KRITIKOS: Harvard Law’s dearth of intellectual diversity

‘Marriage equality’ mantra crowds out opposing views

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Harvard Law School’s chapter of the Federalist Society recently hosted a conference addressing intellectual diversity in law school. Martha Minow, dean of the Harvard Law School, issued a statement at the conference professing Harvard Law’s commitment to intellectual diversity.

Dean Minow quoted John Stuart Mill in support of the instrumental reasons for intellectual diversity, and expressed her belief that Harvard should be a model of honest and civil engagement on contentious issues.

As a student at Harvard Law, I have no reason to doubt Dean Minow’s good-faith commitment to ensuring all viewpoints are welcome and heard on campus. If that is the goal, however, Harvard Law fails miserably. There is an appalling dearth of conservatives on the faculty and a significant ideological imbalance in the student population.

Emblematic of the lack of intellectual diversity at Harvard Law is the new exhibit in the historic Caspersen Room of Langdell Library titled “Long Road to Equality.” According to the library’s website, the exhibit is dedicated to “the involvement of HLS students, faculty and alumni in the long road to marriage equality.”

What strikes one at the outset is the use of the term “marriage equality,” which stacks the deck against those opposed to redefining marriage. The larger problem is that the exhibit only celebrates those on one side of the debate. This simply reflects and reinforces a campus orthodoxy something quite toxic to the ideal of the law school as a place of serious intellectual inquiry and the engagement of diverse ideas.

One might reply that possibly there just have not been any significant Harvard Law students, faculty or alumni involved on the other side of the marriage issue. That, however, would be preposterous. Robert George, who is both a Harvard Law alumnus and a visiting faculty member for the year, is a leading advocate for the conjugal understanding of marriage as the union of husband and wife. Additionally, Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon warned in a 2004 Wall Street Journal op-ed that same-sex marriage would usher in a new era of religious persecution.

Since the exhibit bears the imprimatur of the Harvard Law School, it clearly sends the message that those who dissent from the administration on the marriage issue are blocking the road to equality and will be left in the dustbin of history. This type of marginalization and stigmatization, relying on assertion rather than argument, is far from what one would expect from a university where the spirited exchange of differing views is encouraged.

The combination of loaded terms and the complete absence of any mention of those at Harvard Law opposed to the redefinition of marriage demonstrates the problem. I do not mean to suggest that the administration gathered and agreed on an insidious plot to shame and silence students who hold the conjugal view of marriage. The administration does not need to. The very result of an ideologically monolithic community is that it cannot even see that there is reasonable dissent on an issue.

In her comments, Dean Minow stated that “it would be wonderful if one did not have to leave Harvard Law School to discover objections and improvements [to one’s arguments].” That is precisely what one must do, though, if one wants to hear reasoned argument on the marriage issue.

A.J. Kritikos, 24, is a second-year student at Harvard Law School and a graduate of Georgetown University.

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