Page 1

The Journal for Public Interest

A publication of the Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee

Dear Reader, A program of the Phillips Brooks House Association, the Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee (HULC) is the only pre-professional organization at Harvard dedicated to public-interest law. In pursuit of its mission to help students gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the field, HULC initially envisioned creating a publication focused solely on public-interest law. However, in order to advance a larger dialogue about public service on campus and beyond, HULC expanded the focus of the publication to include any topic related to public interest—that is, to the promotion of the common good.

On the following pages is the first manifestation of that expanded vision.

Within these pages you will find columns on topics including American education and financial regulation. You will read inspiring reflections on volunteer experiences in Harvard programs, such as Keylatch and Roxbury Youth Initiative. You will hear opinions, which we hope will spark debate, on topics as diverse as American Sign Language and our treatment of the homeless. You will read about the current work of campus organizations that are dedicated to serving the public interest.

Indeed, public service is not one single thing. The diversity of articles on the pages that follow demonstrates the breadth of public-interest work; we can serve the common good on

innumerable fronts. Thus, the following articles may be diverse in their content, but they are nevertheless united by the common theme of public service. Without further ado, we present the inaugural issue of the Journal for Public Interest. We hope that the following pages open a dialogue about the diverse field of public-interest work while inspiring you to serve. Read more articles and join the coversation online at Sincerely, Tevin Colbert & Curtis Lahaie Co-Editors-in-Chief

Executive Board Co-Editors-in-Chief Webmaster Director of Publicity Director of Design

Tevin Colbert ‘14 & Curtis Lahaie ‘15 David Campos ‘15 Sarah Cole ‘16 Snow Rui ‘15

Join us. Apply online at

Columnists & Contributers Columnists Contributing Writers

Issue 1, Fall 2013

PhotoCourtesy Courtesy of Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons Commons


Sarah Cole Rebecca Brooks Hannah M. Borowsky Sarah Cole Mercer Cook Erica Eisen Natalia Gorachuk Shaquilla Harrigan Omar Khoshafa Curtis Lahaie Jalem Towler Journal for Public Interest

Table of Contents

3 Recognizing Harvard Square’s Invisible Men

11 This Is About People

4 We Should Be One and the Same

12 A Look at Harvard College Stories for Orphans

By Omar Khoshafa

By Hannah M. Borowsky

By Curtis Lahaie

By Natalia Gorbachuk & Mercer Cook

Financial Regulation A column by Rebecca Brooks

13 Buckley Revisited 14 JP Morgan Chase Reaches $13 Billion Settlement


Photo Courtesy of TLDEF

15 Robin Hood and His Merry Tax 16 The Fiction of Libor

Educating the Nation A column by Sarah Cole

5 What Will Happen to Them? 6 No Place for Tracking 7 Freeing Our Lesson Plan 8 Everyone Learns that in 3rd Grade, Right?

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


17 Service that Transforms

By Jalem Towler

18 Hands that Speak

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Erica Eisen


9 A Look at Harvard Effective Altruism By Sarah Cole

10 Working with Keylatch

By Shaquilla Harrigan Photo Courtesy of Jalem Towler




Recognizing Harvard Square’s Invisible Men O

n the night of Friday, October 25th of this year, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan appeared before a modest crowd of around 150 people in Memorial Church. He opened his speech with a quote from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which reads, “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids -- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination -- indeed, everything and anything except me.” The invisible man Secretary Donovan was thinking of was a homeless man in Harvard Square. One day he was walking through Harvard Square and walked right past that man, and after stopping in his tracks and turning around he realized that he did not even recognize that man’s existence. It’s almost as if he had been conditioned to ignore the homeless, to see them as an inevitable part of any urban sidewalk. And that thinking, he said, is fundamentally wrong. In fact, it’s hypocritical. How can we, living in one of the wealthiest cities in America, the richest nation in the world, tolerate this type of apathy and carelessness? And how can we, as students, professors, or citizens of this city impose our wealth upon the homeless by strolling right past them while we laugh into our expensive cell phones or flaunt our bags of designer clothing, not batting an eye at those in need?

