APALSA Statements

APALSA periodically releases statements on issues and events pertinent to the HLS community and to APA students:

APALSA Board’s Response to Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College
July 3, 2023

The Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association unequivocally denounces the Supreme Court’s decision to end race-conscious admissions as an attack on civil rights and educational equity. In doing so, Harvard APALSA stands by the statement we issued last October, as well as the statement we signed that was issued by the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

The petitioners’ win in the SFFA cases is a loss for the AAPI community. Vast educational and economic disparities exist within our ethnically diverse community, with low-income, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander communities facing barriers that race-conscious admissions policies sought to ameliorate. Moreover, AAPI students, who represent myriad identities and experiences, both contribute to and benefit from educational diversity. For some of us, higher education presents a chance to meaningfully engage with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds for the first time. The lessons we learn from our classmates’ varied lived experiences greatly contribute to our ability to become thoughtful colleagues, compassionate leaders, and informed citizens.

While we recognize the range of viewpoints that exist amongst Asian Americans, we regret that our community has been used to contribute to racist narratives against racial and ethnic groups who remain systematically disadvantaged and underrepresented at institutions of higher education. We stand with the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students at Harvard and other universities in support of their diversity of experience and their deserved place in our schools.

It is critical to recognize that the Court’s repudiation of race-conscious admissions is part of our nation’s centuries-long weaponization of the Constitution to deny the advancements of Black people. The Reconstruction Era’s reforms to uplift formerly enslaved peoples were swiftly derailed in favor of Jim Crow laws and Plessy’s separate-but-equal doctrine. The hard-fought effort to enfranchise Black voters resulted in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, which was later gutted, paving the way for widespread voter suppression efforts that primarily target voters of color. In the present day, the same activist who fought to topple the VRA also led the charge behind the SFFA cases, once again capitalizing on anti-Black sentiment and a misconstrued reading of a “colorblind” Constitution.

The SFFA cases have been decided, but the fight for racial and educational justice continues. While the Court has ruled against race-based affirmative action, admissions practices like legacy and donor preferences are allowed to persist and perpetuate inequities. As law students, future leaders, and proud Asian Americans, we have the opportunity and responsibility to work toward a more just and inclusive future. Despite our disappointment in the outcome, we are hopeful that this decision will spark greater innovations in legal theory and practice to address persistent inequality in education, from early childhood education to the highest levels of academia. Americans of all races and identities have fiercely advocated for greater equality and justice for marginalized groups, including on behalf of our own community. We plan to continue that legacy on our campus and beyond by holding universities accountable to their reiterated commitments to preserving racial diversity in the future.

To show our support in the fight for educational equity, Harvard APALSA pledges to match donations up to $1,000 towards the following organizations (as suggested by former First Lady Michelle Obama): 

Harvard APALSA Executive Board

HLS APALSA Signs DLSA’s “Be A Better Ally” Pledge
February 28, 2023

APALSA has signed onto the Disabled Law Student Association’s  (DLSA’s) “Be A Better Ally” Pledge. The text of the pledge is replicated below.


Check the pledges to be a better disability ally. Read more about any of these pledge below.

  1. I will not self-assess a person’s level of disability or the validity of a person’s aids and accommodations.
  2. I will listen to and believe my disabled friends and peers.
  3. I will not reduce disability into a reason to feel inspired to overcome my challenges or to feel grateful.
  4. I will seek ways to promote and model inclusion.

1. Don’t self-assess a person’s level of disability or the validity of their aids and accommodations

Conditions fluctuate and different situations sometimes require different responses. It’s not your place to self-assess “how disabled” somebody is.


  • If a wheelchair user stands up and walks it does not mean that they “don’t need” the wheelchair
  • If a person with a learning disorder gets good grades it does not mean that they “don’t need” classroom or exam accommodations

2. Listen to and believe your disabled friends and peers
There is no evidence that there is a crisis of abled “imposters” exploiting disability accommodations to “get ahead”.

Believe disabled people when they describe their challenges and experiences, and listen when they detail what accommodations they need.

3. Don’t reduce disability into a reason to feel inspired to overcome your own challenges or to feel grateful.
Disability rights activist Stella Young coined the term “inspiration porn” to refer to these sorts of one-dimensional messages.

This objectifies disabled people for the benefit of abled people, and perpetuates an “us” versus “them” hierarchy. Disability is a daily reality, not an abled person’s worst case scenario.

4. Promote and model inclusion
Especially in your legal work and study, please consider the impact your actions can have for people with disabilities, and always try to keep that impact positive.

  1. Instead of using a person’s disability identity as their defining characteristic (i.e., “my deaf friend Ames”), refer to their disability only when necessary to the conversation (i.e., “my friend Ames”).
  2. Respect the gravity of a person’s disability. Don’t say: “Typo! I’m so dyslexic today” or “Smartphones have made us all ADHD”.
  3. Model inclusion and fight stigma by normalizing accessibility accommodations. For example, gently correct somebody complaining about how unfair it is that disabled students use laptops in a no-technology class.

HLS APALSA Signs Letter in Support of LIPP Reform
November 15, 2022

In solidarity with public interest students at HLS, APALSA has signed onto a letter in support of LIPP reform. The text of the letter is replicated below.


To: Dean Manning, Dean Onken, and HLS Administration
From: The undersigned
Date: November 15, 2022

We, the undersigned, are concerned that the Harvard Law School administration is not doing enough to support equity and access for its students. Specifically, Harvard Law School’s financial aid and postgraduate public interest student debt relief (LIPP) programs are (1) insufficient to support students who come from low-income backgrounds and/or hope to pursue careers in lower-paying fields and (2) inferior to those offered by peer institutions like Yale Law School and Stanford Law School. In particular, HLS’s LIPP program falls short. LIPP is less generous and less flexible than the loan forgiveness programs offered at HLS’s peer institutions—despite how HLS promotes it. HLS uses LIPP to recruit public-minded students, many of whom belong to marginalized communities and/or come from low-income backgrounds. Yet, once on LIPP, many recipients struggle to:

    1. Make their monthly law school debt payments—especially students balancing other undergraduate or postgraduate debt;
    2. Accrue savings—including in retirement accounts, which, unlike HLS, both YLS and SLS entirely exclude from asset consideration when calculating their graduates’ public interest loan repayment awards; and
    3. Purchase homes—the key path to upward class mobility and building generational wealth; unlike HLS, both YLS and SLS exclude primary residences from their graduates’ asset considerations when calculating loan repayment awards.

LIPP in its current state is insufficient to ensure that students from all backgrounds—particularly students of color, who have less generational wealth than their white counterparts[1]—are able to pursue public interest careers, if they so desire. It is a problem that the average public interest student at Harvard Law School is someone who is white, cis, and comes from generational wealth. Justice is not built when only a small subset of Harvard Law School graduates consider a career in the public interest to be financially feasible. We are all worse off when students have their career choices financially constrained by crushing educational debt. The undersigned groups call upon the HLS Administration to improve LIPP as well as front-end financial aid, without cutting any other existing student benefits to offset the change. The undersigned affinity groups clearly state their support for student organizing to improve LIPP, as well as clearly state their expectations that the HLS administration will continue to work with students to improve LIPP.

[1] See, e.g., Bhutta, Neil, et al., Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, FEDS Notes, Sept. 28, 2020,
https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/disparities-in-wealth-by-race-and-ethnicity-in-the-2019-survey-of-consumer-finances-20200928.html. (“In the 2019 survey, White families have the highest level of both median and mean family wealth: $188,200 and $983,400, respectively…Black and Hispanic families have considerably less wealth than White families. Black families’ median and $24,100 and $142,500, respectively. Hispanic families’ median and mean wealth is $36,100 and $165,500, wealth is less than 15 percent that of White families, at respectively.”).

APALSA Board Issues Statement in Support of Affirmative Action
November 7, 2022

On October 31, 2022, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina cases. The petitioner in those cases has asked the Court to overrule forty years of its legal precedents that permit institutions of higher education to consider race as one factor in a holistic and individualized admissions process.

Harvard APALSA, in conjunction with other APALSA organizations across the country and in solidarity with our sister affinity groups on Harvard’s campus, has been resolute in supporting affirmative action and rejecting SFFA’s and other positions otherwise. We believe diversity in higher education should be celebrated and pursued. We embody this value by supporting affirmative action, a policy that addresses the pernicious racial inequities that persist in higher education.

We reject the petitioner’s attempt to dismantle constitutional affirmative action policies, especially by using the model minority myth to exploit the Asian American community to advance the anti-affirmative action agenda. Our position as an amicus supporting race-conscious admissions is represented by the brief of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which argues that Asian American communities benefit from race-conscious admissions policies and the diverse campuses that those policies create. We have also signed on to the statement of the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (NAPALSA), which refutes characterizations of our diverse Asian American communities as a monolith and defends affirmative action as an imperfect but necessary means for advancing racial equity.

We recognize and affirm these principles today, and we stand in solidarity with our allies in doing so.

HLS APALSA Signs AANHPI Law Student Statement in Support of Affirmative Action
November 2, 2022

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court holding oral arguments in the case SFFA v. Harvard, HLS APALSA has signed onto the National Asian Pacific American Law Students Association’s (NAPALSA’s) AANHPI Law Student Statement in Support of Affirmative Action. The full letter is available here.

HLS APALSA Signs Letter in Support of Reproductive Justice Academic Options
October 8, 2022

HLS APALSA has signed onto a letter on behalf of HLS students, faculty, and alumni that asks the administration to provide: (1) a Reproductive Rights Clinic, (2) the addition of at least one full-time tenure-track law professor in the field, and (3) lecture courses on reproductive rights and justice. The full letter is available here.

HLS APALSA Signs LIPP Loan Forgiveness Letter
September 10, 2022

HLS APALSA has signed onto a letter addressed to Dean Manning requesting that HLS redistribute the benefits that the Biden administration’s recent loan forgiveness program conferred on the school. The full letter is available here.

HLS APALSA Signs Onto AALDEF’s Amicus Brief in SFFA v. Harvard
August 1, 2022

HLS APALSA has signed onto the amicus brief filed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in the U.S. Supreme Court case Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College. The amicus brief is available online at the Supreme Court’s website.

APALSA Board’s Response to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
July 1, 2022

In overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court overruled nearly fifty years of precedent safeguarding a person’s right to control their own reproductive decisions and protect their fundamental interests in bodily autonomy and self-determination. We stand in solidarity with the millions of people—including women, trans men, and nonbinary individuals—who will be deprived of their constitutional right to decide whether to bear a child.

The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision will disproportionately affect people of color. People of color seeking abortions throughout the United States have long confronted structural and state-imposed obstacles unique to their communities. AAPI communities, for example, have been subject to substantial linguistic, economic, immigration, and racial barriers that have hindered their access to reproductive and abortion care.

Studies focusing on the challenges AAPI women encounter in accessing healthcare show that language barriers contribute to much lower reproductive health usage by AAPI women than other women. AAPI women face cost barriers that significantly restrict their access to health care and childcare—27% of AAPI women are essential workers, and nearly half a million AAPI women work in low-wage service industries. Many immigrant AAPI women fear seeking needed healthcare services, including abortions, due to fear of adverse immigration consequences and harsh penalties. Finally, AAPI women suspected of terminating unwanted pregnancies find their actions criminalized as a result of the categorically untrue and racist stereotype that AAPI women are more inclined to engage in sex-selective abortions. The Dobbs decision will exacerbate the myriad barriers AAPI communities already face in accessing safe abortion. This is unacceptable. APALSA is committed to taking action.

HLS APALSA is organizing a fundraiser in the fight for protecting access to abortion. We will match up to $1,000 of donations received. 100% of funds will be sent to the local abortion fund of your choice listed on the National Network of Abortion Funds. Please send your donations via Venmo to @HLSAPALSA (or reach out to apalsa@mail.law.harvard.edu to donate via other means). Donations will be accepted through July 15th.

In solidarity,
Your 2022–23 APALSA Board

Harvard-wide APIDA Graduation Ceremony

April 2022

To: Office of the Provost, Harvard Alumni Association, Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging
Re: Harvard-wide APIDA Affinity Graduation Ceremony
While there is vast diversity among the students of Harvard University, we are all brought together by our identity as students. Graduation is a crowning moment to celebrate everything that graduates have been able to accomplish during their time here at Harvard. However, while other identity-based graduation celebrations have been sponsored and organized by the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (OEDIB), there is currently none for Asian / Pacific Islander / Desi American (APIDA) identifying graduates.
This is not an isolated incident. Throughout the course of American history, the APIDA community has been overlooked and marginalized as a minority group, even by the organizations focused on increasing diversity and equity. More recently, despite the rising Anti-Asian violence across the nation, Harvard has repeatedly declined to release statements or publicize support and resources for APIDA identifying students. The burden has been instead on APIDA students and organizations to secure resources and develop programming to support our communities here at Harvard.
The lack of a sponsored and formal graduation celebration is emblematic of the long pattern of Harvard ignoring APIDA students and issues, and the APIDA community at Harvard deems this unacceptable. We are calling on the university to recognize and support a graduation ceremony for APIDA identifying graduates this year (2022) and moving forward.
We demand the following actions from Harvard:
Devote $4,000 in funding for an APIDA graduation celebration for 2022 graduates.
Designate staff members from OEDIB to aid student organizers in planning an APIDA graduation celebration on campus.
Secure an on-campus venue for the graduation ceremony.
Commit to holding an annual APIDA celebration in collaboration with student leaders Harvard-wide.
Designated staff member(s) for APIDA student groups and leaders to communicate with in regards to challenges affecting APIDA identifying students at Harvard.


Ensuring Equity
It is unacceptable that APIDA graduates are being systematically left out of Harvard’s graduation celebrations while other identity groups are acknowledged and have their celebrations planned by the university. Other top universities including Princeton, Yale, and Columbia have already committed to holding graduation ceremonies this year for their APIDA students. The onus should not be placed on the shoulders of the Harvard APIDA student groups and leaders who are students first at the university to fight for an affinity graduation.
APIDA erasure in the United States
The APIDA community has often been left unrecognized as an integral part of American history and is usually invisible in textbooks. When we are featured, it is usually to fuel the model minority myth, which has only encouraged greater discrimination and racism towards the APIDA community as seen in the current rise of anti-Asian trauma and violence. Harvard should spotlight the diverse set of APIDA experiences and voices that are here at the university, and one way of recognizing our humanity is for Harvard to commit to and support a graduation ceremony for APIDA graduates this year and moving forward.

HLS APALSA’s Response to Anti-Asian Violence

March 8, 2022

APALSA wholeheartedly condemns the acts of hate that have plagued our community in recent weeks and over the course of the entire COVID-19 pandemic. We are deeply troubled by this sustained and rising pattern of senseless violence targeting individuals of Asian descent. Our hearts are heavy with the knowledge of the devastating impact these attacks have exacted on victims, their loved ones, and our broader AAPI family. We are moved, like many of you, to take a stand against the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and ignorance which motivated and continue to drive these incidents.

We believe that safety and acceptance are essential to living with dignity and purpose. As law students, we believe we have a responsibility to use our skills and privileges to combat the forces of white supremacy and systemic racism that seek to undermine the fundamental humanity of every member of our community. We must work together towards meaningful change to protect and empower our AAPI family. In so doing, we reinforce our commitments to solidarity and allyship with other communities of color.

We begin by naming two recent victims of violence against Asian women, though tens of thousands of other AAPI persons have endured harassment and violence in recent years. Michelle Alyssa Go, a Chinese-American woman, was pushed to her death in front of a subway train in New York City on January 15, 2022. She is remembered by her family as a “beautiful, brilliant, kind, and intelligent woman who loved her family and friends, loved to travel the world and to help others.” Christina Yuna Lee, a Korean-American woman, was killed in her New York Chinatown apartment on February 13, 2022. Her loved ones knew her to be a person who was “full of life,” “radiated positivity, joy, and love,” and “went above and beyond to make those she loved know she was there for them.”

These senseless acts of violence not only extinguish the lives of joyful and beloved individuals in our community, but the incidents also heighten the fear of surviving Asian Americans, who remain marginalized, feel unheard, and often are themselves terrorized by law enforcement. As the one-year anniversary of the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings approaches on March 16, we are called to re-affirm that anti-Asian violence is not a recent phenomenon, and to situate this violence in a broader systemic trend of mistreatment.

In People v. Hall, the Supreme Court of California in 1854 held that the testimony of three witnesses against a white person was inadmissible because the witnesses were Chinese. In the Los Angeles Chinese massacre of 1871, 10 percent of Los Angeles’ early Chinese population was killed by a mob. Soon thereafter, the federal government passed the Page Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, marking the beginning of nearly a century of explicitly racist and misogynistic immigration policies that implemented racial and ethnic quotas and gendered enforcement practices. During World War II, the internment of thousands of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans made clear that our country’s military and political leaders saw Asian Americans both as perpetual foreigners and conditional citizens of the United States. In more recent years, anti-affirmative action litigation groups have wielded Asian Americans as a wedge group to divide us from other people of color, instead of uniting us as common beneficiaries of diverse schools and workplaces and as needed allies in racial repair work. Most recently, the Trump administration began—and the Biden administration seems likely to continue—over-policing our Southeast Asian communities and increasing deportations of Cambodian and Viet people in the crimmigration and school-to-prison-to-deportation pipelines. These are only a few highlights of what is a much larger social, political, and legal history of violence against Asian-American women, elders, and other community members, and so this only begins to situate recent acts of violence against us in deeply racist systems of subordination rooted in white and male supremacy.

