Addendum to the Report of the Harvard Law School Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement

As student representatives to the Harvard Law School Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement, we believe in the potential power of Harvard Law School. We believe this institution is uniquely situated to serve as a steward of the rule of law in a time of critical global need; as a training ground for ethical advocates for social justice and responsible corporate lawyers alike; and as an academic playground for much-needed intellectual exploration. We believe that if the institution’s unparalleled resources––human and financial––were mobilized to ensure that all stakeholders in our community are heard, Harvard Law would be better positioned to fulfill its mission to train world-class lawyers, leaders, advocates, and agents for change.

Yet, the composition of this Task Force––with representatives for students, alumni, and faculty–– seems to mirror the larger challenges facing the institution: an unfulfilled voice of all members of the community. Even in the presence of student representatives, student concerns were not heard or considered. The subjects of our critique, the methods utilized to observe issues, and the innovative and imaginative proposals offered by students were often met with platitudes. Whether about the scope of the Task Force, about our role on the Task Force, or about the hard lines delineating what we could and could never question about the structure of this institution, students on this Task Force were denied the exercise of power afforded to us by the broad mandate articulated by Dean Martha Minow. This tension highlights a broader problem on campus––the wide latitude of the HLS professorate vis-a-vis the rest of the HLS community. To this end, in our capacity as student representatives to this Task Force, we felt compelled and driven by principle to articulate the concerns of students in a manner that we think best captures the concerns of our peers.

The faculty is the gatekeeper of Harvard Law School. They are a self-governing, self-regulating body that collectively determines the direction of the institution. At present, faculty answers to no one within the law school community, whether on procedural or academic matters. Therefore, Harvard Law School, like any sizable institution, has room for improvement, but only if the institution and its gatekeepers are open to progress. If the law school is serious about making positive change, faculty must genuinely listen to the ideas, suggestions, questions, and concerns of the entire community. Harvard Law School is nothing more than a partnership between its faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Only through true and meaningful engagement with all of these essential stakeholders that make up the institution will we be able to achieve the lofty goals set out in the school’s mission statement.

The Task Force itself was never expected to solve the challenges faced by the school. Instead, we were tasked to investigate; to listen; to understand; ultimately, to suggest a way forward by way of recommendations. Although we agree with many of the recommendations in the Report, we diverge on a few critical subjects. We are of the view that the problem is not articulated well enough. Instead, the Task Force Report resorts to generalities that are devoid of the concerns we heard from students, rendering the investigation piece utterly meaningless. While the recommendations are worthwhile tweaks, they are minimal in the face of the enormous task for which we were called to probe and mend. The challenges facing this law school are endemic, and nothing short of meaningful engagement and a commitment to material change will be able to address concerns expressed by students and faculty members for decades.

Likewise, the Report includes no input or consideration with regards to HLS staff. While we were told that the staff would receive its own internal inquiry, we have received no indication that this has occurred. If such an investigation has been launched or completed, surely the results of this separate process should be included in a Report that speaks to the needs of the entire community.

While we may agree with many of the recommendations in the Committee Report, the report was written by the faculty with the perspective of the faculty at center. Blame is not upon our Task Force’s faculty members, as we students naturally see the world through a different lens. However, a positive of organizing a community with divergent views and interests, and listening to those diverse views, is that we may benefit from a rich world experience that is bigger than ourselves. We truly believe in the benefit of diverse views.

While it is remarkable what was accomplished in our shortened Task Force schedule, there were several process issues that are necessary to consider when reviewing the report’s recommendations. First, we had no written timeline, and our goals were set on an ad hoc basis. We only met in person three times over the course of the year. Individual Task Force members took private meetings with related parties without the presence of non-interested notetakers. Although a small subcommittee was assembled to draft a survey to solicit student input, that survey was never put into the field. Additionally, apart from the role of chair, who assumed all other responsibilities, there were no enumerated positions in the Task Force. On some occasions, the student constituencies were not consulted, and our process or substantive suggestions, were met with platitudes about the scope or timeframe of the Task Force’s work. There was no discussion on basic tenants of our Task Force i.e., whether decisions were made by majority or unanimous decision, or how many members represent quorum (on occasions the “Task Force” was deemed to be represented by the chair alone.) The lack of formality in our structure made it easy for student concerns to be dismissed, postponed, or unaddressed. In light of this, we attach a schematic timeline and guideline about how we thought the Task Force should have been constituted and run. This schematic outline is attached at the end of this report marked as Annexure A.

