Laurence Tribe on the Royall Asses’ misguided radicalism

(5/28, 4 p.m. update) At 2:30 p.m., law professor Glenn Reynolds plugged this post on his “Instapundit” blog with a title, as usual, more clever than we are able to come up with: “LARRY TRIBE AND Harvard Law’s Useful Idiots.” We now know what an “Instalaunch” looks like — Glenn’s plug generated 1,500 visits to our blog in just an hour and a half (according to the WordPress stats). Thank you!

If you like this post, please RT this tweet, which uses Glenn’s attention-getting title.

Also, to encourage people to view the short (less than 2 minutes) video of the Royall Asses disrespecting Dean Minow at an event in which she was being honored, please RT this.

(4 p.m. further update): Additional visits to our blog via Glenn’s plug of just two hours ago now exceed 2,000!

(6:30 p.m. further update): A total of 3,289 readers have now visited this blog based on Glenn’s post just four hours ago. If you like the video, please RT this tweet: “Watch what students at Harvard Law School did after Laurence Tribe urged them not to do it.”

(5/29, 4:30 p.m. update) Our 2-minute video of the Royall Asses heckling Dean Minow (excerpted from the 10-minute original they posted on April 17; details here) has now gone viral, thanks largely to last night’s tweet by Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers who, ironically, earned her Ph.D (in philosophy) from the institution to which the Asses traveled to heckle Dean Minow, Brandeis University (Minow was there to receive the university’s Gittler Prize).

Sommers certainly wrote an attention-getting tweet: “Chilling tape of fanatical students heckling Harvard Law Dean. Academic Left has created a monster it can’t control.”

So far it has generated 505 retweets (including by heavyhitters such as Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos), 708 “likes,” and many interesting comments — both under Sommers’ tweet and under the YouTube video — addressing the weird, cult-like behavior reflected on the video. A total of 3,292 people have now viewed the video. The best tweets responding to Sommers’ tweet are retweeted on our Twitter account.

Also, Dave Huber of College Fix has done this excellent piece: “Leaked email: Harvard race protesters ignored liberal icon’s advice to tone down rhetoric, tactics.” If you like it, please retweet this.

(5/30, 4:30 p.m. update) The video now has 7,171 views, and many more interesting comments. Thanks to the folks at Maggie’s Farm for their plug this morning. Total views of our blog have zoomed past 90,000, from around 77,000 only a week ago. We have updated our Twitter account by retweeting the best additional tweets, commenting on Sommers’ tweet, made in the past day. Two tweets stand out:

1. By Professor Nicholas A. Christakis, who linked to our video with this note: “Harvard Law students heckling Dean Martha Minnow are engaged more in weak sloganeering than in persuasive arguments.”

2. By Professor Donald Douglas, who tweeted this interesting question asked by Glenn Reynolds in reflecting on the Daily Caller piece on Harvard professor Ken Mack: “How far left do you have to be, to have to lie about how left you are at Harvard Law?” The comments to Glenn’s post contain some interesting suggested answers. E.g.: “Far enough left that the cumulative result will be indistinguishable from a right-wing plot to destroy Harvard Law’s influence — that is, having law professors do to legal education what journalists have been doing to newspapers.” And: “Far enough out in left field, far enough out where the buses do not run, to believe that stuff Sharpton was spouting about pharaonic Egypt being a Black super-civilization?”

(6/1, 6 p.m. update) The video how has 9,172 views, thanks in large part to yesterday’s retweet by @HughHewitt (105K followers) of this @CHSommers (106K followers) tweet, as well as this tweet by David Burge (127K followers). Sommers responded that she had to agree with Burge’s observation.

Meanwhile, law professor Brian Leiter has linked to the video in a short post, and law professor John O. McGinnis has linked to this blog in an essay noting parallels between the current unrest at Harvard Law School and his time at the school as a student during the 1980s. George E. Clark has documented (with a photo) that “Belinda Hall” is history. Finally, in a year-end retrospective on protest activity at the Law School, the Harvard Crimson has, for the first time, finally informed its readers of the existence of this blog (in an article linked here), although it still has not linked to the blog, nor has it addressed any of the facts set forth on the blog — in particular, the overwhelming evidence that the black-tape incident was a hoax; the leaked e-mails regarding the Royall Asses’ efforts to have us investigated by the FBI; and the leaked notes showing that these student protesters radicalized their movement at the behest of ultra-left-wing professors, and in so doing rejected the advice of Laurence Tribe urging them not to take that course.

