Last week, African American law students at Harvard and Columbia petitioned their administrations to postpone law exams due to "traumatic effects," as a Columbia email put it, after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. Both universities agreed to accommodate requests on a case-by-case basis. At Penn, no such requests have been made.
“This is more than a personal emergency. This is a national emergency,” Harvard Law students wrote in a letter to their administration. Students claimed that they were emotionally disturbed by the grand jury decisions, which impaired their ability to study. Students at Columbia furthered that all the time they spent protesting meant they had less time to study for exams.
At Harvard Law, postponing exams for personal reasons is not out of the ordinary, the school’s Public Information Officer Michelle Deakin said.
“The Law School's longstanding exam deferral policy allows for individualized consideration of any student’s request for deferral,” she wrote in an email.
While Harvard and Columbia law students have requested exam deferrals, no such requests have come their Penn peers, Associate Dean of Communications Steven Barnes said. He believes that Penn Law has taken steps to mitigate emotional disturbance in the aftermath of the grand jury decisions.
“After the decision was announced, the Law School community — faculty, students, and staff — convened in Fitts Auditorium to discuss the implications of the decision for our justice system and society,” he said.
Within days of the Ferguson decision, Penn Law students hosted a four and a half minute die-in to reflect on the four and a half hours that Michael Brown’s body lay dead on the street when he was killed on August 9.
Whether students have the right to postpone exams due to political issues has itself been a point of controversy. David Bernstein, a professor at the George Mason University School of Law, told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that Columbia has “chosen to infantilize [its students], suggesting that adult law students can’t handle hearing about perceived injustices in the world.”
Penn Law finals run through December 19.
Update: A previous version of this article quoted the word "trauma" in the headline, rather than "traumatic effects." The headline was changed to clarify that it is a direct quote from a Columbia University email.Comments powered by Disqus
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