While the questions above might seem unfair, they raise a valid concern about our understanding of the concept of virtue and humility. And according to Secretary Donovan, the ultimate virtue is to serve. Serving the homeless was one of his main activities here as a Harvard undergraduate, and he did so through the PBHA student-run homeless shelter. But what people must realize is while service might seemingly come at a high opportunity cost (in terms of time and energy) its benefits are much greater. Aside from strong feelings of gratification and accomplishment, service is an excellent pathway into the real world, whether private or public. Service of any kind places individuals in the spotlight of their communities and gives them name recognition amongst like-minded organizations. It increases our network of contacts and links us with professionals in numerous fields and disciplines. And best of all, service toughens the mind while softening the heart. No number of courses, seminars or workshops can give you all this and make you feel good. And for those of us who choose not to serve, we should at least consider the implications of our wealth on others. How do our hearty meals make that hungry man feel? How do our expensive commodities make that poor man in Harvard Square feel? How do our bulky clothes make that cold woman feel? We would be lying to ourselves if we disregarded the feelings of these “invisible men,” since we can only internalize their existence and accept them as equal human beings if we think about the repercussions of our actions in their presence. This way of thinking and being calls for welfare reform beyond written laws. It calls for the self-reformation of those who care to “promote the general Welfare.” There is significance in the fact that our founding fathers chose to include the clause above in the Preamble of our Constitution. And there was a reason that the word “Welfare” is capitalized among several others. And while the Supreme Courtin Jacobson v. Massachusetts declared that the Preamble “has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government,” we must remember that we are a nation of human beings, ruled by a government of laws, and that notions of shared humanity that unify those of wealth and those without it should be upheld, honored, and acted upon.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Journal for Public Interest

We Should Be One and the Same By Curtis Lahaie

Photo Courtesy of TLDEF


ast summer, I was the Communications Intern of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), a national organization dedicated to ending discrimination based upon gender identity and expression. I was also—and still am—a student of psychology, my concentration at Harvard. During the summer, it was impossible to be one while not the other. I was an advocate for transgender equality and a psychology student; I could only be both. In the beginning of June, in celebration of its progress towards transgender equality, TLDEF held its Eighth Anniversary Benefit, the largest transgender-rights fundraiser to date. The attendees were, in large part, members of the LGBT community. And that makes sense: A movement’s strongest supporters naturally are those whom the movement immediately and significantly affects. In the case of TLDEF’s benefit, the LGBT community stood the most to gain and therefore was disproportionately represented. But a significant milestone indicative of a movement’s success, I think, is the moment when those who have absolutely nothing to gain find themselves, nevertheless, among the movement’s supporters. It’d be truly remarkable if a transgender-rights fundraiser were attended in large part by former transphobes, or at least by numerous allies of the movement for transgender equality. At least at the moment, that milestone feels difficult to reach. And I think one psychological fact is somewhat to blame: the fact that similarity breeds liking. Think about those photos, posted on Buzzfeed or elsewhere, of beaming, same-sex couples at their marriage ceremonies on the day same-sex marriage became legal in their states. In so many cases, the couples look more like twins than spouses. And in opposite-sex couples, too, people so often just “look right” together. Our psychology dictates that we tend to like those who remind us of ourselves; “birds of a feather flock together” rests on more psychological research than does “opposites attract.”

Reflection In order to increase the chances that heterosexual, cisgen der people (that is, most people) will “like” transgender people—in particular, will more strongly support transgender equality—we must take advantage of our human tendency to like those who are like us. That is, the transgender community, and truly the LGBT community as a whole, might benefit from portraying itself as fundamentally similar to, rather than different than, the rest of America. We should decrease the gap between the outside and the inside, between those who identify as cisgender and those as trans*. I saw this gap shrink firsthand upon reading the decision of one of TLDEF’s landmark cases last summer. Represented by TLDEF, the parents of Coy Mathis, a transgender girl barred from using the girls’ bathroom at her elementary school in Colorado, filed a discrimination claim against the school district, citing the state’s anti-discrimination law, which provides explicit protections for transgender individuals. The Colorado Civil Rights Division, in perhaps one of the most progressive decisions regarding transgender-student rights, ruled in Coy’s favor, setting a strong precedent for transgender equality in schools. Coy is a loveable girl. Her family is loveable, too. Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis are hard-working, dedicated parents of four adorable children. Although I can personally verify their compassion because I met them at TLDEF’s benefit, their compassion shined through the television as they appeared on Katie Couric’s talk show and through the newspapers in headlines throughout the nation.

We should decrease the gap between the outside and the inside.

