Last week, Scott noted an article in the New York Observer commenting on the recent hiring of several conservative faculty members at Harvard Law School. Scott solicited input from students who had thoughts on whether the institution really is becoming more open to conservative thought. First-year student Abraham Wise sent us this email, which I have edited for length:
The New York Observers article on the recent hiring of conservative faculty members at Harvard Law School (HLS) did a good job of portraying the current atmosphere at HLS. While HLS is in no danger of becoming a conservative institution, in my experience, the conservative position does get some modicum of respect, or at least tolerance. I came from the University of Minnesota where, almost to a number, teachers and students were actively hostile and condescending towards conservative ideas. I have generally felt a greater level of acceptance towards my ideas at HLS. On the other hand, various friends of mine have shared some negative experiences that they have had when they have expressed conservative beliefs.
The recent hiring of some notable conservative scholars, highlighted in the Observer, mainly serves as a (valuable) outward expression of a increase in tolerance. More importantly, I think that this shift is being driven, at least in part, by a changing student body. According to my professors at both HLS and at the U of M, the last few years have brought a general increase in conservatism among students. One good example of this movement is the Federalist society, which was founded at Yale Law School in the early 1980s, and which is increasing significantly in size. The HLS chapter has hundreds of student members, and carries out a significant role in promulgating conservative thought here on campus. I would also direct interested readers to the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, which, amazingly enough, has been a bastion of conservative writing for the last quarter-century.
[T]he recent hiring of conservative professors is a hopeful example of a school, or at least an individual (HLS Dean Elena Kagan) who has been willing to open the door to conservative ideas. If nothing else, conservatives can help the cause by seriously considering the opportunity to pursue academic careers.