When students at Harvard Law School (HLS) awoke and walked to classes on Thursday, they were reportedly greeted with the defaced photographs of black tenured professors at the school.
Black professors had a slash mark drawn over their faces, in what some students are calling a racially motivated attack and hate crime.
Famed attorney and former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz spoke with Business Insider about the vandalism.
“It’s awful,” he said. “These are my friends and colleagues.”
Tension has been simmering amid upheaval and claims of systemic racism at colleges across the US. Yale University has been embroiled in student-led protests over pervasive racism, and students have called for the resignation of administration members they say are creating a dangerous environment.
Dershowitz has disparaged these protests, calling the students participating is such rallies “tyrannical” and hypocritical.
“They may want superficial diversity, because for them diversity is a code word for ‘more of us.’ They don’t want more conservatives, they don’t want more white students, they don’t want more heterosexuals,” he told Business Insider in an interview last week.
Dershowitz’s message has largely been that students don’t understand that even racist speech is free speech and therefore should not be banned from campus.
But defacing professors’ images crossed the line from free speech into unprotected action, according to Dershowitz.
“Freedom of speech does not include the right to deface university property in a racially motivated manner,” he said. “I hope this was not done by anyone affiliated with the university.”
Michele Hall, a Harvard second-year law student, first reported on Blavity.com that vandalism on campus had appeared Thursday morning.
“The portraits of black professors, the ones that bring me and so many other black students feelings of pride and promise, were defaced,” she wrote.
“Their faces were covered with a single piece of black tape, crossing them out of Harvard Law School’s legacy of legal scholarship. Their faces were slashed through, X-ing them out, marking them as maybe unwanted or maybe unworthy or maybe simply too antithetical to the legacy of white supremacy on which Harvard Law School has been built.”
Police are investigating the vandalism, and a community meeting made up of students, faculty, and staff was held Thursday afternoon to address the incident, the Harvard Crimson reported.
Students at the meeting took to the microphone to describe HLS as “sometimes racist and unwelcoming,” according to the Crimson. Further, some students criticised Law School Dean Martha L. Minow, saying she doesn’t sufficiently support minority students.
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