Blog: Staff

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December 9, 2015

Op-Ed: Staff Are Organizing To Fight Racism at Harvard Law School

Posted by Gabriela Gonzalez Follett

This Op-Ed was originally posted in the Harvard Law School Record, as part of #HLSUntaped, an open discussion on race at the law school. 

When I first started working at Harvard Law School, I had 13 stops. That’s how long it took to get from Ashmont Station, near my childhood home in Dorchester, to Harvard Square, where I had just accepted a job as a program assistant. Thirteen stops I had to convince myself that I belonged at the law school and that I had a place among the elite. Even today, a year later, I stop outside Wasserstein every morning, take a couple of deep breaths, and prepare to leave a part of myself on Massachusetts Avenue.

It’s my job as a staff member to serve the HLS community. I serve students their food, I process affidavit letters for alums, and I book professors’ rooms for meetings. But just because I serve  does not make me a servant. Many people at HLS understand this. But in an institution that has a strong caste system, with very few people of color at the top, it is inevitable that some individuals treat staff as the “other.”

I’ve been described as an affirmative action hire before—that comes with the territory of being Latina in America. But I never thought I’d hear this comment at an elite institution like Harvard Law School, let alone on my second week of work. I never thought I’d hear a student tell  me  I speak well, coming from Dorchester with a Latina background. This rhetoric of racism  is not unique. The narratives I hear from staff of color at the law school about these kinds of micro aggressions are paralyzing, and need to be addressed.

As little support as the students of color get at this school, staff of color get even less. The law school has an opportunity to embrace the movement and empower its community. Establish an office of diversity and inclusion, as well as other institutional changes aimed at curtailing organizational hierarchy and injustice against students, staff and faculty. Make a sustained commitment to the recruitment, retention, promotion, and professional development of staff of color at all levels, particularly in senior management. Implement measures to ensure staff of color are respected and supported in their work, including required cultural competency training for all.

The privilege I have as an administrator in the Human Rights Program allows me to speak out and not fear reprisal. I can organize and attend meetings because my community not only supports and encourages this work, but trusts that I will get my work done. Other staff do not have that kind of freedom.

It has been an honor to take a place in this growing movement at HLS. Relationships are building in all corners of the school. Staff of color are meeting for “family dinner,” a place to find fellowship and work towards empowering each other.  Staff and students are coming together, energized, collaborative, and committed to creating a better climate. Allies across the law school offer support and valuable skills in times where it can feel overwhelming for people of color.

I invite you—staff, students, administrators, senior management, Dean Minow–to join us.

To follow the movement, check out #ReclaimHarvardLaw and #RoyallMust Fall, a campaign specifically targeted at getting the law school’s crest removed. The crest is taken from the seal of the Royall family, known as particularly brutal slavers.

Below, images from an effort led by Gabriela, Anna Crowe and Katherine Talbot  to show staff solidarity with people of color at the law school.

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September 25, 2012

Kaitlyn Hennigan Honored with the Dean’s Award for Excellence

Posted by Susan Farbstein and Tyler Giannini

Our very own Kaitlyn Hennigan was one of nine employees honored yesterday with the Dean’s Award for Excellence.  This annual award recognizes HLS employees who excel in multiple areas: innovation, leadership, commitment, learning, and collaboration.

A young woman stands between her parents. All three smile.
Kaitlyn celebrates with her parents after receiving the Dean’s Award for Excellence.

As we wrote in our nomination, Kaitlyn epitomizes these qualities.  As Program Coordinator, she makes the Clinic hum along smoothly, administering all aspects of our extremely large shop with limitless energy and friendliness.  These qualities are matched by organizational skills and creativity that give her an uncanny ability to juggle a dozen things at once, and efficiently. She interacts daily with students and clinicians, answering questions and emails about clinical processes or policies, and communicating about courses and projects.

Students and clinicians know that Kaitlyn is reliable and dependable, and regularly look to her for advice and suggestions.  They consistently praise her responsiveness and warmth, as well as her ability to thoughtfully solve problems. In short, Kaitlyn is a “go to” person not only for our clinicians and students, but also for other departments that recognize her as an invaluable team player and resource.

We’re so lucky to be able to depend on Kaitlyn, knowing she’ll take care of everything with excellence that represents our Clinic and the Law School in the very best light.  Congratulations, Kaitlyn, on this well-deserved award!

