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The Urgency of the Moment

From grappling with the challenges of an unprecedented health crisis to addressing longstanding racial injustices, HLS affiliates respond

A Year Unlike Any Other

John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean at Harvard Law School

This has been a year unlike any other, a year with so many challenges and hardships here in the United States and around the world. It has also been a year of inspiring efforts by members of the global Harvard Law School community to respond with creativity and determination, finding solutions and advocating for the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society.

I am grateful for the countless ways HLS has come together over these past few months to carry out our vital mission of teaching, learning, research, and service amidst an ongoing public health crisis.

I am grateful for the countless ways HLS has come together over these past few months to carry out our vital mission of teaching, learning, research, and service amidst an ongoing public health crisis. I am grateful for our students, who met the demands of our rapid transition to remote learning with resilience, strength, and purpose. For our faculty, who adopted new teaching methods last spring and are now transforming their courses to create a world-class online learning experience. For our staff, who have worked tirelessly to support students, faculty, and one another during this unprecedented time. And for our alumni, who contribute their time and talents in myriad ways in support of our community and the world.

As faculty and staff work together to plan for the coming fall, we build on the experiences and insights gained this past spring. Leveraging technology, data, and best practices in online teaching, we are developing a robust academic program and designing even more creative, innovative, and enriching experiences in support of learning, building community, and providing legal services.

This issue of the Bulletin revisits the pandemic’s early days, when faculty and students adapted swiftly to the virtual classroom. We also examine how members of our alumni community have used their HLS training to make a difference during the pandemic—from the General Counsel of Boston’s largest hospital dedicated to serving low-income patients, to attorneys who volunteer to win the release of incarcerated people vulnerable to COVID-19, to others who coordinated government public health efforts in New York City at the height of the outbreak. Looking ahead to November, this issue also considers what it will take to run safe and reliable elections in 2020 and beyond.

At a time when pain and loss are already acute, and when COVID-19 is disproportionately harming communities of color, the killings of George Floyd and other Black individuals across our nation have added, in ways I know my words cannot capture, to the hurt, fear, anger, and frustration so many—especially Black members of our community and our nation—are feeling. As I wrote in a message to our campus community, the tragic injustices our country has witnessed this spring, and the countless others that have come before, have underscored, for our nation and our community, the urgent necessity of identifying, addressing, and remedying the racism, inequality, and abuse of power that have haunted this nation for so long. In this issue, faculty members reflect on this history and consider ways forward.

We at HLS must continue to play a part in bringing about the needed change, whether through the efforts of our legal clinics and student practice organizations to defend the rights of marginalized individuals; through our faculty’s essential scholarship addressing some of the most longstanding and intractable problems of race, inequality, and criminal justice; and through our collective efforts to teach the next generation of lawyers and leaders. We remain committed to advancing the vital goal of diversity in recruiting students, staff, and faculty and in every aspect of what we do, and to listening to and hearing students, staff, faculty, and alumni as we work always to foster an ever more supportive, inclusive HLS community where every member is accorded dignity and respect, where all continually learn and bring their best selves, and where all experience Harvard as their community.

We must also continue to support the cause of equal justice. The Law School recently announced a set of new initiatives, including the creation of a program on mass incarceration, the establishment of a new legal journal focused on law and equality, and the development of lecture series addressing fundamental questions of racial justice. These initiatives and others reflect the knowledge and commitments of members of our HLS community—and their willingness to dedicate themselves to the important work ahead.

Each of us is called to help create the communities in which we want to live and in which all people can thrive.

Each of us is called to help create the communities in which we want to live and in which all people can thrive. And as members of a profession and a school dedicated to the rule of law and equal justice under law, we can and must work together, with unflagging resolve, to bring about a world in which all people, regardless of their race, enjoy the freedom, security, opportunity, equal treatment, and justice that is their right. I am grateful every day to be part of this community and the work that it does.

With thanks for your steadfast support and encouragement, I send best wishes to you and yours as we navigate these challenging times.

Be well.

John F. Manning ’85


Harvard Law Bulletin Summer 2020 Cover Read the entire Summer Harvard Law Bulletin 2020 issue