For decades, the symbol of Harvard Law School has graced campus structures and school materials alike. But soon, the seal may be eliminated because it no longer reflects the values of the institution.Image credit: Screenshot/USNews.com
The shield comes from the family crest of Isaac Royall, Jr., whose financial gift was the impetus for Harvard’s first endowed law professorship. But Royall’s father was a slaveholder in the 18th century, and he passed his assets down to his son.
This week, a 12-member committee from the school recommended that the symbol be retired because of the Royall family’s ties to slavery. One passage from the committee’s report reads:
“[I]f the Law School is to assess its relationship to Isaac Royall, Jr., it is sufficient that his wealth came from slave labor. We need not charge him with the alleged brutality of his father or credit him with his own alleged kindness.”
Harvard Law School dean, Martha Minow, endorsed the committee’s decision. Her own father is Newton Minow, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who, in May of 1961, called television in America “a vast wasteland” when speaking to the National Association of Broadcasters.
Students are using the hashtag #ReclaimHLS to protest the school’s emblem:
— ReclaimHarvardLaw (@ReclaimHLS) December 9, 2015
The committee’s decision must still be approved by the Harvard Corporation, the governing board of the law school, before any changes are made to the crest.