We write on behalf of the silent majority of Harvard Law School students who are repelled by the November 19 “hate crime” hoax, and who do not wish to continue being subjected to disorder caused by the relative handful of racialist activists at this school who are bent on compelling others to pay attention to their agenda.
We do not object to these activists expressing their views on their own time, in conformance with school rules, and while adhering to basic norms of civility. The law school, and Harvard generally, afford ample opportunities for such expression.
We do object to these activists disrupting class time, violating school rules on how visual messages can be conveyed, and seeking to disrupt community meetings meant to allow individuals in the community — not just hard-core activists with an axe to grind, who were never elected by the student body to represent students’ views — an opportunity to express their individual views.
Here are three constructive suggestions for how to restore order at the law school and thereby ensure that the vast majority of law students who do not agree with the aims and tactics of these hard-core activists are not treated as second-class students, subject to the whims of a radical fringe that is currently being allowed to do largely as it pleases.
1. BAN BROWNSHIRT TACTICS AT COMMUNITY MEETINGS
Unless you act quickly, and decisively, there is a distinct possibility that tomorrow’s noon meeting, which you have scheduled to allow members of the entire Harvard Law School community to express their individual views concerning the “hate crime” that allegedly occurred on November 19, and related issues, will be hijacked by an ad hoc group of racialist activists, comprising less than 5% of the student body.
You should anticipate that these students will march into the meeting wearing uniformly colored clothes and will seek to disrupt the meeting in order to press their own demands — shouting out political slogans in unison, shouting down their opponents, and generally doing their best to monopolize the meeting and prevent others (including you) from speaking.
If such tactics sound familiar, it’s because they are time-tested tactics for winning political fights through bullying. They were the tactics used by the SA (Sturmabteilung or Storm Detachment), better known as the Brownshirts or Storm Troopers, in Nazi Germany during Hitler’s rise to power.
In the early years of the Nazi party, the Brownshirts were the ruffians and bullies who delighted in disrupting the meetings of political opponents.
Such tactics have no place at Harvard Law School. They are incompatible with Harvard’s “University-Wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities,” which among other things requires students to show “respect for the dignity of others,” including respect for “the rights of its members to . . . convene and conduct public meetings,” such as the public meeting that you have scheduled for tomorrow. (See also Harvard Law School Community Principles.)
The University-Wide Statement, of course, recognizes the right of the racialist activists to express their own views, but not by disrupting meetings called by others (they must “publicly demonstrate and picket in an orderly fashion”). If these agitators wish to express their own views as a group, they are free to call their own meeting and invite interested members of the community to attend.
We respectfully suggest the following tactics to minimize the risk that Brownshirt tactics will be attempted, or will be successful, in disrupting tomorrow’s community meeting and future community meetings:
a. No electronic devices.
Without photos and videos, agitators have great difficulty leveraging their antics in a closed meeting to convey to the outside world the sense of crisis they are seeking to manufacture. Every single individual in a community meeting should feel free to speak without fear that he or she is being videoed, photographed, or being tweeted about. Therefore the law school should impose for this, and all other community meetings, the same rule that applied when Justice Kagan visited in September: “A Harvard ID will be required for admission to the lecture and no backpacks,laptops, recording devices, cameras, food, or drink will be allowed in the room.”
Realistically, of course, many people may have their smartphones stowed away in their pockets; we are not suggesting that intrusive searches are required before community members are admitted to the room. But this rule will ensure that if a student attempts to video or photograph anything occurring during the community meeting, the student’s device could be confiscated, and the student could face possible discipline.
Assuming that an official video of the event will be made for viewing in the overflow room , we recommend that the video be saved, in case it is helpful as evidence in any later student disciplinary proceeding (in the event a student uses an electronic device, or Brownshirt tactics are employed that might trigger disciplinary charges).
b. Students must take turns speaking at the microphones, for brief periods of time.