1. LL.Ms and SJDs

Different to the current placing, positionality and importance of the LL.Ms and SJDs in the Law School, we saw it fit to begin our addendum by highlighting the concerns of the LL.Ms and SJDs. Often, these are a collective of students who are seen, but not included. Listened to, but not heard. Present, but neglected. They are often seen as bystanders or passers-by, not fully welcomed or immersed into this school’s culture. Many of these LL.Ms and SJDs come with a wealth of experiences and knowledge— many are practising lawyers, judges, and professors in their home jurisdictions. We have no doubts that they come into this community within a keen urge to learn and to explore their horizons, but they also add immense values through the rich experience of their global perspective. However, this is not always appreciated. Be it through disregarding their opinions on the basis of their accents, the messaging that speaks directly to JDs yet implicitly excludes LL.Ms and SJDs, or through providing opportunities exclusively for JDs—the LL.Ms and SJDs are often cast aside. This needs to change. To this end, we recommend that the Graduate Program, Admissions Office and the Dean of Students Office set-up a committee of both Faculty and students to address issues of exclusion experienced by the LL.Ms and SJDs. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. The provision of loan relief programs for LL.Ms and SJDs who are going to serve humanity through public service in a manner comparable to the LIPP program available to JDs;
  2. Equating the social budget available between JD sections ($10000 per section of 80 JD students) and the LL.Ms ($4000 for the entire class of 180);
  3. Providing comparable and equitable career advice and opportunities to LL.Ms;
  4. Beyond the JD Host Program, creating programs for community building between JDs, LL.Ms and SJDs
  5. Strengthening support for the JD Host Program, not only by matching JDs with LL.Ms, but alsoensuring continued support throughout the year; and
  6. Creatively looking into how LL.Ms can be better accommodated in the preferencing, selection and placement of classes of these collective students

2. Faculty & Staff

By joining this committee, each of us accepted Dean Minow’s call to “engage the entire community,” including “institutional supports, policies, and practices [that] will further the goals of cultivating full participation and inclusion in the Law School community.” From the beginning of our inquiry as a committee, our purview was immediately limited to students’ issues. We were told that the staff inquiry was to be overseen by Assistant Dean and Chief Human Resources Officer, Kevin Moody. As of now, we are not privy to the commencement or conclusion of a process for the staff investigation, nor to any results of said process. Thus, we were incapable of integrating the concerns of the HLS staff in our review of the entire community.

An inquiry into the faculty, requested by the student representatives to the Task Force, was denied on more than one occasion. Initially, we were told that this inquiry would occur near the end of the Task Force’s work, once we were done documenting and considering the issues of the student body. By the mid-point of the year, it was clear that the review of the faculty community was out of question. We then realized that time considerations were not the issue; instead, the chair believed the inquiry to be a futile effort. When asked to pen or sign a letter to the Dean recommending further inquiry into the HLS faculty, the chair offered a firm and unequivocal rejection––this, even as a student to the Task Force wagered their signature on the condition of such a letter.

In full recognition of the charge, we are of the view that our inquiry should not have been limited to just students, as if students were the source and maker of their own problems. We believe that we would have been in a better position to make recommendations had our inquiry extended to all stakeholders of this community, as stated in the charge. Make no mistake: resolution of the manifold concerns of the HLS Community will not be achieved without a synergistic inquiry into all facets of the Community. However, mindful of the time and resource constraints on our committee, we strongly recommend that a new committee be formed with the charge to conduct a holistic examination of faculty policies, politics, and pedagogy.

3. Diversity

Perhaps one of the most urgent tasks of this committee was to look into issues of diversity and inclusion. Throughout our consultations with students, diversity and inclusion was the most recurrent and pressing area of concern. Indeed, it is an issue that has been on the law school’s radar for sometime now. Here, we discuss diversity at three levels: diversity of courses, diversity in the student body and diversity in the faculty appointment.

A recurring request, from the times of Derrick Bell and student protests in 19811, is a diversification of the Faculty and the inclusion of Critical Race Theory as a recurring course. At present, whether Critical Race Theory will be offered as a course is dependent on a number of variables, such as the availability of a visiting professor to teach the course. None of the current faculty members consider themselves to be critical race theorists, nor do they publish or teach in this important discipline.

