News of the planned boycott at the law school provoked a flurry of passionate editorial response, cropping up in papers as far away as Honolulu. Far from quieting down with time, the controversy seemed to pick up steam as new columns and letters continued to appear more than one month after the story became public.
As unusual as the amount of ink spilled over the boycott is the tone of most of this editorial commentary. Below are selected excerpts that convey both the style and substance of reaction to the boycott.
"Aspiring lawyers who would deny themselves, and others, the chance to hear Mr. Greenberg do him and the civil rights cause a disservice. There is little point to pride if its price is ignorance." --New York Times editorial, August 11
"This legacy of superior achievement at Harvard Law by Afro-Americans since the early 20th century deserves something better than the banal ethnocentrism rampant among members of the Harvard Black Law Students Association." --Martin Kilson The Washington Post, August 13
"Bad times make for bad moods and bad actions. Which may explain the deplorable behavior of black law students at Harvard University. But that is not explanation enough to justify racist, anti-intellectual, anti-civil rights behavior from youngsters who would not be at Harvard except that millions of Americans of all races fought courageously for generations against racists, know-nothing politicians and the elitists who argued that education and constitutional safeguards should go only to a privileged few." --Carl T. Rowan, The Washington Post, August 20
"That...Jack Greenberg is white is simply not the animus behind our actions. Rather, we are protesting the lack of good faith by the law school administration in recruiting and retaining minority tenured professors. If there is any racism at Harvard, it is on the part of that administration, whose dean expressed a preference for hiring 'an excellent white teacher' over a 'mediocre black one.'" --Donald Christopher Tyler and Cynthia Muldrow (executive committee members of the BLSA) The New York Times, August 20
"I have already come down against the students for foolishly choosing the wrong professors to assail, the wrong course to boycott, the wrong issues to emphasize--and for not letting Americans focus on the real issue: how to persuade Harvard, its law school and hundreds of other colleges around the nation to stop the mealy-mouthed double talk and give some competent blacks jobs on their faculties." --Carl T. Rowan The Washington Post, August 27
"The students' protest did involve an ill-considered attack on Greenberg. But the object of the protest was the stifling homogeneity of a law school faculty of more than seventy professors, of whom only two are black. That protest was marked by a self-defeating and narrow-minded urge to cuss out whites. But any response to the students' demands that does not consider the larger context in which they arose is similarly narrow-minded." --Randall Kennedy The Nation, September 4