Size Matters: Why Harvard Law Is Less Woke Than Yale Law

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Aaron Sibarium (Washington Free Beacon), Size Matters: Why Harvard Law Is Less Woke Than Yale Law:

Harvard Law School Logo (2021)“Engaging in good faith discussion”—that is how Harvard Law School titled a profile of Jacob Richards, the outgoing president of its Federalist Society chapter. The piece, published April 27 by the law school’s communications office, was effectively a targeted advertisement for center-right applicants, featuring gushing quotes from Richards about the open-mindedness of his class.

“I came into law school wondering if I’d get shunned for voicing conservative views,” Richards said. “Instead, I’ve found that most of my peers are eager and willing to engage.”

Then came the leak.

The law school featured the profile on its Instagram account on May 11, one week after news broke that the Supreme Court has circulated a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. That timing didn’t sit well with Gabrielle Crofford, the outgoing president of Harvard Law School’s student body, who urged anybody upset that the law school had kind words for a conservative to complain to the communications office.

“If it made you mad to see the President of Fed Soc celebrated on Harvard Law’s IG mere days after we found out Roe was being overturned, you should email Communications Dean Melody Jackson,” Crawford wrote on Instagram. “The more students they hear from the better.”

The school received multiple emails—”probably in the dozens,” a student with firsthand knowledge of the situation told the Washington Free Beacon—enough for Harvard to disable comments on the Instagram post amid a tsunami of vitriol. Current and former students demanded the law school delete the post, calling it “embarrassing,” “tone-deaf,” and “transphobic.”

Initially, the blow-up seemed to follow a familiar script: milquetoast remarks from a center-right lawyer, followed by furious demands for administrators to enforce orthodoxy. Many law schools have capitulated to those demands: from Yale Law School, which threatened to discipline a conservative student for using the term “trap house,” to Georgetown Law School, which placed a professor on leave for criticizing affirmative action on the Supreme Court.

At Harvard, though, administrators refused to remove the post and told Richards they had his back.

“I am very sorry that you have received such critical comments,” Jackson, the law school communications dean, wrote Richards in an email. “We were pleased to share your story.”

That resolve, students say, reflects Harvard Law’s size and staffing decisions, which have inoculated it against the ideological mania of rival law schools—especially Yale. …

“Classes are never disrupted here,” Richards said. “We’re not an ideological war zone like Yale.” …

Harvard enrolls three times as many law students as Yale or Stanford, allowing the school to create a much larger network of conservative student groups and flagship publications. It also employs four conservative law professors—Jack Goldsmith, Adrian Vermeule, Charles Fried, and Stephen Sachs—and even some conservative administrators: John Manning, the dean of the law school, clerked for Antonin Scalia.

The result is an institutionalized check on activist students that has few counterparts in legal academia. Those activists are not necessarily more tolerant than the ones at other schools. …

As law schools across the country grow more ideologically stifling, Harvard’s backbone has given conservative students some peace of mind. “I could not imagine traphouse-gate happening here,” one student said.

The contrast illustrates how a school’s seemingly apolitical properties can have profound effects on its political culture. Harvard is the largest law school in the country, with approximately 2,000 students, 10 percent of whom are members of the Federalist Society. That percentage is not unusual, but the absolute numbers are: Harvard’s Federalist Society chapter boasts 200 students—the size of Yale Law School’s graduating class. …

The school’s conservative network has become an informal part of its branding. “It’s not an accident that they profiled the Federalist Society president,” one student said. “Harvard cultivates a big tent image for conservatives.” …

This right-of-center branding is partly a function of the faculty. Stanford Law has one marquee conservative professor, the originalist scholar Michael McConnell; Yale Law doesn’t have any. At Harvard, however, the larger number of conservative professors means that liberals often take classes with them, which encourages exposure to different points of view. …

Harvard is also home to the Journal of Law and Public Policy, the official journal of the national Federalist Society. The journal has made Harvard the de facto publishing house for the conservative legal movement. The past issue alone included both Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito and Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), along with John Yoo, Eugene Volokh, and other luminaries of legal conservatism. …


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