The necessity and importance of critical race scholarship is important now more than ever. Its value to students and to the pursuit of justice is a foregone debate. In addition, there are numerous excellent scholars in this field. To this end, we recommend that the Law School take steps to ensure that Critical Race Theory is fully integrated into the curricula at HLS, in a manner comparable to other courses such as Constitutional Law. This should include the appointment of a full time faculty member who is amongst the Critical Race intelligentsia.

This Task Force was established in the shadow of unprecedented introspection into our Academic Community following the difficult events of the 2015-2016 academic year. The black tape placed over African-American professors was an attack on campus diversity and a flashpoint in a tumultuous period on our campus. Renewed focus on our shield’s symbolism (The shield depicted three wheat sheaves and was based on the coat of arms of Isaac Royall Jr., a slaveowner and university benefactor) triggered Reclaim, a movement of students who demanded various reforms in how the Law School engaged its students. Ultimately these confrontations resulted in the Law School taking down their shield and commissioning this Task Force. One important question is how these events affected our student body moving forward, particularly its effect on prospective African-American students. This question is important because Harvard has traditionally outperformed peer institutions in the recruitment of African- American students, boasting disproportionately high yield rate within this demographic. This has led to the perception among African-American prospective students that Harvard Law School is a place where they will be comfortable and accepted, and can go on to do great things like our notable African-American alumni Barack Obama, Loretta Lynch, and others. It is thus striking how low the Class of 2019’s African-American student population is. There are 33 African American students in the Class of 2019, well below the mid-50s that we have enjoyed in recent years. There are many factors that could result in this statistic; but it seems it would be misguided to suggest that this drop is only coincidentally connected to the activities on our last year. There should be a follow-up study to determine whether or not the events surrounding the shield last year will have longterm effects on the makeup of our student classes. Everything possible should be done to make sure that these historically low numbers are an anomaly and not a new norm. The Dean of Students Office (DOS) has already begun addressing its policies and creating new spaces for African-American prospective students, but to be truly effective, DOS must be an active partner in projects like the Task Force, where difficult issues facing questions about the state of inclusion, diversity and the academic community are addressed. We thus recommend that the JD Admissions Office and Dean of Students study the causes of this historic drop, and thereafter commission a plan to address those concerns so as to attract more African-American students, and underrepresented minorities generally, to come to Harvard Law School.

Lastly, although the Committee Report recognises that significant strides have been made in the recent past to appoint a more diverse faculty,we are of the view that the process of appointment remains hidden behind a veil of secrecy with little to no information about who sits on the lateral hires committees, the representativity of the committee, the weight of student voices and opinions in a totality of considerations, the various competing factors considered in the appointment of a faculty member, and the standard of assessment for an individual candidate. We recommend that the Law School begin a process of providing greater transparency about the process of appointing a new faculty member, the composition of the committees responsible for hiring faculty members, and a written, public and easily accessible document about the requirements for faculty appointment.

4. Empirical Research & Data

Task Force collection of empirical data. Discussion from our first in-person meeting lead to a conclusion that the student body would be best engaged by meetings organized around section affiliation due to the comfortability that students had discussing tough issues with their sections, and the ease of dividing the student body by this metric. This solution was set aside by the chair. Engagement with the student community was instead structured around open meetings with the Task Force with each meeting having an assigned discussion topic. These meetings were sparsely attended, with Task Force members outnumbering attending students on many occasions. The information gathered from these meetings, however representative of the few students who attended, was highly anecdotal, and difficult to garner large conclusions from. In the absence of these conclusions, student views were extrapolated from Task Force conference calls where the chair penned all written minutes, and the chair’s meetings with Affinity Groups. In an attempt to supplement our report with empirical data, a sub-group of the Task Force was created with the express purpose of creating and disseminating a survey that would gauge student concerns and beliefs about the community. This survey was fine-tuned over the course of months with the help of experts on campus, and consultants from the Pew Research center. The survey was never disseminated to students, though the report does call for its dissemination in the future.

