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All the Right's Moves, continued

While conservatives worry about being silenced, the rise of the Federalist Society and other groups has prompted liberals to start a rally of their own. So effective have the Federalists been here that liberals founded their own chapter of its counterorganization, the American Constitution Society, last year.

"[The American Constitution Society] was founded based on a sense that the Federalists had in fact managed to capture much of legal discourse on important issues of individual liberties and constitutional values and that it was time for liberals to think about providing a coherent and organized response and to sort of redirect the debate," said Assistant Professor Heather Gerken, who serves as faculty adviser to the ACS.

Gerken argues that conservatives' renewed strength comes more from organization than sheer numbers. "The Federalist Society has been extremely effective in creating a more organized conservative presence, but I doubt it's made this campus more conservative," she said.

Whether their number has changed or not, conservatives are certainly more visible. It comes in a variety of forms, from students speaking out in class to more tangible reminders--like the yellow flyers distributed to students' Hark boxes in November by the Society for Law, Life and Religion, which reminded students that they could request a refund of the portion of their Health Services fee that funds elective abortions. The small but vocal group of social conservatives who operate the SLLR keep themselves busy throughout the year working on litigation projects and amicus curiae briefs, participating in anti-abortion rallies, raising money for pro-life causes and sponsoring speakers such as conservative commentator Alan Keyes.

"Planned Parenthood and NARAL have been very successful in marketing to college-age women," said the SLLR's Campbell. "Most women go to college pro-life and leave college pro-choice. . . . People are more likely to consider you some kind of freak for being pro-life . . . partly because it's been spun as if the 'female' attitude is that you have to be pro-choice."

For members of the newly formed Alliance of Independent Feminists, the "female" attitude doesn't look much like the orthodoxy typically associated with female-focused politics. Despite the name, most AIF women share few views with Catharine MacKinnon or Andrea Dworkin. On the HLS campus, their view of equality sounds even more radical, stressing commitment to home and family as an integral part of a woman's life.

"In AIF, we are feminists because we believe women are equal and different," said AIF president Lea Sevcik '03, who was one of a dozen women who founded the group in the spring of 2001. "Women are intellectually equal to men, but their roles in society are naturally different due to their physical capabilities and psychological inclinations. Women should be able to focus on careers, but they are not traitors if they stay home as mothers, and their contribution to society is just as valuable."

Like many of her counterparts, Sevcik said her views don't put her as far out of the mainstream as some might think. "I don't feel like an outcast," she said. "In fact, I don't think my views are that different from what most women sense deep within. I just think that it's OK to be feminine, it's OK to want to have a family and even to put it ahead of your career, and that women are equal to men even when they do these things."

As soon as Sevcik and her right-leaning peers leave HLS, they may never be significantly in the minority again. As for the law school itself, Fried and others readily assent that it will likely remain the "command centre of American liberalism." This means that for the students on this Cambridge campus who believe in the many varieties of American conservatism, their ideologies are being forged and tested by an institution whose faculty does not reflect their beliefs, and that has an occasionally hostile student body to boot.

"I think it's definitely a problem on campus that conservative students feel silenced here, and a number of them have indicated that they're afraid to speak in class," Gerken said. "The idea is to create a classroom where everybody feels comfortable speaking, and that's hard to do as a teacher. As a law school, we need to think a lot about our pedagogy and how we facilitate classroom discussions."

Conservative students will undoubtedly continue to question what they perceive as the law school's philosophical lopsidedness. But ask conservative students if they are sorry they came here, and the answer is always a resounding "no." Paradoxically, no matter how unreceptive HLS may be to their views, the law school will continue to attract bright, capable conservative students. Some may be hell-bent on changing the status quo; others may find ways to thrive in less-than-welcoming classrooms. But whether conservatives have the faculty on their side or not, they cannot complain that they do not have a voice or a place to go. "The Federalist Society is a place that like-minded students can go and find refuge from the leftist storm that rages around them," Fielding said. Thanks to the Federalist Society and other groups, then, HLS may seem a little bit more like the world the students will find themselves in soon enough.

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