19 Harvard Law Professors Defend Law Student Brandon Winston, Denouncing His Portrayal in “The Hunting Ground”

19 Harvard Law professors recently defended current law student Brandon Winston in a press release. You may read a response to the professors’ press release here.

PRESS RELEASE

Re: The Hunting Ground (Nov. 11, 2015)

From: Elizabeth Bartholet, Scott Brewer, Charles Donahue, Jr., Nancy Gertner, Janet Halley, Bruce L. Hay, Philip B. Heymann, David W. Kennedy, Duncan M. Kennedy, Randall L. Kennedy, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Richard D. Parker, J. Mark Ramseyer, David Rosenberg, Lewis D. Sargentich, David L. Shapiro, Henry J. Steiner, Jeannie C. Suk, Laurence H. Tribe

This purported documentary provides a seriously false picture both of the general sexual
assault phenomenon at universities and of our student Brandon Winston. For an investigative journalist’s in-depth story demonstrating the biased, one-sided nature of the film and its unfair portrayal of Mr. Winston, see Emily Yoffe, “How The Hunting Ground Blurs the Truth.”

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Donate to the Record and Help Us Publish for the Rest of the Year

The Record, the oldest law school newspaper in the country, relies on donations to continue publishing, and we would be extremely grateful if you could donate — even a small amount.

We have stretched our funding this year (Harvard Law only gave us $250), and we are coming close to running out of external funding; thus, any amount would be gladly received. You can donate by simply sending a check to the following address:

Harvard Law Record
1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

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Against Solitary Confinement

We are not a brutal nation. This is a historical truth: that we are a people defined by “humanity.” Yet the great irony of the term “humanity” is that, rather than kindness and peace and forgiveness, humans too often produce the opposite. Our criminal justice system is human — all too human.

Ask any public defense lawyer. Our criminal justice scheme, far from being a Lockean contract preserving life, liberty and property, too often stifles life, narrows liberty, destroys the property necessary for both life and liberty. Its consequences hurt, especially, the poor and the black, wreaking havoc on the intersection — the poor and the black. Continue reading “Against Solitary Confinement”

Why I Oppose the Death Penalty: Redemption Is Always Possible, so Killing Is Always Wrong

Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever done. Hold onto that thought for a moment. Now ask yourself: Does that moment define you? Should that moment define you? If you’re like me, you’ll find that even though we all make mistakes in life, even though we all fall short of our greatest ideals and hopes, our worst decisions don’t necessarily reflect our true character. How many of us did stupid things when we were younger? How many have committed acts we regret? As we age, we make mistakes. As we make mistakes, we learn and grow.

How does it make sense, then, to brand convicted felons as permanently “unworthy” of life? If we were truly rational and consistent in our moral outrage, this possibility would be wholly untenable — for they, like us, possess the capacity to change — yet we persist in our delusional thinking about retributive punishment, character, and ethics. We forget why we condemn murder in the first place — its incredible and horrible finality, its absolute denial of any and all ability to learn and grow. This rebuff of human potentiality confuses justice for vengeance. Continue reading “Why I Oppose the Death Penalty: Redemption Is Always Possible, so Killing Is Always Wrong”

Another Reason to Vote for Bernie: Unlike Clinton, Bernie Lacks the ‘Politician’s Personality’

Nothing could be faker — or duller — than a general election competition between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. These establishment sweethearts, Clinton especially, are perfect typecasts of the “Politician’s Personality” — a robotic, craven, vacillating personality type that, here in law school, I’m way too familiar with.

To those with the Politician’s Personality, truth counts for zilch. Like Clinton’s “evolved” position on gay marriage, like Bush’s slightly less hawkish outlook on the Iraq War blunder, political opinions are always in flux, because principles come second to a baser motive — ambition. The raw, Nietzschean will to power. A combination of desires — including some vague yearning for social change — might smolder within such a person’s soul, but ambition is the hottest coal, and it burns through all the rest.

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Changing Our Approach to Climate: The Value of Fossil Fuel Divestment

It’s a problem we all recognize but fail to grasp: global emissions of CO2 are pushing humanity towards a post-civilization scenario. The latest science predicts a 160-foot foot sea level rise if humans burn all known oil, gas, and coal reserves. If fossil fuel companies continue to pursue business as usual for the next 35 years, global temperatures by 2050 will be 7°F higher than the preindustrial average. Just half that warming would likely trigger the melting of Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, raising sea levels by 33 feet.

