Fighting Fake News: A Mini Law Student Memoir from Two Days in the Trenches

I got sucked into debunking a fake news story. I spent two days tracking its spread and responding to the lies. Here’s the story of what happened and what I learned.

Last week an acquaintance on Facebook posted a screenshot of a headline which read “CA Democrats Introduce LGBTQ Bill that would Protect Pedophiles who Rape Children.” He captioned his post “truth or fiction? #horrifying if true.”

This social media move was a paradigmatic example of lazy yet insidious partisan pot-stirring. By posting a screenshot of the headline rather than a link to the article itself, the poster put the burden on the audience to figure out what the hell was going on. He also increased the likelihood that others would believe the headline by failing to provide the most convenient method for additional assessment (clicking on the article). And by writing a banal question and hypothetical “if” claim, the poster likely sought to distance himself for any flak if the headline turned out to be false or misleading. (Spoiler alert: the headline was false and misleading.)

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Meet the Candidates for Student Government, 2019-2020

We conducted interviews with candidates who will be up for positions in Student Government. Voting takes place today and tomorrow, March 11 and 12.

Here is where to find these interviews:

Princess Daisy Akita and Daniel Egel-Weiss: Candidates for Co-President
Jake Weiner and Parisa Sadeghi: Candidates for Co-President
Sarah Rutherford, David Shea, and William “Billy” Wright: Candidates for Director of Student Organizations and Journals
Hannah Dawson and Nicholas James Pellow: Candidates for 3L Representative
Micah Burbanks-Ivey, Noelle Graham, Josh Martin, and Daniel Sieradzki: Candidates for 2L Representative

10-Day Phone Challenge for 3Ls

Excessive use of cell phones, largely due to social media and addictive news alerts, makes it harder to think critically, to practice self-care, and to be creative. My plea to my fellow graduates this semester is this: quit refreshing your phone and start refreshing yourself.

This semester before graduation is a great time to experiment with what exactly these blinking devices mean to you. Did you know that pulling down to refresh a feed has the same addictive effect as playing a slot machine? [1] You already have an instinctive sense of the impact your phone has on your life. After graduation, you will be on call for work nearly 24/7. Now is the time to better your relationship with your phone.

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An Open Letter on the Public Interest Scavenger Hunt

Dear Harvard Law School Community,

With the new semester underway, we are excited to announce the return of a great Harvard Law School tradition: The Public Interest Scavenger Hunt is back, and will be taking place on Friday, March 8th, 2019!

As the 3L class knows, this tradition was born with us, when we were 1Ls. And as the Hunt’s inaugural class prepares to graduate, we are redoubling the event’s commitment and connection to its core mission: promoting and supporting the Public Interest Community here at HLS. Toward that end, we are excited to announce that this year we are uniting the Hunt with another great Harvard Law School tradition: The One Day’s Work Pledge.

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An Open Letter on the Clerkship Hiring Pilot, Signed by 38 Student Groups

February 4, 2019

We, a collection of student-led organizations at Harvard Law School, are writing to affirm our strong support for Harvard’s participation in the Clerkship Hiring Pilot that will span the next two years. We also write to reinforce our commitment to encourage our respective memberships to adhere to the requirements put forward in the plan.

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For Law Students, a De Minimis Pay Raise

On January 1 of this year, student workers at Harvard Law School got our first raise in over a decade, from $11.50 to $12.00 an hour.  Our meager fifty cent raise wasn’t the result of Harvard’s sudden generosity—rather, it’s because the Massachusetts Legislature increased the state’s minimum wage.

It had been so long—at least eleven years!—since Harvard Law raised pay for research assistants and teaching fellows that the state minimum wage has now surpassed what we were making. In real terms, that means our wages have declined due to inflation. In the same amount of time, tuition has skyrocketed 57%, from $40,751 in 2008 to $63,800 in 2019. Yet none of that money is being returned to the students whose work keeps the school running, and our pay is far from a living wage.

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A Royal Disaster: A Record Review of A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

When does a bad movie become “so bad, it’s good?” A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding does not give a definitive answer to that question, and frankly, it does not even attempt to give an answer. Royal Wedding is a plainly bad movie.

Royal Wedding, of course, is the sequel to A Christmas Prince, one of Netflix’s forays into the made-for-television streaming Christmas movie genre that this newspaper reviewed last year.

Yet despite hitting a lot of the same tropes as its predecessor, both substantive (e.g., disabled child, sartorial subplot, stilted dialogue) and superficial (stupid establishing shots, excessive backlighting, cheap sound effects, distracting scene transitions), Royal Wedding manages to be, in fact, a much worse movie.

