“Gosh, there is so much stuff,” Laurence Tribe says, as I begin our interview in the library of his home in Cambridge with his partner Elizabeth on a chair beside him. And we are off to the races.
Tribe, 74, is Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and the United States’ preeminent constitutional law scholar. A.B., Mathematics, summa cum laude, Harvard College. J.D., magna cum laude, Harvard Law School. Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard University. Lead counsel in 37 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Author of 12 books and more than 85 scholarly articles – including the most cited legal text or treatise of the 20th century, American Constitutional Law. Nearly a dozen honorary degrees. Constitutional consultant to the Marshall Islands, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and South Africa. And avid Twitterer, on occasion tweeting more than 20 times a day. Check him out at @tribelaw.
The battle-cry of the American Revolution: “give me liberty or give me death!” Reflecting upon my first year living in America and upon what I have learned in criminal law, I find it hard to believe that Americans truly value liberty. What I see is the human spirit crushed under the yoke of an overly oppressive criminal justice system. I fail to understand how to logically reconcile over-criminalization and mass incarceration with the famous American love of freedom.
The rhetoric justifying this draconian criminal system does not help. Classmates speak of deterrence and signals – which is simply a way to sugar coat what is truly happening: we are scaring people into submission. But is this the sort of human we wish to foster? A being whose conduct does not flow from virtue but from fear. This is our vision of humanity’s highest form or greatest potential? Do we want a society of craven and vindictive worms that curl up lest they get stepped on? The idea that we must design our society according to such a vision reveals a troubling pessimism regarding human nature and a profound lack of ambition regarding the possibilities for society.
And this is all for the laudable (and supposedly necessary) goal of self-preservation. But the emphasis on preserving society neglects the more important antecedent question: is it the sort of society that is worth preserving? What if the methods through which our society ensures its survival creates the sort of society that is undeserving of survival?
Harvard Law School has a proud history of being at the forefront of progressive tort law. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw, who studied law at Harvard College, authored the landmark decision of Brown v. Kendall in 1850, the first judicial opinion to recognize negligence.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. studied law at Harvard at a time when tort law was an incoherent ragbag of miscellaneous wrongs still shaped by the writ of trespass. Holmes’ 1873 book, The Theory of Torts, revolutionized tort law by breaking civil wrongs into the triad of negligence, strict liability, and intentional torts. This division is now taught in every law school in the country.
This past election season was wrought with division and attacks on the racial, religious, cultural, and gender identities that are integral to the lives of so many Americans. These attacks on our communities and core aspects of our identities are not new. Nearly one year ago, on November 19, the portraits of African-American tenured faculty in the halls of Wasserstein were defaced with black tape. Then and now, in the face of discriminatory acts, our student body has gathered to discuss the importance of awareness, to recognize that racism and oppressive actions are not condoned by our community, and to value diversity both in the legal profession and in legal education.
Continue reading “Honoring Diverse Voices in Legal Education”
The liberal is truly a surprising creature. A liberal believes in reform but does not wish to confront the fact that the problems in our society implicate its very constitution – capitalism, patriarchy, etc – despite speaking the inherited language of “human rights,” “equal outcomes,” and so on. They believe they can endlessly feast on hypocrisy without getting indigestion as though the rest of society will tolerate their nonsense indefinitely. Trump’s election demonstrated how out of touch Harvard’s liberals are from the realities of the society they presume to lead.
During the election watch “party” in Belinda Hall I witnessed students’ reactions as a Trump victory became more certain by the hour. Some drifted listlessly around the lounge. Others drank themselves to a stupor or cried. Yet just the day before, many of them were utterly apolitical and content with the general direction and organization of America – many the same kids who didn’t breathe anywhere near a picket line when HUDS was on strike. The harsh truth is that most Harvard liberals orient their ambitions toward a lucrative and comfortable life – a sort of life that is only possible within the context of a general system of exploitation. As such, the Harvard liberal is totally complacent in perpetuating the sort of society whose immanent tendencies produced a Trump presidency. Thus, what truly happened on election night wasn’t really so much disgust at the nasty state of affairs in the country but terror in realizing that the accustomed logic with its rewarding prerogatives for the Harvard liberal is not guaranteed after all. For I refuse to believe that those who already stomach so much injustice and yet proceed toward their sweet corporate gigs are genuinely revolted by a Trump presidency. Anybody with half a brain knows that the injustices Trump represents are injustices that are constantly reproduced in throughout the country (and world). Continue reading “The Death of Liberalism”
The United States of America voted, and the country’s 45th President will be Donald J. Trump.
Throughout the gory, gruesome, and seemingly never-ending primaries and general election, each side insulted the other. Various times. Aggressively and belligerently. In the days after the election, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, it seems incredibly difficult to follow through with our nation’s historic, respectable, and peaceful transition of power. How can the country reconstruct itself after the civil war that was the 2016 election cycle?