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To Hillary Clinton: Snowden Is a Traitor — and a Hero

What an inane question it was to ask, at the CNN Democratic debate, whether Edward Snowden is either a “hero” or a “traitor.” And what a shameful response from Hillary Clinton and every candidate aside from Bernie, whose implicit response was the only nuanced one: Snowden is both a hero and a traitor. He broke U.S. law to reveal our government’s own breaking of U.S. law. Traitors can be heroes.

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What HLS Students Should Know About the Law Firms Recruiting Them…and What the Law Firms Won’t Disclose

In the movie The Firm, there’s a moment when Tom Cruise realizes the job he accepted fresh out of Harvard Law School (“HLS”), with the apparently staid tax law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke, has one major drawback: the Morolto crime family is the firm’s biggest client, and most of its lawyers are heavily involved in money laundering and tax fraud. This raises a question. Could that really happen? John Grisham thrillers are best enjoyed when such doubts are set aside, of course, but the question is a serious one nonetheless, because the plot of The Firm springs from the very real imbalance of power that exists between law students and the law firms that hire them. When law students graduate, they are in the position of apprentices, with little or no experience in the actual practice of their profession. At the same time, the average “apprentice” now starts a career in the law with more than $100,000 in student debt.[1] This combination of inexperience and financial need creates a powerful incentive for law students to seek employment with large corporate law firms, which may pay double or triple the starting salary of a job in government or the non-profit sector. Suppose, then, that such a firm violates the law or rules of professional conduct. Would it be required to disclose that fact as a condition of its participation in the On-Campus Interview (“OCI”) program at HLS? And if not, what safeguards are in place to ensure that students don’t wind up like Tom Cruise, inadvertently agreeing to work for a firm that engages in unethical or even criminal conduct?

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An Afternoon With Madeleine Albright

Every semester, the Future of Diplomacy Project and the Program on Negotiation brings former U.S. Secretaries of States to Harvard University. Its mission is to connect students and faculty with the Secretaries’ philosophies and to discuss the most vital of negotiations that they conducted while they were in office. Last semester, Harvard hosted former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Harvard Law School. This semester former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright was invited.

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What Harvard Law Students Should Know About For-Profit Colleges

I’m a Washington DC lawyer and policy advocate, and I spend a couple days a week trying to expose and end the abuses of a particularly bad industry: predatory for-profit colleges. I am regularly contacted by industry employees who no longer can live with being part of an immoral enterprise:

  • The marketer at a Utah “lead generation” company who is assigned to placing fake ads for non-existent jobs on the Internet, aimed at luring unemployed people to provide their contact information.
  • The telephone rep at a Florida call center, who grabs the leads that were generated, and tries to deceive these people – low-income single parents, veterans, and others struggling to get ahead – into buying high-priced, low-quality career training programs, many conducted entirely online.
  • The California college librarian, heartbroken because her school has admitted to its $80,000 criminal justice a program a mentally challenged man who reads on a third grade level and believes he is training to become a police officer.

These employees talk to me about feeling ashamed, degraded, disgusted with what they’re doing.

Yet their ultimate bosses, the CEOs of the big predatory for-profit colleges, seem to have no such shame. Nor do the many power brokers and celebrities, from Suze Orman to Colin Powell, Trent Lott to Dick Gephardt, Marc Morial to Mitt Romney, who have been hired, one way or another, to endorse and defend bad actors in this industry. Nor do the many graduates of Harvard Law and other premier institutions who get rich as executives and advisers with predatory for-profit colleges.

When you leave Harvard, you will have a world of opportunity. The question posed for you by the story of for-profit colleges is whether you want to be paid to shield the privileged even when they engage in blatant abuses, or whether you want to use your talents and creativity to help build a stronger, more just, more innovative, and more productive society that benefits everyone.

A for-profit college is a college that’s owned by a profit-making business, as opposed to the more traditional model of a college operated by a state or by as a non-profit.  Most for-profit colleges focus on training students for careers, in fields from information technology to health care to auto repair.  There’s a strong need for such training programs, and there’s nothing wrong in theory with the idea of having businesses run them, but in practice it has created a big problem for students and taxpayers.