The disclosing of data. There should also be a push to make data about the student body more transparent. Transparent data is integral to: The executive boards of student clubs and groups on campus who wish to know the best strategies to target prospective members, student government leaders who need to be armed with information if they wish to fruitfully engage with administration, and affinity groups who wish to connect with alumni of their background to put on events that bridge generational gaps and create opportunities for meaningful mentorships. Information must not only be disclosed, it must also be accessible to students in efficient ways. The University should also commit itself to disclosing more data to the public and to members of the Academic Community. To this end we recommend that the University discloses more data to the Academic Community; this data includes, but is not limited to:

a. A breakdown of which countries our LLMs are coming from year so trends can be identified

b. Statistics about who (gender/racial breakdowns) receives Latin Honors or enrolls in particular types of classes (clinical vs seminar vs black letter)

c. A breakdown of how Law School funds are allocated

d. Information about the Law School’s alumni network. This information should be disclosed in a manner that is tailored to the interests of individual student groups

Overall, The school administration should err on the side of greater transparency when deciding whether or not to make data about the student body, faculty, or our wider community available to the public and the Academic Community. Further, data that is available should be consolidated on easily navigable webpages as to make the information accessible.

Displaying class demographic data. The data about class demographics should be shown in a way to highlight its significance while contextualizing its historical progression, both in the Task Force Report, and on Law School websites. Two notable statistics worth highlighting in our most recent class are it’s historically high female population and its historically low African-American population. The University’s current method of displaying this issue (breaking down the class by male/female and students of color/white) does not make both of these points clear to viewers of the website; and the current method may inadvertently keep other insights into class demographic data hidden as well. We recommend that the University displays Class demographic data in a manner that contextualizes the figures historically, by showing corresponding figures from the incoming classes of the last three years juxtaposed with historic data. Historic data could be represented through data points at 5 or 10 year intervals (e.g. data points from Class of 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2006, 1996, etc.) Recognizing that prefered ABA method of collecting demographic data materially changed in 2010, the university should be actively seeking ways to reconcile its databases of historic class demographic information into a format that makes it easily comparable with contemporary data.

5. Community Engagement

Institutional Norms and Culture. At the core of Dean Minow’s charge are questions of institutional norms, culture, and community. These interrelated yet distinct components serve as the bedrock of operating principles of the law school and guide how our community interacts across the law school academic environment. Core questions include, how do we work together as stakeholders of the institution to define the norms of operation on our campus? Today, the process is driven by the tenured faculty in a top-down, non-transparent manner with seemingly limited cross-faculty coordination. How do we use the established norms and ongoing norm-setting exercises to intentionally shape the culture at the law school? Today, this process appears to happen on an ad hoc basis, and this process will require annual conversations between faculty, staff, and students around how we all want to self-govern. And how do we leverage that culture and set of expectations to intentionally build community that allows for the development of trust, respect inside and outside of the classroom? We all stakeholders engaging in meaningful conversations around this question on an annual basis.

Harvard should strive to be an institution where students, staff, and faculty can bring their full selves to campus. No member of this community should feel as though they have to remove a part of their identity to feel included or experience a sense of belonging. If anything, every member of this community should feel like their full self is welcome and accommodated. When students do not feel comfortable fully participating, the entire community loses out on the addition of critical viewpoints to the campus conversations.

Some students have expressed a feeling of being silenced if they hold a view, or are even capable of holding a view, that is outside of the mainstream accepted school of thought. This impacts students with liberal and conservative voices, students who come from different geographies or cultures, and students whose lived experiences are contrary to the dominant view on campus. What should be clear is that all students should feel welcome to challenge the status quo and to hold a view that goes against the dominant view. If a student holds a view that is unpopular, this view should should be openly challenged, debated and interrogated. This exercise of free speech does not extend to license to suppress a contrarian view, rather it is an open invitation for lively debate and discussion.

Additionally, Professor actions have an outsized effect across the law school campus. In the classroom, professor guidance defines the scope of acceptable conversation. Outside the classroom, professor interactions in office hours, on panels, and research assistant work can have a significant impact not only on the development of specific law students they work with but on the law students they choose not to work with. Brief comments made by professors in office hours sometimes remains with students for years to come, for better or for worse.

To this end, the institution could draw from concepts of legal ethics, social justice, or the Hippocratic Oath to set norms. The law school could engage in a community-wide discussion of expectations on arrival, that would include at a minimum conversations between students, faculty, and staff about the kind of law school we want to build in a given year. We recommend that the Law School Dean set the tone at the beginning of every year with a reminder of their vision, the school’s mission and an open town hall conversation and ongoing community events to help members – students, staff, and faculty – engage with our norms and our culture.

