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Law School Students Call for Release of Mental Health Survey Data in Posters Addressed to New Admits

Harvard Law School Library

Posters calling on Harvard Law School to publicly release the findings of a student mental health survey conducted in 2017 were plastered across campus last weekend as prospective Law School students visited campus for an admitted students weekend.

Harvard University Health Services distributed the survey to Law School students in November 2017 as part of a broader administrative effort across the University to address mental health issues on campus. The Law School has yet to release the full findings, but administrators presented a portion of the results at a public event in March 2018 and previous members of the Law School's student government wrote an op-ed on the results.

The posters, addressed to prospective students, accused administrators of refusing to release the entire survey because of their reluctance to address mental health concerns on campus.

“The administration is refusing to release — and actively covering up — data from this mental health survey, in part because they are trying to escape responsibility for their failing mental health support systems,” the posters read. “The student body and the broader public deserve to know how bad things are, and we must know to be part of any real conversation about change.”

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Law School Dean of Students Marcia L. Sells wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that the claims accusing the Law School of intentionally hiding the full results out of fear of public perceptions have no basis.

“The suggestion that the Law School is withholding information to protect its reputation or to wait students out is ridiculous and offensive,” Sells wrote. “The well-being of our students is an important issue that we take very seriously, and we are committed to creating substantive solutions and support mechanisms for all of our students.”

Mary C. Rockett, a Law School student involved in the production and distribution of the posters, said she decided to take direct action after numerous conversations with Sells where Rockett said the dean declined to release the full results.

“We tried to do this activism because we're not getting any response from the administration through traditional kind of meetings and follow up calls,” Rockett said.

“This process has been going on for a year. It is not really about showing up the administration, but putting these issues back into the conversation,” she added. “This is one of the only ways we really have at this point.”

Rockett she Sells told her that one of the reasons the Univerity refused to fully release the survey is that the administration is worried about student reaction to the results.

Sells wrote that in addition to presenting the abridged survey findings during a public forum, the administration has taken other steps to improve student well-being on campus. These initiatives include establishing a working group comprising students, faculty, administrators, and mental health professionals to evaluate mental health issues at the school. The Law School has also coordinated with HUHS.

“HLS is working in partnership with [HUHS Director Paul J.] Barreira and HUHS to understand the data and to consider what additional support services may be needed,” Sells wrote.

Sells added that the Law School’s results were consistent with findings at other Harvard graduate schools.

“While the survey results are in line with those seen among students in other professions and graduate programs, we are taking them seriously and they are an important indicator that all of us – in graduate programs and in the legal profession – must continue to work on this important issue,” Sells wrote.

Correction: April 23, 2019

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mary Rockett believes Law School administrators are worried about how students would react to the survey results if they were fully released. In fact, Rockett said Marcia Sells expressed this concern to her in a conversation between the two.

—Staff writer Connor W. K. Brown can be reached at connor.brown@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ConnorWKBrown.

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