Campus

Critics of American Democracy Accuse Harvard Law Professor of Illiberalism

Left-wing students who hate the legal system are upset that a right-wing professor agrees

A People's Parity Project sign / Twitter

Progressive student activists at Harvard Law School—many of whom have called for a total transformation of the American justice system—are upset that one of their professors is calling for the same.

In a 45-page letter sent to administrators, students urged Harvard to "take action" against Adrian Vermeule, a constitutional law professor who has praised forced labor in fascist Spain as an example of the "good society."

"We are writing to you because HLS Professor Adrian Vermeule has, for over a year, been making highly offensive, discriminatory, and violent statements in online posts and in the press," the letter reads, citing several examples.

It was authored by People's Parity Project, a group of law students and new attorneys who aim to "unf*ck the law" by ending "how the legal profession—and the law itself—enables harassment, discrimination, and other injustices."

That is a goal Vermeule himself shares: The 52-year-old legal scholar has argued that American liberal democracy is just as oppressive as communism and that "nonliberal actors" should "work to undo the liberalism of the state from within."

"We anticipate that Prof. Vermeule will accuse us of limiting academic freedom for raising these concerns," the letter continues, "but in fact it is Prof. Vermeule who has repeatedly advocated for violence against those with different political viewpoints."

Vermeule—who has written that much of First Amendment jurisprudence should "fall under the ax"—told the Washington Free Beacon that he is "confident that Harvard will uphold its longstanding moral and contractual commitments … to protecting academic freedom and free speech."

Harvard's student activists haven't always been worried about violent language. In 2016, another law professor, Mark Tushnet, wrote that liberals should take "a hard line" against social conservatives who lost the culture wars.

"Trying to be nice to the losers didn't work well after the Civil War, nor after Brown," Tushnet wrote. "And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945." No activist groups condemned the comparison.

The letter also accuses Vermeule of "exacerbating the harmful spread of election disinformation."

"Kids, not sure if you knew this, but missing ballots have magical properties that make them visible only between midnight and 6am," reads one of the professor's many tweets.

In August, however, the group's cofounder herself tweeted that "Trump & the GOP are destroying the USPS to steal this election," in reference to reports of USPS drop boxes being removed. It turned out that many of those boxes had only been removed temporarily so that they could be refurbished and repaired—at the behest of the Postal Service itself.

The People's Parity Project did not respond to requests for comment.