July 26, 2019
The Harvard Black Law Students Association (“HBLSA”) stands with the four members of Section 7 who were targeted with hateful, racist, and sexist messages from a yet-to-be identified classmate or classmates. For months on end, these four students, two of whom are Black, were targeted with malicious emails and texts intended to inflict pain, fear, and the false notion that they do not belong at Harvard Law School on the basis of their racial and gender identities.
The targeted students immediately went to the administration with screenshots of the messages, which revealed that the sender or senders set up two Gmail accounts and used two retailer display phones to send anonymous messages that read, in part, “we all hate u [sic]… at least you help with the curve” and “you know you don’t belong here…youre [sic] just here because of affirmative action.”
The targeted students asked the law school to use its resources to identify the source of this threat and hold the students responsible accountable. The law school subsequently engaged the Harvard University Police Department, hired an outside law firm to investigate the messages, and promised the targeted students that, regardless of what the investigation revealed, the targeted students would be able to see the report.
Two months later, not only was the law school “unable to establish the sender(s) of the threatening messages,” the administration reneged on its promise to provide the report to the targeted students. According to the administration, the Federal Education Reporting Privacy Act (“FERPA”) does not allow the University to release the report and that it either does not recall making such a promise to release the report or that if it did, it was an error.
The targeted students relied on the administration’s promise when agreeing to a school-led investigation. Now, more than seven months since the first hateful message was sent, the sender of this message remains unidentified and free to continue harassing Black and women students, meanwhile the targeted students have been left to continue fearing for their safety.
Harvard University, and specifically, Harvard Law School, asserts itself as a committed leader to diversity, inclusion, and justice; however, Harvard woefully failed to act and protect the students of Section 7.
It is an injustice that these students suffered and continue to experience the burden of these additional stressors in an already stressful academic environment. We applaud the affected students for remaining strong and sharing their story with the public. Time and again, it seems as though Harvard only responds when marginalized students’ demands for safety and protection are backed by external pressure.
We support the students of Section 7 in their ongoing fight for their voices to be heard and their cause to be valued by Harvard Law School. We urge Harvard Law to fulfill their commitments to the students of Section 7 by using every resource at its disposal to identify the sender and hold that person accountable for the harm that they caused.
Finally, in the spirit of working towards a more diverse and inclusive campus climate, we urge Harvard Law School to adopt Reclaim Harvard Law School’s Fourth Demand, issued nearly four years ago:
Establish the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and implement other institutional changes aimed at curtailing organizational hierarchy and injustice against students, staff, and faculty. The Office should be established with meaningful staff and student input and transparency.
Harvard Black Law Students Association