We echo the sentiments shared by UConn Law APALSA from March 2021 after a similar wave of incidents. They wrote:

“We are tired of seeing our community be violated and disrespected, we are scared for our families and loved ones, we are upset by the silencing of our voices, and we are saddened by the lack of support and solidarity around us. Anti-Asian sentiment is not new; from being labeled as the ‘yellow peril,’ to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, we are constantly reminded that we are foreigners on ‘American land.’ And yet, Asians are stereotyped as the ‘model minority,’ a term that erases our struggles and is used as a racial wedge between Asians and other marginalized groups. Not only does it silence our experience, but it is weaponized in furtherance of white supremacy, to create an insidious divide among racial minorities and perpetuate anti-[Black racism].”

We also co-sign Cornell Law APALSA’s statement from March 2021 in the aftermath of the Atlanta spa shootings. They wrote:

“We refuse to be pitted against our fellow communities of color. Hate crimes like these are products of our nation’s patriarchal and white supremacist foundation, which is upheld and perpetuated by the legal field. These systems of oppression will continue to be cultivated by us unless we are actively dedicated to their destruction.”

To Cornell Law APALSA’s statement, we add that, though we cannot and will not remain silent in the face of AAPI hate, we unequivocally and expressly reject demands for increased policing and law enforcement as solutions to anti-Asian violence and racist attacks. Policing’s long and troubled history in this country reveals its disproportionate harm to Black and Brown communities, as well as to our most marginalized AAPI communities. Instead, we call for change that addresses root causes and centers community-based, non-carceral alternatives. We imagine solutions that raise political consciousness and racial solidarity with all other marginalized communities, including the Black, Indigenous, and Latine communities, in pursuit of racial repair and greater material equality for all.

In hope and solidarity,

Harvard APALSA

Supporting Asian Communities Fundraiser

To support our Asian and Asian-American communities in this difficult time, APALSA is organizing a fundraiser and will match up to $3,000 of donations received. 100 percent of funds will be divided evenly among five organizations: AAPI Organizing FundChristina Yuna Lee Memorial Fund (GoFundMe)Support the AAPI Community Fund (GoFundMe)Red Canary Song, and Therapy for victims of anti-Asian hate incidents (GoFundMe). Please send your donations via Venmo to @HLSAPALSA (or reach out to apalsa@mail.law.harvard.edu to donate via other means).

Upcoming Event for Allies and Non-AAPI Organizations

To raise consciousness of these issues in non-AAPI spaces and bring in allies, APALSA is organizing an external-facing event for all those who wish to learn more and do more about these systemic issues. Details to come in an upcoming newsletter.

Resources, Readings, and Other Educational Materials

Letter to Georgetown Law Regarding Professor Werro

February 16, 2022

In response to Professor Werro addressing a student as “Mr. Chinaman”, Georgetown Law’s APALSA and China Law Society request a public apology, the option for Professor Werro’s students to no longer be in the course, and for greater institutional protections. The full letter is here.

Raise SPIF Statement

January 2022

Dear Dean Manning, Assistant Dean Onken, & Dean Soban:

We are a group of current HLS students, dedicated to pursuing careers in public interest. We came to law school committed to careers working alongside and on behalf of marginalized and directly impacted communities.

Public interest careers are often regarded as noble work, requiring immense personal sacrifice. But these are also jobs, and we expect these jobs to allow us to make a living while making a difference. We have accepted the limits on lifestyle that come with salaries in the public interest arena even as the pay disparity between big law firm salaries and the average public interest salary grows increasingly wide. We do not ask that HLS shoulder the burden of changing this condition of public interest lawyering. We do, however, ask that HLS not continue to create additional financial barriers for its students pursuing work in public interest.

Unfortunately Harvard Law School, as a leader in the global legal community, does perpetuate inequity in its own support, or lack thereof, of public interest students, specifically through its insufficient funding for summer public interest internships through SPIF.

Currently, SPIF is anywhere from $3600 to $6875, depending on if a student is a 1L or 2L, whether a student is or is not on need-based financial aid, and how many weeks a student works during the summer. However, the award is typically $5500 for a student on need-based financial aid who works full-time for at least eight weeks out of a 14-week summer.

This amount is not nearly enough to cover basic living expenses anywhere in the United States, let alone the cities where many HLS students spend their summers. It is also far below the $8200 summer living allowance, the amount that HLS concedes is the bare minimum that an individual can live on during the summer. It is also less than the $3100 per month student living allowance during the academic school year.

In order to survive in the summers, students must borrow more money in the form of loans, rely on parents or other family members if possible, or even work second or third jobs in addition to their full-time internships. Some students may feel they cannot accept summer positions with organizations who cannot supplement the SPIF income, thus limiting their search. Financial constraints limit students’ access to reliable housing and other basic necessities. Constant financial insecurity undermines students’ ability to show up in formal, professional workplaces, such as courtrooms.

While we understand that most law schools provide no guaranteed funding to students who pursue non-paying law jobs or internships during the summer, we also argue that comparison to “most” other schools is not the standard to which HLS should hold itself. We expect HLS to be a leader amongst peer institutions by not only offering a generous summer funding relative to other schools, but offering a truly equitable summer funding program, one that gives students what we need and what we deserve.

HLS’s history of cutting public interest funding further demonstrates why comparison to its current program is the wrong metric. Since 2010, when HLS lowered its SPIF funding amount in response to the recession and in response to increased student interest, the award offered to 2L students receiving financial aid has not increased when adjusted for inflation in the last twelve years. Even as the school grows its wealth, it stagnates with regard to public interest student support.

On the other hand, law schools such as Yale and Northwestern currently offer their students more than $8000 of guaranteed grant funding for pursuing public interest summer jobs.

Furthermore, in addition to the low amount of grant funding, there are unfair procedural hurdles to participating in SPIF. Most egregiously are the constant threats from the administration that students will be billed their entire SPIF award if we are unable to get a supervisor to sign off on all the hours we worked. This demoralizing and paternalistic action creates immense fear and anxiety amongst students. It further demonstrate HLS’s lack of support and even distrust and disdain for students who choose public interest work during the summer.

We acknowledge other student efforts to reform how HLS through its Student Financial Services assesses student summer contributions. Both that effort and ours are a critique of how HLS’s funding decisions operate under a false framework. One that assumes every student is white, upper class, single/childless, able-bodied, financially dependent on family, and carries no other financial responsibilities other than meeting their own bare subsistence.

Ultimately, what we are asking for is not simply more money in absolute terms, but really, more choice in what we do with our summers and what we do with our legal careers long-term. The privilege to have real choice about what we do with our law degrees is what attracted many of us to Harvard Law School. Especially for those of us pursuing public interest work, the value of our degrees is not the amount of money we can make after we graduate. It is the ability to do the work most meaningful to us, in communities most meaningful to us, without excessive debt and low-paying entry-level salaries forcing us to forgo the passions, interests, and commitment to social justice that brought us to law school in the first place.

While HLS is not totally responsible for the larger inequities that exist in the legal profession or in society as a whole, it plays a major role in perpetuating these inequities by creating consequences for its students’ long-term career decisions through its summer funding scheme. Summer internships are critical opportunities for students to explore their options and decide whether a public interest career is right for them. By making it so difficult for students to take public interest internships, HLS is further tipping the scales against public interest careers. Further, if students are disincentivized from taking summer positions they would otherwise accept if they had sufficient funding, then HLS has failed to provide its students with the full opportunity to network and build community in the legal landscapes they want to enter. For aspiring public interest lawyers, this is a serious impediment to our professional development.

Our demand is simple: Raise SPIF to $8500. This is one immediate action HLS can take to move in the right direction. This will put SPIF on par with peer institutions, match the student summer living allowance, bring more parity to public interest and firm internships, and give students more choice in how we spend our summers and how best to prepare for our future legal careers.

Letter Regarding Amy Wax

January 3, 2022

Dear Dean Ruger and the Faculty Senate Executive Board,

We urge you to take tangible actions regarding Amy Wax’s latest offensive and obviously racist statements. She felt emboldened to make the latest statements not only because of her own bigotry but also her impunity after making similar statements over the past several years; such impunity reflects poorly upon Penn Law, the University of Pennsylvania, and, if seen through the lenses of foreign communities, even American higher education environment.

In a response to a discussion about immigration on Professor Glenn Loury’s show, Wax made the following accusations against Asian nationals in the United States and Americans of Asian descent:

“[Despite] clear individual and group differences in talent, ability, and drive [between races], [the Democratic party] mindlessly valorizes blacks (the group most responsible for anti-Asian violence) regardless of behavior or self-inflicted wounds . . . . Asian support for [Democratic] policies [is] mystifying, as I fail to see how they are in Asians’ interest. We can speculate (and, yes, generalize) about Asians’ desire to please the elite, single-minded focus on self-advancement, conformity and obsequiousness, lack of deep post-Enlightenment conviction, timidity toward centralized authority (however unreasoned), indifference to liberty, lack of thoughtful and audacious individualism, and excessive tolerance for bossy, mindless social engineering, etc. Maybe it’s just that Democrats love open borders, and Asians want more Asians here. Perhaps they (and especially their distaff element) are just mesmerized by the feel-good cult of “diversity.” I don’t know the answer. But as long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.”

