Harvard implements new social media policy

Law students at Harvard have to be careful when posting (or ranting) about class discussions on their social media accounts. The law school recently made changes to its Community Principle on Non-Attribution policy on its website. 

“To fulfill Harvard Law School’s mission of training excellent lawyers, our classrooms must offer an environment in which all participants feel able to engage in free, open, respectful discussion of complex, sensitive, and consequential questions,” the website reads. “In training to be the best lawyers they can be, students must be able to try arguments on for size, change their minds, and take risks.”

The policy claims social media may present a danger to this method of learning by taking statements out of context and making students afraid to fully participate.

“Because of the potential permanence and widespread dissemination of communications through social media and other forms of communication designed to reach members of the public, if statements made in class are quoted or described with attribution in those media, students may be reluctant to approach any question, particularly controversial ones, with the openness and vulnerability they need to grow as lawyers and to learn from one another,” it reads.

According to the Harvard Crimson, Chance Fletcher, a law student and president of Harvard Law’s Federalist Society, cleaned a gun during an April Zoom class. Someone took a screenshot of him, and the image was shared many times on Twitter and various news sites. 

Now the social media policy reads, “When using social media or other forms of communication designed to reach members of the public, no one may repeat or describe a statement made by a student in class in a manner that would enable a person who was not present in the class to identify the speaker of the statement.”

The policy also applies to written statements made in classroom-related spaces, and faculty can adopt additional guidelines, providing that they are stated clearly before the class starts, according to the law school webpage. It does not list penalties for violating the policy.

In early June, Harvard Law School was the first to announce that it would be fully online for the fall 2020 semester