Many across the United States and across the world watched with horror as the events and aftermath of Charlottesville unfolded this past week. It was absolutely surreal, however, to watch these events unfold from Berlin, where I was visiting.
There, I understood with greater nuance how a charismatic leader, the repression of unfavorable journalism, and a large working class looking for someone to blame for their struggles created the perfect storm for Nazi ideology to take hold. Further, it was impossible not to recognize the extent to which Germany instilled a culture of remorse and remembrance in a way that the U.S. never did for its own crimes. I toured the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where the sickening words “arbeit macht frei” (“work will set you free”) are wrought into the iron entrance gates. It chilled me to imagine how many people were led through those gates believing that if they simply worked hard and trusted in Hitler’s agenda, they might eventually prevail in the face of adversity.
Continue reading “Is it time yet to take Trump seriously?”
On July 1, John F. Manning became the 13th dean of Harvard Law School. Dean Manning, who joined the faculty in 2004, is a graduate of Harvard College (’82) and Harvard Law School (’85). After graduating from law school, he clerked for Judge Robert Bork on the D.C. Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Afterwards, he worked for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the Office of the Solicitor General. Dean Manning is widely considered an expert in administrative law and constitutional law, and has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court.
In announcing Manning’s appointment, Harvard University President Drew Faust highlighted his “unusual capacity for creating conversations and connections across lines of difference, and [his] deep appreciation for a wide range of perspectives and methods.” Manning succeeded Dean Martha Minow, who will begin a fellowship next fall at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. By every available metric, Dean Manning is an accomplished scholar. Even more importantly, he has garnered the respect and admiration of students and faculty.
Nevertheless, Manning’s appointment as dean has not been without some controversy. One writer at Above the Law shared his disappointment that Harvard selected a white, conservative male as dean, expressing his frustration that “HLS followed two successive women deans … with a Bork/Scalia clerk.”
Continue reading “Why Dean Manning Should be Welcomed”
As student representatives to the Harvard Law School Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement, we believe in the potential power of Harvard Law School. We believe this institution is uniquely situated to serve as a steward of the rule of law in a time of critical global need; as a training ground for ethical advocates for social justice and responsible corporate lawyers alike; and as an academic playground for much-needed intellectual exploration. We believe that if the institution’s unparalleled resources––human and financial––were mobilized to ensure that all stakeholders in our community are heard, Harvard Law would be better positioned to fulfill its mission to train world-class lawyers, leaders, advocates, and agents for change.
Yet, the composition of this Task Force––with representatives for students, alumni, and faculty–– seems to mirror the larger challenges facing the institution: an unfulfilled voice of all members of the community. Even in the presence of student representatives, student concerns were not heard or considered. The subjects of our critique, the methods utilized to observe issues, and the innovative and imaginative proposals offered by students were often met with platitudes. Whether about the scope of the Task Force, about our role on the Task Force, or about the hard lines delineating what we could and could never question about the structure of this institution, students on this Task Force were denied the exercise of power afforded to us by the broad mandate articulated by Dean Martha Minow. This tension highlights a broader problem on campus––the wide latitude of the HLS professorate vis-a-vis the rest of the HLS community. To this end, in our capacity as student representatives to this Task Force, we felt compelled and driven by principle to articulate the concerns of students in a manner that we think best captures the concerns of our peers.
The faculty is the gatekeeper of Harvard Law School. They are a self-governing, self-regulating body that collectively determines the direction of the institution. At present, faculty answers to no one within the law school community, whether on procedural or academic matters. Therefore, Harvard Law School, like any sizable institution, has room for improvement, but only if the institution and its gatekeepers are open to progress. If the law school is serious about making positive change, faculty must genuinely listen to the ideas, suggestions, questions, and concerns of the entire community. Harvard Law School is nothing more than a partnership between its faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Only through true and meaningful engagement with all of these essential stakeholders that make up the institution will we be able to achieve the lofty goals set out in the school’s mission statement.
The Task Force itself was never expected to solve the challenges faced by the school. Instead, we were tasked to investigate; to listen; to understand; ultimately, to suggest a way forward by way of recommendations. Although we agree with many of the recommendations in the Report, we diverge on a few critical subjects. We are of the view that the problem is not articulated well enough. Instead, the Task Force Report resorts to generalities that are devoid of the concerns we heard from students, rendering the investigation piece utterly meaningless. While the recommendations are worthwhile tweaks, they are minimal in the face of the enormous task for which we were called to probe and mend. The challenges facing this law school are endemic, and nothing short of meaningful engagement and a commitment to material change will be able to address concerns expressed by students and faculty members for decades.
Continue reading “Addendum to the Report of the Harvard Law School Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement”
Recently, the administration leadership at Harvard University has proposed a ban on fraternities, sororities, and “finals clubs”, as well as other organizations. The ban would apply to students who attend university at Harvard. As a graduate of Harvard Law School, I view this as misguided policy. The Constitution of the United States guarantees “freedom of association”.