The purpose of the meeting is to allow individual students to express their views, and to pose questions for further thought. Therefore students should be required to speak individually, at a microphone, for brief periods of time (we suggest no longer than two minutes). Students should be admonished that they are not allowed to shout from wherever they happen to be sitting, and that the only demonstrations of support that will be permitted will be brief applause.
c. Only leaders of officially recognized student organizations should be recognized.
To allow as many diverse perspectives as possible, at most one leader from an officially recognized student organization should be allowed to speak on behalf of that organization, with the head of the student government allowed to speak first.
No one affiliated with the ad hoc group of racialist activists which is currently agitating on campus should recognized as having any legitimate leadership role.
In particular, under no circumstances should a purported leader of an ad hoc group of students be recognized for the purpose of presenting the gruop’s “demands.” Any such attempt should lead to that student’s microphone being cut off.
If an ad hoc group of students has a list of “demands,” the students can write them up and send an e-mail to the relevant parties, and can post them on a website or blog for anyone else who may be interested in reading them. An ad hoc group of students should not be permitted to use Brownshirt tactics to seize control of a community meeting as a platform for presenting their “demands.”
By denying any recognition, or special attention toward, students who group together in an ad hoc fashion to disrupt the lives of other students, the law school will reduce the incentive to engage in such unruly behavior, and will encourage such agitators to seek and obtain official recognition as a student organization.
d. If these rules are violated.
Any student seeking to violate these rules for conducting an orderly and civilized community meeting should be ejected from the meeting and reported for possible discipline. It should be announced at the start that if the meeting becomes unruly due to coordinated group action, it will be terminated and not rescheduled.
2. DO NOT PERMIT STUDENTS TO DISRUPT CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION
We regard as anathema to any institution of higher education what you and Professor Randall Kennedy (and other professors who we will not name) reportedly allowed to happen on November 19, in the hours after what we call “Tape-Gate” (an obvious “hate crime” hoax) came to students’ attention. At the start of class, students pressured both you and Professor Kennedy to set aside that day’s course material to discuss the incident (students in your class, reportedly, went as far as to stage a mini-protest, demanding that you address the incident).
Both you and Professor Kennedy reportedly pushed back, but eventually you both permitted the students to decide by majority vote whether they wished to set aside the class material, and discuss the incident, which they voted to do (with white and asian students obviously under pressure to vote yes, to avoid being tagged as racist). Substantial time was then spent in each class discussing the incident.
The racialist activists in each class who successfully pressured you and Professor Kennedy, and their fellow students, to set aside normal instruction, thereby denying their fellow students for that classroom session the educational opportunities that they expected to obtain by attending this law school, thereby violated Harvard’s “University-Wide Statement on Rights and Responsibilities,” which among other things ensures “that all members of the University are able to carry out their normal duties and activities . . . without interference or constraint by others.” (2002 Statement of the President and Deans).
Such an episode should never be permitted to happen again. Students should be put on notice that although they are free to speak with professors and other instructors, and their fellow students, after class concerning events or issues not related to the class, they may not raise such matters during class time, and every minute of class time must remain under the control of the professor or other instructor.
3. ENFORCE THE TIME-PLACE-AND-MANNER RULES GOVERNING FIXED VISUAL EXPRESSION.
The current crisis at the law school is directly traceable to your administration’s deliberate decision not to enforce the law school’s very strict rules governing fixed visual expression by students.
Under the law school’s rules, students may post written material for viewing by other students in only two locations: (1) on various bulletin boards, liberally distributed throughout the classroom buildings, student center, and tunnels; and (2) on certain chalkboards in the classrooms.
And not just any student can use the bulletin boards or chalkboards. Only students affiliated with “officially recognized student organizations and journals” may use them, and they must note the affiliation.
And law school rules flatly prohibit students from posting any fixed visual expression anywhere else: “Materials may not be posted on doors, walls, glass, wood, tile, metal, or painted surfaces.” Moreover, in Wasserstein Hall’s seven large classrooms, only the side chalkboards (not the main chalkboards in front) may be used by students.
