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Letters

Letter to the Editor: Activism at Harvard Law School

By Lynn A. Savarese, Contributing Writer

To the editor:

As one of the Harvard Law School alums interviewed and quoted in your February 9, 2016 article “Law School Alumni Divided over Activism on Campus,” I was surprised and disappointed that the article failed to mention Dean Minow’s extraordinary record, both past and present, in promoting racial, ethnic and gender diversity at the school. Since the start of her tenure as dean, the percentage of students of color enrolling at HLS has increased every year—from approximately 33 percent of the class in 2009 to 44 percent in 2015—and for the first time in the history of the school, the percentage of female students in an entering class reached 50 percent under her tenure. A quick review of the University’s annual Faculty Development and Diversity Reports shows that the number of ethnic minority faculty members (tenure and tenure-track) at HLS has also climbed 50 percent in the six years of her deanship—from 10 the year she became Dean to 15 last year—and there have been additional appointments adding to faculty diversity this year not yet reflected in the University reports.

Unless and until the identity and motive of the coward responsible for the vandalism of portraits of the law school’s black professors is established, the ugly event cannot itself be read as evidence that racism exists at HLS. But given that systemic racism plagues our nation at large and is pervasive in so many institutions, I am grateful that the event has triggered important reflection, discussion, and debate on campus regarding racial issues, and I am especially grateful to the Dean for facilitating that debate and discussion and taking action on numerous fronts to address concerns that have been raised, e.g., appointing a committee of faculty, alumni, and students to explore whether HLS should continue to use the Royall shield, revising the incoming JD orientation program to focus more on issues of diversity and inclusion, and exploring ways to improve inclusion and advancement for staff.

It is in very large part because of Dean Minow’s longstanding and unrivaled efforts to diversify HLS and to make social justice one of the school’s most fundamental endeavors that I and many other alums are enthusiastic donors to the school. Understanding that financial aid and low-income protection plans are critical to her mission to attract, enroll and support talented students from diverse backgrounds, Minow has throughout her tenure made raising funds for these aid programs a top priority. As a national leader on issues of access to justice, she has been a leading proponent for new and innovative ways to provide legal assistance for the growing numbers of poor and indigent people unable to afford it otherwise.

Any article about activism at HLS should include at least some reporting on the most prominent, committed, and effective activist on its campus—Dean Martha Minow herself.


Lynn A. Savarese is a 1981 graduate of Harvard Law School.

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