Harvard Law School Untaped: The Inmates Demand Control of the Asylum

I wrote here and here about the current racial turmoil at Harvard Law School. On Friday, the law school’s dean, Martha Minow, convened a meeting of students, faculty and others that drew a crowd of more than a thousand, with hundreds more in an overflow room.

A group called Coalition for Racial Justice at HLS has posted audio clips of the meeting. One leftist after another took the microphone to denounce the law school, apparently with little or no dissent from anyone–certainly not from Dean Minow or others in the school’s administration. The meeting was largely an opportunity for the leftists to present their demands, which you can find in writing here. Merely scanning them will give you a sense of what the turmoil is all about; it generally parallels what is happening at a number of other institutions. My comments continue below:


1. Address Harvard Law School’s legacy of slavery by removing the Royall family crest from Harvard Law School’s official seal and creating a permanent physical memorialization of the enslaved victims of the Royall family.

1. Remove the Royall family crest from the HLS seal.

2. Create a permanent physical acknowledgment (such as a monument on campus) of this institution’s legacy of slavery, memorializing those who were brutalized by the Royall family, and describing the change of the seal and the Royall chair.

3. Change the “Isaac Royall Chair” by renaming the chair to the “Belinda Royall Chair” or allocating the chair to a Critical Race Theory scholar.

2. Establish a Critical Race Program at Harvard Law School, with meaningful student input and transparency. The program should include at least one tenured faculty position for a Critical Race Theorist and provide support for students who are interested in challenging elite institutions and exploring the connections between the law and racial power.

1. Hire and support a Critical Race Theorist with meaningful student input in the selection process. The Critical Race tradition was born out of Harvard Law School through the work of Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Gary Peller, and a host of other scholars committed to: (1) uncovering the systems at play in the violent erasure of black people in our system of governance and (2) challenging “elite” institutions’ conceptions of “race neutrality” in the face of functionally exclusionary practices.” This scholar will provide a much-needed expansion of the academic dialogue at the school and support students who are interested in this serious body of work that has been pushed to the margins.

2. Set a timeline for hiring Critical Race faculty. Proposed initial timeline:

1. Visiting professor(s) by next semester or Fall 2016
2. Tenure-track professor(s) by 2016–2017 academic year

3. Total of at least 3 tenure-track Critical Race faculty by 2020

1. [Ed.: I know these numbers are off. Arithmetic has never been a left-wing strong point.] Allocate at least $5 million to establish the Critical Race Theory Program (figure based on similar program or center endowments), and commit to continued institutional support and funding, making it a priority in fundraising in the coming years.

2. Prioritize a record of Critical Race Theory scholarship and specialization in the recruitment and hiring of Climenko Fellows.

3. Reform the existing mandatory legal curriculum at Harvard Law School, through meaningful student input and transparency, to ensure the integration of marginalized narratives and a serious study into the implications of racism, white supremacy, and imperialism in creating and perpetuating legal analysis and thought.

1. Mandate external-organization-run diversity training programs for all professors that include (1) cultural competency and (2) models of effective contextualization — i.e., facilitated conversations about how to honor and navigate the difficulty and importance of bringing topics of race, class, nationality, gender, religion, and sexual orientation into the classroom.

2. Break down the HLS hierarchy and caste system that maintains the marginalization and exclusion of clinical faculty and staff at all levels; in particular, re-organize salary, benefits, contract structure, and administrative participation for clinicians in order to more closely mirror those of podium faculty.

3. Give the Committee and/or the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (see Demand 4(a) below) a full and equal seat at the table for all discussions and decisions on curricular changes.

4. Create a mandatory 1L course that addresses and contextualizes racial justice and inequality in the law, with respect to both historical issues and recent events. (The course must have a credit level that reflects its equal or greater importance to traditional 1L courses.)

5. Include in 1L Orientation implicit bias/cultural competency training by an external, expert organization, with the input of affinity groups, and opportunities throughout the week for interaction with affinity groups. Remove restrictions on affinity groups contacting new students.

6. Amend student evaluations to account for implicit bias and include questions regarding whether professors contextualize material.

