Category Archives: Opinion

Commentary by members of the Harvard Law community.

Opinion  /  December 18, 2014  / 

Discuss Pakistani Lives

I sit here, an hour before my Evidence final and in light of the recent massacre of schoolchildren in Pakistan, unable to concentrate. Why should I study law if law can’t protect children? Why should I study law if I can’t protect my children (for, yes, they are my children, too, although they are Pakistani and lived across the globe)? They are my children for the perhaps illogical reason that they are all our children. Here at Harvard Law School, there has been a strong recent movement against police racial profiling, against police violence and against systematic racism. The movement has made numerous requests to the Dean to recognize societal injustices. It has staged numerous “Die-Ins” outside of Faculty Meetings. Many of their slogans include “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe,” referring to Eric Garner’s last words as he was choked to death by New York police. Pakistani lives … Continue reading

Opinion  /  December 8, 2014  / 

Silence Means You Are Comfortable With a Status Quo That Is Unequal, Racist, and Unjust

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Protesters in Harvard Square, December 5, 2014 To the man in the coffee shop who asked me why I went out to disrupt people’s commute home, to Boston Mayor who criticized the thousands of committed #BlackLivesMatter protesters for “frightening a child … who just came there to see Santa Claus and instead had people screaming in her ear,” and to everyone who has not yet taken a position on the violence occurring across the country or is remaining silent — here are a few thoughts. I am not sorry that you had to wait 4.5 minutes to cross the street. What I am sorry about was that you did not take that opportunity to come out, learn about what has drawn hundreds of thousands into the streets in this country, and joined the protest yourself. We started disrupting because cops murdered an Black man and then left his body on … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 20, 2014  / 

Divesting Common Sense

Sometimes, when I fall asleep reading Ayn Rand, my mind slips into a Libertarian Wonderland. In that world, rational people ask two simple questions before trying to impose a rule that would restrict the actions of others. First, will this rule be a headache to follow? Second, will it actually do any good? If the answer to the first question is yes and to the second question is no, then the rule is not implemented. When I wake up, I realize that these principles aren’t even necessarily libertarian; they are just common sense. Unfortunately for us all, the Divest Harvard movement does not exist in a Libertarian Wonderland. It takes a laudable goal, fighting climate change, and pursues it by one of the least efficient means possible. The result is a massive headache for the administration with no hope of having a real effect on climate change. I say this … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 20, 2014  / 

Breach of Faith: Why We’re Suing Harvard Over Its Fossil Fuel Investments

Earlier today, we filed a lawsuit against the Harvard Corporation over its investments in fossil fuels. As student members of the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition, we’re demanding that our university stop profiting from the destruction of the earth’s climate and that it divest its holdings in gas, oil, and coal companies. Our legal claims are simple. Harvard is a non-profit educational institution, chartered in 1650 to promote “the advancement and education of youth.” By financially supporting the most dangerous industrial activities in the history of the planet, the Harvard Corporation (officially known as “the President and Fellows of Harvard College”) is violating commitments under its charter as well as its charitable duty to operate in the public interest. We’re also suing on behalf of future generations. By investing in the extraction of fossil fuels, the Harvard Corporation is actively supporting the destruction of the earth’s atmosphere and the catastrophic consequences … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 20, 2014  / 

Public Interest or Law Firm? It’s Not Either/Or

Many law students would like to get a public interest job after graduation, but those jobs are not plentiful, and they don’t do much to reduce the size of law school debts. But if you go to a law firm, you don’t have to forget why you came to law school, because at many large firms today, pro bono is alive and well, and associates are encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities. During national pro bono week in late October, we had a program here at George Washington Law School to which we invited lawyers from five major firms in Washington to talk about their pro bono work. The firms all have very robust pro bono practices, which includes many hours spent by partners as well as associates. Much of the work is litigation, but by no means all. Firms find ways to help small businesses, non-profits, and developing … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 20, 2014  / 

