Demanding Justice at HLS

harvard-die-in

The Coalition at Harvard Law School sent a series of letters to the Harvard Law School faculty and administration.

Their first letter included the following introductory paragraphs:

This campus ­­ and the nation ­­ erupted in outrage when grand juries failed to indict Officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo for the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively. These recent events highlight that intolerance in America continues to cost us countless lives at the hands of law enforcement. We have no faith in our justice system, which systematically oppresses black and brown people. We are afraid for our lives and for the lives of our families. We are in pain. And we are tired.

We have been visibly distressed and actively engaged throughout this public national crisis. The administration has remained silent.

We led rallies, held vigils, and published an op­ed. You were silent on this issue. We petitioned the government, served as legal observers, created spaces of solidarity, drafted model legislation, and marched through the streets of Boston and Cambridge. You remained silent on this issue. We spent countless hours leveraging our legal educations, and utilizing our platform and privilege as students of this institution. And all we have heard from the administration is deafening silence.

Their second letter, in reply to a response from Dean Cosgrove, included this introduction:

Thank you for your replies to our letter. We appreciate your quick responses. We are pleased that you have now decided to join this ongoing conversation, and have committed to taking additional steps regarding our requests for student support and discussion about these issues on campus. However, your responses did not adequately convey your intention to timely meet all the needs of our communities.

We have included below this email our assessment of how your emails addressed our stated needs (Appendix A). We are particularly concerned with the lack of direct response to two of our requests:

(1) Our request for the HLS Administration to properly address the entire student body in a manner that recognizes students’ trauma as legitimate; andHLS Student Die-In

(2) Our request for exam extensions for students who are traumatized by this tragedy and who have felt duty­bound to dedicate their time mobilizing for justice.

This afternoon, students held a die-in outside a faculty meeting (see image to the right).

This evening Dean Martha Minow sent the following message to the law school community announcing a discussion event this Wednesday:

I want to start by thanking and commending the students who have, in the great tradition of the Harvard Law School, sought to cast a light on what we can learn from the events in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Cleveland and how we can take this opportunity to raise awareness about questions of racial justice and about reforms that will make our system more just.

I have been profoundly moved and distressed by these tragic events as I know many students, staff and faculty have been too.  I have talked with many of you about what these events mean to the families and communities most affected by them, as well as our nation.  I have also had many thoughtful conversations about the systemic implications of these events and how we might use Ferguson, Staten Island, and Cleveland to catalyze our efforts to make our criminal justice system better and more fair.

To that end, I hope you will join me and some members of the faculty this Wednesday, December 10, at noon in the Ames Courtroom to discuss what has happened and to begin to think together about how we might move forward and contribute to the effort.  I know that it is a busy time of the year, and I apologize for the short notice. But I am convinced that this conversation and the work that flows from it should not wait until we return in January.

As lawyers and members of the HLS community, we have a special obligation to work toward social and procedural justice and to advance the deeply rooted ideals that bind us together and will give us strength in the work that lies ahead.

Review all the letters in their entirety, including various appendices, here.

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