Cathedral Round-Up #11: The Joke’s on Them

Dean Minnow writes in Where Theory Meets Practice (HLS Bulletin):

Earlier this year, some students pressed for reconsideration of the [Harvard Law School] shield. Adopted by the Harvard Corporation in 1937, it was based on the family crest of Isaac Royall Jr. the son of an Antiguan slaveholder. Royall’s bequest helped to endow the first professorship of law at Harvard. I created a committee to examine the issue and recruited faculty and alumni to serve alongside student representatives and staff, selected by their own communities. The Harvard Corporation accepted the committee’s recommendation… The experience afforded over 1,000 people a chance to participate in deliberations over our symbol and framed discussions that will continue as we review our past and rededicate our future.

The former shield
The former shield

But where did this push to change the seal come from? After all, the seal itself is rather innocuous, just three bundles of wheat surmounted by Harvard’s motto, Veritas. I doubt the average student walking around Harvard’s campus gives it (or any other shield) much thought.

A Question of History (HLS bulletin) reports:

Research by Visiting Professor Daniel Coquillette ’71 for his new history of HLS surfaced the ties between the Royall family and slave labor. In 2007, Janet Halley also explored the topic in the lecture she gave when she became the Royall Professor. Each year, [Dean] Minow has talked to incoming 1Ls about the Royall legacy, citing slavery as an example of how injustice is sometimes perpetuated through law.

Isaac Royall
Isaac Royall

Wikipedia informs us that:

Harvard Law School was established in 1817, making it the oldest continuously-operating law school in the nation. … The school’s origins can be traced to the estate of Isaac Royall, a wealthy Antiguan slave trader who immigrated to Boston. His Medford estate, the Isaac Royall House, is now a museum which features the only remaining slave quarters in the northeast United States. The Royall chair was traditionally held by the dean of the law school. However, because Royall was a slaveholder, Deans Elena Kagan and Martha Minow declined the Royall chair.

So HLS changed its shield because Dean Minow wanted them to. She encouraged the student body to view the shield as a symbol of racist oppression until they reacted and demanded its removal.

Of course, if HLS were actually committed to SJW goals, the best thing they could do is shut down, fire the teachers, give their endowment to the poor, and perhaps burn it all down and shoot a few lawyers for good measure. For every HLS grad who devotes their life to getting improperly convicted death row inmates out of prison, there are a dozen others working to keep them in; for every student who swears they are going to serve the poor, a hundred spend their days defending mega-corporations; for every Obama, there’s a Scalia.

If Dean Minow were actually devoted to “social justice,” as she puts it, she would devote herself to cases like Professor Parker’s:

Seven years ago I walked into the hospital for surgery. A cervical decompression and fusion, it was supposed to help me keep on mountain hiking. In the recovery room, I woke up paralyzed. I won’t walk again. I’m a tetraplegic. …

We launched two suits—one against the surgeon, the other against the company that was supposed to “monitor” spinal signals electronically throughout the operation. …

It turned out that almost no monitoring was done. There was no doctor observing incoming data in real time; there was no recording of data during most of the procedure; what records existed were, in large part, destroyed; …

We settled. But the company twice recently had to pay big fines for overcharging Medicare and claimed to be on the verge of bankruptcy. That limited the settlement. The hospital, I understand, went right on doing business with that company. …

After a grinding delay of four and a half years—there’s a special barrier to malpractice suits—we went to trial and we lost. We lost to an insurance company affiliated with ­Harvard.

If anyone could use a whole school full of angry lawyers on their side, surely it’s a healthy guy rendered a tetraplegiac via medical incompetence. But no, it’s the goddam shield that gets people’s attention. How many millions of dollars did Harvard spend on this “committee” that apparently listened to a thousand people’s opinions? How much will it cost to design and manufacture new seals to hang all over campus? How many of the people SJWs claim to care about could have been helped with that money?

But the overwhelming tone of the HLS Bulletin is not “SJW,” but relentless, soul-crushing, corporate formality. I wish I had a single word for it–like “norminess,” but oh so much more.

