Police Investigate Possible Hate Crime at Harvard Law

By  | 

Harvard Law is currently on edge as police officers investigate a possible hate crime on campus. Black tape was placed over the faces of portraits of Harvard Law’s black professors in Wasserstein Hall, where more than 180 professor’s portraits are displayed.

The tape appeared despite many protests around the country about the treatment of students of color at schools such as Mizzou and Yale. Other schools have protested incidents on their own campuses, or protested in solidarity with schools and students nationwide. At Harvard, the day before the tape was found, undergraduate students marched with nearby Tufts University students in solidarity for Mizzou and Yale.

The tape that was used on the black professors’ portraits appears to have been taken from a nearby demonstration protesting the law school seal. Students placed black tape over a seal located in Wasserstein Hall. The seal comes from the family of Isaac Royall Jr., a well-known and ruthless slave owner. The campus group Royall Must Fall or (RMF) is dedicated to getting the logo removed from official use at Harvard Law.  

After the defacements were discovered on Thursday morning, students interrupted Dean Martha Minow’s class to discuss the issue. All said and done, more than 300 concerned students, staff, and faculty met on Thursday afternoon to discuss the incident and how to move forward, and police are still investigating it as a hate crime. There have been a wide range of reactions at Harvard Law in light of the incident, from shock to horror to (most depressingly) a lack of surprise. For example, A.J. Clayburn, a student, told CNN: 

Speaking as a student of color, I know that, while I am hurt and saddened, I am not surprised. This is merely a symptom of the greater systemic racism that currently permeates this law school and legal institutions in general.

The black tape from the portraits was quickly removed, and instead many students left post it notes on the affected professors’ portraits praising and applauding them. 

While it’s a nice touch, it’s obviously not going to make the problems at Harvard Law, or the overall protests and air of discontent at many of our nation’s preeminent educational institutions, go away. The investigation is pending, and tensions are clearly still palpable.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



Send this to friend