The Great Contradiction in Criminal Justice: Why Corporate Executives Should, But Rarely Do, Go to Jail

Criminal prosecutions serve three purposes: punishing the bad actor, deterring future crime, and expressing social values. As the great legal historian Lawrence M. Friedman wrote: “[C]riminal justice tells us where … the line lies between good and bad. … [T]he history of criminal justice is not only the history of the forms of rewards and punishment; it is also a story about the dominant morality, and hence a history of power.” Viewed from this perspective, today’s criminal justice system is a sad commentary on the values our society claims to hold dear. America’s 5,000 prisons hold about 2.3 million inmates, more than in any other country that records such statistics, including Russia. An additional 4.1 million people live under the supervision of correctional institutions, primarily on probation, for a total of 6.4 million or one in 34 Americans. African Americans are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 20, 2014  / 

In Response to “Going to Harvard is a Privilege, but Safety is a Right”: Due Process is a Right, Too

In 1603, Sir Walter Raleigh was convicted of treason in a sham of a trial. Raleigh had no knowledge of the charges’ substance until the morning of the tribunal, when he learned he was accused, on hearsay alone, of plotting to enthrone Lady Arabella Stuart. Years later, as a partial result of his conviction, resigned to the great injustice done to both his body and his name by the tribunal of 1603, Raleigh placed his head on the block, refused a blindfold and — after the reluctant headsman delayed — implored, “Strike man, strike!” How did this murder disguised as justice occur? The answer is simple: an inexcusable absence of due process. I include this (admittedly drastic) example because outrage at the great injustice done to Raleigh in this witch-hunt called a “trial,” in this persecution disguised as prosecution, contributed to the development of numerous facets of what we today … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 20, 2014  / 

HLS Dems Fight Voter Suppression in Texas

“It seems like they really don’t want us to vote this year,” she told me, and she was right. I was standing at a polling place in Texas on Election Day. Or, rather, standing at the church that had functioned as a polling place for a dozen elections. This time around, the polling location had been changed three weeks before the election. But no one had told the voters. At the old location, there was only one hidden, microscopic sign indicating the change. When we got there, people kept pulling up in cars, hoping to vote, and becoming very confused. We went to the CVS, got poster board and sharpies, and put up big signs directing people to their new polling place. It turns out that when you want to stop people from voting, there are a lot of things you can do. A group from the HLS Democrats went … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 20, 2014  / 

Harvard Should Have Its Own Fair Information Practice Principles

On November 4, a Harvard research study that secretly photographed faculty and students in class came to light. The study, approved by Vice Provost Peter Bol, was conducted in 2013 to study student attendance at lectures. Whether one thinks such a study was a violation of privacy or only to be expected on a camera ubiquitous campus, one issue is clear: Harvard and other universities need their own set of privacy principles akin to the Fair Information Practice Principles. In fact, every learning environment where academic freedom and trust are paramount should articulate values that serve as a guide for community interactions that implicate privacy. Harvard has principles governing research. Why not for the privacy of students, staff, and faculty? In this respect, Harvard’s Policy on Access to Electronic Information, approved just this past April by the Harvard Corporation, is too narrow if not inadequate. To demonstrate the current Policy’s … Continue reading

From the Print Edition / Opinion  /  November 6, 2014  / 

A Sexual Harassment Policy that Nearly Ruined My Life

I am a first-year student at Harvard Law School, and I join the 28 members of our faculty who recently protested the university’s adoption of a new and expansive sexual harassment policy. While I agree wholeheartedly that universities have a moral as well as a legal obligation to provide their students with learning environments free of sexual harassment, I echo the faculty’s concern that this particular policy “will do more harm than good,” and I urge the university to reconsider its approach to addressing the problem. If considered only in the abstract, many might wonder how a policy with such a laudable aim could draw any serious objections. And I might well have been among them — were it not for the fact that such a policy nearly ruined my life. Now, in the hopes that my painful and humiliating experience might yet produce some good by improving the final … Continue reading