Institutional Community Building

At the core of the Task Force charge are questions of trust and respect. Trust, in particular, cannot be mandated. Trust must be earned. One way to encourage students to build trust with each other and with the faculty and staff members on campus is to attempt to intentionally build community. We cannot simply hide behind our large size; we must embrace it. If students, faculty, administrators and staff listen to each other, we would be able to develop and maintain a collective plan for community engagement partly through deliberate planning, evaluation, and exercise, and commitment. Although professors play a role in the development of the Harvard Law community, that privilege is shared with many other actors. At a base level, the school should explore ways to build trust, to be supportive of students, and to be responsive to student needs.

For the purposes of this report, we consider the Harvard Law campus to include what happens in the classroom, in clinics, in student organizations, journals, and everything in between. The law school is a learning environment, a playground for brilliant minds to come and explore. As noted, Harvard Law School has a large student body. The size present challenges and unique opportunities. The institution owes a duty to the students to help push their minds and expand them into leaders. Not only is this duty owed to students who decide to come here but to the world, as Harvard Law students are held out as stewards for the world.

The school should seek to support student groups in fostering real collaboration across classes and groups. This may include shouldering some of the planning, working with students to produce programming, and helping provide more informal opportunities to discuss and meet person to person to connect and provide outside views.

There is limited meaningful collaboration between students and senior administrators. While the staff of the Dean of Students are wonderful to work with, they are overburdened by their existing workload. Additionally, Senior administrators seem to be give a default answer of ‘no’ rather than to be solutions-oriented. Students here are sometimes infantilized.

Tone set by section leaders, for example, students spoke of opening talks where professors emphasized the need to get to know one another and to form a supportive community. How can the Dean of Students office help assist social committees to ensure? How can we make sure best practices are shared across section leaders? Balance instruction with space for students to be creative. Reward the work undertaken by the facilitators. For example, one section hang-outs where we spend time one on one with a randomized classmate grabbing coffee and that has really facilitated some amazing bonds. We learn so much from classmates by learning their perspectives.

5. Student Engagement

Support Student Organizations and Journals Students feel connected to the law school through student organizations but have a hard time forming a sense of belonging, such as class or outside their organization. The law school should consider what it can do to make the environment more inclusive and ask itself whether different interests, backgrounds, people still feel like they have a place here and feel included. Although many students have the opportunity to participate in the Board of Student Advisors, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and Harvard Law Review, the resources of these organizations only reach a small fraction of the student body, whilst other student organizations do not receive the same amount of support from the Law School. The law school should continue to support the work of these organizations and encourage and support students who find alternative ways of engaging the community.

Student groups often rely on outside fundraising and outside organizations to fund their activities on campus, including lunch talks, mentorship programs, and conferences. Not only does this place a huge burden on student organizations, many smaller groups do not have the manpower to undergo such an effort on an annual basis. Additionally, student organizations are without office space – individual or shared – and expressed a sense of being under-supported. Being in charge of student org is gratifying, but the support from the school is minimal.

We therefore recommend that the Dean of Students Office put in place financial support, beyond the DOS Grant Fund, for student organizations, in particular the smaller organizations who do not have the financial muscle nor human capital to fundraise on their own.

Student Support & Mental Health. The statistics on mental health challenges exacerbated by the law school experience are daunting. On average, depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years. Stress among law students is 96%, compared to 70% in med students and 43% in graduate students. Entering law school, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have a psychological dysfunction.2 As an institution, we must recognize that law school is a traumatic experience for a large portion of our students. We need to recognize and engage in ongoing conversations on the importance of stress relief. We need to consider teaching resilience skills and how to cope with stress. For some, the first year law school experience might be the first experience where some people are not “the best.” Learning how to deal with “failure” is an important life skill. In addition to conversation and awareness, the school should look into increasing the availability of not just mental health services and the number of counselors available but the intermediary steps that may prevent the need for emergency services. We therefore recommend that the Law School, together with Dean of Students’ Office, partner with the Harvard University Health Care services to find creative ways to put in place preventative mental health care programs to support students.