Just as some Christians* feel the influence of their faith in every aspect of their lives, while others make a show of going to church and calling themselves “Christian” but are otherwise unmoved by faith, so to do some SJWs come across as “true believers,” who want to increase acceptance for society’s outcasts, whether drag queens or criminals, and some come across as stiff formalists who wouldn’t touch a transsexual with a ten-foot pole but still want it to be known that they disapprove of North Carolina’s bathroom bill.

*I am sure this dichotomy shows up in all religions.

Like a real estate speculator who tries to invest in land that he thinks will go up in value, I suspect that much of Harvard’s business is to attach its name to future leaders. They are, for the most part, highly intelligent folks, but if intelligence were the only criterion, Harvard’s student body would look more like Caltech’s. Rather, Harvard is interested in people like Obama, multi-ethnic, internationalist, multi-lingual, and destined for at least a diplomatic post with the state department (that bet turned out even better than expected for HLS); the recently deceased Antonin “Nino” Scalia, or Koen Lenaerts, ’78, President of the European Court of Justice.

What does it all mean?

I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s classism.

Which means classism is a lot worse than I generally give it credit for.

I did enjoy He Was Not a Crook: Former staffer in the Nixon administration continues to defend his boss:

Based on documents he uncovered from the Watergate proceedings housed in the National Archives, [Shepard’s] book contends that charges of a cover-up that ultimately forced Nixon to resign from office proved unfounded. Even the “smoking gun” tape that appeared to show the president seeking to limit the FBI’s Watergate investigation was misunderstood, Shepard contends: It was in fact an attempt to keep the names of Democratic donors to the Nixon campaign from becoming public. Yet the cover-up charges were buttressed by biased prosecutors and judges who colluded to ensure the downfall of the president, he believes.

“Judges and prosecutors aren’t supposed to get together in advance and make decisions, and that’s what it turns out they were doing,” he said. “It’s just startling, what was going on.” …

“He wasn’t a highfalutin Easterner,” as Shepard put it, nor was either one among the “sons of prominent men” like those who were introduced by one of his professors during a first-year class at Harvard Law. …

Although for many people Nixon’s legacy can be summed up in one word, Shepard says the president he served should be celebrated for his foreign policy acumen and domestic achievements, such as efforts to combat drug abuse.

“The people who have loathed Richard Nixon—just this visceral hatred of this guy from nowhere, without culture, without family, without a Harvard education, who kept winning elections,” he said, “they want to give him no credit for anything.”

Shepard’s book, “The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy, and the Plot That Brought Nixon Down,” is available from Amazon (or possibly your local library) if you’re interested.

There were also several articles about police and crime, (it’s a hot-button issue these days,) like:

Meeting at Cops’ Corner:

In just one decade, Everett, Massachusetts, once a predominantly white city, has become the most racially and ethnically diverse in the commonwealth. Building communication between police officers and local youth is a priority for Chief of the Everett Police Department Steven A. Mazzie, who is white, as are 86 percent of his officers. Last fall he invited a team of HLS students from the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program to Everett for an impartial assessment.

(Statistically, Everett seems to be doing slightly better than average for a Boston neighborhood, crime-wise.)

Solutions from Cincinnati: Mayor John Cranley ’99 champions his city’s unique police-community accord:

Now in its 14th year, a compact on policing in Cincinnati, Ohio, focused on building strong police-community relationships is a lauded model nationwide. John Cranley ’99, now the city’s mayor, was there from the start of the landmark agreement known as the Collaborative.

While Cincinnati is not mega-violent St. Louis, with nearly 50 murders and “non-neglicent manslaughter”s per 100k citizens year, it is the tenth most homicidal city in the country. (Everett, and Boston generally, are doing better.) On the plus side, violent crime has fallen since it spiked following the 2001 Cincinnati anti-police riots, though we need a few more years to tell whether it has stabilized around 65-75 murders per year after hitting a low in 2012, or if it’s headed back up.

and The New Age of Surveillance: Cellphones may be the least of your privacy concerns:

Welcome to the Internet of Things. It may be about to change our lives as radically as the Internet itself did 20 years ago. …

This technology is already available in everything from home appliances to Fitbits and children’s toys, and over the next 10 years, it is expected to become a multitrillion-dollar industry …

All that personal data—just waiting to be mined. The implications for privacy, national security, human rights, cyberespionage and the economy are staggering.

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