HLS Responds To Racist E-Mail

Dean of Harvard Law School Martha L. Minow denounced a law student’s e-mail circulated on school lists this week that suggested black people are genetically inferior to white people.

According to media reports, third-year law student Stephanie N. Grace’s private e-mail detailing her views on race was forwarded to the Black Law Students Association e-mail list earlier this week, and then circulated nationally soon after.

In her e-mail, Grace allegedly wrote that she “absolutely” does not “rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.”

“Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension,” Grace allegedly wrote.

“I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case,” the e-mail continued.

According to Professor Charles J. Ogletree, a BLSA adviser, the student—whom he declined to name—approached Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove Wednesday upon learning that the e-mail was forwarded.

The student sent the e-mail to several friends in November, Ogletree said. Ogletree added that he was unsure why the e-mail had not been circulated until now.

Olgetree said he asked the student to come to his office, where the two “had a heart to heart and she profusely apologized,” he added.

Minow met with BLSA leaders Wednesday when the e-mail first surfaced. In a message she sent to the Law School yesterday morning, Minow wrote that the “circulation of one student’s comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.”

Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, who is also Winthrop House Master, said that the “unfortunate statement grew out of a very ugly part of our history where blackness itself was assigned physical meaning.”

Some students at the Law School mentioned that the media exposure and backlash has been unfair because Grace’s e-mail was intended to be private. But others said they felt the administration should not overlook the incident.

The student assumed the risk of her e-mail being widely circulated as soon as she sent it to multiple people, Sullivan said.

“The way this came out is unfortunate because it doesn’t facilitate open conversation,” said Jennifer Dein, president of the Law School’s student government.

According to legal blog Above the Law, Grace wrote an e-mail apology to BLSA that stated, “I am deeply sorry for the pain caused by my e-mail...I would give anything to take it back.”

Ogletree said that he “consider[s] the matter closed” following the student’s apology and Dean Minow’s response. “The Law School has done everything it could have done, and should have done,” he said.

Above the Law previously reported that BLSA is actively attempting to get Grace’s upcoming federal clerkship for conservative Judge Alex Kozinski rescinded. However, Minow and Sullivan said these reports were false.

“The Harvard community is strong. She is a part of it,” Sullivan said. “And I think our community will be even stronger after having worked through the pain that the e-mail has caused.”

Neither Grace nor BLSA officers returned repeated requests for comment.

—Staff writer Zoe A. Y. Weinberg can be reached at zoe.weinberg@college.harvard.edu.

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