1L and LL.M Orientation. Orientation should be used as an opportunity to introduce alumni speakers who represent excellence in a range of non-legal professions and in public interest law, in order to emphasize the wide aperture of potential careers and impacts on the world. Early speakers tend to create images of success in the minds of first-year students, so ensuring a range of interests will allow different students to be inspired in different ways (rather than feeling pushed in a particular direction). This will consequently help increase the sense of belonging among students, especially with non- traditional backgrounds or interests.

In addition, in the spirit of fostering greater community between JDs and LL.Ms, we think there ought to be better coordination and collaboration between the 1L and LL.M orientations.

6. Curriculum

In addition to offering Critical Race Theory as a continued course offering, we make the following recommendations:

Expand Core Course Enrollment. Given the high demand for certain courses, students are sometimes forced to choose between registering for important skills-based courses, such as Trial Advocacy Workshop and Negotiation Workshop, and critical black letter law courses, such as Federal Courts and constitutional law.

Additional suggestions include programming for lawyers, advanced legal writing, and courses on law and advocacy. Our suggestions is to code the registration system to list what skills a course builds.

Constitutional Law & American Legal System. Consider adding constitutional law to the 1L curriculum. Since it’s a prerequisite for a number of classes, and it can be difficult to enroll in. And it’s naturally a course that requires a discussion of race and gender, topics often absent from other 1L courses. Introductory course to the American Legal system – first generation lawyers, non-traditional backgrounds, non-political science undergraduate majors. For example, Columbia provides a three-week course that introduce students to law school and to basic components of the law. While the course is ungraded, it teaches students how they should best prepare for the next two semesters. Perhaps constitutional law or an introductory session to American law.

We therefore recommend Constitutional Law and Introductory course on the American Legal system be introduced into the 1L curriculum.

Grades & Feedback. Harvard Law School’s competitive culture exists. The school should consider Students noted that when the prevalent message is “grades above everything else” is hammered home during the first year, it’s hard to build a community when the community piece is de-emphasized from the beginning. We are an individualistic endeavor by nature. Reward structures of the law school are in tension with the school’s purported values of collaboration and inclusion. .

Some students come to Harvard Law School to learn how to become good lawyers. More broadly, some students come to the law school to engage in a variety of academic pursuits. At the law school, learning is an active process that requires two-way feedback. Students expressed frustration with the current grading process and the lack of meaningful feedback provided. For example, a student may have done well on an exam and still gotten something totally wrong and would never know. Feedback would likely encourage the message of learning for learning’s sake. When students do reach out for exam feedback, some professors are responsive while others are cold and seem to deliberately distance themselves from the conversation. Model answers are somewhat useful, but imperfect and not specific to provided value.

In this regard, we recommend that the Law School should promote a culture of striking a balance between academic excellence and community building by placing a strong emphasis on excellence through collaboration and that the Law School should put in place formal structures and procedures for students to request exam reviews and feedback.

7. Issues for Further Consideration

In addition to the concerns and issues highlighted above, below are other issues we would’ve wanted the Task Force to delve further into:

A. Low-Income Students. Students who are low-income face unique challenges at Harvard Law School. Coursework and social activities at the law school presume participants have the requisite financial capacity to participate. For example, the cost of participation in an off-campus clinic includes the cost of dry cleaning and the metro. Full participation at the law school includes the opportunity to go to social events and become a dues paying member of an organization. Although students generally reported that the financial office to be very responsive, many people not from upper-middle-class backgrounds are not comfortable coming to the office to admit that they have financial issues.

B. First Generation Legal Professionals. Students who are the first in their family to go to law school, or are the first in their family to go to an Ivy League institution, often face different challenges when they arrive on campus. Students may be intimidated by the legal jargon, onslaught of choices, such as to clerk or not to clerk or to attempt to write on to the Harvard Law Review. To this end, there are three categories of a response, continued support for the individual student, increased support for the community of students, and broader campus-wide dialogue to promote conversations around class and social backgrounds.

Additionally, we heard from students from different social and economic backgrounds that they often feel out of place at Harvard Law School. One student pointed to the etiquette classes as offered by a student group as a helpful resource, and another was appreciative of the dress code advice from the Office of Career Services. Although these are seemingly superficial matters, they help students navigate and succeed in the legal profession by being able to participate in norms and to follow the unwritten rules of the legal community. While we commend the Student Financial Services Office, we recommend that the school implement programs to help first generation professionals.