And just to cover all bases, and reinforce that the bulletin board and the chalkboards are the only place where fixed visual messages can be displayed, the rules also say that students may not “mark sidewalks, walls, or any other surface.”
Last fall, “Black Lives Matter” activists blatantly violated these rules by defacing the portraits of many of the professors lining the first floor of Wasserstein Hall, by taping up papers with protest messages on them.
This was a double violation of the rules: (1) the “Black Lives Matters” activists had not gone through the steps need for recognition as an officially recognized student group (no official group was listed on the papers posted); and (2) the papers were posted on the “walls,” and on “glass,” which is explicitly prohibited by the rules.
Yet you condoned the rule violation. At a community meeting, you specifically assured the activists that the papers would not be taken down. And they remained up for many days. Of course, only the racialist activists who had unilaterally violated the rules, and dared you to enforce them, were granted this dispensation. You didn’t invite anyone who might want to post “Blue Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter” messages on the portraits to feel free to do so.
It is therefore not surprising that, as earlier recounted on this blog, on the evening of November 18 the “Royall Must Fall” activists felt perfectly free to mark over the Harvard Law School shields in Wasserstein Hall (on the wall, and on the door mat) with black tape, another clear violation of the rules.
And whether or not it was the “Royall Must Fall” activists who placed black tape on the portraits of some of the black professors (as we have argued is 99.99% certain), as a hoax , it appears clear that some student placed the black tape on the portraits in an effort to convey some message, although the intended meaning is up for grabs, as Prof. Randall Kennedy has noted. But why should it be a surprise that a student felt free to place material on the portraits, in an effort to grab attention and convey some sort of message? Sure, that was a violation of law school rules, but students did exactly that last year, and you explicitly condoned it.
It seems clear that unless and until the time-place-and-manner rules governing fixed visual expression are enforced, ideally through the announcement of a zero-tolerance policy, students who feel privileged to violate the rules in an effort to promote their pet causes will continue doing so (at least if their pet causes are deemed politically correct).
For example, starting on November 19, dozens of students stuck messages on the portraits of all the black professors, messages that today remain on the portraits, evidencing hundreds of violations of the rules.
And on November 20, in clear violation of the chalking policy, the following message was written on the front chalkboards of all seven large classrooms in Wasserstein Hall, apparently as a direct action by black racialist activists, asserting that they have not been respected by whites and asians at the law school (thus implying that whites and asians at the law school are racist):
I will write love on these walls
I will share respect in these halls
I am also Harvard
Arguably this was hate speech, authored by black students and directed at white and asian students. Certainly the message’s implication offended some white and asian students. Yet because the administration is not enforcing school rules regarding the location of fixed visual messages, this message was not promptly erased, so that offended students were forced to view the message throughout the day.
It is time for the administration to stop condoning violations of the rules by a few favored students. The hundreds of messages currently stuck to various professors’ portraits should all come down. A zero-tolerance policy should be announced, under which building workers will scan the walls and floors of the buildings and classrooms when the buildings open each day, before students arrive, and remove any material that violates the rules.
Every law school employee, including professors, should be instructed to remove any material noticed during that day that violates the rules. Students violating the rules should be referred for possible disciplinary proceedings, without exception, and particularly without regard to the content of the messages involved. By displaying a firm hand on this matter, you will remove any incentive for anyone to do what the “Royall Must Fall” protesters, and anyone else involved in the chain of events that led to black tape being placed on the portraits, did.
Had this zero-tolerance policy been in effect, no one would have put up the black tape in an effort to get attention, because there would have been no attention, and thus no incentive to put up the tape. The tape would have been discovered by 7 a.m., and removed before any students arrived. So it seems fair to conclude that by condoning blatant violations of the rules, and failing to ensure that material violating the rules is promptly removed, your administration brought about the present crisis. Immediate action on this front is needed.