In a letter in Monday’s Harvard Law Record, a Harvard Law School student publication, 10 different Law School student affinity groups called on Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning to create a Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. The groups seek to establish an office to deal with issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity that would act upon concerns raised by the committee. While we are supportive of these institutions, we cannot be certain the committee and office will be completely useful unless they are endowed with the resources and staffing they need to affect change.
A committee and office dealing with issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity would represent important steps in the right direction. At the same time, we hope the change these institutions ask for would be realistic. Otherwise, the committee and office run the risk of being ineffectual and irrelevant. There is a lot of change that must be implemented as soon as possible; a diversity, inclusivity, and equity office should come together and affect creative, practical, immediate solutions.
In setting up a committee and office focusing on these areas, we believe the Law School has a rare opportunity to build an institution on the strength of robust student interest. To do so, the school should incorporate student input and priorities about the shape and function of the committee and the office. To start with, the committee and office should not only consider the HLS student experience but also the advocacy that students may pursue with their law degree in the future.
We would also encourage those in charge of appointing members of the committee to cast wide nets in searching for students with a variety of ideas on how best to deal with issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. The committee will be at its strongest if its membership comes to the table with differing perspectives, as long as all students selected are deeply committed to the mission of the committee.
Beyond the specifics of suggestions for the committee, we would like to applaud the student groups for adopting this new communication strategy. The Law School has been far too slow in taking action with regard to these important issues. There have been few public signs that the school has implemented changes suggested by students in an addendum to a 2017 report from the Task Force on Academic Community and Student Engagement.
Though we have in the past discussed the misguided nature of some of the 2017 demands, we believe this letter offers a new avenue for progress in addressing students’ concerns reasonably and realistically. Thus, we commend students for showing willingness to engage in different kinds of dialogue. We call on Manning and the Law School to respond in the spirit of communication, even if it in disagreement. Finally, we appreciate that writing this letter may have been only the first step and that written communication is not the only valid or respectable form of pursuing change.
This staff editorial is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.