The widespread attention to Coy’s story, I don’t doubt, resulted at least partly from just how loveable she and her family are. While I was an intern, as the administrator of TLDEF’s Facebook page, I created a graphic that featured Coy superimposed with a cheesy quote about pride, and the followers responded favorably in unprecedented numbers. Coy and her family were able to capture the hearts of many. And how could they not? Their story represents core values that Americans share: hard work, dedication, and love. And Coy herself brings to mind that childhood innocence and youthful spirit that we once experienced ourselves. Highlighting how Coy and her family are fundamentally similar to the rest of America takes advantage of our psychology. When people realize that Coy is, in fact, just like them, the discord between her anatomy and her identity becomes less significant, and it feels so easy to support her—and the rest of her community at the same time. We are in serious need of more cases like Coy’s. Opportunities to highlight the LGBT community’s similarities to the population at large are bound to engender more support for the movement towards equality. Of course, our differences are worth celebrating, too. Coy’s experience is not the same as every trans* experience, and I don’t claim that other voices should be silenced. We must remember, though, that in the pursuit of transgender equal rights, in a time when I hesitate to use words like “transphobe” and “cisgender” because so many people don’t know their meanings, we must focus on shifting what are often deep-seated attitudes in any way that we can, even if the shifts start small. And psychology can help us do it. 4

Educating the Nation

Sarah Cole

is a sophomore in Cabot House. She also serves as the JPI’s Director of Publicity. Her column, which appeared bi-weekly online, examines the state of American education today.

What Will Happen to Them? M

ost of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. A couple of thieves rob and beat a man travelling on a road, leaving him for dead. A priest passing through the road sees the man, but passes him. So does another man. Finally, a Samaritan sees the badly injured man and helps him. On Thursday, October 3rd, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Colorado State Senator and innovative education reformer Mike Johnston used this parable as an anecdote explaining our responsibility to advocate for a better US education system. Like the priest in the parable, many of us see injustice in this world, but do nothing to correct it if such corrections do not seem to benefit us directly. We consider all the ways in which working towards solving social problems may set us back (financially or otherwise) and weigh them against the questionable value of the unguaranteed success of our efforts. This mathematical equation easily allows us to reject social responsibility.

Photo Courtesy ofCommons Wikimedia Commons Photo Courtesy ofCourtesy Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons


Senator Johnston urges us to switch the equation around. Instead of asking what we could lose if we pursue these challenges, we should be asking what will happen to all of the people who are ill-affected by these problems if we choose to do nothing. What will happen to the nine-year-old boy who goes to school day after day, but cannot read? “If I don’t stop to help this child on the ground, what will happen to him?” Senator Johnston asked us. “When you put the question that way, you’re never going to be able to say no to helping.” All of us at Harvard were able to achieve success through the education we received, or perhaps in spite of it. We now have access to experiences and learning that can equip us with the skills and resources necessary for improving education in America. Admittedly, many of these skills and resources can also land us those coveted six-figure jobs. However, we must determine at what cost to society we are willing to benefit from our privilege—because regardless of how we got to Harvard, we are all privileged to be here. If we ignore for a moment titles, positions, prestige, and salaries, we can focus on what it is we actually want to achieve throughout the course of our careers. As Senator Johnston said, “Discover what you want to change, not what you want to be.” There are countless problems facing American society right now and even more facing the international community. The inadequacy of the US education system is only one example. We have four years at what is arguably the best school in the world. Let’s use them to find that problem that baffles every sense of justice inside us. And then, let’s spend our time in the professional world searching for solutions big and small. Maybe some of us will become teachers, while others will have CEO positions that allow them to provide millions in funding for innovative solutions and groundbreaking research. We can each find our niches, if we take on Senator Mike Johnston’s mentality: “I’m pretty open to finding the problem I want to fix and figuring out how to fix it instead of looking for the next upgrade in title.” So be open-minded, and find those problems for which you want to claim responsibility. Maybe you’ll even find them within these pages.