C. Skills-Based & Leadership Coursework Skills-building, e.g. effective presentation styles, how to lead effectively, and how to give effective feedback, how to advocate for your client. Would be helpful for HLS to offer modules like this to build skills and build community.

School operates with assumption that you come in with significant leadership skills, but it doesn’t seem to provide adequate opportunities for further development in terms of maximizing potential as future leaders.

D. Enhancing Community Building Through Sections While the Section system at HLS is not unique, it provides students with their first opportunity to create lasting relationships with peers in a structured system. In a school as large as Harvard Law, having a grouping of 80 or so students to interact with continuously throughout your first year is important, and relationships with section mates often are the backbone of a student’s professional contacts upon completion of Law school. Recognizing this, we think that it is important to create more structured ways of interaction between sections, primarily through initiatives driven by Section social committees (“Section Committees”) made up of students who decide how to spend the funds allotted to them from the school. Particularly we want to ensure that 1L Section Committees have proper support when it comes to setting up events, and do not have to continuously reinvent the wheel. We recommend that Faculty Section Leaders require outgoing Section Committees to create a list of initiatives and events as an “instruction manual” for the next class; in the hopes of setting a high bar for group activities and enabling subsequent Section Committees to hit the ground running.

Section relationships are meant to be long lasting, and section mates are meant to become the backbone of a student’s professional contacts after graduation. Currently however, there seems to be a mismatch between our expectations for these continued relationships, and the amount of monetary support given by the school to nurture these relationships. This is evident in the funding of Section Committees, which drops from $13,000 per section in 1L year to $250 in 2L year. We recommend that funding for Section Committees beyond 1L year be increased, to emphasize the importance of continued community.

The Law School should strive to support section relationships in alternative ways as well. One idea floated by students, was by dividing up the mandatory 3L legal profession class by section, so students can have one last “farewell” class with their sections before graduating. By integrating the section system into a mandatory 3L course students will have the opportunity to reconnect with their section right before graduation and entering the workforce. This is just one of many innovative ideas that could be used to enhance the community building benefits of the section system without increasing direct funding. We also recommend that the University search for innovative techniques to support section relationships throughout the duration of law school in ways other than increasing the funding of Section Committees.

8. Conclusion

For nearly 200 years, Harvard Law School has remained at the forefront of legal practice and theory. Every day, we enter a space that has nurtured leadings scholars, politicians, presidents, prime ministers, judges, attorneys, and change-makers. In that time, Harvard Law School affiliates have led and supported some of the most remarkable projects towards social progression. As we reflect on 200 years of excellence in legal education, let not the inertia of a rigid status quo prevent us from imagining and reimagining a more perfect institution. It is our hope that with this addendum, we can catalyze the large- scale change necessary to ensure the continued longevity and prosperity of Harvard Law School.


The Student Representatives to the HLS Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement
Tshidiso Ramogale, LL.M. 2017
Natalie Vernon, J.D. 2017
Cameron Clark, J.D. 2018
Memme Onwudiwe, J.D. 2019


Prof. Susan Crawford

  1. Victor F. Caldwell & Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, 96 Columbia Law Review 1363, 1363 (1996); Lee, Philip. The Griswold 9 and Student Activism for Faculty Diversity in the Early 1990s. 27 Harv. J. Racial & Ethnic Just. 49 (2011); STUDENTS PICKET LAW COURSE IN RIGHTS PROTEST AT HARVARD, The New York Times (1983), (last visited May 10, 2017); and A Class Sends Message To Harvard Law School, The New York Times (1990), (last visited May 10, 2017).


Annexure A

Mission Statement & Timeline

Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement

Mission Statement / Description

The Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement (the “Task Force”) is a working group of twelve Harvard Law School faculty, alumni, and students who are examining the student experience in four core areas: (1) institutional culture, (2) curriculum, (3) mentoring, and (4) institutional supports. After gathering student input, advice and counsel from related law school offices, and research on the practices of peer institutions, the Task Force will make recommendations to the community on ways to improve the student experience. Our goal is to help Harvard Law School best achieve its mission of training the best lawyers in the world.

