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Marcia Sells

  • Reclaim Harvard Law Removes Critical Posters, Stirring Debate Over Academic Freedom

    March 31, 2016

    For the last several weeks, the walls of the protestor-occupied “Belinda Hall” have been covered with messages from Reclaim HLS, a coalition of students seeking institutional change at the Law School. But on Monday, there was a new message—one equating the movement with Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, claiming that both Trump and Reclaim are anti-free speech. The signs were posted by third-year student Bill Barlow, who has been a vocal opponent of perceived censorship by Reclaim HLS. Barlow believes some of the protestors’ demands impinge on academic freedom and stifle dissent—a conviction this incident reaffirmed for him. Shortly after Barlow taped up his signs, he sat down to discuss his message with protestors—a conversation he referred to as “tense but civil.” Later that afternoon, members from Reclaim HLS removed Barlow’s critical posters...Dean [Marcia] Sells issued a statement to the Record reaffirming Harvard Law’s commitment to free speech. “In recent weeks, faced with questions of pressing importance to our community, we have respected the extraordinary use of space in the WCC lounge as a place for the expression of views through, for example, the display of posters and fliers and the holding of teach-ins and the like,” Dean Sells told the Record...But unlike Dean Sells, AJ Clayborne, a third-year student and a Reclaim HLS organizer who was one of several students who has removed Barlow’s posters, said that anything posted in Belinda Hall must be approved by Reclaim first.

  • At Harvard Law School, Battle for Inclusion Continues

    March 18, 2016

    The successful fight to retire Harvard Law School’s controversial shield emblem, which has ties to a slaveholding benefactor, has ignited a new battle over equality and racism on the Cambridge campus...Now, the school has several more changes on the way, including bringing a visiting critical race theory professor to the school, hiring more faculty of color, revamping school orientations to make them more inclusive and making plans to hire a director for community engagement and equity to focuses on diversity inclusion issues, according to Marcia Sells, the law school’s associate dean and dean of students. “I really do want to have some quality things come out of this,” Sells said...A.J. Clayborne, a spokesman for Royall Must Fall, said taking the shield down was only the first step. “We’re quite pleased with that decision, although we do believe there’s much more work to be done to address systemic racism in the law school,” Clayborne said.

  • These Harvard Law students are trying to make their school a little less racist

    March 10, 2016

    Beyond the limestone facade of a grand building with arching entranceways, dozens of students have occupied a space at Harvard Law School for the past three weeks. They’ve re-named the room “Belinda Hall,” in honor of a woman who was a slave of law school founder Isaac Royall...“The institution sent a bunch of black and brown people to deal with a group of black and brown people,” said Bianca Tylek, a 29-year-old Latina student with long, wavy brown hair, in her final year of law school, who told me she has been mistaken for janitorial staff before...Keaton Allen-Gessesse, a 28-year-old from Chicago in her final year of law school, told me, “There’s really no place in the classroom for understanding issues of racial inequality or white supremacy...The dean of student affairs, Marcia Sells, said the school has improved the environment for minority students over the past several decades. “I understand what the students are asking for but some of it is, I think, we also have to do more in helping them understand that this is a little bit how the pedagogy works, this is also how it’s changed,” she told me, adding that she thinks the school needs to do a better job of pointing out to students where they’re already teaching historical context at the school, rather than having a separate dedicated critical race theory program.

  • A Week In, Law School Activists Continue Occupation

    February 22, 2016

    As Law School activists continue their occupation of the Caspersen Student Center lounge—along with students from other schools—administrators have publicized a series of efforts to address problems of diversity and inclusion on campus...Third-year Law student and Reclaim Harvard Law member Bianca S. Tylek said the group hopes to expand its reach to other students within and beyond the Law School...Rena T. Karefa-Johnson, a third-year law student...said...“I’m excited that this is something that people are thinking about...“[But] I don’t think those specific initiatives are responsive to what this movement is about.” [Marcia]Sells said that she stands by her work to address problems of diversity and inclusion at the school, emphasizing that change takes time. “I am disappointed that the students think we aren’t working on these things, because we are,” she said in an interview. “I understand that they have their own vision and plan, but I’m just trying to work with what I think works best for all of us, and not expecting things to happen all at once.”

