Today we bring you another post in our series about controversy and dissension at America’s top law journal: the Harvard Law Review. Earlier posts appear here and here.
We repeat the warning we included in our last post:
[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.
It appears that a fair number of you do enjoy such ridiculousness. Our last HLR post generated over 80 comments.
The latest controversy unfolds, in all of its crimson glory, after the jump.
For those of you who haven’t read our earlier coverage, the background you need to know is that the Review’s new leader, president Andrew Crespo, has rubbed some people the wrong way. He is accused by some as being power-hungry and dictatorial. But his defenders accuse his critics of having an ideological ax to grind with him.
Enough prefatory remarks. The latest scandal has been dubbed “Recruitmentgate” by some within Gannett House. Our tipster’s account appears below.
“RECRUITMENTGATE” AT THE HARVARD LAW REVIEW
Historically, the outgoing President organizes a recruitment push during the Spring term, before the Law Review Writing Competition. It generally targets groups that are underrepresented on the journal staff, such as women and minorities, and the general tactic is to arrange personal coffee or lunch outings where current editors can talk up the law review to prospective editors.
This year, Andrew Crespo made two significant changes to the recruitment process. First, instead of letting the outgoing President coordinate the drive, he seized control for himself. Although it’s not immediately obvious why this is problematic, consider the reason for the prior policy: the incoming President is responsible for grading the competitions, while the outgoing President has no involvement with the competition at all. Although the competition is graded anonymously, many 1Ls at these outings ask how to increase their odds of getting on the Review. Having the recruiting competition coordinated by someone not connected to the competition eliminates the risk that exam-specific advice will leak. I do not think that Crespo has actually leaked exam-specific advice, even accidentally, but having the same person engage in individualized, targeted recruiting AND grading the competitions at the very least creates the appearance of a serious conflict of interest, which is why the Review has in the past forbade 2Ls from recruiting. Despite the historical precedent and the conflict of interest, Crespo unilaterally seized control of the recruiting program.
Second, and even more troubling, the former procedure had been to pass around sign-up sheets at HLR Open House-type events for 1Ls and otherwise to collect names in some voluntary fashion, and then to contact as many of those individual 1Ls as possible for targeted recruiting. Crespo dispensed with this procedure, in favor of creating a secret “Master List” of 1Ls. You couldn’t just sign up for this special List; you had to be placed on it by Crespo himself. Additionally, Crespo had secret meetings with several liberal 1L professors, at which he requested the names of their class’s top-performing women and minorities. Can you imagine what transpired at this meetings? “Can you give me a list of your smartest black students?” Quite shocking and scandalous, really, not to mention patronizing. And given Crespo’s political biases and his control over the Master List, I wonder what sorts of students ended up on it…
Some editors were so angry about these changes that they refused to participate in the recruitment program entirely. (Speaking of which, Crespo also invited select 2L and 3L editors to participate. Any doubts about which types of editors were selected, and which types weren’t?)
Basically, Crespo took control of a program with which he shouldn’t have been involved at all, and ignored all advice and historical precedent to the contrary in order to create a manipulable, secretive, unaccountable recruitment scheme over which he had complete discretion and authority.
Is it any wonder that there is a crisis of confidence at Gannett?
Earlier: Coming Attractions: Internecine Warfare at the Harvard Law Review
Gannett House Smackdown: Internecine Warfare at the Harvard Law Review (Part 1)