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Ten Student Organizations Call for Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

We, the undersigned organizations, are a coalition of affinity groups at Harvard Law School representing hundreds of students, millions of dollars, and countless hours of physical, intellectual, and emotional labor. While our specific organizations vary in membership, programming, and mission, we share a unified purpose: to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity. This purpose mandates we take action to change the status quo.

We call on Dean Manning to establish a Harvard Law School Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (“Committee”) charged with designing an Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (“Office”); tracking implementation and progress on the Office; and monitoring the wellbeing of students until one year after the operation of the Office.

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Dean Manning Unresponsive and Deceptive in Crucial Debate Over the Law School’s Mission

Despite pitching “vigorous, lively discussion” at Harvard Law as his top priority, Dean Manning has repeatedly refused to engage with the ongoing debate over Harvard Law’s contribution to what some alumni are calling “the crisis of legal inequality.”

Last year, the Harvard Law Record’s Pete Davis published a book-length report entitled Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law’s Public Interest Mission, which documented Harvard’s failure to address the mass exclusion from legal power for the average American in the criminal justice, civil justice and political systems. The report included several reform proposals through which HLS could potentially remedy its role in this legal crisis.

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Your Opinions Still Matter Even If People Won’t Change Their Minds

In the aftermath of Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation, I saw a lot of hopelessness, both abstract and functional. I’ve struggled in the past weeks to articulate what that means for The Record. If you haven’t noticed, our website looks terrible at the moment. That is partially not my fault, since we had a malware issue recently that required me to update everything and thus lose the web design, and partially entirely my fault, because I don’t know how to fix it and if I’m being honest, I’m not going to learn. I’m staring at my belly button a bit here, but it feels analogous to this moment in history: Everything is terrible, and it’s not really our fault, and we don’t know how to fix it.

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12 Ways Dean Manning Can Respond to The Crisis of Legal Inequality

One year ago, I published Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission. At the time, Harvard Law was inviting Supreme Court justices, senators and other famous alumni back to campus to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the legal giant’s 1817 founding. But while the administration was celebrating, public interest law students were sounding the alarm: of their school overtaken by corporate interests and losing relevance to the average American; of a watchdog of the law largely asleep as the institutions of the rule of law and equal justice under law were under siege; and of a law school community that had lost track of its declared mission to “educate leaders who contribute to the advancement of justice and the well-being of society.”

Our Bicentennial Crisis aimed to compile and surface these concerns. It documented: first, the crisis of mass exclusion from legal power for the average American (in the criminal justice, civil justice and political systems); second, Harvard Law’s failure to address this crisis, and the inaccurate excuses our community tends to give for not addressing it; third, what accounts for this civic deficit; and fourth, twelve reform proposals that aim to help us better live up to our mission. An electronic version of the full report is here, but below is a summary of Our Bicentennial Crisis’ findings. Continue reading “12 Ways Dean Manning Can Respond to The Crisis of Legal Inequality”

HLS, Do the Right Thing: Actually Rescind Kavanaugh’s Lectureship

Harvard Law School has a problem, and that problem is Brett M. Kavanaugh. In 2008, Harvard Law School hired Judge Kavanaugh to teach key rule of law concepts, including separation of powers and the role of the Senate in appointing Supreme Court Justices. The rule of law is an abstract concept, and yet it is one of the most precious fibers holding democratic society together. Crucially, one of the roles of judges and legal academics is to make this abstract concept concrete.  In contrast to this esteemed academic role, Kavanaugh’s recent testimony and behavior during his Senate Confirmation hearings makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution, confirms his disrespect for women, and threatens America’s rule of law.

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What is HLS Doing About Professor Brett Kavanaugh?

The credible allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee and Harvard Law School lecturer Brett Kavanaugh have left us with more questions than answers. Given that Kavanaugh’s class, “The Supreme Court since 2005,” is still on the schedule for winter term of this academic year, we have a few questions for the Harvard Law School administration.

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Want to Abolish the Death Penalty? Start by Abolishing the Police

On June 16, 1944, the State of South Carolina executed George Stinney, a fourteen-year-old black boy who was convicted of murder by an all-white jury, following a sham trial.  Seventy years later, the State of Ohio executed Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old black boy after no trial.  Twenty-four days after a white police officer executed Tamir, George was finally exonerated.  And so George and Tamir, although executed by different states, in different times, and in different ways, are bound together by their striking commonalities: they were both young, black boys who were executed by the State after doing no wrong.  George was executed via the post-trial mechanism, and Tamir was executed via the no-trial mechanism.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, only 31 US states and the federal government have the death penalty on the books, with 19 states having done away with the practice.  In actuality, all 50 states administer the death penalty, and all but three states have executed at least one person thus far this year.

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