[end updates]

Was it inevitable that the Royall Asses would fall into the clutches of the left-wing professors with whom they met on December 5 and 14 (see earlier posts here and here), who convinced them to intensify their radical  protest tactics and plunge Harvard Law School into months of bitter acrimony, in an effort to fulfill the professors’ long-held objective to transform our already incredibly liberal school into a far-far-far-left institution?

Were these students fated to serve as useful idiots, so that their movement would end up devolving into little more than a front group for leftist professor-puppeteers such as critical race theorist Kenneth W. Mack, racialist-flame-stoking Stephanie Robinson, and CLS-founder Duncan Kennedy?

With a little adult supervision — with some sound advice by a level-headed, more mainstream liberal, countering the input the student agitators were receiving from the leftist fringe — might have things turned out differently?

No. Because it turns out that the Royall Asses were advised to reject radical tactics that demonized Dean Martha Minow, other administrators, and the majority of the faculty. They were advised to work constructively with Dean Minow and others to effect real change at the school.

Thanks to an e-mail leaked by a disenchanted agitator, we now know that they received, but rejected, this advice from a professor whose liberal credentials are impeccable, Laurence H. Tribe.


Professor Tribe, as readers know (unless they’ve been living in a cave for the past several decades) rose from humble roots to become Harvard Law School’s most famous professor — indeed, probably the most famous law professor in the world. His constitutional law treatise is the most-cited legal work published in the second half of the 20th century.

Tribe’s personal courage in fighting for liberal causes is beyond question. In particular, he led the fierce and ultimately successful fight against the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork despite the personal cost he knew the likely would suffer, and that he did end up suffering: that conservatives would take revenge and block him from ever being appointed to the Court, or to any other high federal office requiring Senate confirmation.

Even those who disagree with Tribe on many substantive matters (as do the writers of this blog) must respect the passion and commitment Tribe brings to liberal causes, and his willingness to employ aggressive tactics when such tactics appear wise.

Professor Tribe was among the professors e-mailed by the members of “Reclaim HLS” on Dec. 12, 2015 — as they put it, one of the “professors who we trust, whose opinions we value, and who we believe share our ultimate goals,” and who therefore were invited to the Dec. 14 meeting (full text of that e-mail here).

Tribe wasn’t able to make the meeting, but about noon on Dec. 14 he sent the “Reclaim HLS” agitators a fairly lengthy e-mail in which he set forth his disagreement with the radical tactics the agitators were contemplating.

Tribe politely, but firmly, expressed his conviction that the students were mistaken in viewing administrators, and most faculty members, as their “adversaries in this struggle.” Vouching for the good faith of these administrators and faculty members, Tribe assured the students that they “genuinely want to understand students’ concerns and to work closely with students to make concrete progress . . . .”

In particular, Tribe observed: “You’d make a terrible mistake if you fail to recognize Dean Minow as the best ally your cause could possibly hope for at this school.” Thus, he urged the students to “start working, and with dispatch, within the processes the dean has put in place.”

Unfortunately, the students decided not to take Tribe’s advice. They instead took the advice of a far-left provocateur, Jon D. Hanson, who in the Dec. 14 evening meeting (according to the students’ notes) sharply rebutted Tribe’s defense of Dean Minow, remarking: “Minow is not your biggest ally” — she “just act[s] as if she is your ally to thwart off faculty who are trying to protect her.”

That the student agitators sided with Hanson, and not Tribe, cannot be doubted given that they ignored Dean Minow’s efforts to meet with them in December and January, and given how they demonized Dean Minow in person on Feb. 26, by interrupting her speech at Brandeis University during an event in which she was being honored, as you can see in this clip (longer clip, and background available here):

So readers can judge for themselves whether Professor Tribe gave the student agitators good advice, and whether they erred in declining to follow it, here is the complete text of Professor Tribe’s December 14 e-mail, arguing that the students should work for constructive change within the process created by Dean Minow, rather than resort to radical tactics to demonize her and others in positions of authority at the Law School (italics in original; bolding and hyperlinks added):

Larry Tribe <>
Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 11:56 AM
To: “” <>
Cc: “” <>

Dear Rena,

Because I won’t be able to join in tonight’s discussion about your “movement and [your] demands,” I want to say just a few things in advance of the meeting you have convened. Feel free to share this email with anyone you choose:

I’m not only sympathetic with but am passionately committed to the goals of inclusion, diversity, and racial and gender justice both at HLS and throughout the country. I agree broadly with many of the points minority students have been making in recent weeks and months, just as I agreed some years ago with points that my friend and colleague, the late Derek Bell, was making before he resigned from our faculty to protest the absence of any tenured woman of color and of more faculty with a “critical” perspective. But, just as I urged Derek to stay rather than to leave, and just as I continue to believe that the progress we have made since would actually have come sooner and been deeper had Professor Bell pursued a different path, I find myself disagreeing with some of the tactics that I see as driving the current movement, and I don’t want my absence this evening to paper over that disagreement.

