1. This material is not for everyone. If you don’t share our appreciation for tempests in teapots, you may have a “So what?” reaction. But if you do enjoy the hilarity of petty law school squabbles, then keep reading.
2. The internal emails reprinted below speak for themselves. After reading them, you may end up siding with the HLR editor or with president Andrew Crespo. We take no side in this controversy.
3. If you feel that we’ve missed something in our coverage, please email us (subject line: “Harvard Law Review”). We’re eager to hear from all parties to this dispute.
(Alas, it’s usually the case that one side
leaks info tocommunicates with us more than the other. As a result, that side’s viewpoint may receive more coverage in these pages. E.g., Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell. If you want to level the playing field, you need to feed us information that supports your position.)
Discussion of the latest controversy, plus internal Harvard Law Review emails, after the jump.
First, some brief background. Please note that the opinions and characterizations contained in this introductory message belong to our tipster. We have not verified them independently, so obviously take them with a grain (or shaker) of salt.
A “Dinner for Darfur” fundraiser was held at the Law School, which the Law Review co-sponsored. Despite historical practice, the Editors of the Review were not consulted about the decision to co-sponsor this event and were not even informed that it had been made. In response to a concerned Editor’s email (NOT the same Editor as from this post), President Andrew Crespo replied that the Review’s “policy” had changed and that he was planning to send out a “Memo” detailing this policy shift shortly.
As is evident from the email string below, when the Editor replied with various substantive critiques of the new policy, Crespo responded with a hysterical, quasi-paranoid, angry email and criticized the Editor for not having read the policy (that he had never publicized). Note especially the end of his email, where he indicates that he won’t publicize the new policy until August, when the 3Ls have graduated. As far as I am aware, he has followed through on that: the new policy still has not been publicized.
Here are the two emails. Please note that we received them with the redactions already made; the redactions were not made by us. We don’t know whose names have been redacted.
EMAIL FROM HARVARD LAW REVIEW EDITOR CONCERNING CO-SPONSORSHIP OF EVENTS
Sent: 4/4/2007 11:24:56 PM
To: Andrew Crespo
Cc: [various redacted]
Sorry about the delayed response. However, the time gave me a chance to cool down (a little), so perhaps this email will be less impulsive and less confrontational.
First of all, the individuals I cc’ed are just friends…[redacted].
Second of all, this isn’t about the Darfur Dinner. My concern is broader, not necessarily about this particular case. In fact, I suspect that had co-sponsorship of this particular event been put to Body discussion and vote, it would likely have passed. I wouldn’t have voted for it, since I favor a blanket rule against co-sponsorship, but that is a separate point.
Although I have not seen the Memo, I assume that it grants some type of unilateral authority to the President to make co-sponsorship decisions, at least in some circumstances. Or perhaps it contemplates a discussion among the upper echelon of the Administration, perhaps the VP or the Managing Editor or the Outreach Editor. In any case, I find this to be an extremely troubling policy, given the traditional practice, the importance of such decisions, the types of considerations that factor into them (of the community, not editorial, variety), the possibility for divisiveness, and the degree of discretion inevitably implicated by this power.
My concern is with the procedures used when the Law Review, as an institution, decides to speak collectively about a matter outside our narrow purview of advancing legal scholarship. Obviously, such decisions affect all Editors, since we are all affiliated with the Law Review. When Editors sign up to be part of the HLR, there are many things they anticipate, including the fact that many editorial decisions will be made unilaterally by the President. I am no opponent of presidential prerogative, as I believe my prior statements (including emails to you) have made clear. However, because co-sponsorship decisions invariably fall outside the traditional role of the Law Review, allowing the President to control such decisions is a particularly inappropriate mechanism.
In addition, the historical practice is to allow Body input and voting on co-sponsorship decisions. I verified this fact with your two most recent predecessors. As I pointed out earlier, the most recent example was the JLG [Journal of Law & Gender -ed.] Symposium in 2006. You can find the discussion board on that question on the website; it was a valuable and rich debate that contributed to a sense of community. Indeed, the decision which, if any, external events to co-sponsor is one that goes directly to the question of community — what type of community do we want the HLR to be, what signals do we want to send, and what symbols do we want to endorse — which is why it is particularly well-suited for group discussion and decision.