2017-18 Taskforce Structure

Important questions we need to answer, or leave to next year’s committee/the incoming Dean:

●  What percentage or number of Task Force members constitutes quorum?

●  Will there be an outside review process by a private firm, like McKinsey for example? If so:

○  What relationship will the consultants have with stakeholders at the university?

○  Would they work in tandem with the Task Force, in tandem with other stakeholders at the law school (Dean’s Office, Faculty Committee on diversity, the Dean of Students, affinity coalition etc.), independent from the Task Force, or under a different arrangement? *

●  Is a report submitted with a unanimous, majority, or plurality of member votes?

* The following Timeline assumes that such a body (“McKinsey” merely represents a private firm) would be loosely advised and guided by the Task Force in the researching and writing of their own report. The Task Force will work separately to find solutions of their own through an organized campaign of community engagement. The independent report would merely form the baseline for information gathering—it is meant to be an aid to the new committee.

2017-18 Task Force Timeline

I. Renewing the Process

August 24 – September 24 Assembly of the Taskforce.

○ The same procedures used to choose members of the 2016-17 Taskforce should be used to decide the members of the 2017-18 Task Force. Proposed Task Force Structure:

  • 6 Professors (A mix of Clinical and Lecturer)
  • 5 students (a 1L representative, a 2L representative, a 3L representative, a LLMrepresentative, and a SJD representative.)
  • 3 Alumni (including an LLM/SJD)
  • 3 staff members (including the Director of Student Engagement at DOS)
  • 1 Professor and 1 student will serve as co-chairs
  • Break-up the Task Force into specific subcommittees

September 24 – October 22 Task Force preparatory work

○  Take a group photo for Task Force website and social media outlets, become acquainted with one another

○  Meet with corporate culture consultants from McKinsey to help them have a baseline understanding of our community and guide their year long independent review of our Academic Community (communication and advisory guidance from the Task Force should be ongoing throughout the year)

○  Select exact dates for section organized open community discussions, discuss tactics to raise attendance (work with section leaders to advertise? Have committee members visit 1L sections to talk about the work of the taskforce? etc.)

○  Peer institution research

II. Define the Challenges (Data Collection)

●  October 22 – December 8 2L, 3L, LLM & SJD Open Community discussions

○  Week of Oct. 22nd (23nd-27th) Meetings with Section 1 class of 2018 & 2019; and Section 7 of Class of 2018

○  Week of Oct. 30th (30th- Nov. 1st) Meetings with Section 2 class of 2018 & 2019; and LLMs

○  Week of Nov. 6th (6th-10th) Meetings with Section 3 class of 2018 & 2019; and Section 7 of Class of 2019

○  Week of Nov. 13th (13th-17th) Meetings with Section 4 class of 2018 & 2019; and SJDs

○  Week of Nov. 27th (27th- Dec.1st) Meetings with Section 5 class of 2018 & 2019

○  Week of Dec. 4th (4th-8th) Meetings with Section 6 class of 2018 & 2019

●  December 8 – January 20 1L Open Community discussions

○  Week of Jan. 1st (3rd-5th) Meeting with Section 1 class of 2020

○  Week of Jan. 8th (8th-12th) Meetings with Section 2, 3, and 4 from class of 2020

○  Week of Jan 15th (15th-19th) Meetings with Section 5, 6, and 7 from class of 2020

 January 20 School-wide survey (this represents a deadline, survey should be disseminated immediately after its completion)

III. Address the Challenges (Data analysis, solution construction)

January 20 – February 24 Review full range of data collected

  • ○  Identify and investigate initial challenges identified in the Open Community discussions
    • Begin subcommittee research in each of the four core areas
    • Research possible solutions at Harvard and beyond
  • ○  Schedule Open Community discussions on potential solutions

• Decide if they should be organized by section or open to the whole campus.

●  February 24 – March 25 Open Community discussions on the potential solutions

○  Subcommittee Recommendations completed in this period

○  Initial results of McKinsey corporate culture research should be analyzed during this period

●  March 25 – April 20 Drafting and releasing a report 

○ There should be multiple in-person meetings for deliberation and drafting of report drafts

  • Cooperative drafting platforms, like Google Drive, should be encouraged
  • McKinsey researchers should be involved and engaged in this process
  • Discussion about whether to release both the McKinsey and Task Force Reports,only the Task Force Report, or only the McKinsey Report


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