Journal for Public Interest

Educating the Nation

No Place for Tracking A

n IQ test I took when I was six years old changed my life. My school administered this test after my mother pushed for my acceptance into Center School District’s gifted learning program. I tested well enough to enter the program, which ultimately equipped me with the skills I needed to gain entrance (and a scholarship) to the prestigious private school I attended for high school. In turn, this private school provided me with the education and resources necessary to create a competitive application to colleges like Harvard. Although tracking worked for me in many ways, I have also witnessed the ways in which it has widened disparities. As a result I question the value of meritocratic tracking in a school system dedicated to giving individuals an equal shot at success. My mother knew to demand that I receive placement into gifted programming, but where would I be today if I had never been tracked into these programs thirteen years ago? Would I be a student at Harvard? Would I be a college student at all? When I look at statistics from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and see that only about fifty percent of the students graduating from my district go to any type of college, I don’t like my chances. Exclusion from the gifted track is the reality for the vast majority of students within Center School District. Many of these students underperform due to the lower expectations the district has for them. For example, I recall around fifty percent of my classmates in eighth grade failing Algebra I, which most of my gifted program peers had already taken. That same year seven gifted program students (myself included), a few of their parents, and a couple of the gifted teachers went on a ten-day trip to South Africa in order to present a science project. How can a district justify having produced a substantial mass of students unable to find the value of x at the same time as it produced another group of students who were globetrotting scientists? It seems that Center unfairly distributed its attention efforts in a way that disproportionately benefited students on the gifted track. This unequal distribution of resources played a significant role at Center High School, as well. I kept in touch with some of my Center friends after I transferred to private school. Many of these friends who had not been tracked into the gifted program displayed an earnest desire to attend college, but complained to me about how difficult it was to schedule time with the school’s counselor to explore options. In addition, they frequently did not know about important deadlines, such as those for ACT test sign-ups. It frustrated me how the high school was almost entirely neglecting this crucial opportunity to support these students who clearly wanted to go to college. In stark contrast Center High School fawns over its students on the gifted track. These kids have their own “gifted facilitator,” who “works with seniors on college planning, scholarships, and essays during a resource hour” and guides the students through the PSAT and ACT test-taking processes, according to Center’s description of the gifted program. Clearly there is a difference in expectations for students on different tracks, resulting in a difference in the resources spent on each group. The school expects the gifted students to go to college and pushes them to that end, but it by and large ignores the post-graduation aspirations of the rest of the student body.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The implications of this differential treatment may be more harmful than the differential treatment itself. The extra investment in college preparation for the gifted track students suggests that college is the only an appropriate option for this small group of students. I recently asked a friend why he is not in college despite his ability to perform well in school. His response was simple: “I just hate school. It’s not for me. I think if I were to go, I would waste money.” Had Center’s lack of investment in him led him to believe that money spent on his education was necessarily money wasted? Perhaps college is not for everyone, but it seems to me that our schools are conditioning certain students to believe it is not for them, when it very well may be. The racial and socio-economic representation in Center’s gifted program sends another alarming message. In a district with 66% percent of students participating in the Free or Reduced Price Lunch program and 63.8% of students identifying as students of color, Center’s gifted program is remarkably white and middle class. I recall how easy it was for my classmates not in the gifted program to make the jump from recognizing the whiteness of the gifted program to equating high academic performance to whiteness and high social class. My friends from Center have called me a “white girl” or “rich kid” countless times based on my academic performance or school placement. While these assertions could hardly be further from the truth, I understand that my friends needed the statements to be true in order to explain their own exclusion from this illustration of academic success. Center School District’s gifted learning program has helped cultivate some incredibly intelligent individuals. It has also stifled the pursuit of fulfilling the academic potential of countless other students. This problem is not unique to Center. Meritocratic academic tracking across America has propelled the typically white, middle class and already privileged “gifted” student to the top of the class. Our reliance on tracking ignores the influence that social capital, race, money, gender, etc. have on academic performance. Instead of recognizing these factors, tracking assumes that academic performance is predetermined solely by innate ability. We must reject this fallacious notion along with the broken system it has produced. It is time that we start providing all students with the education they need, rather than an unjust education that displays the nation’s biased perceptions of what students deserve.


