The Law’s Heavy Hand

The Law’s Heavy Hand

For the most part, Harvard has been fairly lenient in disciplining the sit-in participants.


For the most part, Harvard has been fairly lenient in disciplining the sit-in participants. College students were essentially let off with a warning, and Kennedy School students received no punishment at all. The law school, however, has been considerably harsher. The four law students who sat in received a formal reprimand from the law school’s administrative board, its disciplinary body–a punishment that will remain on their transcripts and require explanation whenever they apply to a state bar. But what outraged the students even more than the reprimand was the way the law school’s ad board conducted its hearing. The student defendants were never informed of the specific charges against them, and they found during the hearing that the “investigator” appointed by the board was free to stray from transcribed testimony of witnesses and to interpret their emotional states. What’s more, all the evidence against the students consisted of allegations of misconduct attributed to unnamed sit-in participants.

As one faculty observer noted, it’s particularly ironic for a law school to show such little respect for fair procedure, and its actions point to a “discontinuity between constitutional and administrative due process as taught in class and the ad hoc process of these hearings.” Said Aaron Bartley, one of the student defendants, “The law school no longer deems its primary purpose as being the pursuit of justice or moral principle. The aggressive prosecution of the four of us, in an extremely vague and unfocused hearing, suggests to me that the law school has a long way to come in understanding the importance of moral action.”

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