In my opinion, if this ban goes into effect, members of these clubs simply have to sue Harvard University, in federal court, for violating their constitutional rights. The University will lose these lawsuits, but why make everyone go through that misery? To have a committee of administrators decide which private organizations students can belong to, and which they cannot belong to, is not only a clear violation of the student’s constitutional rights, it is overbearing, downright parental, overly paternalistic, and frightens this freedom-loving citizen.
Let the students make their own decisions, and let the students make their own mistakes. Accountability, legal and otherwise, should always be on an individual basis, not a form of collective punishment, and clearly never a form of collective banishment.
Perhaps the leadership of Harvard University could spend their time better by sitting around a bong, and smoking copious amounts of marijuana, and eating mountains of pop tarts. Then in their heads, they can dream of the dictatorship that they so clearly want to impose on the powerless students of the University. “Hey teachers, leave those kids alone!”
Harvard Law School Class of 1990
The Record recently published a thoughtful piece arguing that the Public Interest Pledge is “no more than a symbolic gesture of penance for Harvard students who feel guilty about not doing enough.” Although we disagree with this characterization of the Pledge, we take the author’s moral licensing argument seriously, which is why we write here to defend the Pledge both as an end in itself and as a catalyst for increased and more effective charitable giving at HLS.
Continue reading “Indulge Us: Take the Summer Pledge”
At the height of the Catholic Church’s power in the late Middle Ages, parishioners could pay the church fees to reduce the amount of time their souls would suffer in Purgatory before entering Heaven. This practice of paying “indulgences,” as such fees were called, was one of the principal targets of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, and the practice has been a symbol of the medieval Catholic Church’s corruption ever since.
With EIP around the corner, and with 80 percent of Harvard Law students likely to participate in its orgy of cocktail mixers and free lunches, it’s a good time to reflect on HLS’s preferred means of moral salvation for those of us who feel guilty about settling for BigLaw: the Public Interest Pledge.
Continue reading “Indulgences for the Trump Era: The Public Interest Pledge”
In the spring semester, 1L students are invited to apply for the three two-year student organizations on campus. Membership to the Harvard Law Review, Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and the Board of Student Advisers is highly selective and the organizations are frequently viewed as “honor societies” within the HLS community, making them one approximate measure of normative law school success. The Shatter the Ceiling Committee of the Women’s Law Association conducted its annual analysis of gender representation in each of these organizations to see if male and female students are gaining membership to these organizations at equal rates.
Of the three groups examined, only the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) had statistically significant deviations from the expected gender breakdown, based on the total number of male and female students in the classes of 2017 and 2018. Like last year, HLAB continues to have statistically significantly more female members compared to the overall demographics of the classes of 2017 and 2018 (c2 = 6.352, P = 0.012). There was no statistically significant difference in the gender makeup of the Board of Student Advisers (c2 = 0.483, P = 0.487) or Harvard Law Review (HLR) (c2 = 2.343, P = 0.126).
Continue reading “Gender Disparities at HLS: Still Room for Improvement”
By the time the Republican-dominated Congress and executive branch had begun preparations to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in January 2017, the stage had already been set for this watershed moment of backlash in American political life.
The cradle-to-grave medical safety net that the late Sen. Edward Kennedy had called “the cause of my life,” known as Obamacare, signified more than the expansion of accessible healthcare for millions. The legislation, in force for several years and perhaps more consequential on individual livelihoods than any other public policy since Social Security, had embodied a primary objective of American liberalism since the nascent days of the modern Democratic party unfolded under the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Continue reading “In Jesus Loves Obamacare, an Accounting of How Biblical Instruction Leads to Liberal Policies”
As Harvard Law School gears up to welcome a new class of students to campus this fall, we urge the administration to evaluate and disclose how it deals with the admission of students investigated or found responsible for, sexual misconduct at their previous college or university. We seek transparency on this issue so the university can engage in productive dialogue with students and administrators on how best to protect its students from sexual assault and discrimination. This information is particularly critical in light of the 2015 campus climate survey, which found that 7.6% of female graduate students experience sexual assault while attending Harvard University.
Students in the Harvard Law Gender Violence Legal Policy Workshop submitted a questionnaire to the Admissions Office seeking answers to questions of critical importance to the student community. As of the publication of this piece, we have not yet received a response. Transparency surrounding this information is important to current students’ safety and to prospective or admitted students considering attending Harvard Law School. Campus climate is a serious consideration in weighing whether or not to attend, or apply to, Harvard Law.
Continue reading “HLS Owes Applicants, New Admits Data on Sexual Assault”
Having seen five elections since March 2014, voters in Turkey know the drill: if he wins, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a “balcony speech” gloating his success. If he loses, like he did on June 7, 2015, he goes into hiding (to be honest, it was a blissful five days).
