Vandalism of black professors' portraits roils Harvard Law School

Racism exists at the school, dean says

Black tape defacing the portraits of some black Harvard University Law School professors was discovered Thursday, prompting a police investigation as outraged faculty and students discussed the role of race at the school, the New York Times reports.

The portraits hung on a wall of the law school building. In a statement, the school's dean, Martha Minow, said the pictures had been "defaced." The Harvard Police said an investigation is "active and ongoing" and are treating the incident as a hate crime.

The vandalism angered faculty and students. "As a black student, it was extremely offensive," said Kyle Strickland, the president of the law school's student body. A group of students interrupted Minow's constitutional law class on Thursday morning to discuss the incident. According to the Times, some said racial issues at the school had reached a "tipping point."

Community reaction

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of students, faculty, and community members gathered to discuss the issues. Minow, who has researched topics such as school desegregation, told the group, "Racism exists in America and in the United States and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School."

Students raised several issues at the meeting, such as a lack of full-time black faculty and teaching methods that don't recognize the role of race in legal decision making.

Yale students announce diversity demands

By Thursday evening, the tape had been removed and replaced by small Post-it notes on the edges of frames; they offered words of encouragement.

Josh Macfarlane, a second-year student, told the New York Times, "I just thanked them for teaching me so much" (Bidgood, New York Times, 11/19).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.


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