7. Encourage the following components of inclusive classroom models by bringing in an outside expert on topics including, but not limited to, contextualized learning; open source materials for class; more group discussion among peers; more professor feedback on student materials throughout the term, rather than the one-exam model; and greater focus on panels and volunteering versus cold calls.

4. Establish the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and implement other institutional changes aimed at curtailing organizational hierarchy and injustice against students, staff, and faculty. The Office should be established with meaningful staff and student input and transparency.

1. Create the HLS Diversity Committee (“Committee”) and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion with meaningful and substantial student, faculty, and staff input and transparency at every level of the process (pursuant to the attached proposal).

2. Give the Committee and/or the Office of Diversity and Inclusion a full and equal seat at the table for all discussions and decisions on curricular changes.

3. Ensure that students, clinicians, and staff are included on all faculty committees (at every level of discussion, decision, or appeal), including but not limited to the existing faculty committees: the Administrative Board, Entry-Level Appointments Committee, Lateral Appointments Committee, Assistant Professor Mentoring Program, Clinical Committee, Admissions and Recruitment Committee, Graduate Program Committee, Teaching Careers Committee, Climenko Fellows Committee, Fellowship Coordinators, Clerkship Advisors, Informational Technology Committee, Library Committee, Financial Aid Committee, Project Review Committee, Title IX Committee/the Procedures Committee, Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment Education and Prevention Working Group, Professional Committee, Executive Education Committee, Lewis Building Committee, Case Development Committee, and 200th Anniversary Planning Committee.

4. Publicize to the HLS community the procedures of all of the aforementioned committees, for maximum transparency.

5. Empower the Committee to review the “excessive or insufficient remedy” condition as grounds for appeal for sexual assault/harassment decisions, as it is a subjective criterion likely to be abused by male bias against women of color, especially African-American women; include clinicians and staff from other campuses on the list of qualified panelists for sexual assault/harassment adjudication.

6. Support efforts to combat gender inequality, sexual assault, and sexual harassment at HLS, including but not limited to organizing bystander intervention trainings and sexual assault awareness programming for students, faculty, and staff in order to address the hostile climate surrounding sexual assault at HLS.

7. Release public reports on the progress of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s initiatives every semester to the student body.

8. Outline ways that staff can seek career development and enter higher levels of management.

9. Provide resources for staff of color including, but not limited to, a commitment to diversifying senior management through development and promotion of staff of color, and required cultural competency training for senior staff and management.

10. Increase student input during the admissions process through the creation of a student committee tasked with both making recommendations for outreach to students of color and creating more holistic criteria of admissions.

11. Promote institutional unity between students, faculty, and staff, including, but not limited to, custodial, Hark, and administrative staff).

5. Improve affordability and financial access to HLS for students of color, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and otherwise marginalized students; this should be done with meaningful student input and transparency.

1. Expand financial aid with a substantial increase in grant aid and a substantial decrease in reliance on loan packages; significantly lower tuition; give full need-based scholarships, along with cost-of-living grants, if a student’s household earns less than the cost of attendance for one year at HLS.

2. Change structural incentives that push students into big law.

3. Change the way we solicit funds to run the law school.

4. Reduce the student debt load for students with low financial resources.

5. Educate 1Ls and 2Ls on LIPP before EIP begins (during Orientation).

6. Allow students to pursue a civic-minded career upfront in exchange for free tuition, and to opt out and pursue a corporate-minded career in exchange for taking back their tuition debt.

7. Provide pathways for disadvantaged students to get into HLS, in part by recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to do well in law school.

8. Increase support for public interest students, including (1) extended summer public interest funding; (2) subsidized travel and housing for job interviews; (3) financing for bar courses.

6. Make a sustained commitment to the recruitment, retention, promotion, and professional development of Staff of Color at all levels of the Harvard Law School workforce, particularly in senior management.

1. Begin, in 2016, an annual diversity audit including transparency of salaries and promotions

2. Through an inclusive process, establish clear published targets for recruitment, retention, and promotion for people of color and report publicly and regularly on progress made towards reaching those targets.

3. Provide accessible trainings on negotiating promotions and pay increase.

4. Establish a mentorship program for staff of color.

7. Implement measures to ensure Staff of Color are respected and supported in their work, including required cultural competency training for all staff.

