Epithet Garners Apology

A Harvard Law School first-year student apologized to his section of 80 classmates yesterday for sending an e-mail to a classmate in which he defended the use of the word “nigger.”

The e-mail, which was unsigned, had been sent from an unknown account but was linked to Matthias Scholl on Wednesday.

According to students present in yesterday’s class, Weld Professor of Law Charles R. Nesson accompanied Scholl into Professor Bernard E. Harcourt’s criminal law class and requested that Scholl have five minutes to apologize to his classmates.

Scholl’s apology, which was followed by a speech by Nesson, created even more controversy when Nesson suggested that the class hold a mock trial, with Nesson serving as Scholl’s attorney.

Although Scholl apologized for the contents of his e-mail, he said he knew nothing about the origin of fliers distributed Tuesday to law school students, which reproduced his e-mail, along with a swastika, profanities and anti-semitic statements.

The Harvard University Police Department is still investigating the origin of the fliers.

Scholl said he chose not to explain his reasons for sending the e-mail in class because “the format and time were not appropriate,” and Nesson had advised him not to elaborate.

Scholl, a self-described civil libertarian, told The Crimson yesterday that he did not intend for the e-mail to be a personal attack on its recipient, first-year law student F. Michelle Simpson.

He said he sent it after Simpson, a member of the Black Law Students Association, filed a complaint with the administration regarding a post on an HLS course website, in which classmate Kiwi A. Camara used the racial slur “nig.”

While Scholl did not send the e-mail from his Harvard account, he claimed it was not sent anonymously because Simpson had the ability to reply.

But Simpson only learned the April 1 e-mail was from Scholl Wednesday night when some of her classmates traced the account to Scholl online, revealing that he authored the unsigned e-mail.

The last sentence of the e-mail Scholl sent Simpson reads “as a result of your complaint I have actually began using the ‘nigger’ word more often than before the incident.”

Scholl said that by sending the e-mail, he wanted to convey his belief in free expression and that a language barrier due to his Polish origin may have made the e-mail seem overly offensive.

“I would use the word to show people I have the right to use it, but I don’t condone it,” Scholl said. “I’m not a racist. My wife is Asian, my best friend is from India and I share an office with an African-American whose friendship, knowledge and resources I value.”

Olufunke Grace Bankole, an African- American first-year law student, said she received an e-mail from the same address as the e-mail sent to Simpson, after she requested that people not send personal messages over an HLS mailing list.

Scholl’s reply read “bite me.”