  • Law School Students Continue Activism on Race

    December 16, 2015

    With the semester coming to a close, some Harvard Law School students are continuing their push for changes they say will improve the school’s treatment of minority students, about a month after a high-profile racially charged incident shook campus...On Friday, more than a dozen students hosted a “teach-in” in the lobby of the office of Law School Dean Martha L. Minow, on whom students have called to do more to address their concerns. For roughly an hour, students sat in the office and discussed the possibility of creating a critical race theory program at the school, according to Alexander J. Clayborne, one of the students organizing the protests. Clayborne said they spoke with Minow...In an emailed statement, Minow wrote that she has been meeting with students and faculty members to “ensure inclusive and fair consideration of any ideas for change,” adding that she met with students for several hours last week and again Monday. Law School Dean of Students Marcia L. Sells, too, wrote in a statement that she and Minow have been working closely with students to discuss “what processes can work to achieve change at HLS.”...Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe argued in an email that changing the seal of a school is very different from changing a title. “Renaming the position of ‘House Master’ to something less problematic like ‘Dean of the House’ is a lot easier than changing the school’s seal, which isn’t within the control of any dean or even the university president,” Tribe wrote.

  • Harvard Law School Students Rally, Demanding Changes On Diversity

    December 8, 2015

    Harvard Law School students rallied Monday afternoon to demand the school change its official seal, which features parts of Isaac Royall’s family crest — a slave owner who helped found the institution. Students had given Dean Martha Minow until 9 a.m. Monday to meet their demands to change the seal as well as create a permanent memorial to the Royall family’s slaves. Minow has not responded. She is traveling. Dean of Students Marcia Sells addressed the students at Monday’s rally. “A quick response to those issues, I think, would give them not the value for which they deserve,” Sells said. “But I do want to say that I do indeed hear you. I do think that there are things that we as a community can change and improve, and I’m looking forward to that work.”...“One of the main issues we see is that people whose voices from marginalized communities are most needed in doing that kind of work, they come in the law school, they incur all this debt and they’re pressured into going into the private sector due to the high tuition cost,” said Mickey Belaineh, a third-year law student from Texas.

  • At Meeting, Law School Grapples With Race Relations

    December 1, 2015

    Facing a group of expectant students in a campus lecture hall on Monday, Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow did her best to mollify students who have called on her to improve campus race relations, demands that intensified after a racially-charged incident shook the school two weeks ago...“This is a time for serious challenge and serious action,” Minow said in prepared remarks. “It’s a time when we need your talents and commitments more than ever. I called this meeting to discuss efforts underway at Harvard Law School for changes inside the school and work to tackle the challenges in the world.” Those include reconsidering the use of the school’s seal, which some students criticize because of its connection to a family that once owned slaves; changing it, according to Minow, would require the approval of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body. Minow said the school also hopes to increase faculty diversity, while Marcia L. Sells, the Law School’s new dean of students, said she plans to hire a staff member to focus on diversity and inclusion, another demand common among student activists.

  • The Jackie Robinson of Ballet, Arthur Mitchell Still Full of Spirit

    November 13, 2015

    Arthur Mitchell walks gingerly now. He once moved gracefully across dance stages around the world...He's been called the Jackie Robinson of Ballet. Mitchell gained renown as the first African American to be a permanent member of a major ballet company when he joined the New York City Ballet in the mid-1950s. But his most influential achievement arguably came in 1969 when he co-founded the Dance Theater of Harlem...Much of his time is now spent going through sixty years of pictures, programs and letters — archives that he's donated to Columbia University, where he was the subject of a symposium and much praise from his former students, like Harvard Law School Dean of Students Marcia Sells. "He gave us a possibility to think and to dream," Sells said. "As he says, you have to have that. It is something I have carried with me."