Posted on November 30, 2015

Harvard Law School Will Reconsider Its Controversial Seal

Andrew M. Duehren, Harvard Crimson, November 30, 2015

On the heels of an incident of racially-charged vandalism on campus, Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow has appointed a committee to reconsider the school’s controversial seal–the crest of the former slaveholding Royall family that endowed Harvard’s first law professorship in the 19th century.

The school’s seal, which features three sheaves of wheat under an emblem of “Veritas,” came under scrutiny earlier this year when a group of students, calling themselves “Royall Must Fall,” demanded its removal in light of its connection to slavery.

Now, it seems their activism is bearing fruit. In an email last Wednesday, Minow told Law School affiliates that she had appointed a committee to “lead research into, and a community discussion, of whether to continue using the HLS shield.”

The creation of the committee comes as Law School students have questioned how racially inclusive the campus is. About two weeks ago, Law students and faculty arrived at the school to find pieces of black tape placed across the portraits of black Law professors. {snip}

The incident prompted some Law School students to raise broader concerns about what they described as a sometimes unwelcoming environment there; Minow herself said racism was a “serious problem” at school. Specifically, several students called on Law School administrators to do more for minority students, and one common demand was for them to reconsider use of the seal.

In addition to naming the committee, Minow’s email outlined several “concrete efforts” she said the school will take to make the Law School more inclusive and diverse, including diversifying the faculty and setting aside more time during first-year orientation to “tackle sensitive issues openly but with mutual respect.” She referenced the vandalism incident in her email.