One year later, still waiting for transformation

BY

A year ago today, Lower Manhattan was covered with a layer of ash. Ash that filled the lungs of its residents, ash that stung the eyes and smelled of death and filth. A year ago today, Lower Manhattan and the United States awoke as places changed forever.

Yet that morning at HLS was tranquil as ever. No dust fell upon our halls. We had seen the violence and fire of the day before only on television. We had faced few hard choices — we did not have to ask ourselves whether or not to leap, whether or not to flee, whether or not to call our spouse or significant other or our parents first. We at HLS are connected to America’s greatest city, where we send a majority of our class each year, by family, by friends and often by birth. On September 11, our task was easy. Few, if any, of us were physically touched. We were asked only to grieve.

For most Americans of our generation, last year’s tragedy was probably the singular national event of our lives. Here it is no different. And like us, most Americans were asked only to grieve, to give to charity, to care, to be better people.

Unlike many Americans, our lives were safe on September 11 in an academic enclave far removed from the workaday world. We are fortunate daily for this shelter, but it also presents a challenge.

We are privileged by virtue of being here. But that privilege comes with a cost: We must strive not only to be better people, but to be the best kind of people. The name of this place can make us powerful, but will also magnify our failures. We cannot let this place shield us from our faults or let us shirk the onus of responsibility. We must choose to be leaders rather than followers, champions of justice rather than prophets of empty rhetoric.

We should look through the pain of last year for transformation, for new ideas and new reasons for our shared existence. Yet so far, we have not. We who would be leaders still speak far too often in the churlish manner of sheltered academics. Instead of new ideas, our debates have often clung selfishly to old ones.

HLS is a place of law and of learning, where possibilities are articulated and dreams are realized. Yet still we hide, avoiding the chance to do justice, to advance reason over mysticism and chaos, and to foster lives of decency, dignity and respect for intellectual debate.

Instead of seeking transformation in tragedy we have too often clung to partisanship and dimestore pedagogy. People on this campus still spend too much time talking past each other and not enough time listening. The motto of this great University is “truth,” yet we too easily accept its ideological substitutes. All too often, in the opinion pages of this newspaper, in campus protests and classroom discussions, we see examples of people not trying hard enough to connect.

In last year’s terrible collapse, in that onrush of dirt and blood and ash, one truth should have seized us all: We cannot be agnostic about the future. We cannot believe that our choices do not matter. And we cannot make a better future, first and foremost, without listening.

As President Summers said, some truths are unassailable. But many assumed truths — and worn ideologies — need reexamination. We cannot be leaders or ideologues unless we are willing to defend our ideas, not by shouting others down, but by critically rethinking our perspectives. We cannot be teachers unless we are still willing to be taught.

One year later, the opportunity to transform, to listen, still stands. There is still a chance to seize this privilege by the reins, to use our time here to force ourselves to rethink.

We should be sorrowful on this somber day, but we should also use this moment, once again, to search for inspiration.

Vino & Veritas: Champagne!

BY JOSH SOLOMON

At a recent dinner with some friends, I found myself droning on about the wine I had ordered for the table — the grapes, the region, of what I was reminded by its tastes and smells. One friend finally stopped me by simply asking, “Who cares?” He elaborated: “I like most wine I drink, so why bother to learn all those other details? Why not just drink and not think about it?”

That question is fair enough. If you were to slip an honesty pill into their glasses, and then ask a bunch of people who know something about wine why it’s worth knowing something about it, you might get some answers like the following: I feel like I might need to know that kind of “stuff” to be part of the society I intend to inhabit; when I go on a date/business dinner/insert-your-important-outing, I want to be able to read a wine list; I’m pretentious, and it makes me appear sophisticated (beware, particularly, these people, as they often know less than they want you to think they know and when they don’t know something, are usually unwilling to ask for assistance).

My answer was a bit different. It’s kind of like baseball. Almost anyone can go to Fenway Park and have a good time. Whether it’s the two-outs-two-strikes-bases-loaded situations in a close game, long home runs that disappear beyond the range of the lights, gorging oneself on peanuts and hotdogs, or some combination of such things, everyone can find something that will make them say, paraphrasing my friend, “I like most games I attend.” But there’s the potential for much more. When you have more knowledge about the game, you will, without question, get more out of it. It’s one thing to know that three strikes is an out, that four balls is a walk, and that the team with the most runs at the end of the game wins. It’s something else to know some history of the sport and the team you follow, why the manager might bring in a lefty for one batter, and a team’s standing in a pennant race. The more “stuff” you know, the more you enjoy watching the game.

While I was playing to my audience at the time, you could insert just about anything in the place of baseball to illustrate the point. It might be the trees you see on a hike, the history of a country you visit, or even the background of the Justice whose opinion you study. Wine is the same way.

I could serve a glass of most wines to someone who doesn’t know anything about wine, and he would probably enjoy it (particularly if it’s a young, buttery Chardonnay). But joy comes in degrees. If I served the same glass to someone who was familiar with the region, could evaluate the wine within its vintage, and had developed the ability to discern a variety of smells and tastes, that person would be bound to enjoy it far more than would the first. It is then that wine becomes fun.