It was 6 a.m. on November 8. Somehow already in a rush, I packed some water and snacks into my backpack and grabbed my jacket as I darted out into the chilly autumn air of Cambridge. I walked down to the Coop and met up with a couple of 2Ls, who I hadn’t met before, to road trip two-and-a-half hours up deep into New Hampshire to knock on doors and get out the vote.
This wasn’t my first rodeo by any means. I, along with countless other Harvard graduate and professional students, had been saturating New Hampshire’s pavement for months. Once we arrived to the field office, we wasted no time. Breaking for as little as 15 minutes between “turfs,” our group spent the next eight or so hours knocking on doors, talking with voters, petting dogs, leaving friendly Post-It notes to remind folks to vote before the polls closed, and even discovering a gas leak (and alerting a neighbor). When all was said and done, our crew took a few pics, posted a few shoutouts on Facebook, and got in the car to go home.
What happened next devastated us. As the results came in, I saw my friends become anxious, then agitated, and then finally succumb to some form of anger, dejection, or numbness. But when the Electoral College dust settled Wednesday morning, there was a silver lining. New Hampshire had pulled ahead for Hillary Clinton, as well as pulling ahead for the Democratic Senate candidate Maggie Hassan and both Democratic candidates for the House. Clinton won the state by a mere 1,437 votes — fewer than the entire HLS class combined. Hassan won by an even slimmer margin, only 716 votes.
Randall Kennedy Was born in South Carolina in 1954. He attended Princeton for his bachelor’s degree, Balliol College on a Rhodes scholarship, and Yale Law School, before doing two judicial clerkships, the second for US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. In 1984, he accepted a teaching post at Harvard Law School, where he has stayed ever since, penning magazine articles and books on race and the law. In other words, Kennedy is an academic – and a very good one. But he is also an advocate and an intellectual: He is not only engaged in the pursuit of truth (‘Veritas’ reads Harvard’s motto), but a fighter in the world of ideas, whose scholarship is intended to be part of, and shape, the public discourse.
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Democrats have known they are in hot water with a substantial portion of black voters this year, and in these last days of campaigning they are pulling out all the stops to mobilize this group for party standard-bearer Hillary Clinton.
But there is trouble in those big states. In an October 20-22 Remington Research Group poll of 1,997 likely Pennsylvania voters, for example, Republican nominee Donald Trump had 29% of the black vote, and 30% of the Latino vote. If this trend holds elsewhere, then Hillary Clinton will certainly lose this election.
On November 16th and 17th, student employees at Harvard Law School working as research assistants, BSAs, and teaching assistants will have the historic opportunity to vote in the first National Labor Relations Board union election at a private university in more than a decade. In August, the NLRB reversed a Bush-era decision that had declared Brown University student workers not to be employees and thus had stripped them of the right to organize. With the support of United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents more than 35,000 student employees in the United States including those at the University of California, student workers at Columbia University challenged that precedent, and restored our right to collectively bargain. The NLRB’s new decision declared that all student employees working in a teaching or research role at the university are employees and thus have a right to collectively bargain.
Two weeks ago, The Record interviewed Dean Martha Minow for her thoughts on the Law School, women in the profession, and the Cubs. We were initially informed by the communications office that they objected to our publication of the interview, and we met with them and Dean of Students Marcia Sells last week to discuss the issue. Following that meeting, the communications office withdrew their objections. We are pleased to present our interview with Dean Minow, condensed and edited for clarity.
The Record: This is the first year in Harvard Law School’s history in which the entering JD class was more than 50% women. How did that end up happening and what do you make of it?
Dean Minow: We’ve made a lot of outreach efforts, and I’m happy with the results. These things do change from year to year though: last year’s LLM class was majority women, but this year it’s majority men.
The first fifteen days of the HUDS strike have seen incredible and overwhelming student solidarity with the striking workers. Student organizations have published numerous statements in support of the HUDS struggle. They have held a series of mealtime conversations and an outdoor dine-in at Harvard Yard, during which workers and students shared a meal and discussed the strike. They have also raised money to provide food to the striking workers, and directly reinforced the workers’ picket lines with their bodies. At the time of publication, nearly 3,000 Harvard students have pledged their support for HUDS through the Student Labor Action Movement petition. Just last week, the Law School Student Council voted in favor of a resolution endorsing the HUDS strike and calling on the administration to meet the workers’ demands as soon as possible. This recent resolution follows in the wake of a similar resolution passed last week by the Undergraduate Council. At this point there is no significant, organized student opposition to the workers’ demands.
At the same time, the Administration is actively discouraging student support for the workers. Not only have students at Harvard Law School received an email from high-level administrators suggesting that support for the HUDS strike would be “divisive” and goes against the objective of building “community,” but the Administration has now stooped to asking graduate student employees who are already exempt from overtime pay to voluntarily cross the HUDS picket line and perform the jobs HUDS workers are fighting to keep. Continue reading “The Role of Students is to Amplify the HUDS Struggle”