Wax’s racist comments have become a semi-annual ritual that receives temporary furor and temporary consequences; little has changed since Wax advocated for white nationalist policies in 2019, despite protests, town halls, and frustration. Wax has advocated for a country with “more whites and fewer non-whites,” stated that countries ruled by white Europeans exemplify superior mores, that Black students rarely graduate in the top half of the Law School, suggested that immigrants are dirty and more amenable to committing sexual assault, and stated that women are intellectually inferior to men.

According to the Faculty Handbook, major infractions of the University’s Behavioral Standards include “[a]n action involving flagrant disregard of the standards, rules, or mission of the University or the customs of scholarly communities.” While the University’s Behavioral Standards are inaccessible and not clear to students, it is clear that Wax’s continued bigoted statements against female, Black, Asian, and LGBTQ+ students egregiously violate the University’s Principles of Responsible Conduct. Wax’s statements are not “fair and principled,” nor can her repeated racist statements be considered nondiscriminatory, violating the University’s First and Second principles, respectively. Further, her academic work also may violate the University’s Behavioral standards by mischaracterizing sources, cherry picking quotes, and making unsupported, uncited controversial statements of facts, which may violate the Faculty Handbook’s § III.B.

Beyond the nebulous Behavioral Standards, Wax’s continued employment at the Law School undermines the School’s commitment to a robust legal education that engenders collegiality, fosters diversity, and aims to further justice. While Wax no longer teaches mandatory 1L courses–a privilege that was only recently taken away from her–it is impossible to fathom that the courses she does teach will further the School’s mission, or that she will treat non-conservative, non-white students fairly. And Wax’s continued presence at the School reflects either an unwillingness or inability to remove from a privileged position a person who does not embody the ideals of a professor. Her continued presence at the school permits her to use her status as a professor at one of the best law schools in the country to propagate her racist views, while sending the message to donors, alumni, current students, and prospective students that the Law School’s commitment to students of all backgrounds is half-hearted.

We understand the principles of academic freedom and freedom of thought that have previously been used to justify Wax’s continued presence at the School. Even so, the right to free speech and thought does not occur within a vacuum: speakers must be responsible for the consequences and outcomes of their speech, and Wax’s continued racism has received little repercussion. Wax’s speech and presence at the School goes beyond the presence of someone with radical political views, extending into racism and outright bigotry; she must be condemned with something more than words and token actions. If her harmful words and actions are not cause for action, anything short of overt attacks could not be, indicating that we hold our professors to nothing but the lowest of standards.

The School must take the following actions:
-Begin an investigation into Wax’s continued employment at the University, under §§ II.E.16.2.A and III.B: the School must begin the preliminary procedures to determine whether Wax’s behavior in her teaching, her white supremacist remarks, and her academic research, complies with the University’s Behavioral Standards. The University must do so in a manner that is transparent and accountable to all its stakeholders, including–first and foremost–its current students. This process should be initiated by January 31, 2022. During the investigation, the School must suspend Wax from her teaching responsibilities and she must not be able to socialize with students.
-Provide further transparency into (1) the University’s Behavioral Standards regarding faculty conduct; (2) the mechanisms by which students and the University can take action against professors violating these Behavioral Standards in the future, no later than January 20, 2022.
-The School–and more broadly the University–must have a broader discussion about tenure and whether faculty members whose actions are harmful can and ought to be held accountable for their harms. The School should create a committee, including student representation, to assess how to reform tenure to account for instances of this kind of behavioral conduct and to ensure that tenure is consistent with principles of social equity, no later than January 31, 2022.
-The School should reaffirm its commitment to diversity and racial justice by forming a committee with representatives from relevant affinity groups, no later than January 31, 2022. The committee should consider expanding the Sadie Alexander scholarship, and separately consider how it can improve access to the school for first-generation immigrants through increased financial aid and partnerships with groups supporting advocacy for Asian Americans.

Letter to Michelle Wu – Stop the Sweeps!

December 2021

Dear Mayor Michelle Wu,

We are members and friends of the Harvard Law School chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. We believe that policing, criminalization, displacement, and violence are never acceptable responses to crises of housing insecurity or substance use.

In accordance with these principles, we condemn the city’s current attack on unhoused people living at Mass & Cass.  Unhoused people and people actively using substances deserve services and support—both of which are absent from the city’s approach of criminalization, displacement, and incarceration.  The city, through Mayor Janey’s current Executive Order, portrays encampment residents as “service resistant.” In reality, these residents have needs that are not met by shelter services.  Shelters have limited beds: only about 80-90 per day, while Mass & Cass residents number around 350. And many unhoused people living in public have experienced violence and discrimination in congregate living settings. Others are barred from shelters due to medical needs, substance use disorders, and mental health concerns. But greater access would not be a panacea, as these shelters in their are currently crowded and unhealthy, putting residents at significant, unnecessary risk of contracting COVID-19.

Moreover, the dispersal of unhoused people from Mass & Cass poses its own health and safety risks. Essential services and resources are more accessible in the area. Five to fifteen overdoses are reversed at Mass & Cass every day. First responders and healthcare providers know where to find their patients, and members of the community know each others’ needs. Evictions by city employees are causing unhoused people to lose not only their community, but also the tents, clothing, and other property that they rely on for survival.

Instead of listening to Mass & Cass residents and attempting to meet their stated needs, however, the city has resorted to sweeps, which further isolate people from services & support. Separating the members of this community from first responders–peer and professional–will only increase the risk of overdoses, as people suffering from addiction will continue to use substances, only now in less safe places. This is not merely conjecture. Simulation models by researchers at Boston Medical Center project that these sweeps will result in an immediate thirty percent increase in the overdose rate among those who had been living in the encampment, and that that increase will persist for approximately nine months. Moreover, these simulations project about a twelve percent total increase in preventable overdose deaths over the course of the year. These sweeps are wholly antithetical to public health. 

Lastly, criminalizing unhoused people is inhumane.  People should not be incarcerated for poverty. And to impose criminal consequences on individuals solely because they suffer from addiction is unjust and unconstitutional, as articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Robinson v. California. Further, the explicit targeting of ~135 unhoused people with active warrants when there are nearly 400,000 active warrants in Massachusetts raises serious concerns about selective prosecution. The “jail-court” set up in the Suffolk County House of Correction has led to the arrest of people waiting in line for methadone treatment, detention (rather than treatment) for people in active addiction, and forced people to enter withdrawal in a jail cell. Detention compounds the harm of substance use disorder: people leaving incarceration are 40 times more likely to overdose than the general population.

We urge you to depart from these violent policies and instead adopt the Public Health & Human Rights for Mass and Cass Coalition’s policy solutions

  • Protect civil rights and human dignity in encampments and treatment settings. Requiring tent removal from the area will cause displacement from services, belongings, peers, medical providers, temporary shelters, and more. The City should meet basic needs for people living in encampments until people have access to housing. 
  • Conduct an assessment of needs and solutions of and by unhoused people. Organize a process to provide each unhoused person an opportunity to tell policymakers what they need, the obstacles they face, and what would help remove those obstacles. This should occur without any law enforcement involvement. 
  • Eliminate systemic barriers to housing and provide dignified non-congregate shelter. Expand emergency non-congregate shelter options, including with hotels and motels to create more options that offer privacy and autonomy. Reduce systemic barriers to existing shelter use, including by allowing people to possess harm reduction supplies and allowing couples to utilize shelter together. In the long-term, build more affordable housing. 
  • Prevent overdose death and HIV transmission and expand harm reduction to keep people alive and safe. Fast-track legislation to pilot safe consumption sites at the state level (H.2088/S.1272) and implement them throughout Massachusetts, to be overseen by public health organizations. Establish more monitored centers for observation and treatment. Increase and fund harm reduction statewide.
  • Expand effective, low threshold treatment through immediate, sustained investment. Increase capacity throughout the state in low threshold care like same day initiation of medication for opioid use disorder or other pharmacotherapy, outreach, psychosocial, and peer support services. Expand, decentralize, and deregulate methadone access, including mobile models and primary care based pilots. 
  • Decriminalize drug possession and end the racist drug war. Substance use is a public health issue and should not be criminalized. The war on drugs perpetuates systemic racial oppression and has exacerbated public health crises. Fast-track pending bills to decriminalize simple possession (H.2119/S.1277). Continuing with a criminalization response will not yield different results.
    As your office works to implement these longer term policy solutions, we urge you to take the following immediate actions identified by the Public Health & Human Rights for Mass and Cass Coalition:
  • Establish non-congregate shelter and low-threshold transitional housing. Identify vacant motels, hotels, and city- and state-owned properties which could be immediately converted into non-congregate shelter and low-threshold transitional housing similar to what was done during the COVID pandemic using FEMA funds. Provide a range of housing types, including for individuals, couples, and families, that are not conditioned on sobriety and do not punish or exclude people for recurrence of use.
  • Rapidly increase targeted voluntary treatment offerings. The State should put out a rapid cycle Request for Proposals (RFP) for healthcare and social service providers to deliver a range of voluntary treatment options for those who move into non-congregate shelter, transitional housing, and those who remain unsheltered, to enable rapid, on-demand access to proven treatment and services.
  • Improve sanitation for residing in encampments. While developing immediate non-congregate shelter options, the City should stop the sweeps and meet basic needs for people living in encampments in line with operative guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until people have access to housing: trash receptacles and trash removal, bathrooms and sanitation, access to clean water and showers through mobile units or a permanent comfort station.

