Under pressure from protesters and heightened racial tension, Harvard Law School may redesign its official shield.
A committee Friday urged school officials to abandon the shield because it includes the crest of a slave-owning family, reports the Harvard Crimson.
All but two of the 12 committee members said in a report to the university’s governing body, the Harvard Corporation, that the shield does not reflect the school’s values.
“There are better ways to engage the past and its legacy in the present than by retaining a symbol that so many members of the community reject,” the report states.
According to the school’s newspaper, the shield was designed in 1936 and incorporated the Royall family’s crest, which features three sheaves of wheat. Isaac Royall Jr., a wealthy slave owner, established an endowment used for Harvard’s first law professorship.
Harvard, like several other universities, is experiencing a period of turmoil over the use of historic symbols linked to a racist past. The Harvard student group Royall Must Fall began its campaign in October to scrap the shield.
A month later, Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow launched the committee, comprised of faculty, students, staff and alumni.
In the dissenting opinion, joined by one other committee member, legal professor Annette Gordon-Reed urged the governing body to be “daring” and not sweep away the troubled past. She wrote that discarding it “would be an abdication of our responsibility to the enslaved and a missed opportunity to educate,” according to the Crimson.
Minow joined those who want the shield replaced. The Crimson quoted her accompanying memorandum:
“We must always face not only the fact of slavery but also its legacies and ongoing questions of injustice within our community and beyond. We must do so because we are dedicated to intellectual rigor and truth, and because we are willing and able to model reasoned discourse and openness to difference and dissent.”
The movement to remove the shield gained momentum in November when vandals placed a strip of black tape across the photograph portraits of African-American law professors lining the hallway of the law school.
Following that incident, Minnow acknowledged what many others were saying about the law school. She said, “Racism exists in America and in the United States and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School,” the Crimson reported, adding that “it’s a serious problem.”
The Harvard Corporation will consider the recommendation and make a final decision on the future of the law school’s shield.
SOURCE: Harvard Crimson | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter