Frequently Asked Questions
Belinda Hall seen from the outside during Brother Outsider screening
What is Reclaim Harvard Law?
In the Fall of 2015, a coalition of students, staff, and their allies came together and formed Reclaim Harvard Law. Bringing together various marginalized student groups that have requested changes for decades, Reclaim Harvard Law aims to combat our school’s systemic racism and exclusion.
Why is Reclaim Harvard Law occupying Belinda Hall?
Last semester, Reclaim Harvard Law tried to engage the law school administration in a process of change. The students and staff met daily to identify the sources of systemic oppression and to discuss ways in which this oppression might be remedied in the law school. We then presented the results of our deliberations to the law school and to Deans Martha Minow and Marcia Sells of the law school administration. We were met with administrative intransigence.
Since the law school refuses to provide adequate institutional support for an office of diversity and inclusion, hire critical race theorists, promote staff of color in the workplace to management positions in their due course, provide adequate contextualization in curricula, educate its professors, its staff, and its students around cultural competency, take the steps that are necessary to accord adequate and equal dignity to marginalized students and staff, Reclaim Harvard Law aims to provide that space at the law school. Reclaim assumes the burden of educating ourselves and others in spite of this institution and not because of it.
What is Reclaim Harvard Law doing in Belinda Hall?
Reclaim Harvard Law claims the space of Belinda Hall for those who are marginalized by HLS. We are creating our own Office of Diversity and Inclusion there. We are engaging in the Critical Race Theory and contextualization discussions lacking in our classrooms. We will continue to promote the availability of such opportunities for all students. For now we are engaging in self-teaching and learning, in an environment that seeks to welcome everyone.
Our programming, organized by individual volunteers within the movement, has so far included Critical Race Theory reading group, a discussion with Professor Margaret Montoya, contextual teaching workshops, and screenings of Brother Outsider and Omar. At night, we are continuing to learn from each other through discussions about ideas, goals, and politics.
Isn’t the administration doing enough?
No. The administration has done well at publicizing some of the improvements it’s making — or planning to make — in the last few weeks. But behind closed doors it has been condescending and dismissive regarding the needs of students of color, refused to engage with affinity group asks in the recent past (see the last few years of the timeline), and refused the combined demands we’re now presenting.
- As the birthplace of Critical Race Theory, Harvard should have tenured CRT theorists, if not its own center like UCLA’s model. The administration doesn’t want to ruffle feathers on the faculty by inviting a wider range of scholarship, but we demand that it face the dissent of some faculty members to ensure students get the educational tools we need.
- We demanded a diversity audit that included staff, which would reveal information about who’s getting promoted to management and who’s getting paid what, broken down by race and gender (not just a climate survey for students — Socratic Shortcomings and the student government surveys already show that data). The staff of color with whom we’ve spoken already feel that the dearth of people of color in staff management (currently there are about three) and the fact that for now the school has refused (we assume for image reasons) to name the problem, are crucial barriers to full support.
- Not only has the administration refused to put staff, clinicians, and students on the faculty committees that make institutional decisions here, it has kept those committees a secret to avoid more student advocacy for involvement. We’ve obtained a copy of the committees, though, and do not accept that staff, clinicians, and students are excluded from these committees, nor that the administration has rejected our demand to make these lists public themselves. We seek transparency and democratic inclusion for everyone at this school.
What can I do?
Drop by. Ask and question. Share your doubts with us. Share your ideas with us. Listen. Participate. Think with us. Read with us.
Everyday new people are joining, and every night brand new people are sleeping over. It’s not too late to join, and it never will be. We are conveniently located in Belinda Hall, WCC.
Belinda who? Who is Belinda?
Belinda Hall is dedicated to Belinda, who in 1783, at 63 years old, petitioned the Commonwealth of Massachusetts asserting her right to compensation for her years of enslavement by Isaac Royall. We want to celebrate this early radical woman of color, the first to formally demand reparations, and encourage this institution to similarly provide more information on and attention to the humans whose labor built HLS.