In conclusion, we urge you to fulfill the promise of your campaign. The city of Boston has a short window of opportunity to reverse the ongoing abuse of unhoused people and drug users. You have a more important role to play in making that choice than anyone else. To protect the health and safety of those currently residing in the encampments, and those who may struggle with houselessness or addiction in the future, we insist that you adopt the public health policy solutions outlined above. 

Letter of Support for SEIU 32BJ Workers

November 2021

Dear President Lawrence Bacow and Director Paul Curran,

We, the undersigned members of the Harvard community, stand with our SEIU 32BJ custodial and security workers in their demand for a fair contract. These workers are an invaluable part of the Harvard community. Their labor is essential to all of the learning, research, and scholarship that takes place at the university, yet they are continuously undervalued and mistreated by Harvard’s administration. At the bare minimum, our workers deserve a raise commensurate with inflation, quality healthcare, and a safe, harassment-free work environment. Subcontracted workers should also receive the same pay and benefits as workers hired directly by Harvard.

In light of Harvard’s $283 million budget surplus for FY2021 and $11.3 billion endowment return, the university is more than capable of paying custodial and security workers a living wage. Any failure to do so is indefensible. Given that the cost of living has risen by 6.2% nationwide, the university’s current offer of a 2.25% raise for custodians essentially amounts to a significant annual reduction in pay, which is completely unacceptable.A raise so far below the inflation rate would be unacceptable in any year, but it is particularly appalling now, as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to reverberate throughout essential workers’ lives. Harvard’s custodial and security staff were unable to work remotely; they have shown up throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to keep the university runningat great personal risk to their own health and families. We are all still recovering from the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on our lives and communities, and custodians and security workers deserve the same support from Harvard that graduate students and faculty have received.

H.3115 Data Equity Group Support Letter

September 28, 2021

Dear Senator Pacheco and Representative Cabral, 

We are writing to urge you to support H.3115, An Act Ensuring Equitable Representation in the Commonwealth, filed by Representative Tackey Chan. We are a group of organizations and institutions who want to see a more equitable collection of data and treatment for Massachusetts’ diverse residents. With increasing diversity in the Commonwealth, it is important to accurately document, measure and report data that informs public efforts to address social, economic, or educational inequalities which persist but may be invisible in data analyzed only through broad racial categories. 

Data equity is a civil rights issue because without detailed demographic data locally, we are unable to serve the health needs of critically under-represented and under-served communities. Currently, when data is collected, they are combined to produce statistics as a single summary of an entire racial group. However, all ethnic subgroups have different histories, background, needs, and challenges. Without accurate data broken down by detailed sub-ethnic groups, critical needs of some communities in the areas, such as language, economic status, education, health, could be left unmet. 

Equitable representation in population data ensures that everybody is seen, heard, counted, and accommodated. We need to ensure that our state agencies, which already collect optional demographic data based on race, also provide ethnic subgroup breakdowns to ensure full visibility, representation, and inclusion for underserved and underrepresented groups. 

H.3115 suggests that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts standardize state forms to collect optional race and ethnicity data to more closely resemble the way the federal Census breaks down demographic data. This allows for more comprehensive research, analysis, and provision of services to all of our Commonwealth’s diverse communities. 

Every government agency that currently collects voluntary demographic data based on race or ethnicity of residents should further add voluntary subgroup options for Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, Black and African American, and White. This would highlight and uplift data representing communities in our Commonwealth including but not limited to Vietnamese, Cambodian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Haitian, Cape Verdean, Ethiopian, Somalian, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, Dominicans, and Colombians. We must also recognize the diversity within Native American, Middle Eastern, and North African communities in our Commonwealth, which currently have limited recognition by the Census Bureau. 

We urge you to support data equity by moving H.3115 favorably through the legislative process for an affirmative vote by the Legislature.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Harvard, Divest from Israeli Apartheid

Link to sign here: tinyurl.com/HarvardBDS

In recent weeks Palestinians have been subjected to a new wave of violence by Israel. In the face of a historic uprising across Palestine, the Israeli state and settlers have escalated targeted attacks on Palestinians – including the disposession of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, attacks on worshipers in Al-Aqsa mosque, violent suppression of protesters by Israeli forces, lynching of Palestinians by Israeli settlers, and an aerial bombardment of Gaza – the death toll of which has reached more than 200 by the time of writing, including at least 66 children, with almost 2,000 injured.

We join Palestine student groups, Harvard faculty, and other community members (including 80+ student groups across Harvard and 800+ individuals at the time of writing) in mourning these losses and affirming our support for Palestinian liberation. We share the belief that the current wave of Israeli violence must be situated in the context of Israel’s apartheid policies and settler-colonialism, which began in the early 20th century. Human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Israel’s largest human rights group B’Tselem, have recently acknowledged what Palestinians have been saying for decades: the situation is “so severe as to account to crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” It is an ongoing Nakba, made possible primarily through support by the United States, which provides $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel every year.

Harvard University is one of many institutions that grants legitimacy and financial support to Israeli apartheid through its investments. A Crimson investigation found that in the 4% of Harvard’s $39.2 billion endowment that is publicly disclosed, the university maintains nearly $200 million in public, direct and indirect investments in companies that are involved in illegal Israeli settlements, including companies that provide surveillance, weapons, and bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes. If the undisclosed 96% of the endowment corresponds to this pattern of investment, Harvard likely has billions invested in companies profiting off Israeli apartheid.

Palestinians have called for international solidarity in the form of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, BDS pressures Israel into complying with international law through targeted boycotts and divestment from companies invested in Israeli apartheid. BDS specifically targets companies and businesses that are operating in Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and businesses that are directly involved in Israeli apartheid activities. We urge the Harvard community to join communities at other academic institutions – including Columbia, Brown, and Barnard – in calling on our universities to divest.  We demand that Harvard Management Company: 

  • Disclose direct and indirect investments in companies that aid Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism. These include companies that operate fully or partially in Israeli settlements as documented by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, and
  • Divest all direct and indirect holdings in these companies immediately.

Harvard has previously divested from the tobacco industry as well as companies affiliated with the Darfur genocide and South African apartheid. Human rights violations in Palestine should not be an exception. Inaction is complicity. Harvard must stand for human rights and divest from Israeli apartheid now. 

Statement by Palestine Student Groups at Harvard University
on Violence Against Palestinians
12 May 2021

We, as the Palestine Caucus at Harvard Kennedy School, the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Middle Eastern Law Students Association at Harvard Law School, the Harvard Palestine Health Initiative at Harvard Medical School, the Harvard Divinity School Students for Palestinian Rights, and the Middle East and North Africa Student Organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design write to firstly acknowledge and express our outrage at the latest wave of Israeli state-sanctioned violence against Palestinians. The current escalation of violence against Palestinians in Palestine and in Israel follows years of systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing committed by the State of Israel.

What is happening in Palestine?

Escalations of violence that have erupted Tuesday night, including the impending eviction of Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah, the recent attacks by Israeli forces that wounded over 300 Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa mosque, the right-wing Israeli state-sanctioned vigilante violence towards Palestinians living in Palestine and Israel, and the most intense aerial bombardments of Gaza since 2014, which have killed 35 people including at least 10 children (at time of writing) must be situated in the context of Israel’s history of ethnic cleansing and apartheid regime. Since its establishment, Israel has implemented several forms of hegemonic rule over Palestinian lives, starting in 1948 with the military rule imposed on Palestinian areas in Historic Palestine and after the 1967 Six-Day war when Israel implemented military and economic control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights.