If fun seems a little strong, give it a try. I think you’ll find, even with just a little bit of knowledge, that wine really is fun. And even if I’m wrong, it will at least come in handy on the date/business dinner/insert-your-important-outing.

And speaking of fun…. At the end of each column, I will try to offer my thoughts on some wines I tried out for you. Usually, they will tie in with the column’s theme. This week, alas, I forgot to get some wine before Sunday, when this wonderful state refuses to let me buy any. Since my column was due on Monday, and since there really was no theme here, you get one of the bottles I happened to have on hand (consider it a preview of my future piece on Champagne):

Perrier Jou

Harvard commemorates September 11th

BY JONAS BLANK

On a somber, breezy afternoon yesterday, over ten thousand students from around the University gathered to participate in a memorial service commemorating the September 11 attacks.

Held in front of the Tercentenary Theater in Harvard Yard, the service featured devotional readings from many of the world’s religious traditions. Four students read passages on the theme of remembrance, while four more read on the theme of hope. A choral performance, composed by University junior Carson Coonan, came in between the sets of readings.

The subdued crowd spilled across the quad onto the steps of Widener Library, some students sitting, some sobbing lightly. Many students bowed their heads throughout the ceremonies.

University President Lawrence Summers spoke last, delivering a charged message that urged students to respect diversity and work for change even as he drew sharp political distinctions.

He called last September’s events “a calculated plot to murder innocent, unsuspecting people… because they were members of this national community enjoying the fruits of freedom.” Echoing many of President Bush’s speeches of the past year, Summers said that the terrorist attacks “reminded us of the eternal existence of evil.”

Summers’ speech also reflected on the nature of the University and its role in the search for truth. He called for students to recognize the “moral clarity” of the fight against terrorism in all forms.

“We debate the nature of truth,” Summers said, “but there are some truths beyond debate.” He urged the assembled students to, “advance our common purpose by refusing to excuse or legitimate terror.”

Summers called for respect for diversity and tolerance, as well as for the men and women fighting terror around the world. Acutely aware of the surrounding academic environment, Summers repeatedly implored students to look for positive solutions.

“Ultimately, we will be judged not by what we oppose, but what we work towards,” he said.

Summers’ remarks concluded with the tolling of the Memorial Church bell, which lasted for two minutes.

Tuition hike: Bad economy and rising costs blamed

BY JONAS BLANK

Along with the usual stress of exams, students this past May were treated to a nasty surprise: The largest tuition hike since 1995. A May 13 schoolwide e-mail from Dean Robert Clark brought students the bad news that full tuition for the 2002-2003 academic year would be $29,500, a leap of 7.3 percent from last year’s $27,500. Along with the Law School’s estimated living expenses of $17,900, that brings the total cost of a year at HLS to $47,400.

Clark’s e-mail detailed a number of reasons for the increase, including the hiring of Professors Ryan Goodman and Guhan Subramanian, funding the new pro bono office, and adding another full-time OPIA employee. Compounding the Law School’s problems was the abysmal year on Wall Street, which resulted in a paltry two percent increase in endowment income, which is the money that the University allows HLS to spend out of the interest on its endowment. Even though the Law School kept its costs from rising too much

Five win Sears Prize

BY LEA SEVCIK

In a couple of unusual twists, this year’s Joshua Montgomery Sears, Jr. prize went to five recipients rather than four, and all five of the recipients are on the Harvard Law Review. Together, the five have pretty impressive resumes: starting an equity fund, pursuing Ph.Ds, even an attested interest in professional skiing.

The prize is awarded annually to two 1L and two 2L students with the highest grade point averages, which at HLS means over an “A” average. This year, three 1Ls received the prize due to a tie. The 2L recipients are Michael Shah and Michael Gottlieb, and the 1L recipients are David Landau, Christian Pistilli and Jared Kramer.
Despite their academic similarities, this year’s recipients differ in many surprising ways. They range in age from 22 to 27, they all study in different ways, and their paths to HLS could not have been more diverse.

A Closer Look: The 2Ls

Michael Shah has the unusual distinction of having won the Sears prize twice, and is thus likely to graduate at the top of his class. Yet Shah is not eagerly embracing an illustrious legal future. He will not be clerking next year, and after a summer split between Wachtell in New York and Susman Godfrey in LA, Shah says he is still considering investment banking.

When Shah finished his pre-med major at Harvard University, he wanted to “get started in life” rather than pursuing a lengthy medical degree. He spent a year at the London School of Economics getting his Masters in finance and economics, and immediately put his skills to use. Together with two other LSE students, Shah started a private equity fund that raised over $2 million. It was only when the equity markets crashed that Shah decided to go to law school.

Today, Shah is still keeping involved as an investor and a financial and legal advisor in his friends’ startups. One of his current projects is an artificial sweetener called Sucraslim, which has no calories and is safe for baking. “We’ll be rolling out the infomercials in the next couple of months,” he said.

