In 2002, Kiwi Camara, a Filipino-American student studying at the Harvard Law School, joined most of his classmates in posting his class outlines for the previous year on the school website. But in his notes, Camara had used shorthand terms that some regarded as racial slurs. In the furor that followed, administrators proposed a speech code to prohibit members of the law school community from voicing racially insensitive remarks. The chain of events triggered by this decision convulsed the nation’s oldest and most prestigious school of law, and called into question its commitment to freedom of speech and basic constitutional liberties.
The clashing ideas and personalities of this case are at the core of The People v. Harvard Law. In this fascinating insider’s account, Andrew Peyton Thomas recounts how the school’s intellectual heavyweights–Charles Fried, Alan Dershowitz, Laurence Tribe, Charles Nessen and others–were drawn into open conflict with each other and with the administration. Thomas takes us into the administrative offices, faculty lounges and classrooms, showing that the Camara case is only the latest front in a culture war that has ravaged Harvard Law over the last 25 years. Racial demagogues have challenged its integrity and sense of mission; a growing cadre of Marxist-inspired professors have taught that American law is a sham controlled by white capitalist oppressors; and students who dissent from this smothering orthodoxy are hissed at in class and openly harassed throughout the school.
In this brilliant portrait of a historic American institution in crisis, Andrew Peyton Thomas explains how what happens at Harvard Law affects the nation whose courts, boardrooms, entertainment industry and government are filled with its graduates.