So there’s a student movement at Harvard Law School calling itself Reclaim Harvard Law. This won’t surprise you:
Students in the group Reclaim Harvard Law have occupied the Caspersen Center Student lounge—which they are calling “Belinda Hall”—since February to advocate for increased support for minority students on campus.
Besides an endless supply of inane micro-dramas, Reclaim Harvard Law has its very own “vocal critic,” third-year law student William H. Barlow. Barlow has been getting annoyed that the occupying force in the student lounge wants to silence free speech. He’s tried putting up posters expressing his sentiments, only to have them taken down by RHL.
The occupiers explain their viewpoint:
Activists said they can control speech in the room because they are occupying the hall and designating it a make-shift office of diversity and inclusion. Therefore, they argue, they have the right to remove signs they consider to be offensive.
“This is a place made for inclusion. Inclusion doesn’t mean that you let everything that anyone wants go up,” Bianca S. Tylek said. “Inclusion means protecting from exclusion.”
Activists have launched their own postering campaign under the premise “free speech is not neutral,” arguing that the Law School has historically silenced minorities and Barlow’s campaign about free speech is an attempt to stifle conversation about their demands.
Interestingly, making “poster” an implied verb, and perpetrating an invasive new particripple*, may be the thing I find most irritating about this passage. But I digress.
It’s obvious that the RHL students have no idea – not even a hazy one – what the principle of freedom of speech is about.
The response of the law school administration is informative, however, on that and other heads. What have these functionaries done to deal with the “speech” dispute arising from the lounge occupation?
They’ve resorted to video-recording the students in the lounge, and putting undercover security personnel there to observe what’s going on.
Think I’m kidding?
The school filmed activities in the room Friday to ensure that students were complying with the policy outlined in their emails. Activists said they identified several undercover Harvard University Police Officers masquerading as admissions officers stationed in the hall watching Friday’s dispute play out.
“At the request of Harvard Law School administrators HUPD assigned two plainclothes officers on a paid detail assignment due to safety concerns,” Officer Steven G. Catalano wrote in an email.
The school also decided to revise its poster policy, although only for the precincts of the student lounge. In the lounge, students will be allowed to put up posters and take down other people’s posters at will. Harvard calls this “establishing a free speech zone,” which, again, explains a lot.
In spite of this revision to the rules, it appears that some people were still upset when RHL posters were defaced on 4 April with the words “stop censorship.” Hey, if the posters were still there, that sounds like tolerance and inclusivity to me. According to the rules, anyone could have taken them down entirely and not been transgressing.
Barlow says he didn’t do it.
Apparently, no one recognizes all this as the university equivalent of a psychotic episode.
* I freely admit that “particripple” is my own made-up word. It signifies a noun that has been turned, by implication, into a verb, solely so that a past or present participle form can be used as a neo-speak adjective in a phrase like “launched their own postering campaign.” Just go ahead and mangle the language like a pack of three-year-olds, why don’t you. The difference is that three-year-olds are more imaginative, and less likely to mistake themselves for stout Cortes on a peak in Darien, seeing what no one else ever has and needing a portentous, clinical-sounding vocabulary to communicate it.