However, after the referendum on Sunday, during which citizens of Turkey voted whether to legitimize President Erdogan’s de facto dictatorship, an unusual scene was taking place: Although the Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (whose position will be abolished with this constitutional amendment) was (ironically) delivering a victory speech, President Erdogan was photographed looking remarkably worried.
Erdogan’s expression said a lot: the ‘yes’ vote was reported to win with a 51.4% margin, but he didn’t feel like he succeeded. Erdogan had lost Istanbul and Ankara (which he had never lost until now), and the opposition was stronger than ever.
Continue reading “Turkey’s Referendum: A Suspicious “Yes””
Dear President Faust,
Thank you for including student input in your search for the next Dean of Harvard Law School. We write you as student leaders from the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), Harvard Black Law Students Association (HBLSA), Harvard African Law Association (HALA), Lambda, La Alianza, Middle East Law Students Association (MELSA), Native American Law Students Association (NALSA), Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC), South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA), and Women’s Law Association (WLA). It is difficult to calculate the number of unique individuals we represent due to the intersecting identities of some of our members, but our combined membership totals at least 700 students, which is about 40% of the J.D. student body.
Collectively, we wholeheartedly offer our endorsement of Professor David Wilkins, a scholar, a researcher, an innovator, and a member of the Harvard Law School faculty. While we do not know the list of candidates under your consideration, we sincerely believe that Professor Wilkins has demonstrated a strong commitment to innovative legal thought, a deep understanding of the legal profession and legal education, and an unwavering commitment to equality and justice in the rule of law. His lived experience and nuanced understanding of the power of discourse puts him in a unique position to lead Harvard Law School into arguably one of the most crucial chapters in our school’s two-hundred-year history.
Continue reading “HLS Affinity Groups Endorse Professor Wilkins for Dean”
The Seventh Amendment is fast becoming a dead letter. Although the protection remains, there simply aren’t many trials happening. Indeed, federal juries decided 5.5% of civil cases in 1962, but a paltry 0.76% in 2015. A similar trend is apparent in every state court. This is a problem. Without jury trials, the American system of civil justice—as well as our democracy in general—degenerates and loses legitimacy. Indeed, as William Blackstone recognized over two centuries ago, “Every new tribunal erected for the decision of facts, without the intervention of a jury . . . is a step towards establishing aristocracy, the most oppressive of absolute government.” The loss of civil jury trials demands, if not action, at least scrutiny.
The Civil Jury Project at New York University School of Law seeks to do both. Launched by trial attorney Stephen D. Susman in 2015, the Project aims to understand the causes and consequences of the civil jury’s dramatic decline, as well as determine what steps might be taken to preserve and revitalize the institution. It has commenced empirical assessments of the current role of the jury, created education programs and publicity outlets for studies and policy proposals, and reevaluated ways in which juries are constituted and jury trials conducted. Its efforts have earned it astounding support across the country, with a list of accomplished judicial, academic, and practitioner advisors that total well into the hundreds. Today, it remains the nation’s only non-profit academic institution dedicated to studying, preserving, and advancing the cause of the Seventh Amendment. Continue reading “Where have all the [Civil Juries] Gone?”
We all want the HLS community to have a big impact on the world.
This is an uncontroversial view as far as it goes, but—as you’ve probably already thought to yourself—that statement doesn’t go very far in the way of defining “big,” “impact,” or “world.” Our community is rife with disagreement as to the meaning of these terms. This is healthy. Conceptions of justice are inherently controversial.
Here’s something uncontroversial: students going into BigLaw will immediately join the top 0.1% of the global income distribution, earning 131 times the global median. That means 1% of your income will be more than the average human makes in a year. Those of us pursuing public interest work won’t do too badly either, falling just outside the global 1% and earning 36 times the global median. Continue reading “A Healing Approach to the Public Interest Pledge”
Dear Dean Minow,
We support the immediate and annual implementation of optional anonymous mental health surveys at Harvard Law School.
We have no recent data on the student body at Harvard Law, but we do know that scheduling counseling appointments can take weeks. To help our community, we must first know where we stand. In addition, to evaluate the effects of policy changes, we need surveys each year.
A 2014 study at Yale Law School found that 70% of students reported experiencing mental health challenges and Harvard Law school needs the same data on our own community. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Dean Minow on Mental Health: HLS Needs Survey Data”
I recently discovered, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, the way someone who definitely does not obsess over rankings would discover, that Harvard Law School is ranked number 3 behind Yale and Stanford. Completely independently of that, I think it is time that we discuss the problems inherent in the current ranking system.
First of all, the current system places heavy weight on incoming class GPA and LSAT. This means schools are pressured into taking a specific subset of students, specifically those that are actually good. Schools are forced to take a decline in the rankings in order to select the students they truly want, like legacy students from wealthy families who will not enroll in LIPP when they graduate. When so much of the admissions process is reduced to two numbers, we lose sight of what really matters in determining the value of an applicant: their personal statement.
Continue reading “The Rankings Are Overrated, And Definitely Not Just Because HLS Is Ranked #3”