As an occupying force, and against international law, Israel has erected a web of discriminatory laws that pervade every aspect of Palestinian life and exceeds the forms of direct violence we are witnessing these days to include structural and cultural forms of violence. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel restricts Palestinian freedom of movement, access to water, prevents Palestinains from building homes, and has separate highways only for Israelis. In Gaza, Palestinians live under siege in the world’s largest open air prison and are subject to regular bombings, “unlivable” living conditions, and an economic blockade that restricts its most basic infrastructural capacities. Forced evictions, such as those occurring in Sheikh Jarrah, are representative of Israel’s systematic settler-colonial violence that serves to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from East Jerusalem. These continual deprivations have been deemed by Human Rights Watch to be “so severe as to account to crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”


Why should you care?

As students attending influential academic institutions and as potential future decision makers, it is important to challenge the current biased and misleading narrative on Palestine. Our silence does not make us neutral in this conflict.

“Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor” – Ginetta Sagan.

Unfortunately, in the face of recurring and systematic oppression, often two responses are common. First, a litany of anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia (in both explicit and dog-whistle forms) pervade public discourse and impede necessary condemnation and collective resistance. Second, within communities that view themselves as committed to human rights, equality, and peaceful conflict resolution, Palestine remains the exception to otherwise universal principles. Academic institutions, popular media outlets, and political representatives either dehumanize Palestinians or remain silent and unwilling to critically reconsider their position as religious sites are being attacked in Jerusalem, Palestinian families are being forcibly displaced in Sheikh Jarrah, and as civilians are being killed by brutal military force in Gaza.

The United States is not a passive third-party observer of the ongoing settler colonial violence against Palestinians, but an active participant. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign and military aid. In 2016, the United States passed the largest military aid package ever given to any country, providing $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.

The weapons used to kill Palestinian children in Gaza, the teargas used to assault worshippers in al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, and the bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes to make way for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah, are all purchased with American taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers in Massachusetts alone are spending over $128 million each year on military aid to Israel that supports these activities.

In addition to material support, the United States routinely uses its veto power in the United Nations Security Council and other international mechanisms to shut down efforts to hold Israel accountable for its repeated violations of international law, providing impunity for Israel as it occupies, displaces, and bombs the people of Palestine.

Harvard University, our university, is also not an innocent bystander when it comes to the occupation of Palestine. In the 4% of Harvard’s $39.2 billion endowment that is publicly disclosed, the university maintains nearly $200 million in public, direct and indirect investments in companies that are involved in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise, including companies that provide surveillance, weapons, and bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes. If the undisclosed 96% of the endowment corresponds to this pattern of investment, Harvard likely has billions invested in companies profiting off Israeli apartheid.

We call on the Harvard community to take action regarding what is happening in Palestine. To our fellow Harvard students:

  • Add your name to this document demanding that Harvard makes a public statement rebuking Israel’s excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians.
  • Write to your congressperson to support H.R. 2590 Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, which seeks to amend the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit the use of U.S. funding to Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories on: the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children; on the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes,;and on measures supporting Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory.
  • Call on the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense to Demand the end of Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, especially regarding the current violent displacement of the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods
  • Challenge what you are told through popular media platforms and educate yourself and your community about human rights abuses in Palestine. Write, tweet, and share on social media platforms, but above all, reach out to your representatives at the federal and local levels.

To the Harvard administration, we demand that the University makes a public statement rebuking Israel’s excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians. We call on our university to end its complicity with Israeli apartheid policies and occupation by removing its investments in companies that are involved in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise until equal rights are guaranteed for all citizens in Israel and Palestine.

To our student groups/organizations, we urge you to join us in bringing attention to these international law violations and human rights abuses by signing and sharing this statement and spreading awareness within your communities. To co-sponsor this statement and have your group’s or individual name listed at the bottom of this document, please confirm by filling out the following form.

To the wider student body in all universities, we urge you to speak out, organize, and educate your communities about this moment and the longer history of the Palestinian dispossession and struggle.

Petition to End HLS’ Ban on Honoraria

Dear Dean Manning,

Currently, Harvard Law School has a ban on using HLS funds for speakers’ fees or honoraria, a policy that we think should be ended.  We learned about this unfair DOS practice as we organized the 2nd Annual Critical Race Theory Conference.  With 24 HLS student organizations co-sponsoring our grant application, we won a generous DOS conference grant.  But when we went to use that money to compensate three formerly-incarcerated panelists for their planning, speaking time, and valuable lessons, DOS told us “no.”  

We are asking DOS to end its ban on speakers’ fees and honoraria, and allow student orgs to use their funding from DOS to platform more speakers from Black, Latinx, Indigenous, AAPI, immigrant, poor and working class, formerly-incarcerated, LGBTQ, and disability communities, community organizers, and other people who know what the law is from living under the boot of its application, rather than solely from the point of view of theory and doctrine and academia.  In tandem, we call on student orgs to take advantage of this policy change to invite and pay more marginalized speakers.

“Isn’t speaking at Harvard Law a reward enough in itself?”  If you are already privileged and will benefit from putting it on your resume, maybe.  But working class people can’t pay the bills with a line on a resume.  As a result, our options are limited to campus speakers that are privileged, tenured, from wealthy backgrounds, or can readily monetize their appearance at HLS (e.g. selling their books).  We don’t believe in exploiting regular people doing important work in their communities by inviting them and not compensating them for their time–and few would accept if we did.  As we seek to build a more just world, we need the insight and inspiration from people whom the law was not designed to protect, and it is only fair to compensate those people for their valuable time, knowledge, and experiences.

“If we allow payment of honoraria, then student groups with more money will benefit to the exclusion of student groups with less money.”  This doesn’t even make sense.  DOS could devise any number of policies to make sure that student groups are able to bring speakers to campus.  The DOS conference grant itself, which is designed to provide more funds to student orgs when they have sufficient co-sponsor support from across campus, is one way of democratizing funds. Additionally, disparities across student groups already exist, as organizations with national chapters, such as the Federalist Society, host speakers paid directly through the national chapter, and other organizations receive funding from firms.  If you dig around enough, you will find there are funds lying around at this institution to pay speakers.  However, the extra hurdles and restrictions to access these funds create the very two-tiered system that DOS says it is trying to prevent.

DOS’ “neutral” policy against honoraria claims to create equal opportunity across student organizations to invite speakers those organizations wish to hear from. Not only does the policy not address that problem, but it in fact restricts who organizations can invite and limits the opportunity to hear from invaluable voices. By not allowing DOS funding to be used to compensate speakers for their time, it all but excludes Black, Latinx, Indigenous, AAPI, immigrant, poor and working class, formerly-incarcerated, LGBTQ, and disability communities, community organizers, and other folks it is necessary to learn from. We therefore call on HLS to remove its ban on speakers’ fees and honoraria.


The undersigned student orgs and Harvard affiliates

CAHMS Letter 

April 26, 2021

Dear Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Lewis,

My name is Alice Zhang. I am a second year student at Harvard Business School writing on behalf of a coalition of AAPI student, faculty and staff affinity groups across Harvard to express our grave concerns about the anti-Asian racism flyer released by CAMHS. Not only has the flyer posed a detrimental impact on our mental health, we are deeply distressed that such a flyer came out of CAMHS, especially under the current climate of violence and hate against AAPI communities. We would like to start by setting the context so that anyone reading this letter will have some background about the turmoil currently facing AAPI students and how the content of the flyer is troubling.

In 2020, anti-Asian hate crime in America’s largest cities surged by 2.5-folds while hate crimes overall declined by 7%, reflecting a growing racism against Asian Americans since the onset of the pandemic. There were 3,800 reported cases of anti-Asian hate crimes in the past year, which likely represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occurred given that most incidents go unreported. AAPI students live in a reality in which new cases of heinous attacks against members of our own community are surfacing daily. Such attacks often occur abruptly at random places and times, and target the most vulnerable in our community: women and the elderly. Just a couple weeks ago, a 65 y.o. Asian woman was brutally assaulted on her way to church on Sunday. This attack occurred on the very street that some of us had walked by the day prior. Frankly, we fear for our own safety as well as the safety of our family, friends and community members. This fear is exponential for AAPI students whose family members work in the service industry and/or own establishments that have been targeted in many of such attacks. Fear takes a huge toll on our mental health as well as limiting our physical activity.

In addition to the distress caused by the violence, we have felt unsupported in the country that we call home. The assault of the 65 y.o. woman happened in the plain sight of a security guard who not only failed to defend the victim who was repeatedly kicked in the head and body, but also shut the entrance
door on her when the perpetrator fled the scene. In another instance, after the mass shooting in Atlanta, in which 6 of the 8 killed were Asian women, the sheriff’s immediate response was to defend the shooter, saying he was having a “bad day” and that he targeted the spas to combat his “sex addiction.” The Atlanta shooting was driven by another form of racism, the hyper-sexualization of Asian women, which has a deep historical context and impacts all of us. While the intention of the sheriff may not have been malicious, his response was highly inappropriate and insensitive.

