Some Useful Things to Know

1. There is a hallway on the second floor of Wasserstein that leads straight into the Hark cafeteria.

It’s on the far right as you face the big window. Not the side with the Milstein rooms, where you got to sit through all those Orientation speeches — the other side.

I am an idiot, and I never speak to anyone, ever, and so I didn’t know this hallway was there for my first nine months at HLS. During those nine months, whenever I was in a second-floor classroom, I had to decide whether I was going to use my two-minute bathroom break to take a piss or dash to the Hark and buy a heap of cookies. Needless to say, I always chose the latter, and my bladder suffered for it.

But though law school sometimes involves hard choices, this doesn’t have to be one of them. The second-floor hallway will cut your cookie-purchasing time in half. There’s even a bathroom on your way back. This thing is basically the Northwest Passage. Continue reading “Some Useful Things to Know”

Brexit, Pursued By Bear

Ah, how quickly the years fly by. It feels like only yesterday that my college roommates and I were dancing around our living room to this episode of Auto-Tune the News, in which Nigel Farage hurls a barrage of insults at Herman Van Rompuy, then-President of the European Council. For anybody who’s new to the UK Independence Party, “Euroscepticism,” and the debate surrounding Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, this clip is a good introduction to the kind of cartoonish chest-puffery that goes in on this corner of European politics.

It’s a damn catchy song, too, I must say. Continue reading “Brexit, Pursued By Bear”

Slavery is Everywhere: Let’s Talk About It

Harvard Law School is in something of a mutinous and discontented mood these days, which can only be a good thing at an institution of learning. Given that we are all eager to have conversations, I would like to initiate a conversation on a subject that seems to me very urgent. The debate about the Royall shield has drawn attention to the importance of unflinchingly examining our history, of exploring the ways in which the underlying evil of slavery has metamorphosed and reappeared in many guises throughout the subsequent life of our nation. The Royall shield is a symbol of slavery, but before Royall Must Fall held its first rally, before you learned its story, before you knew where it came from, your eyes probably passed right over it. Maybe, if someone had asked you, you wouldn’t even have been able to describe what it looked like, though you encountered it a dozen times a day as you moved throughout the campus. And the truth is that the Royall shield is far from unique. There are many such cunningly-disguised symbols of slavery in the architecture of our daily lives. Can you think of any?

How about those little bowl of candies that are sitting out in all the Harvard student offices? Did you know that some of those candies—it’s hard to know exactly how many—were made from cocoa that was harvested by slaves? How about a startling percentage of all the items you have ever bought? How often do you contemplate the fact that they were manufactured in whole or in part by fellow human beings, conveniently hidden from your sight, who are not paid a living wage, whose lives are devoid of the most basic necessities?

Another HLS student, writing in a satirical vein, has expressed an opinion on this topic; I would like to differentiate my own views, insofar as I do not think it is fair to characterize the campaigns to change the HLS shield or promote inclusiveness at Harvard as hypocritical simply because we live in a world with myriad other problems. A single student movement cannot expect to accomplish a thousand things at once, and Reclaim Harvard Law/Royall Must Fall has identified a specific set of goals that they believe are both meaningful and achievable. However, I do hope that the conversation about the Royall shield can help galvanize a separate discussion about the very real ways that all of us are actively participating in a slave economy: today, right now, this minute. Many, if not most, of the items we unthinkingly purchase, consume, and discard every single day are harvested or created by human beings—including children—living under conditions of abject misery and fear.

Continue reading “Slavery is Everywhere: Let’s Talk About It”

Letting in refugees is a moral imperative

It currently takes anywhere from 18 months to three years for a Syrian refugee to be processed for admission to the United States. Eleven state governors, several presidential hopefuls, and around 56% of the American public believe that Syrian refugees should not be allowed into the U.S. at all. The Obama administration has insisted that the current processing time is plenty long enough for government agencies to conduct background checks and screen out any likely security risks.

Well, here’s the other argument to be made: isn’t the current processing time, in fact, much too long? This is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Given the sheer number of people displaced, the kind of violence they’re fleeing, the chaotic conditions on state borders throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, shouldn’t the U.S. be doing everything it can to admit more people, and faster? Continue reading “Letting in refugees is a moral imperative”

Portraits of Black Harvard Law Professors Vandalized, Covered in Black Tape

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information comes in.

Sometime during the early hours of Thursday morning, portraits of black Harvard Law professors hanging in the faculty gallery in Wasserstein Hall were defaced by an unknown individual. Black strips of tape were placed across the faces of the portraits. The vandalism was discovered by students arriving for morning classes. “This is a hate crime,” one student said. “I’m calling the police.”

The pieces of tape were removed shortly after the police completed their examination of the scene.

This incident comes one day after a number of Harvard students held walk-outs and protests in solidarity with student movements at Yale, the University of Missouri, and other universities, calling for policies that foster greater racial inclusivity and awareness on college campuses.

