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    Harvard Law Review Editor on exam delay request: Our Weakness is Our Strength

    Harvard Law Review Editor on exam delay request: Our Weakness is Our Strength

    “our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health.”

    As we reported, a coalition of student groups at Harvard Law School demanded exam delays due to student trauma over the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury refusals to indict.

    There was withering criticism, including here. HLS refused to budge, but did agree to counseling, meetings, and other steps.

    William Desmond, a third year HLS student who also is a Law Review Editor, defends the demand for an exam delay in The National Law Journal, Delaying Exams Is Not a Request from ‘Coddled Millennials’ (h/t Drew M.). Here’s an excerpt:

    … In essence, law students are being told to grow up and learn how to focus amidst stress and anxiety—like “real” lawyers must do.

    Speaking as one of those law students, I can say that this response is misguided: Our request for exam extensions is not being made from a position of weakness, but rather from one of strength and critical awareness.

    Although over the last few weeks many law students have experienced moments of total despair, minutes of inconsolable tears and hours of utter confusion, many of these same students have also spent days in action—days of protesting, of organizing meetings, of drafting emails and letters, and of starting conversations long overdue. We have been synthesizing decades of police interactions, dissecting problems centuries old, and exposing the hypocrisy of silence.

    I have seen the psychological trauma brought on by disillusionment with our justice system send some law students into a period of depression…. The hesitancy to recognize the validity of these psychic effects demonstrates that, in addition to conversations on race, gender and class, our nation is starving for a genuine discussion about mental health….

    Where some commentators see weakness or sensitivity, perhaps they should instead see strength—the strength to know when our cups of endurance have run over and when the time for patience has ended. Perhaps they should instead see courage—the courage to look our peers in the eyes and uncomfortably ask them to bear these burdens of racism and classism that we have together inherited from generations past. We have taken many exams before, but never have we done this. We are scared, but no longer will we be spectators to injustice.

    Our focus and critical thinking are at an all-time peak while the importance of our textbooks is at a low. It is not that law students are incapable of handling their exams. It is that we are unwilling to remove ourselves, even for a few days, from this national conversation….

    We recognize that this is a moment for change. If not us, then who? For most of us, we know that if we get lower grades this semester, this cost will have been worth the importance and privilege of joining a national movement to fundamentally reform this country’s approach to law enforcement and criminal justice. But just because we are willing to pay this price does not mean we should have to….

    Each year as classes of law students enter and exit our nation’s legal institutions we are told the same thing: You are the future of the law. Well, the future is now.

    In my post, It’s their law school and they’ll cry if they want to, I noted that the late Harvard Law Professor Clark Byse reportedly was the model for Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase. I should have noted this memory of Prof. Byse from Prof. Orin Kerr:

    I visited Professor Byse in his office and asked if he was willing to be interviewed as part of my seminar research. He didn’t know me from Adam, but I explained to him that I was interested in his views of different teaching styles as a student and how his views as a student had influenced his style as a young professsor.

    I’ll never forget his response. “As a young professor?!?!”, he proclaimed. “That was 1939!!!! Do you think I can remember all the way back to 1939?!?! Up yours, Buster!!!” After about a second of surprise I burst into laughter. Here was this legendary professor, still obviously quite with it, poking fun at his own age and proclaiming “up yours” to a student he had never seen before. I sensed that it was a test, and I was right: Upon seeing my open laughter, Professor Byse immediately softened and a big smile broke across his face. He asked, “Are you free for lunch sometime? I’d be happy to talk about it.”

    About a week later, he and I met for lunch … Byse was somewhat saddened that his rigorous Socratic approach had gone out of style; he thought that being absolutely demanding in class was the best possible way to sharpen the minds of students and teach them how to “think like a lawyer.” He saw it as something like Marine Corps boot camp: very tough, but very tough for a very good reason. He thought it unfortunate that the modern approach was “kinder and gentler,” as he feared that rigor had been sacrificed along the way.

    The students demanding exam delays probably would have fallen apart at “Ups yours, Buster!!!” Or filed a complaint.

    And they would have missed out.


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    Midwest Rhino | December 16, 2014 at 7:39 am

    So his transcripts will include an asterisk, showing this guy received special handling for his fragile condition? Will he qualify as a minority hire, and firms will be required to hire a certain percentage of “special cupcakes”?

    And his diploma will have a longer title to impress clients.
    “Social Justice Warrior / juris doctor”

    Kids in their 20’s are prone to delusions/manipulations of being specially called to a higher purpose, that may be driven by ego more than patriotism. The young Marxist Minstrels of the 60’s made good music, bombed some buildings, spit on some soldiers … and now run our educational system.

    The root of Desmond’s mental health concerns perhaps lies in the abandonment of our social structures … religion, family, education in our civil construct, blessings of liberty, etc. Strength comes by exercised discipline, not escapist visions of grandeur, like this guy seems to be experiencing.

    …We have been synthesizing decades of police interactions, dissecting problems centuries old, and exposing the hypocrisy of silence.

    …courage to look our peers in the eyes and uncomfortably ask them to bear these burdens of racism and classism that we have together inherited from generations past.

    …we are told : You are the future of the law. Well, the future is now.

    No, now is your time to study, then be an apprentice. The future is after you pass your elders’ exams and get 20 years experience, without selling out to the dark side.

    This has already been mentioned, but it bears repeating, these “kids” should have known better! Good for HLS. Perhaps there will be some kind of comparison course introduced based on the recent events: Micheal Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice.

    Deja-vu all over again?

    Cornel ’69 – The Willard Straight takeover:

    “The Review, the Review is on fire. We don’t need no water… Let the motherf_er burn!” a black student rapped as he torched stolen copies of the conservative Cornell Review in a garbage can.”…

    “The militants who looted and burned the Cornell Review in 1997 drew from their predecessors in ’69 both revolutionary inspiration and an expectation that the university would do nothing to curb their actions.”
    “In scrambling to resolve the crisis, the Cornell administration agreed to pardon all the black students involved. The faculty that had originally voted that their gross violations of law and order must be punished soon reversed itself, cowed by death threats and pressure from left-wing professors and liberal students. At the end of the crisis, president Perkins would resign, and prominent scholars like Walter Berns, Allan Bloom, Allan Sindler, and Thomas Sowell would depart Cornell in disgust.”

    Dimsdale | December 16, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Social justice is replacing real justice. These pansies exemplify it.

    Couldn’t they protest AFTER their exams? Come to think of it, that picture didn’t show a lot of “persons of color” (that being somehow different from “colored persons”) lying on the ground.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Dimsdale. | December 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      The thing that I find most interesting is that they are protesting the fact that the system, one they are supposedly learning about, worked as it should have.

    Empress Trudy | December 16, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I’m left wondering what kind of law they imagine they will practice and what kind of lawyers they imagine they will be. Everyone can’t be an internal human rights law advocate, you know. Unless of course the entire graduating class has a fast path to the next Democratic regime where they can sit in think tanks and NGOs and pass through the revolving door to midlevel executive branch staff jobs. Or MSNBC. Which maybe they do.

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