When it comes to class, Shah says, “I try to take things that are useful if I don’t end up practicing law,” like secured transactions and real estate.

Michael Gottlieb graduated from Northwestern University with a political science major and a thesis on the diplomatic norms of the Association of South East Asian Nations. He twice won the National Debate Tournament in college, then spent a year in Boston coaching debate at Harvard University.

As a 1L, Gottlieb was an “HL Central person,” participated in the HLS Democrats, and helped to found the HLS American Constitutional Society. In his 2L year he researched for Professor Laurence Tribe and kept busy with the Law Review’s articles committee.
He also went the law firm route last summer, splitting between Jenner & Block and Cleary Gottlieb in D.C. Next year he will be clerking for famed Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the Ninth Circuit. Beyond that, his plans for the future are hazy, although he says that “I loved D.C., that’s probably where I want to end up.”

So if Gottlieb could do anything in the world right now, would he still study the law? “I doubt it. I’d probably still be interested in the law, read Supreme Court decisions. But I’d probably be a professional skier.”

The 1Ls

David Landau majored in social studies at Harvard College, was editor-in-chief of The Independent, and wrote his thesis on how presidents gather support in the Ecuadorian legislature. He then went straight through to HLS, where in his 1L year he was a subciter for the International Law Journal.

Landau admitted that he was “miserable” for part of his 1L year. He found HLS to be a “pretty cold place sometimes,” and he missed the “academic buzz” of college. He also didn’t take an immediate liking to law. “It’s something you have to become perhaps more committed to, understand better before it becomes interesting,” he said.

Landau said his work on Law Review has helped him to like law school better. “It’s neat to be in a smaller group in a school like this.” Also, “you see what people are doing on the cutting edge of legal scholarship, it gives you a very different exposure than what you see freshman year and it’s usually much more interesting.”

Despite his legal success, Landau’s plans may not include the law: “I’m not doing recruiting this fall. I want to teach, and I’m seriously thinking of a Ph.D in government. I almost did that before coming here.” Next summer he hopes to work for professors: that would give him a better idea of whether or not he liked legal research.

Haverford College grad Christian Pistilli focused on Kant and pursued a philosophy Ph. D at the University of Pittsburgh. But the “tough road” to a Ph. D lost its appeal when Pistilli decided he wanted to become involved in the world in a more practical way. He left his degree behind and traveled to Maine to join the Senate campaign of Democrat Mark Lawrence against Olympia Snow. When Lawrence lost, Pistilli went to work as a paralegal at Hunton & Williams in New York, then made his way to HLS.

Pistilli found HLS a natural fit: “Law school splits the difference between grad school and politics,” he said. Pistilli added that he enjoyed his first year experience: “Lots of people come in with low expectations and expect it to be tough. I found the people wonderful and the class work not as bad as I was lead to believe.” He loved his professors: Professor David L. Shapiro was “brilliant and terrifying,” while he found that Professor Lewis D. Sargentich’s jurisprudence class presented “the closest thing to what I remember really liking about philosophy.” Pistilli also became a subciter for the Journal on Legislation and joined the HLS Democrats.

This summer, Pistilli worked part time for his torts professor, Jon Hanson and also enjoyed “being a bit of a bum” and doing some leisure reading. Where would he like to end up? “I don’t want to run for office, but I can see working in government or on the Hill, or teaching.”

Princeton grad Jared Kramer was well on his way to a promising career in computer science until four months before his 1L year, when he chose HLS over a computer science Ph.D. He still sometimes feels “not quite at home” in law school. “I find it very frustrating not to have any answers. In computer science you’re either right or wrong or too stupid to find out, and either of those three are comforting.”

Still, Kramer enjoyed his 1L year. “The constant argumentation is interesting and stimulating,” he said, adding that “the non-quantitative nature of law is both good news and bad news, but the people are good news.” Kramer subcited for the Journal on Legislation last year, but this year he plans to be involved only with the law review “to placate my girlfriend who lives in New York.”

In his spare time this summer, Kramer also found the solution to a computer science problem that he had stumbled upon on his professor’s website. Jared’s professor urged him to publish the solution, a task that Jared is currently coordinating with another person who discovered the solution at the same time — a professor at Northeastern University.
Jared spent the summer at Fish & Neave in New York, and this summer he hopes to work for the Department of Justice. In the long term, Jared is “more of an academic,” although he is also drawn to litigation.

The Surprise of the Prize

Most Sears Prize winners attributed their good fortune to chance rather t
han design. Gottlieb says: “One of the reasons I was so shocked about the whole thing, and why I never expected to win the Sears Prize, was because I got rejected from HLS the first time I applied, and in off the wait list my second time. So I never really thought I’d be in the running for an award like this.” As a result, he says: “I was literally shocked when I got my grades.”

Landau said he was also caught off-guard: “I thought I’d done pretty well, but you never think you’re going to do that well. I feel like in many ways it’s just luck.”
Kramer agreed: “I didn’t think I did that well in Crim Law and I ended up doing best in Crim Law. That just goes to show that you have no idea what happens when you get out of an exam.”