Members of Harvard Law School’s “Royall Must Fall” movement also recently staged an “educational art action” to promote their campaign to change the Harvard Law School crest, which bears the family insignia of 18th-century slave trader Isaac Royall. This protest consisted of placing black tape in an X formation over the Royall insignia on several images of the crest on the law school campus. Members of Royall Must Fall have stated that they are “saddened and disgusted by this violent act against black professors,” and they believe tape used in the educational art action was subsequently used to deface the portraits.
Continue reading “Portraits of Black Harvard Law Professors Vandalized, Covered in Black Tape”

Hamilton Takes Harvard

Ever wonder what Harvard professors sing in the shower? These days, there’s a good chance it’s a song from the musical Hamilton.

“I’m a huge fan of the music,” says Glenn Cohen, law professor and director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy. “I often sing it in the shower. As a Canadian, much of the American history I’ve learned is what’s directly relevant to constitutional law, so I really appreciate learning more about the personalities involved.” Continue reading “Hamilton Takes Harvard”

An Open Letter to Bill Barlow: Your “Fascism at Yale” Article Did Not Make Much Sense

Dear Mr. Barlow,

Hello. I don’t know you personally, and I don’t want to cast any aspersions on your character. However, I feel compelled to write to you, because I read your article “Fascism at Yale,” and I’m afraid I didn’t think it was very good.

I don’t intend to write very specifically here on the current debate surrounding respect and racial inclusivity at Ivy League universities. I’m sure that other members of the Harvard community can and will write far more incisive critiques of that dimension of your article than I could. I look forward to reading them. Rather, I’m here to comment more generally on the structure of your argument, which I believe is deficient in several respects. I’ve listed my objections below. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Bill Barlow: Your “Fascism at Yale” Article Did Not Make Much Sense”

“Slave-Owning, Slave-Trading Murderers”: Students Call on Harvard Law School to Address Historical Ties to Slavery

You won’t go far at Harvard Law School without running into the Royalls.

In the Treasure Room of Langdell Library hangs a large portrait of the family of Isaac Royall, Jr. Each year, first-year Harvard Law School students sit together beneath this painting as they enjoy a welcome meal with the Dean. Isaac Royall is a figure intimately associated with the origins of Harvard Law School: in 1779, he donated lands to Harvard College whose sale endowed its first professorship of law. The Royall Professorship of Law is still held by a HLS faculty member, and the Royall family crest, bearing three sheaves of wheat, is currently part of the Harvard Law School crest. But the wealth that created Harvard Law School has a disturbing origin. The Royall family fortune was acquired through slavery: their sugar plantation was worked by slave labor, and they augmented their profits by shipping and selling human beings between Boston and Antigua.

Continue reading ““Slave-Owning, Slave-Trading Murderers”: Students Call on Harvard Law School to Address Historical Ties to Slavery”

Justice Kennedy Comes to Campus

On October 23, Justice Anthony Kennedy sat down with Dean Martha Minow for a discussion on his experiences as a Supreme Court Justice, law professor, and practicing attorney. The conversation touched on topics ranging from corrections to campaign finance to his Supreme Court legacy.

Kennedy thanked the dean for not using the term “swing vote” in her introduction. “It conjures a mental image of these—spatial gyrations,” said Kennedy. “Cases swing—I don’t!” Continue reading “Justice Kennedy Comes to Campus”

“Don’t Look Away”: Harvard Law School Hosts Images of Syrian Torture Victims

This week, a small room in the Lewis International Law Center is hosting a collection of thirty images taken in a military hospital in Damascus. Hung on the walls and mounted on easels, the images show corpses of Syrians with black bars superimposed across their eyes. They are men and women of all ages, including the very old and the very young: some naked, some emaciated, some horrifically mutilated, all bearing on their bodies, limbs, and faces unmistakable marks of torture.

These thirty images are but a small fraction of a staggering 55,000 that were smuggled out of Syria last year by an anonymous informant, codenamed “Caesar,” who worked as a forensic photographer for the Assad regime’s police force. They represent, according to Stephen J. Rapp, former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, “the most impressive and strongest evidence” for systematic torture committed by the Assad regime between 2011 and 2013. Continue reading ““Don’t Look Away”: Harvard Law School Hosts Images of Syrian Torture Victims”

Pope Francis and the Rhetoric of Rights

On October 16, members of the Catholic Law Students Association and Advocates for Human Rights came together for a talk about Pope Francis and human rights. The discussion was led by law and history professor Samuel Moyn, the author of a recent Washington Post article with the eye-catching title “Pope Francis has given up on human rights. That’s a good thing.”

“I did write the article, but I didn’t write that title!” Professor Moyn protested at the start of the talk. “I would have called it ‘Pope Francis is de-prioritizing talking about human rights, and that might be a good thing—maybe.’” Continue reading “Pope Francis and the Rhetoric of Rights”