GQ Article Draws Law Students' Ire

Story Calls HLS 'Beirut on the Charles'

Law School students criticized an article in this month's GQ magazine that portrays Harvard Law School as a faction-ridden battlefield.

But the author of the article defended his work yesterday, saying he carefully reported current conditions at the school.

The article, John Sedgwick's "Beirut on the Charles," said political tensions on campus had "pitted faculty members against faculty members, faculty members against students" and had seen students" waging holy war on one another."

Though many students said the article accurately depicts the school's atmosphere, some said the author distorted facts by leaving out information and took some remarks out of context.

"As regards to fact, it is a fair representation of what has been happening, but the personalities and individuals featured have been exaggerated and sensationalized," said Raul Perez, vice president of the Law School Council.

"I am not at all satisfied with [the article]," said Marie Louise Ramsdale, president of the council. "It trivialized what we on the 'left' are working for."

Sedgwick responded to the criticism by saying his reporting procedures were "very fair and accurate" and the same as those of most journalists.

"[The Law School] is a remarkably gnarled place, with only shades of meaning. It was very difficult for me to ascertain facts," Sedgwick said.

Ramsdale said Sedgwick had not sufficiently dealt with the issue of faculty diversity, and that the author had ignored the fact that this was the basis for friction between students in the first place.

"Law School students are going to be leaders making policy, and that is what makes issues like these all the more important--so that they don't go out into the world with a bias against anyone," Ramsdale said.

The council president said she was also upset because the article under played the work her council has accomplished.

In particular, she emphasized the council's efforts to improve faculty student communication on appointments, and to establish a book exchange--neither of which were mentioned in the write-up.

Ramsdale also said Sedgwick took many of her comments "out of context" and made her sound as if she was "just complaining about what guys called me. He didn't mention anything I said about feminism, the context in which I made those remarks."

But Camille D. Holmes, coordinator for the Harvard Law School Coalition for Civil Rights, said the article was "basically harmless" because it only dealt with lighter issues.

Ramsdale's resentment, however, was echoed by Harvard Law Record writer Elizabeth G. Moreno, whom the article called "coquettish" and "a boy-crazy Valley-girl." Sedgwick said he took these images from Moreno's depiction of herself in her writings.

But Moreno criticized Sedgwick's choice of writings from which he quoted her. "Although he had read all of my writings, he only quoted the ones in which I talked about boys; he didn't use any of my political pieces," Moreno said.

Many students said the article was sexist, Moreno said, because Sedgwick "noted what clothes women were wearing, but not men."

Perez said Sedgwick blew his personality out of proportion as well. "I was called a fiery radical; I have to blush at that," he said. "That's not the way I see myself."

Despite the article's assertions, tension levels on campus this year have been much lower than usual, Law School students said.

The less-stressful environment may be due in part to Dean Robert Clark's recent appointment of Williston professor of law emeritus Roger D. Fisher '43 as a "peace keeper" for the Law School community.

"I think everything is much more quiet this year because Dean Clark is paying Roger Fisher a lot of money to keep things down," Moreno said.

Even so, Ramsdale said she and other students will continue to apply pressure on the administration to include more women and minority faculty members.

She said the school is not "lowering [its] standards by hiring women and minorities."

Although the article portrays the Law School in a stormy light, many said there is no harm done in exposing the truth.

"Old alumni are very ruffled that we are getting a bad reputation," Perez said. "But if this is actually representative of the political climate, let the false facade start coming down.