We have felt silenced until more recently, when the media finally began providing more coverage for the ongoing hate crimes against AAPIs. Unfortunately, we have experienced gaslighting and even faced backlash from speaking out about our issues. The public discourse surrounding this issue has been yet another source of pain, with people trying to dismiss our traumatic experiences or tell us what we should or should not say.

As you know, anti-Asian racism has been long part of American history and has always been present in various forms. COVID-19 has merely amplified such racism that AAPIs have lived with our entire lives. Now we are crying out to be heard, for our pain to be acknowledged, and for more people to stand up for the most vulnerable members of our communities.

We assume that you have already received a number of student responses about the flyer. While we do not assume any malicious intent from CAMHS, the flyer was tone deaf to an extreme degree. The language of the flyer minimized our experiences (e.g. “most individuals are not racist and these events are infrequent”), made invisible the current plight of AAPI students (e.g. “your ancestors likely went through similar or even worse incidents”), invalidated the American-ness of AAPI students (i.e. one would not tell Black American students to appreciate “the Nairobi I love”), and propagated “otherness” – which frames AAPIs as perpetual foreigners in our own country – just to name a few. Moreover, the advice to “steel yourself up mentally” and show empathy to our perpetrators (e.g. “a situation like this might bring out the worst in people”) sends a message that we should simply accept and live with anti-Asian racism. This is wildly inappropriate particularly post-Atlanta shooting and during a time like this when AAPIs are trying to challenge the model minority myth and speak up.

Even more than the flyer content, we are deeply troubled by what this incident reveals about CAMHS’ complete lack of awareness around the struggles and realities of AAPI students. Good intentions do not negate the devastating impact of such messaging on students’ mental health, particularly for younger students who may be more susceptible to internalizing such messages from Harvard. This incident has caused the confidence of AAPI students across Harvard in CAMHS to plummet. If unaddressed, it can breed distrust among students towards CAMHS’s ability to support the emotional wellness of minority students at Harvard.

We acknowledge and appreciate that you have apologized for your mistake. However, we believe this incident represents a systemic issue at CAMHS which must be addressed before our confidence in CAMHS can begin to recover. We are asking for:

  • An acknowledgement from the Chief of CAMHS, Dr. Lewis about the pain that this flyer has inflicted on AAPI students, faculty and staff and an explanation of what has led to such flyer being released
  • Accountability and a clear action plan from CAMHS on how it plans to strengthen its capability to support AAPI student mental health (e.g. DEI officer in CAMHS, increasing representation of AAPI clinicians and leadership, educating all CAMHS therapists about the racialized experiences of AAPIs so that they can better provide support for them)
  • A forum for CAMHS to engage in a dialogue with Harvard-affiliated AAPI stakeholders who can provide feedback and support, which can come in a form of taskforce, townhall, or at the very least a meeting with representative students.Thank you for reading and we look forward to engaging with you.

Alice Zhang (HBS‘22)

APALSA Comfort Women Letter to President Biden

Dear Mr. President:

In your upcoming discussions with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this month, we respectfully request that you encourage him to offer full and unequivocal apology and compensation to the women, girls, and boys from dozens of countries coerced into Imperial Japan’s Asia-Pacific War military comfort stations.

We, the undersigned, believe that it is paramount for the U.S. government to actively engage with Japan in resolving the “Comfort Women” issue and that it is in the interest of the U.S. to do so. This international human rights issue truly lies at the forefront of the strained diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan, and yet, numerous half-baked attempts to resolve the issue, without focusing on restoring dignity and justice for the “Comfort Women” survivors, have only deepened the decades-old distrust between these two key allies of the U.S. in Asia. Only when the “Comfort Women” issue is fully resolved in a victim-centered manner will the trilateral relations between the U.S., Japan, and the Republic of Korea move forward.

On March 9, 2021, the Japanese government held a meeting to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. At this meeting, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga instructed his Cabinet to step up efforts to promote gender equality in the nation. If he is serious about this goal, he must first align his government’s perspectives on women’s rights and the realities of violence against women, both historically and for the future. It is impossible for Japan to accept international norms regarding gender equality without first accepting that the “Comfort Women” were victims coerced into sexual slavery.

An unequivocal apology would entail either a Cabinet Decision or a Diet Resolution embedding it into the Japanese legal regime, and a statement of apology to all victims of the system by the Prime Minister in front of the global media. Government reparations would entail funds from the Japanese government (and not from private institutions) to be paid directly to the victims and their families based on the aforementioned legal regime, as well as funds to support programs of education and healing not only about the “Comfort Women,” but also about violence against women and wartime sexual violence.

Most importantly, the Japanese government must end its support of campaigns to distort and deny Imperial Japan’s WWII military history toward the “Comfort Women.” We have painfully observed through Harvard Law Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s article, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” that historical denialism and revisionism are still very much in existence not only in Japan, but also here in the U.S. and abroad. State-funded projects focused on denying the coercion of “Comfort Women” or demanding the removal of memorials in the City of Glendale and elsewhere in the U.S. or in the Philippines must also stop.

If the Japanese government continues to maintain its contrafactual position that the “Comfort Women” were not sex slaves but were voluntary prostitutes, the issue should be referred to the International Court of Justice to be tried and judged once and for all. We welcome an opportunity to discuss with you or your staff about a path forward.

April 5, 2021

Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Berkeley Asian Pacific American Law Student Association

Columbia Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Cornell Asian Pacific American Law Student Association

Duke Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Georgetown Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Michigan Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

New York University Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association

Northwestern Law School Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Stanford Asian and Pacific Islander Law Students Association

UChicago Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

UCLA Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association

University of Pennsylvania Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

University of Virginia Asian Pacific American Law Students Association

Yale Asian Pacific American Law Students Association 2020–2021 Executive Board

KAHLS Statement in Response to Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s Article “Contracting for sex in the Pacific War”

Professor J. Mark Ramseyer, the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, recently published an article (“Contracting for sex in the Pacific War”) and accompanying editorial (“Recovering the Truth about the Comfort Women”), in which he describes the forced sex slavery organized by Japan during World War II as a consenting, contractual process. He claims, without sufficient evidence, that the Japanese military sex slaves were willing prostitutes who were able to “negotiate” for substantial wages in a consensual, contractual relationship. In his editorial, he also makes multiple assertions that the comfort women story is “pure fiction,” a revisionist claim that is recycled time and time again by neonationalist figures.

Professor Ramseyer’s arguments are factually inaccurate and misleading. Without any convincing evidence, Professor Ramseyer argues that no government “forced women into prostitution,” a contention he also makes in his editorial. Decades’ worth of Korean scholarship, primary sources, and third-party reports challenge this characterization. None are mentioned, cited, or considered in his arguments.

Professor Ramseyer’s deficient presentation of the historical record is demonstrated by his bibliography. Korean perspectives and scholarship, both rich sources of material on this topic, are almost completely absent in his work. Scholars studying history understand the possibility of post-hoc revisionism and bias. To counter such effects, they consult a wide-ranging set of materials from a variety of sources. Professor Ramseyer does not.

He also ignores expansive scholarship done by international organizations, such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, which has conclusively found that the “comfort women” were coerced, kidnapped, or forced by the Japanese government. After its independent inquiry, the Japanese government itself acknowledged as part of the Kono Statement that “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of comfort stations.”

As students of law and democracy, we are committed to a fair presentation of diverse perspectives. Our professors stress the fundamental importance of bringing multiple perspectives to a discussion. Again, Professor Ramseyer’s article falls short in this regard. He does not engage with the historically validated and important perspectives of scholars who have worked to amplify the testimonies of these women. To ignore this work is to create the false impression of a settled history of an imagined world where Korean comfort women were free to contract for higher wages paid at their preferred schedule.

Analytically, Professor Ramseyer takes these contracts as a given. He suggests comfort women “negotiated” their contractual terms. Such value-neutral language erases important historical context of coercive sexual violence. He assumes away important issues of consent, duress, and power dynamics. As law students, we study the doctrines and equitable principles that have developed to correct for these issues in our first-year curriculum. As future lawyers, we recognize that much is still to be done, that settlements and non-disclosure agreements can do much to obscure latent coercion. As citizens of a world where sexual violence, denialism, and slavery run rampant, we call attention to misleading histories and economic analyses that callously suggest that these women negotiated into their own sexual slavery.

We, and the undersigned, strongly condemn the deliberate erasure of human rights violations and war crimes. Up to 200,000 women and girls were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military, from not only Korea, but also China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, East Timor, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma. We stand with the victims who have yet to receive full reparations and a proper, official apology from the Japanese government. We strongly condemn all actions that inflict pain and insult to the victims, who bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army.

As students, we have the utmost respect for academic freedom, including that of Professor Ramseyer. But at the same time, we firmly believe that a sincere commitment to academic freedom is inseparable from the obligation of academic integrity as part of a genuine search for truth. Upholding these values requires that we shed light on the failings of misleading narratives that omit important voices and obscure critical histories.

