Harvard Email Controversy

We’re hoping the Harvard Law School email controversy has run its course — and we suspect that it has. (But we still invite you to take our reader poll on whether Crimson DNA’s email was racist or offensive.)

Before we close the door on this story, we’d like to give you the background on how it all got started. It’s disturbing — and a cautionary tale for all of us.

Our initial report on this story was missing some important pieces of information, which we did not acquire until later. This post will attempt to provide a more complete report of how one Harvard 3L’s personal email message, shared with just a handful of friends, became national news….

UPDATE: We’ve added a statement from one of the principal players, “Yelena,” after the jump.

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If you’re tired of reading about the Harvard Law School email controversy — judging from our traffic and comment levels, most of you aren’t, but maybe some of you are — we have some good news. Our coverage is winding down. (We do have a few loose ends to tie up, though, which may take us into the weekend or early next week.)

Before we conclude, we’d like to hear from you, our readers. We’ve heard from the commenters, of course — but many readers never comment, so the commenters aren’t representative of everyone.

Reader polls, which draw much larger participation than the comments, offer a better gauge of audience sentiment. We’d like to poll you on two questions:

(1) Was Crimson DNA’s email racist?

(2) Was Crimson DNA’s email offensive?

Please vote in our two reader polls, after the jump.

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Take Our Reader Polls”

Every time you put something into an email, please remember that someone you send it to may hit Forward. If your email makes the case for a biological reason for racial disparities in intelligence, someone might hit Forward and send it to Black Law Student Associations across the nation.

That’s what happened to a Harvard 3L yesterday. We’ll call this 3L CRIMSON DNA. According to our sources, DNA made some controversial comments about race at a dinner held by the school’s Federalist Society.

CORRECTION: This dinner was not a Fed Soc dinner. [FN1]

After the dinner, DNA felt the need to send an email to a few friends clarifying those views. Here’s an excerpt:

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair.

One of the 3Ls to receive that email, available in full after the jump, was very upset by it. We’ll call this student CRIMSON OUTRAGE. OUTRAGE arranged for the email to be sent out to the Harvard Black Law Student Association list-serv, including DNA’s name and the fact that after graduation, the author will be doing a federal clerkship.

CORRECTION: It now appears that OUTRAGE disseminated the email, several months after the email was originally sent, because she got into a fight with DNA — not because she (OUTRAGE) was offended by the email.

After that, the email went viral, apparently circulating to BLSAs across the country. There are now plans to try to go after DNA’s clerkship….

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