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Law Students ‘Disorient’ to Discuss Social Justice

Harvard Law School informed its students of Title IX policy changes on Aug. 28, after being finalized over the summer.
Harvard Law School informed its students of Title IX policy changes on Aug. 28, after being finalized over the summer. By Annie E. Schugart
By Andrew M. Duehren, Crimson Staff Writer

Following a school year that brought social justice issues to the forefront of campus dialogue, Harvard Law School students have started formally organizing to discuss their experiences and what they say are the shortcomings of the curriculum.

At a Saturday event, titled “Disorientation,” students gathered to attend a series of panel discussions, breakout sessions, and training sessions about social justice issues and their presence, or lack thereof, in the Law School curriculum, particularly during the first year. The student groups Students for Inclusion and the Harvard chapter of the National Lawyers Guild organized the day-long event.

“It was put together sort of to be a response to orientation and a response to some of the reactions students maybe have when they first get to law school,” said Faye E. Maison, a third-year Law student who helped organize the event. “Just to say there are a bunch of other people have been through this and are having the same thoughts you do.”

Both Maison and Mihal R. Ansik, another third-year law student who helped organize the event, said the initial impetus for the event was what they described as the insensitivity of the Law School classroom to social justice perspectives.

“Something that we all experienced during our [first year] and that tends to happen is, if you’re a student interested in social justice or a student of color or part of a marginalized community in some way, you start to realize you’re being taught law and certain cases where you’re supposed to justify injustice to be part of the class,” Ansik said during an interview.

“A lot of the real world bits are missing,” Maison said.

Some students who are just beginning their careers at the Law School—the target audience for the event—said after the event that it was a meaningful experience.

“I think that it was probably the most valuable so far in my experience. In my three weeks as a law student, I think it was a highlight, actually,” said Annemarie Manhardt, a first-year student who attended the event.

After a question and answer session titled “Surviving 1L As A Social Justice Advocate,” a “Radical Lawyering Panel” took place.

Thena Robinson-Mock, from the Advancement Project, Carl Williams of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Boston Coalition for Police Accountability, and Oren Nimni, co-chair of the United People of Color Caucus of the National Lawyers Guild, spoke at the panel. Students were also trained as legal observers at the event.

Though it was the first time a “Disorientation” event happened at the Law School, the National Lawyers Guild has organized similar events at schools around the country. Students said it was an opportunity to build a community of like-minded students at the Law School.

“There is a community at the Law School that is committed to social justice and changing the way legal education operates at the Law School,” Ansik said.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

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