February 4, 2021

Korean Association of Harvard Law School (KAHLS)

Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA)

Harvard Law School China Law Association (CLA)

Statement of Solidarity in the Face of Violence
June 7, 2020

We stand with all Black people—including women, men, non-binary, trans, queer, disabled, and low-income—who have been and continue to be unjustly impacted and targeted by anti-Blackness. We condemn the outrageous violence and systematic injustice that the Black community faces. Unequivocally, Black lives matter. The recent horrific murders—of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Nina Pop, and countless others who have not caught national attention—are unacceptable. At the same time, they are not surprising. The reality of structural racism, oppression, and violence against the Black community has always been present in America.

The Black community has been tireless advocates for justice, rights, and equality for not only themselves, but all Americans throughout our nation’s history. We must acknowledge the unique struggles and unjust burdens that Black Americans have undergone and faced in their fight for equality. We recognize that these efforts have benefited all communities of color, including the Asian American community. The Black-led civil rights movement led to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, to which the Asian American community owes much of its presence in America. Our diverse diaspora and our progress is tied with the Black community and its activism. Our solidarity here is essential and unreserved.

While centering and elevating Black voices and work, we also have a responsibility to speak up in our own spaces. It is imperative that we hold our Asian/Asian American communities accountable in our allyship. To strongly support the Black community, we must reckon and unlearn the insidious and pervasive nature of anti-Blackness ingrained in our community and cultural perceptions. Dismantling problematic prejudices within our community starts with consistent self-reflection, education, and having uncomfortable conversations with our friends and family. It takes showing up for the Black community in our actions, in our learning, and in all our capacity. Without this form of advocacy, we will continue to see Asian police officers, like the one involved in the murder of George Floyd, perpetuate a history of excessive force and brutality. This is unacceptable. We must reverse this.

We stand firmly behind the Black community in their protests and work to push for long overdue change. We will stand with them until that change is here. We also call on all of our members to take action. We particularly endorse and uplift the Harvard Black Law Student Association’s statement on this issue, which includes specific actions.

As an organization, APALSA commits to following up with further events, discussions, and continual dialogue on this issue. Solidarity goes beyond statements and requires ongoing, communal action.

Black Lives Matter.
In solidarity,

Statement on Affirmative Action Lunch Event
October 11, 2019


This past Tuesday, two student organizations held a lunch event to discuss affirmative action and the results and ramifications of the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard decision. The event featured the lead trial counsel for SFFA and a Harvard Law School professor.

Last year, the 2018-19 APALSA board issued a statement conveying our nuanced opinion of the lawsuit after engaging with our membership through notice & comment. We expressed our support for diversity, inclusion, and affirmative action, and at the same time condemned any and all discrimination against APA applicants by Harvard. We made clear that the two beliefs are not mutually exclusive.

We write now not to address the lawsuit, but rather an incident that occurred during Tuesday’s lunch event. A remark by the SFFA attorney elicited responses from a group of students in the crowd that disturbed some of the APA students in the room. An insinuation may have been made that Asian students inherently possess less appealing personality traits than applicants of other races. Today we do not question exactly what words were used. Rather, we focus our message on the impact that this incident may have had on members of our community.

We believe that first, those were the voices of the few, and second, that these comments were not intended to target APA students. However, a negative stereotype that specifically impacts and harms APA students was perpetuated. As many of you know, one critical issue during litigation was the lower “personal ratings” given to APA applicants versus those given to other racial groups.

To those of you who were hurt by this or who spoke up about this, you are not alone. Vocalizing feelings of discomfort in a public forum takes courage. Doing so in an environment with complex histories and strong tensions is difficult. We thank you for standing up for our community and each other.

APALSA hopes to work in solidarity with other affinity groups on issues surrounding affirmative action. In addition, we believe it is also crucial to have conversations about APA identity in particular in the context of this issue. We pledge to you, as a board, that we will make programming based on open dialogue a priority in the coming weeks.

Your 2019-20 APALSA Board

Statement of Solidarity with Section 7
July 31, 2019

Dear members of APALSA,

As many of you may already know, earlier this spring four students in Section 7 were targeted with racist and sexist messages sent by an anonymous student or students who have yet to be identified. On behalf of APALSA, we applaud the bravery and strength exhibited by the victims of these hateful attacks. Bigoted thoughts have no place in either our academic institution or our collective conscience as residents of this community.

We also stand in solidarity with our friends in BLSA, who have urged the administration to remain faithful to its commitments to diversity, inclusion, and justice. No one should be made to feel like they are not welcome at Harvard Law School or that they do not belong. Each and every one of us is here simply because we deserve to be. We call on the administration to use each and every resource at its disposal to identify the culprits and hold them accountable for the consequences of their actions.

APALSA will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and protection of both our members and of the broader HLS community. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you are made to feel unsafe or unvalued. Remember that any burden is ours to bear together.

In solidarity,

#DefendDiversity Week of Action
October 9, 2018


After reviewing the general body’s comments about the proposed co-sponsorship of the #DefendDiversity Week of Action and race-conscious admissions policies, the APALSA Board has voted to co-sponsor and stand with the broad coalition of civil rights organizations, student groups, and alumni organizations pledging to #DefendDiversity in schools and workplaces. We hope you will join us for the #DefendDiversity Week of Digital Actionlocal discussions, and for the Solidarity Rally for Education and Opportunity this Sunday, October 14th, 2018 to continue this conversation and/or show your support for race-conscious admissions. We offer the following statement to contextualize this decision:

APALSA exists based on the belief that our racial and ethnic backgrounds are an integral part of who we are as individuals. As a community of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders we are highly diverse and yet we have come together as students through our shared experiences—of immigration, family, expectations, language, food, values, and even a Hollywood movie that we thought we might never see. That shared experience, however, also includes persevering in the face of discrimination ranging from the questioning of our right to belong to American society and implicit bias, to extreme injustices, oppression, and hate crimes. Through these, we have often also suffered the offense of being overlooked and unheard.

And that is why we feel we must raise our voices.

Edward Blum’s most recent challenge to affirmative action in SFFA v. Harvard has raised serious questions and concerns about how Asian Americans are treated in the Harvard College admissions process. We emphatically denounce any discrimination, implicit or explicit, that exists in this process, such as the alleged personality rating disparities that map onto some of our worst fears about how Asian Americans are perceived in this country.  We are disappointed by these allegations. We demand that Harvard takes them seriously, including improving training for admissions officers on Asian American issues, disaggregating data based on nationality, and committing to hiring a diverse admissions office staff. We will continue to keep a critical eye on Harvard’s admissions process and how Harvard is addressing the influence of damaging stereotypes of Asian Americans as part of their holistic admissions approach.

At the same time, research has shown that any bias or potential bias against any group must be addressed by more and deeper understanding of racial, ethnic and cultural issues, not less. We believe that race and ethnicity are critical components of the diversity of the student body that enrich our legal educations. Accordingly, we cannot support the remedy sought by SFFA, which seeks as its sole remedy that Harvard “conduct all admissions in a manner that does not permit those engaged in the decisional process to be aware of or learn the race or ethnicity of any applicant for admission.” Twenty-four Harvard College student and alumni affinity groups, including the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, have signed an amicus brief affirming that diversity counts in their educations.

We believe that Harvard has a responsibility to be inclusive of students and communities whose educational opportunities have been limited by race- and ethnicity-related circumstances, and that Harvard must strive to better understand those circumstances as it admits each class through holistic review, a process that should not further historically entrenched stereotypes, either intentionally or unintentionally. This is not to say that Harvard and like universities bear the primary burden of addressing historical inequities, but they certainly must play a role. Many APAs also confront systemic barriers to education, and we want Harvard admissions to take those into account. We believe that all of us are better off when we learn alongside those who can relate at a gut level to our own lives as well as those whose journeys might be a struggle for us to comprehend. Race and ethnicity undeniably play a role in defining the system of intellectual and social support and challenge that Harvard should provide.

As law students, we know that upon leaving the diverse Harvard campus, the realities of the working world can be a rude awakening. APAs face barriers at all levels of the legal profession, particularly in advancing towards partnership, government positions, and the judiciary. Here again, the need for diverse leadership and the impact of race on our careers can be confronted only through a heightened awareness of barriers to APAs in the legal profession and intentional remedies to lower them.  An attack on affirmative action in schools paves the way for the elimination of those very diversity programs that facilitate APAs’ entry and survival in workplaces that too often lag behind in diversifying their leadership and hiring.

Recognizing that the solution to discrimination is not race-blindness but an affirmative duty of institutions to better understand diversity and support people of color, APALSA pledges to defend diversity and educational opportunity. We hope you will join us for the #DefendDiversity Week of Digital Actionlocal educational events, and for the Solidarity Rally for Education and Opportunity this Sunday, October 14th, 2018.

Your 2018–19 APALSA Board