which isn’t just law firm or this catch-all of “public interest.” Adrian is working with other Student Government members to push a legislative track. I know from my experience at the WLA that after the election that there’s interest to engage in that legislative track.
Record: On the issue of mental health, what should we do differently as a community?
AP: Unfortunately, I’ve had too much exposure to environments where mental health is a priority from my background in the military. One thing from my experience is that you can have an army of therapists, but those people still won’t be as close as people in someone’s section or that friend in WLA with them. We need to go through a significant amount of training so that people can recognize what to look for in our friends in addition to the [professional] resources that are provided.
AL: And there are a lot of structural changes in the legal profession we need. I’ve heard from students that there’s a fear of seeking help because some state bar associations’ character and fitness [processes], which might ask about mental health. And Student Government can push the administration to do something for students in terms of that structural change.
Record: Anything else?
AP: I’ve touched on a lot of ways that Student Government can have and has had a tremendous impact on [students’] lives next year and in the years to come, so I hope this school will be engaged in this election.
AL: And we hope people put their faith in us.
2017 Student Government Candidate interviews