Protest if You Choose But Live With Your Decision

A healthy (for the most part) display of the exercise of First Amendment rights took place after the grand jury decisions in the Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York cases in which black men died at the hands of white law enforcement officers. Some of those choosing to protest now don’t want to deal with the consequences of their decision.

Students at Harvard, Georgetown and Columbia law schools have requested a delay in their exams arguing that participating in demonstrations left them unable to properly prepare. They shouldn’t get one. While exercising free speech rights in times of trouble is admirable, it doesn’t free one from other responsibilities.

A student group at Harvard not only wants a delay in exams but criticized law school faculty for staying silent in the aftermath of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Brown was shot after a confrontation with a Ferguson police officer. Garner died after a Staten Island officer used what is believed to be a choke hold while trying to arrest Garner for selling loose cigarettes.

“We led rallies, held vigils, and published an op-ed. You were silent on this issue,” the group wrote. “We petitioned the government, served as legal observers, created spaces of solidarity, drafted model legislation, and marched through the streets of Boston and Cambridge.”


The students should be congratulated for expressing their views. The mistake they make is assuming the faculty should somehow automatically share those views. They also should not get a delay in exams because they chose to do something with their time other than prepare.

So far, Harvard has not capitulated to the students. Per the school’s existing policy, each student can petition for relief from the exam schedule. They will be considered on a case-by-case basis.