The recent Grand Jury rulings have left some Harvard law students so “traumatized” that they have not been able to study for their finals and have asked for an extension.
The most recent Grand Jury decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner in New York last July is the reason some students at the prestigious Ivy League school are requesting exemptions for finals to be taken later.
But Harvard Law School students are not the only ones making what many see as ridiculous requests to postpone their finals dates. Law students at Columbia and Georgetown have also asked their college administration to do the same.
Nobody is making light of the loss of life in the shooting of Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s choking death, both of whom were black and killed by white police officers for very different reasons, according to the evidence presented to the Grand Jury in both cases. The decisions have resulted in nationwide — and also international — protests, which have disrupted normal life for millions of residents of the affected cities, who are just going about their business.
While the controversial rulings have sparked a national conversation about police tactics and unwarranted brutality, the two cases are starkly different. It is understandable that those who are passionate about the law and plan on making a living in that field have been affected by the decision, but many see this as simply a poor excuse to get out of studying for the dreaded finals.
A student coalition — which includes a wide variety of student minorities — at Harvard Law School wrote a letter on Monday on behalf of students who have spent their time at sit-ins and other protests and presented it to the administration.
“This is more than a personal emergency. This is a national emergency. We, students of color, cannot breathe….We charge you to acknowledge that Black Lives Matter.”
The Harvard law students asked school administration officials for an “opportunity to reschedule their exams in good faith and at their own discretion.”
Spokesman Robb London said on Wednesday that Harvard Law School has a exam deferral policy, which allows the school to look at each request individually. A group of students voiced their support of exam extension on campus Wednesday and justified the need for the extension by explaining that the protesters were doing their civic duty and asking for justice.
“Our staff is available to consider all such requests and, more importantly, to provide students with the support they need,” London said.
However, many students didn’t agree with the requests and are proceeding with their scheduled exams. “Gimme a break. Extensions are for students who have a death in the family, not because they have spent too much time marching in rallies,” one unidentified student told the Boston Globe.
David Bernstein, a professor at the George Mason University School of Law, told Business Week that Columbia, while right to show sensitivity to its students, has “chosen to infantilize them, suggesting that adult law students can’t handle hearing about perceived injustices in the world.”
“Nobody said it was going to be easy or even fair,” former attorney and Harvard Law School graduate Elie Mystal wrote in the blog Above the Law: Redline Mystal, “but showing up to take your test in the face of this adversity happens to be what is required. It’s a learning experience: how do I excel when the racism is so thick that I can’t breathe? It’s a skill that you might as well learn in school because it will be required of you in life.”
Do you think the Harvard Law School students are taking advantage of the chaos following the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson and New York or do they have a valid point?
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