Many for-profit colleges get about 90 percent of their revenue from federal government grants and loans provided to help students get an education.  These businesses hire lobbyists to loosen the government’s rules for getting such aid. They also spend heavily on campaign contributions that have helped buy the allegiance of almost all the Republicans in Congress, and many of the Democrats as well.

As a result, the rules are very weak, and for-profit colleges can maximize their profits by ripping off students – using deceptive advertising and coercive recruiting, charging very high prices, and spending far too little on teaching and helping students build careers. The victims of these abuses have seen their financial futures ruined by overwhelming student loan debts reaching over $100,000 in some cases.

Some for-profit colleges are honest and do a good job educating students, and there are good teachers and students at even some of the worst schools. But overall, the industry is hurting people and our economy, while making a small group of owners rich enough to buy their own yachts, private planes, and mega-mansions.  For-profit colleges have obtained as much as $32 billion a year from federal aid, and their lobbyists work every day to keep that money flowing.

For-profit colleges, like other kinds of colleges, are eligible to receive federal student grants and direct loans — if they receive approval from organizations called accreditors. Many accreditors apply fairly low standards. Some for-profit colleges, such as some local strip-mall beauty schools or the infamous Donald Trump University, still don’t bother to get accredited, and thus students are not eligible for federal aid.  Most for-profit colleges do get federal aid, but many of their students need more aid than that to pay the high tuition costs.  So for-profit colleges steer many students into non-federal private loans that come with very high interest rates that can reach 15 percent or more, as compared with 3.8 percent for federal loans.

For-profit colleges tend to have graduation and job placement rates at the low end of the scale, especially given their high prices.  Here is one key statistic that shows the poor performance overall of for-profits: According to the U.S. Department of Education, for-profit colleges now have about 13 percent of all US college students, but they account for nearly half of all defaults on student loans. The Department also found that 72 percent of the for-profit colleges it surveyed produced graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts.

There are real challenges in figuring out how to provide quality career education to people at affordable prices. But instead of focusing on that important work, Washington education policy advocates and lawyers are caught up in a debate defined by the for-profit college industry using pressure to keep billions in federal dollars flowing with no accountability whatsoever. Because their wealth comes almost entirely from taxpayers, the for-profit college industry is a monster that Washington has created. It’s difficult to stop this monster.

But in recent years federal and state law enforcement agencies have launched extensive investigations of for-profit colleges for defrauding students and taxpayers. Many of the biggest for profit colleges – including University of Phoenix, EDMC, ITT Tech, Corinthian, Kaplan, Career Education Corp., and DeVry – are under investigation by federal agencies and / or state attorneys general.  Some for-profit colleges – including ATI Technical Institute and FastTrain College — have been shut down for their frauds, and some for-profit college executives have been sent to prison.

These law enforcement probes, coupled with an increasing volume of media exposes, have finally helped get the message to potential students that they might do better at a community or state college. But the for-profits continue to run deceptive ads endlessly on TV and the Internet; before he was killed in Ferguson, MO, Michael Brown had enrolled at for-profit Vatterott College, a school that has been punished in court for deceiving its students and leaving them worse than they started and whose executives received criminal convictions for defrauding the government.

President Obama is well aware of the scam. His Administration has sought to implement a new rule (called “gainful employment”) to channel aid toward programs that were actually helping students and away from programs that consistently leave students with overwhelming debt. But an army of industry lobbyists and lawyers have managed to water down the rule and then have it struck down in court, on the ground that the Department had failed to articulate a clear rationale for one component of the regulation.

Right now, APSCU, a trade association dominated by predatory for-profit colleges, is back in court trying to block a new version of this rule. I work with a coalition of student, veterans, labor, consumer, and civil rights groups urging the court to decide that the government has the right to demand at least minimal performance standards, that predatory companies do not have a permanent entitlement to take billions in taxpayer dollars without regard for the consequences for students and our economy. (This litigation, and many other aspects of this issue, are ripe for further exploration through your law school papers and law journal articles.)

When you consider a debate like this, think about your future as an attorney. Which side will you be on?

David Halperin engages in policy, advocacy, communications, and legal work in Washington DC. He is a Yale Law graduate who took his third year of classes at HLS. A former White House speechwriter for President Clinton, Halperin is the author of Stealing America’s Future: How For-Profit Colleges Scam Taxpayers and Ruin Students’ Lives (Amazon ebook). You can reach him through his blog: RepublicReport.org/contact .