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Silverglate Seeks Say in Harvard's Governance

HarveyJacket Civil liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate graduated from Harvard Law School in 1967. He continues to live in Cambridge not far from the school and he has remained involved with the law school and the broader university ever since. "I have a long history of interest in, affection for, and service to Harvard and its students and also faculty," he says.

But he has also grown increasingly concerned about what he sees as a severe lack of due process and free speech at Harvard. Hoping to do something about it "from the inside," Silverglate has mounted a run as a petition candidate for a seat on Harvard's Board of Overseers.The 30-member board is elected by alumni and is one of two bodies that govern the university -- The Harvard Corporation the other.

He faces a tough fight. "It is easier to be elected president of the United States than it is to be elected as a petition candidate to the Harvard Board of Overseers," Silverglate writes. He can say this without exaggeration, given that President-elect Barack Obama lost his 1991 petition campaign to be elected an overseer. Official ballots are sent to alumni in April. To earn a spot on the ballot, Silverglate must collect 219 alumni signatures by Feb. 9. As of this morning, he had roughly 120.

Silverglate has taken his campaign to his Web site, where he has posted general information about his campaign, a campaign statement explaining the reasons for his run, and background information on the overseers and Harvard's governance. His statement outlines three core areas of concern:

  • The administrative board. It has become one of the worst student disciplinary tribunals in the nation, he says, characterized by unfair procedures and highly politicized views.
  • Censorship and lack of free speech. Harvard's harassment codes amount to "extraordinarily vague and broad restrictions of speech" that "make it risky for a student to discuss many issues in the arenas of gender, race, sexual orientation and the like."
  • Corporatization of the university. Increasingly, the university is using glossy publications to present "too rosy -- and one-sided -- a picture of campus life and doings." This happened to law school alumni, he says, when their subscriptions to the student-edited Harvard Law Record were replaced with an in-house "public relations" magazine, the Harvard Law School Bulletin.

Silverglate is neither the only graduate nor the only lawyer waging a petition campaign for the overseers. Robert L. Freedman, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Dechert, is also collecting signatures and has created a Web site setting out his platform. Freedman, a 1962 graduate of Harvard and a 1966 graduate of Columbia Law School, is focusing his campaign on his belief that Harvard's administration is tilted too heavily towards the faculty and not enough toward students. There is plenty of room for both of them on the board, Silverglate suggests in an e-mail. "His platform and mine are complementary -- he focuses on the academics, and I focus on the free speech/academic freedom/fair process issues."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 8, 2009 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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