The Griswold 9 and Student Activism for Faculty Diversity at Harvard Law School
in the Early 1990s
Harvard Journal on Racial & Ethnic Justice, Vol. 27, pp. 49-96, 2011
48 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2011 Last revised: 21 Aug 2016
Date Written: 2011
This article reconstructs a mostly forgotten moment in Harvard Law School history when the students organized in the early 1990s across race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability and disability lines to push for faculty diversity. The new student coalition, called the Coalition for Civil Rights, gave the students’ activism unusual momentum. This initiative included the first time that law students, acting pro se, sued their law school for discrimination in faculty hiring and the first time Harvard Law School students were publically tried by their school’s Administrative Board for conducting an overnight sit-in at the Dean’s office (i.e., the Griswold 9 incident). Drawing upon social movement theory, the author analyzes why the activism was so robust during this time period by applying the concepts of signaling, framing, and resource mobilization to the actions of the students. The author argues that the unprecedented diversity of the coalition contributed to the activism’s intensity in key ways. First, the protests by this diverse group signaled to the entire student body that the faculty diversity movement was gaining momentum. Second, the ways in which the coalition members framed an inclusive conception of diversity created a sense of strong group cohesion among students. Third, the diversity of the group served as a resource that enhanced the coalition’s problem solving abilities. The author concludes that although the most vigorous activism was relatively short-lived, the students that were involved in this coalition were nonetheless successful in making their voices heard by Harvard University and the general public.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation