The Academy and the Virtue of Contest
April 5, 2016
An op-ed by Scott Brewer: This past Wednesday evening I attended the screening of the film “Bridge of Spies” that Dean Minow and the Program on Negotiation hosted here at HLS. I had known nothing of the main subject of the film, James B. Donovan, a 1940 HLS alum (played in the film by Tom Hanks) who had a distinguished career as a lawyer-statesman-negotiator. Donovan’s career came to mind as I listened to conversations among some of my colleagues about the controversial contest over student use of a WCC space that some students have been, as they put it, “Reclaiming” (actually, “claiming”?), while other students (one, Mr. Barlow, has been especially prominent) have been seeking to use it to speak by means of posters even as Reclaim has sought to deny him that speech. The film made clear that Donovan was willing to champion robust advocacy, as a matter of principle, even in support of deeply unpopular causes, at personal cost and risk. As far as I can tell, the historical record of Donovan’s life seems to support the conclusion that the real-life Donovan really had and lived by these views.