Educating the Nation

Freeing Our Lesson Plan T

ears fell gently from the wise, old eyes of my teacher as he taught us a lesson on immigration in our AP US History (APUSH) class. He had prepared a PowerPoint presentation with images of his family members who had immigrated to the United States from Europe a century or so ago. The pictures captured the sullen struggles and harsh tragedies his loved ones had endured. My teacher’s connection to the lesson captivated me. His willingness to be vulnerable and reveal to us this connection humbled me. It was yet another reminder for me of how blessed I was to be attending a school where the passions of my teachers for their subjects were palpable day in and day out. Yet, even at my high school, where the school culture allowed for the prioritization of the natural curiosities and interests of teachers and students alike, standardized testing sometimes limited the pursuit of these interests. The same history teacher who taught his students through the personal stories of his family, also made his students memorize around 60 history terms and three (essentially

opportunities our teacher also gave us to think critically about different aspects of American history. We should ask ourselves what other meaningful lessons—like the one on immigration—would our teacher have given us if he had not felt compelled to make sure we performed well on the AP test? Across America, teachers, like my AP US History teacher, face considerable criticism for supposedly being ineffective. Although it is understandable that people have come to this conclusion (according to the US Department of Education, educational outcomes have seen little to no progress since A Nation at Risk was released), perhaps the nation is misplacing the fault by blaming our teachers. It does not seem fair to condemn teachers for failing to prepare students when our reliance on standardization has robbed them of the ability to choose what and how to teach. My history teacher is fortunate because he works in a private school, where he has significantly more freedom to design his own curriculum. On the other hand, teachers at public schools are typically given set curricula from their school districts based on the state standards. Until we stop treating our teachers like robots programed only to teach a defined set of material in a minimal number of ways, we cannot blame them for the ways in which American education is failing students. It is time that we return to our teachers the control of the classroom. My teacher was able to manipulate the flawed system of standardization. It is true that he, like so many other teachers, hammered in those details and made his students write hundreds of

Photos Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

pre-written) essays for his unit tests. He modeled his term definitions and test questions after those found on the AP US History test. Looking back I wonder if he did this out of obligation to a system that demands we know facts and rarely measures if we understand them. Maybe he “taught to the test” because he knew performing well on the AP test was important to us, our parents, our school, our potential colleges and America in general. Many students felt they weren’t really learning anything in this class because of the emphasis on memorization. However, I think they allowed this less agreeable aspect of the class to overshadow the

notecards to drill seemingly disconnected facts into their heads. But he balanced this rote memorization as best he could by meticulously carving time out of our class curriculum to provide us with raw glimpses into the blemished beauty of our country’s history. For his effort, I consider him one of the most extraordinary teachers I’ve ever had. How much more remarkable could he be if we freed his lesson plans from the devastating constraints of standardized testing?

PhotoCourtesy Courtesy of Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons Commons


Journal for Public Interest

Educating the Nation

Everyone Learns That in 3rd Grade, Right? D

avid is a black boy from a working-class family. The public schools he attended for elementary school and middle school served majority-minority and low-income student bodies. The English teachers at his middle school had embraced the progressive “process learning” technique, in which students are expected to understand and develop their English skills through the process of writing. By the time he graduated from his middle school, David had written several short stories and essays, but was unable to identify a prepositional phrase in a sentence. David begins ninth grade at a rigorous private high school with a predominately white and middle- to upper-class student body. His family knows that he could have a slightly bumpy transition to this new school. But David is a smart kid, and they never doubt his ability to successfully adjust. He starts the year feeling excited and ready to begin his high school career. However, a couple months into the school year David has a D in English. His English teacher Mr. Lewis mocks him in class for never having been taught certain grammar concepts at his previous schools. “Everyone learned about nouns and verbs in third grade, right?” the teacher sarcastically asks David in front of his classmates.

Everyone learned about nouns and verbs in third grade, right?

David’s parents are concerned and meet with Mr. Lewis to see how they can help their son improve in his class, but the teacher seems unwilling to help and only makes more snarky comments regarding David’s inadequate education in public schools. Eventually, with some coercion from the school’s administration, Mr. Lewis agrees to meet with David before school in order to teach him the grammar skills other freshmen at the school have already been taught. David’s grade in English begins to improve. Although the initial behavior of Mr. Lewis was disgraceful and unprofessional, he has a point: David’s education has failed to teach him grammatical skills, and as a result the quality of his writing has suffered. Students of color throughout the nation are failing to learn these skills because their schools, like David’s middle school, rely on the process learning approach. In her groundbreaking 1988 article “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,” leading education reformer Dr. Lisa Delpit suggests that this technique can only benefit students who already have a strong understanding of the skills that the subject requires. Students with this understanding have a solid foundation upon which they can build, but other students don’t have the prior knowledge