1. Establish a mandatory program led by external facilitators to build better cultural competency among staff starting in the fall of 2016.

8. Adopt a Harvard Law School Diversity Committee, exactly as described below, made up of students, staff, faculty, and administrators, to implement the aforementioned demands and monitor progress at Harvard Law School in the areas of pedagogy, diversity, and culture.

This will provide students, staff, and others who have been marginalized at this law school with the ability to come to the negotiating table and engage substantively, meaningfully, and sustainably with these issues. It will also allow them to (1) hold the administration accountable and (2) measure progress on their demands. See details on the Committee below.

I will spare you the lengthy description of the Diversity Committee, which the administration must establish “exactly” as per the leftists’ demands.

Several words and phrases come to mind to describe these demands. “Arrogant” is one. “Barking mad” is another.

But I want to make one more substantive point: what the radicals desire is that Harvard abandon the teaching of law, and replace it with teaching about race. Critical Race Theory holds that the law, as it has been developed through centuries of legislation and court decisions, has no value or validity and is merely a tool of racial oppression. Why, then, should anyone study it? The radicals have no intention of studying the law; they want to participate in an orgy of racialist self-congratulation, presumably followed by lucrative employment.

If they get their way, Harvard will become a lousy law school. Its graduates will no longer be in demand by employers, including but not limited to law firms. If a client needs representation in court, or expert advice on a real estate transaction, or help in setting up a benefits plan or closing a corporate transaction, a lawyer who holds that the law is merely a tool of racial oppression, and is therefore unworthy of study or adherence, is worthless. No one will pay for his services, and law schools who turn out such useless graduates will be shunned.

Meanwhile, the Harvard Law Record has published a series of essays in support of the racialist rebellion. If you spend a few minutes skimming their laughably inept prose–please, for the sake of your mental health, don’t spend any longer than that–one question will immediately leap to mind: what the Hell are these people talking about?

The essays, like the leftists’ demands, are jargon-heavy but content-light. Harvard is a hotbed of racial oppression, we are told. “Systemic racism” is everywhere. But how, exactly, is this racism supposedly manifested? What experience of racism do the essayists themselves have? If racism is a “serious problem” at Harvard Law School, as its own dean (insincerely) attests, surely the activists can come up with some examples. Right?

No. They can’t. Nada. Zilch. As far as one can tell, no Law Student of Color has been subjected to discriminatory conduct of any sort while at Harvard. In any event, none that can be described in terms less airy than “implicit bias” and “a historic institutionalized commitment that discredits the voices of black people.”

The leftists have two articulable grievances. The first is the crest that has long been the symbol of the law school:


The crest is objectionable because the sheaves of wheat are taken from the family coat of arms of Isaac Royall, who was a slave owner. The only halfway-clever thing the leftists have done is to come up with this alternative:


I don’t think anyone would mind much if the law school were to change its crest. The sheaves of wheat–which I confess I never paid attention to in the three years I spent at the law school–have little to do with the practice of law in any event.

The radicals needed something more, and they got it in the form of a fake “hate crime.” Someone took small pieces of black tape and put them over portraits of some, but not all, black law school professors that are displayed in Wasserstein Hall. Some might say: big deal. Fair enough, but it’s worse than that. As the web site Royall Asses demonstrates in entertaining detail, it is overwhelmingly probable that the placing of the tape was a hoax perpetrated by the very leftists who are now using the tape to justify abandonment of traditional methods of teaching law students in favor of racialist obsessions.

One remarkable fact about the dean’s meeting on Friday is that several of the “Royall Asses” spoke, and apparently no one asked them whether they did, in fact, perpetrate a hoax by placing the tape themselves. Apparently law students are either too polite, too dense or too cowed to challenge what is almost certainly a fraud. This doesn’t bode well for their future careers as lawyers.

Stay tuned. Harvard purports to be investigating the tape incident. On that front, I have one question: glass, which covers the professors’ portraits, is an excellent surface for retaining finger prints. Has the university’s investigation included dusting the portraits’ glass surfaces for prints, so that they can be matched against the finger prints of the left-wing activists and any other possible suspects? If not, why not? If so, whose prints are on the portraits?