There are other good reasons for the old policy. For one, co-sponsorship decisions are inevitably dependent upon political value-judgments. Even if one accepts the premise that co-sponsorship is ever an appropriate step to take (as I do not, but others do), the number of HLS events is enormous and deciding among them will require normative judgments about the value of various events. There is no way around it. Even the Darfur Dinner, co-sponsored by the Democrats and the Republicans in an apparent show of political unity, rests on numerous political premises, for example that our charitable dollars are best spent overseas instead of to help solve poverty or homelessness in America, that the best response to the genocide is to send humanitarian aid rather than use diplomatic pressure or military intervention, and so on. In this case, we may all agree on those premises, but there are many good causes out there and the lines get blurry. What about Katrina victims? Tsunami victims? Any natural disaster victims, anywhere? What about to help terror victims? The Democrats and GOP might agree on that too, but many people might not. What about to support our troops? Again, partisan unity doesn’t equal unanimity on the HLR. How about to contribute to Obama’s presidential campaign? Many HLS students support that.
The point is that even if one believes that HLR should be drawing these lines, they shouldn’t be drawn unilaterally by the President. At most, it should be a case-by-case decision of the Body, after careful deliberation about the messages we want to send, the precedent we’d be setting, effects on our internal community, and so forth. Perhaps you will make all the right decisions, but what about the next President?
I hope that, since you have held off on sending out the Memo for a couple of weeks already, that you are yourself having second thoughts about its wisdom and about the message it sends to the Body — one of exclusion and division. I hope that you will reconsider, and choose to revert to the pre-existing practice, in which case we can put the Darfur Dinner behind us.
If you insist on adhering to this misguided change in policy, however, please be on notice that I will continue to fight it, taking the necessary next step of involving the Body myself.
EMAIL FROM HARVARD LAW REVIEW PRESIDENT, ANDREW CRESPO
From: Andrew Crespo
Sent: 4/5/2007 3:39:26 AM
Subject: Re: Dinner for Darfur
I will not spar with you over a policy decision that you have not read. I see nothing productive in addressing your concerns that this policy is both “misguided” and carrying a “message . . . of exclusion and division” when you have not seen, read or even heard the actual message itself. I can only assume that, since you have no sense of what the policy entails, you are simply operating under the presumption that I, as the president, am likely to have produced something misguided, exclusionary, and divisive. I do not know what motivates that presumption on your part, nor frankly do I care. Your personal speculation of how this policy came to be is misguided, in both fact and sentiment, but that is your own affair; we will not spar over my character or leadership style either.
I will, however, address your pledge to “continue to fight” me over this policy that you have not seen. I wonder, [redacted], how you imagine such a fight would transpire and what effect you imagine it would have on the Review you seek to defend. I have my own prediction: those who oppose the policy (hopefully after reading it), and those who support you personally, would align themselves behind you; those who support the policy, support me personally, support the office of the president, or recognize that policy decisions are, and in fact often ought to be, routinely made without a Body vote, would not align behind you. It is curious that, in the name of defending the Review from a policy enthusiastically and unanimously adopted by the President, Treasurer, Managing Editor, Business Chair, Accounting Assistant, Graduate Treasurer and Board of Trustees, you would favor a course that can only lead to the very “exclusion and division” you seek to avoid.
You can try to “continue to fight” me, [redacted], but I will not spar with you, not when your fight seems destined if not designed to create the very division we both agree is counterproductive and pernicious. I do, sincerely, appreciate your commitment to the Review and the nature of your concerns. There are no requests for co-sponsorship likely to arise for the remainder of the year nor are there any currently pending before me, other than the anti-genocide dinner we both agree the Body would readily and wholeheartedly support. I am happy to reflect over the summer upon the concerns you have raised, and to unveil this policy in August to the Volumes of the Review it will affect.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your attempt “to cool down,” if only “a little.”