essary to grasp concepts indirectly covered through process learning methods. The specificity of the beneficiaries of process learning strategies lends the approach to racial and socio-economic bias. For example, studies show that reading to children before they enter kindergarten can help develop their literacy skills before they even begin to read. However, the most recent Household Education Survey in 2007 revealed that while 67.4 percent of white children aged three to five have parents that read to them everyday, only 34.6 percent of black three to five-year olds can say the same thing. (Similarly, only 39.7 percent of three to five-year olds living below the poverty line have parents reading to them daily, compared to 63.9 percent of children living at 200 percent the poverty line.) In other words, almost twice as many white students as black students are beginning their first days of elementary school with literacy skills already developed.


of young, white children have parents that read to them daily


of black children can say the same

This disparity would not be a problem if schools worked to catch up lagging students by teaching lessons on foundational skills. Unfortunately with the progressive education movement currently sweeping the nation, such is not the case at many schools. Time after time this pattern of reinforcing disparities repeats itself at these schools. Teachers in various subjects are opting for “higher level” learning without ever introducing students to the basic concepts of their course materials. In doing so, these teachers are automatically excluding from any meaningful learning many of their low income students or students of color, who most need those introductory lessons. David’s new school recognized and corrected the shortcomings of his primary education, but far too many American students are not as lucky as him. They stumble through their K-12 education, never quite reaching a full understanding of material because they do not have the necessary gateway skills. Then, their schools bid them farewell and good luck as they enter the work force or go to college still lacking these critical skills and suffering tremendously as a result. Any teaching method that disproportionately benefits those coming from backgrounds of privilege, such as being white and/or middle to upper class, is an impediment to achieving equality in the United States of America. We must ensure the provision of a foundation of basic skills on which our students can stand, so they will all be able to reach the higher level thinking which is the aim of process learning. Because, in the words of Mr. Lewis, everyone should be learning nouns and verbs in third grade, right? The above account is based on a true story. Names have been changed in order to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.


Spotlight on Service

A Look at Harvard Effective Altruism J

By Sarah Cole

ohn Sturm is a junior in Lowell House studying physics and math. Along with his co-president Ben Kuhn ‘15, John runs Harvard Effective Altruism (formerly Harvard High Impact Philanthropy), a campus group hosting an ongoing lecture series about how we can use evidence and reason to do the most good in the world.

JPI: How will the fellowship decide which charity to support? John: One resource we’ll use is the research of an organization called GiveWell. GiveWell has revolutionized the field of charity evaluation over the past few years by doing rigorous, transparent charity research that focuses on concrete outcomes. They recommend just a few, thoroughly vetted charities each year, which I think are strong candidates. We’re also careful about distinguishing between the good an organization already does and the good an organization will do with our money. In order to help the most people with our donation, we have to think about the marginal difference it will make. To address your question: Realistically, we’ll just have a lot of discussion, trying to be honest about our personal biases, questioning our intuitions, and being open to what may be surprising conclusions.

JPI: So what is effective altruism? John: I like to think of effective altruism (EA) as a nice-and-rationalunite mentality towards making the world a better place. I meet a lot of students who are both passionate about helping others and about problem solving and optimizing, but there’s sometimes a disconnect between the two mindsets. EA is all about breaking down that false dichotomy, so that we’re not just being clever or just doing good, but also are using our cleverness to do as much good as we possibly can. Here’s an example (credit to Toby Ord): Suppose I have $40,000 with which to fight blindness. That’s about how much it costs a charity to train a guide dog for a blind person in the US, so it’s easy to go ahead and donate the money; that would be a nice thing to do. But if I come in with the mentality of trying to maximize my impact, I’ll do a little more research and learn that it costs only $40 to reverse the effects of an eye infection called trachoma, which blinds millions of people in Africa. So instead of helping one person, my $40K could cure one thousand people of blindness. That’s how many people went to my high school! Good thing I did that research. I think everybody in EA has these moments where they realize they have a really incredible potential to help others. It generates a purposeful, infectious kind of excitement that compels us to action. JPI: What has HEA been up to this year? John: To engage the Harvard community, we held a series of public talks, each offering a different perspective on effective altruism. We were incredibly fortunate to bring in some amazing speakers, including philosopher Peter Singer, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, and GiveWell co-founder Elie Hassenfeld, for audiences of students and community members. Alongside these talks, HEA has been hosting a semester-long fellowship program on philanthropy, an idea inspired by a similar group at Princeton. The twenty participating students have dinner with each week’s speaker and discuss some aspect of EA. For Thanksgiving we also raise funds for a cause, and the donation is matched by an anonymous donor. To up the stakes, we’re competing with groups from other schools to see who can donate the most money!