I thought there was considerable wisdom in the NYT op‐ed by Professor Randy Kennedy -– an op‐ed I realize some faculty and many students saw as unwelcome by virtue of very “balance” that others appreciated. I know that “balance” and “objectivity” can at times be illusions and that inaction is a form of action. Maybe that’s why I found myself in sync with much of what Professor Jon Hanson said in his counter to that op‐ed. I bristled at what I read as Jon’s accusatory tone toward Randy and toward Martha Minow, but I agreed completely with what Jon had to say about implicit racism, racism that is more often structural and systemic these days than overt and easily perceived by all. I very much share Jon’s sense that systemic racism, like systemic sexism, are especially difficult to identify and redress, and that we all need to listen more closely and observe more acutely if we’re to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

This means ALL of us need to listen and observe – not just those of us whom some students, at times mistakenly, perceive as their adversaries in this struggle. The vibe I got in the community‐wide discussion of Friday Dec. 4 was one of understandable frustration by folks who had assumed they’d get a chance to be heard at the meeting of Monday Nov. 30. That Monday meeting, which lots of students anticipated would leave time for them to speak, was more one‐way than I wish it had been – and more one‐way than I know Dean Minow had intended. But the Friday meeting that followed was also more one‐way and accusatory than I think would have been constructive.

I know that the faculty and administrators who spoke at the first meeting genuinely want to understand students’ concerns and to work closely with students to make concrete progress, not just “with all deliberate speed,” but with real dispatch. I hope – but can’t say I know – that the students who spoke at the second meeting are similarly open to the perspectives of faculty and administrators on how that progress might best be made and on what’s worth preserving about where HLS is and has been in the past. I especially hope that all of you start working, and with dispatch, within the processes the dean has put in place. Disagreeing with how some of those processes may have been designed is fully compatible with working to improve them and engaging in them actively.

One especially important point: You’d make a terrible mistake if you fail to recognize Dean Minow as the best ally your cause could possibly hope for at this school. She has worked closely with the champions of racial, social, and economic justice across the globe and has helped the targets of that injustice with great effectiveness. She has earned her place as a genuine hero in the civil rights movement, not just in the eras of Thurgood Marshall – whose great personal admiration for our dean I know first‐hand – and of Martin Luther King, Jr., but in this new and different era as well. Yes, these are new times, and new times call for new approaches. But while nobody is less stuck in the mud or open to novel ideas than Martha Minow, she has learned a lot in the course of her work that would be of inestimable value to all of you. Those who forget history, as you surely know, are much less likely to make progress than those who seek to build on its lessons.

Finally, I can’t help being troubled by the fact that the invitation you sent yesterday seems to have gone only to a select group of “professors who [you] trust, whose opinions [you] value, and who [you] believe share [your] ultimate goals.” I worry that those who learn they weren’t included in that group will assume – perhaps with good reason – that you don’t value their opinions and, worse, that you suspect them of being opposed to your ultimate goals, which I can’t imagine many are even if they aren’t in sync with your tactics. Someone can share the ends you seek even while being seriously troubled, as I am, by what looks like a failure – I’d even call it a systemic failure – to deal constructively (and like the excellent lawyers I believe all of you are capable of becoming) with the challenges we face as a justice‐seeking and truth‐seeking community.

I don’t mean to be preachy even if I might sound that way, but I’d betray both your cause and my conscience if I remained silent.

With all good will,

Larry Tribe


6 thoughts on “Laurence Tribe on the Royall Asses’ misguided radicalism

  1. Go figure. Larry is in favor of “inclusion” and “diversity”. Somebody has to get dumped. Just how many white goyim are left on the faculty at Harvard? Are there sixty percent, the number of white goyim left in America?

    Sooner or later our Jewish brethren are going to have to face the fact that every additional bit of “representation” for Non-Asian Minorities is going to be ripped from the hands of the grotesquely OVER-represented. Every additional bit of “inclusion” for NAMs is going to cause “exclusion” for someone else. Who is that going to be?

    If the HLS faculty is going to “look like America”, who are the people who must (and will) lose their comfy sinecures?

    So, yes, NAM activists, be sure to listen to the Tribes and Minows who will guide you and make sure you are pointed in the right direction.


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