NOTE: In addition to Kaitlyn, the Dean honored eight more of our colleagues at Monday’s ceremony: John Arciprete, Director of Facilities, Facilities Management; Kirsten Bermingham, Assistant Director for Administration, OPIA; Lisa Burns, Registrar, Registrar’s Office; Kathleen Curley, Program Administrator, Faculty Support Services; Russell Keyes, Building Services Coordinator, Facilities Management; Sarah Morton, Administrative Director, Prison Legal Aid Program; Darris Saylors, Student Programs Manager, Dean of Students; Jeanne Tai, Assistant Dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies.


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August 22, 2012

Giannini and Neuman appointed co-directors of the Human Rights Program

Posted by Harvard Law School Communications

Tyler Giannini, Clinical Professor of Law, and Gerald L. Neuman ’80, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign and Comparative Law, have been appointed co-directors of the Human Rights Program (HRP) at Harvard Law School.

Said HLS Dean Martha Minow: “I’m delighted to announce Gerry Neuman and Tyler Giannini as co-directors of Harvard’s Human Rights Program. Tyler is a pioneer in the development of theories of liability in the field of human rights, and his efforts have guided our path-breaking clinic and he has collaborated with clinical students and superb colleagues in human rights advocacy pursuing all the available tools—investigations, litigation, media, and coalition-building. Gerry’s distinguished scholarship spans human rights, constitutional law, and regulations of immigration and refugees; his immense expertise in international human rights law includes his invaluable contributions and experiences as a member of the UN’s Human Rights Committee. Outstanding as individuals, Tyler and Gerry are an amazing team, and I look forward to the new initiatives emerging through their collaboration and leadership.”

HRP is the central venue for international human rights work at Harvard Law School, offering students a range of opportunities to engage in academic pursuits and to apply theory to practice, both on campus and abroad. By fostering scholarship, engagement with pressing issues, and training in human rights advocacy, HRP’s faculty has worked for decades to educate students who will become leaders of the human rights movement. Now in its 28th year, HRP was founded by Emeritus Professor Henry Steiner ’55.

“I cannot think of two better people than Gerald Neuman and Tyler Giannini to continue to strengthen HRP as one of the premiere human rights programs in the world,” said Lisa Dealy, assistant dean of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. “Having them both at the helm of this joint directorship ensures that the International Human Rights Clinic is closely integrated with the academic Human Rights Program, which is greatly beneficial to both the practice on the ground and the broader study of human rights law.”

“It’s an honor to be part of HRP and its long tradition of excellence,” Giannini said. “HRP represents the very best in the Law School’s efforts to combine scholarship and practice in an academic setting. HRP is a place where scholarship is informed by practice through our International Human Rights Clinic, and just as importantly, the efforts of our Clinic are enriched greatly by HRP’s engagement with intellectual pursuits.”

Said Neuman: “I am excited about continuing the Human Rights Program’s tradition of intellectually rigorous engagement with the field of human rights advocacy and implementation. I also hope to build stronger connections with the wider academic community here at HLS, and in the University more generally.”

HRP cultivates coursework and student participation in human rights activities through its summer fellowships, clinical work, Visiting Fellows program, speaker series, applied research, scholarship, including books, and collaborations with student and professional human rights organizations in the United States and abroad. Under the leadership of Neuman and HRP’s Academic Director, Mindy Roseman, the program’s affiliates also plan and direct international conferences and roundtables on human rights issues, and publish regular reports and scholarship resulting from these events.

Led by Giannini and Assistant Clinical Professor Susan Farbstein, the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), an independent arm of HRP, mentors and trains students through practical education across the spectrum of human rights issues. Clinical students draft reports and briefs, conduct legal analyses, undertake fact-finding trips, litigate, work with concerned citizens, and advocate for policy change. Areas of faculty specialty include: Alien Tort Statute (ATS) litigation, criminal justice in Latin America, weapons, sexual and reproductive health, civilian protection during times of armed conflict, corporate accountability, protest and assembly rights, and environment and human rights. Clinicians also specialize in geographic areas such as Brazil, Burma, South Africa, and the United States.

“One of the great parts of HRP is being able to work with a community of practitioners and scholars each day on pressing human rights questions,” Giannini said. “In addition to [senior leadership], HRP has another dozen clinical instructors, visiting scholars and fellows each year along with scores of active students involved in human rights research and practice. This creates a vibrant human rights community at the Law School.”

About Tyler Giannini

Headshot of a man wearing glasses, a black blazer, and a yellow shirt.
Clinical Professor of Law Tyler Giannini

Giannini’s upcoming clinical work, teaching and research activities will focus on the areas of business and human rights, human rights and community lawyering, human rights and the changes occurring in Burma, and human rights clinical pedagogy.