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

JPI: How can students on campus get involved with Harvard Effective Altruism? John: Sign up for our mailing list (, check out our website (, or shoot us an email at ( My co-president Ben and I can’t wait to meet you! Our ongoing lecture series will get going again in the spring, accompanied by another philanthropy fellowship. Fellows will get to (1) attend talks and private dinners with our speakers, (2) discuss effective altruism at group dinners and social events, and (3) choose a cause and raise funds toward it. Sign up for our mailing list and we’ll let you know when the application goes live!

PhotoCourtesy Courtesy of Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons Commons


Journal for Public Interest


Working with Keylatch


By Shaquilla Harrigan

ven before I was an official undergraduate at Harvard, I had already decided that I wanted to work in programs under the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA). I knew that PBHA would become a second home for me because of my Visitas experiences. My host (who is now one of my closest friends) was highly involved with the mentoring and after school programs, and PBHA’s open house welcomed my pre-frosh self in with open arms. During my freshman year, I threw myself headlong into PBHA and became a volunteer for PBHA’s Keylatch After School and Mentoring programs, which serve elementary and middle school students from Boston’s South End neighborhood. While I did do volunteer work in high school, I wasn’t thinking in terms of my work being a part of “fighting for social justice.” Through my experiences in Keylatch and PBHA, I took more time to think about and try to answer questions about why I am volunteering and what societal structures are in place that cause a need for service. In October of my freshman year, two major opportunities arose that allowed me to take on greater leadership in Keylatch and PBHA. I became one of the PBHA’s resource development chairs, and I got to direct Keylatch After School. These experiences, along with the support of PBHA’s staff, helped me decide to direct Keylatch Summer Program, one of PBHA’s ten Summer Urban Program camps that provides low-cost, high quality summer enrichment for students in Boston’s South End. My experiences with Keylatch Summer Program have allowed me to gain a better understanding of Boston Public Schools and the achievement gap between minority students and their white counterparts, the importance of community partnerships, and how to facilitate my own development in conjunction with my staff’s development. The people and organizations that I worked with this summer have taught me some of the biggest life lessons. I am thankful to have been selected as one of the IOP’s Director’s Interns. Being a Director’s Intern for PBHA allowed me to make connections at the IOP and have a bigger platform to share my experiences. In addition, Keylatch’s community partners in the South End have also impacted my life and my camp. Since Keylatch’s founding in 1984, community partners have been so incredibly fundamental to our programming. I am so impressed and inspired by the culture of community and advocacy that is alive in the South End. Both Inquilinos Borricuas en Accion (IBA) and the Tenants Development Corporation (TDC) have fought for housing, education, and environmental rights for South End residents. IBA and the TDC refer campers to Keylatch, provide cultural and historical opportunities for our campers, and even support us financially. Working in the South End alongside parents and community partners helped me understand that solving inequalities in education cannot be addressed by just policy. It takes a coalition of passionate and dedicated people to create real effective change. Over the course of the summer, my co-director Victor Flores and I really pushed our senior counselors, local high school-aged teachers, to work with parents in creating curriculum for their classrooms and to utilize the

rich history and diversity in the South End. My favorite part about directing Keylatch Summer Program was getting to know all of the campers. Each student’s distinct personality was a tile that made a beautiful mosaic that encompasses the history, love, and diversity of Keylatch. On the toughest days of camp, everything was made better just being seeing my campers smiling and enjoying their activities. Keylatch’s intensity, the constant giving yourself completely over to the camp to make it the best camp it can be, really got me to think critically about the depths one goes to when performing public service. This summer experience allowed me to become more introspective of why I serve others and how I can become a better public servant while still balancing my own mental health. I found this balance by making meaningful connections with my staff, my co-director, my friends, and PBHA’s non-student staff. Each person added to my learning about how to think of legacy as what I want to transition to future Keylatch-ers in order for the program to flourish and continue serving the community it has been a part of for over 30 years. Summers participating in Keylatch and the other Summer Urban Program camps are often referred to as the “hardest summers you will love.” This statement couldn’t be any truer. While I often came back from camp mentally and physically exhausted, I loved getting to know the community I started working in through Keylatch After School and Mentoring even better. I got to see change and social justice on so many different levels. I got to see it from the programmatic, community, parent, and student levels. I definitely plan to use the bird’s eye view and the many lessons I learned from Keylatch Summer Program in my term-time work with PBHA and other parts of my life. I want to continue to think critically about the structures that are in place that automatically preclude some people from resources and to break down these barriers to allow the 80 campers I have grown to love, and other disadvantaged people, the same opportunities for success.

