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Ogletree Article Rumors Renew Charges of Racism at Law Review

By Rajath Shourie

An article in GQ magazine this year attracted a lot of attention on campus by calling "racism, sexism and homophobia" the Harvard Law School's "holy trinity."

Though the article was not met with unanimous approval by the Law School community, at least the first two of that "trinity" of charges are familiar buzzwords at the Harvard Law Review, home to the Law School's best and brightest.

The Law Review--perhaps the premier journal of legal scholarship in the country--has gone through difficult times in the last two years.

The latest controversy involves an article published in its April 1993 issue, written by then-Assistant Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree. Ogletree was recently approved for tenure by the faculty.

Rumors circulated on campus that the article had not actually been authored by Ogletree, but in fact was entirely a creation of the Law Review staffers assigned to "edit" the piece.

And the rumors could not have been better timed, for Ogletree's detractors. They broke during the week that the faculty was to vote on his candidacy for a tenured position.

On the record, though, no one would come forward with the charges. And editors interviewed say that all copies of Ogletree's original draft have disappeared from the files and computer systems--making the accusations virtually impossible to prove.

Law Review editors note that it is common practice to edit articles heavily before publication, pointing to an earlier piece by Guido Calabrese, dean of Yale Law School, as a clear case in point. Editors disagree, ,however, on whether Ogletree's article was a particularly egregious example of pre-publication "editing."

Some students feel the incident just shows that racism still exists at the prestigious publication. "This [kind of heavy editing] seems to happen all the time," says one student, who is not a member of the Law Review. "People only take it seriously when it is a Black man's article."

Ogletree's article became the locus of controversy in the fall, when then-Law Review President Emily R. Schulman '85 was accused of racial bias by fellow editors for allegedly refusing to let a Black woman edit the piece because it was written by a Black faculty member.

"She would probably be the Black editor working on the piece, and you know how complicated that can get," the president allegedly said in discussions of the Ogletree article.

Schulman was also accused of sexism for allegedly telling a female colleague not to run for the post of managing editor because it wouldn't look good to have two women running the publication.

Ultimately, an inquiry ordered by the publication's Board of Trustees cleared Schulman of the bias charges, but Law Review editors, apparently not convinced by the 109-page report, passed resolutions censuring her for her conduct during the year.

The Watchword: Change

In the spring, with the annual change of leadership at the Law Review, change--rather than racism or sexism--was the watchword. However, the journal has not yet escaped its recent past.

The general atmosphere remains tense, marked by infighting and pitched camps; angry, controversial outbursts are not rare. When staffer Rebecca L. Eisenberg's proposal for an independent review of the journal's procedure of selecting editors failed to pass, she said she could only assume "the white men on the organization would like to keep it as their preserve."

Some faculty members, like Frankfurter Professor of Law Abram Chayes, downplay this tension, arguing that people on the Law Review are merely "more aggressive, more contentious" than typical students at the Law School.

But others refuse to accept this analysis.

"The Law Review has a lot of self-important people on it," says Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence Charles Fried says. "I don't believe anything they say--in either direction.

Some students feel the incident just shows that racism still exists at the prestigious publication. "This [kind of heavy editing] seems to happen all the time," says one student, who is not a member of the Law Review. "People only take it seriously when it is a Black man's article."

Ogletree's article became the locus of controversy in the fall, when then-Law Review President Emily R. Schulman '85 was accused of racial bias by fellow editors for allegedly refusing to let a Black woman edit the piece because it was written by a Black faculty member.

"She would probably be the Black editor working on the piece, and you know how complicated that can get," the president allegedly said in discussions of the Ogletree article.

Schulman was also accused of sexism for allegedly telling a female colleague not to run for the post of managing editor because it wouldn't look good to have two women running the publication.

Ultimately, an inquiry ordered by the publication's Board of Trustees cleared Schulman of the bias charges, but Law Review editors, apparently not convinced by the 109-page report, passed resolutions censuring her for her conduct during the year.

The Watchword: Change

In the spring, with the annual change of leadership at the Law Review, change--rather than racism or sexism--was the watchword. However, the journal has not yet escaped its recent past.

The general atmosphere remains tense, marked by infighting and pitched camps; angry, controversial outbursts are not rare. When staffer Rebecca L. Eisenberg's proposal for an independent review of the journal's procedure of selecting editors failed to pass, she said she could only assume "the white men on the organization would like to keep it as their preserve."

Some faculty members, like Frankfurter Professor of Law Abram Chayes, downplay this tension, arguing that people on the Law Review are merely "more aggressive, more contentious" than typical students at the Law School.

But others refuse to accept this analysis.

"The Law Review has a lot of self-important people on it," says Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence Charles Fried says. "I don't believe anything they say--in either direction.

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