A specialist on Burma, Southeast Asia, and South Africa, Giannini joined HLS as a clinical advocacy fellow at HRP in 2004. He was appointed as a lecturer on law in 2006, became director of IHRC in 2007 and was appointed as a clinical professor of law in 2010.

Giannini’s theories of tort liability have played a significant role in holding corporations responsible for the human rights ramifications of their enterprise activities. For the past 17 years, he has been a leading ATS litigator.

Recently, for example, in 2012, Giannini and Farbstein filed two amicus curiae briefs before the Supreme Court on behalf of legal historians in the case Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. The case, one of the most significant human rights cases to be heard by the Supreme Court in recent years, has attracted international attention, the Harvard Gazette recently reported. Brought by 12 Nigerians, the case alleges that the oil company was complicit in torture, extrajudicial executions, and other crimes against humanity during the 1990s.

As one of the architects of the Doe v. Unocal litigation, Giannini helped develop the concept of corporate ATS litigation, one of the most important vehicles for modern international human rights law reform. This precedent-setting ATS litigation concerning the Yadana gas pipeline in Burma resulted in a confidential settlement that is reported to be one of the largest ever in an ATS case.

He also teaches and practices law at the intersection of human rights and the environment. Prior to joining HLS, he co-founded and co-directed EarthRights International (ERI) for a decade in Thailand. ERI is a non-profit NGO at the forefront of innovative efforts to link human rights and environmental protection. Giannini has continued this effort at IHRC, undertaking work related to dams, mining, and climate change.

Giannini’s work has also focused on Burma and South Africa. He has written several reports with clinical students on human rights abuses in Burma, including one in 2009 that was influential in bringing attention to potential war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country. He has traveled to South Africa more than a dozen times with clinical students, and co-authored the book, “Prosecuting Apartheid-Era Crimes? A South African Dialogue on Justice” (Harvard University Press, 2009) with Farbstein.

He has led clinical students on numerous fact-finding, case-development, and advocacy missions to Bolivia, Canada, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand/Burma, South Africa, and South Korea.

Giannini is a cum laude graduate of the College of William and Mary, where he majored in history and government with an emphasis on international relations. He holds a Master of Arts in foreign affairs and a law degree from University of Virginia, where he served on the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review.

About Gerald Neuman

Headshot of a man with gray hair wearing a blue button down and tie.
Professor Gerald L. Neuman ’80

Neuman is an expert on international human rights law, comparative constitutional law, and immigration and nationality law. In the next few years, his teaching will concentrate specifically on the areas of international human rights, and immigration and nationality law.

In 2011, he was elected to the Human Rights Committee, a body of 18 independent experts who assess and critique countries’ records on civil and political rights. The premier treaty body in the UN human rights system, the committee monitors compliance by 167 states parties with their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is part of the “International Bill of Rights.” The committee is composed of 18 independent members from 18 different countries with recognized expertise in the field of human rights. The members are elected to four-year terms by state parties.

Three times a year, in three-week sessions in either Geneva or New York, the committee takes on matters of human rights by examining the records of several different countries; by elaborating on the meaning of provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in the context of the current state of human rights and international law; and by reviewing cases where someone’s rights were allegedly violated—a defendant who has been tortured into confessing a crime, for instance, or a family trying to find justice for a “disappeared” person. The committee publishes its findings and reports them annually to the U.N. General Assembly.

Neuman’s nomination to the Human Rights Committee originated in the State Department, and was based on his long history of scholarship and advocacy on human rights issues, including amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court for Guantánamo detainees in 2004 (Rasul v. Bush) and 2008 (Boumediene v. Bush).

Those briefs grew out of two strands of Neuman’s work: An examination of the extraterritorial application of constitutional rights, including the rights of Haitian refugees housed at Guantánamo during the 1990s, and his study of the habeas corpus rights of foreign nationals in the immigration process.

In 2010, Neuman was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He is the co-author of the casebook “Human Rights” (Foundation Press 2nd ed. 2009) with Louis Henkin, Sarah Cleveland and Laurence R. Helfer, and the author of the book “Strangers to the Constitution: Immigrants, Borders and Fundamental Law” (1996), an analysis of the role of location and status in defining constitutional rights.

His most recent articles include “The Brakes that Failed: Constitutional Restriction of International Agreements in France” (Cornell International Law Journal, 2012), “The External Reception of Inter-American Human Rights Law” (Quebec Journal of International Law, 2011) and “Anti-Ashwander: Constitutional Litigation as a First Resort in France” (New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, 2010).

Neuman joined the HLS faculty in 2006 from Columbia Law School, where he had taught since 1992. In addition to a J.D. from HLS, he holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an A.B. from Harvard College.

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