Photo Courtsey of Shaquilla Harrigan


Spotlight on Service Opinion

This Is About People W

By Hannah M. Borowsky

hen I came to college at Harvard, I never would have thought that I would spend so much of my time marching around Massachusetts Hall. I couldn’t have possibly known, because it wasn’t until I came here that I figured out what activism was, that I could do it, and that Massachusetts Hall is where the University President sits. Sure, before I came to college I knew about women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, equality, and I believed in them all fervently. What I didn’t know is how I could help. The fall that I started college was an exciting time. Before my eyes, I saw Dewey Square and then Harvard Yard being taken over by the 99%. Although not part of it myself, as Occupy came and went, I started to think about organizing, people power, causes, and movements. It wasn’t long before I found a movement that swept me away – Fossil Fuel Divestment. In organizing for divestment at Harvard, I have had the opportunity to collaborate and learn from peers with so many different interests and stories. Some are brought into the movement because they love animals or perhaps they love nature. For others, it’s all about disrupting corporate control of the political system or addressing the world’s most pressing public health concerns. Still others are drawn in by a sense of moral obligation to future generations. Perpetually, I am inspired and intrigued by the stories that bring people to devote their energy to addressing climate change. Although not always cast this way, we cannot deny that at its core, climate change is a human-rights issue. It is people of color, low-income families, indigenous communities, and populations living in the southern parts of the world that bear the brunt of climate change. They are the ones most experiencing pollution-related respiratory diseases, climate-associated infectious diseases, and heat-related illnesses. They are the ones suffering the most from the financial costs of natural disasters and increases in the price of oil at the pump or food in the grocery store. They feel the biggest burden of food and water shortages provoked by the changing climate. And yet, while they disproportionately feel the effects of climate change, they are the people least responsible for it. Climate change can seem abstract when we think about it – an impending doom always to be dealt with tomorrow. But unfortunately, all too often, things like Hurricane Sandy, the Summer 2012 drought across the Midwest, wildfires in Colorado, and the devastating Typhoon wreaking havoc in the Philippines in November, remind us that this is about people right now. When we remember that climate change is an issue fundamentally about justice for people right now and in the future, we must act. I, along with thousands and thousands of other students at colleges and universities across the nation as well as faculty, alumni, and all sorts of other community members across the world are doing just that. We are calling on our institutions to divest their endowments from the fossil-fuel industry. We are refusing to be passive or to accept that we are powerless to do anything except recycle a little more. We are actively fighting for our futures. Fossil-fuel divestment is about uprooting the corrupting influence of the fossil-fuel industry on our political system. For decades PhotoCourtesy Courtesy of Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons Commons


now, environmentalists have been trying to push forward legislation on climate change to no avail. The fossil-fuel industry has knowingly profited from destruction and utilized its extreme wealth to protect its unsustainable business model, propagating climate change denial, lobbying for government subsidies, doing everything it can to influence the political system in its favor. By divesting from these companies, which are very much responsible for climate change, we can stigmatize them, an important step in instigating the political leadership that we urgently need to begin addressing this issue.

But our movement is growing, and we can’t stop marching.

The movement for fossil fuel divestment has spread like wildfire. Our generation is taking this into our own hands. We cannot afford not to. Thus far, the Harvard administration and trustees have been unwilling to take leadership and to acknowledge that Harvard is not doing everything that it can. They are not using their power to fight for the people who need us right now and in the future. But our movement is growing, and we won’t stop marching. We can’t stop marching. This is about real people, and they need us now.

Photos Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Journal for Public Interest

Spotlight on Reflection Service

A Look at Harvard College Stories for Orphans By Natalia Gorbachuk & Mercer Cook


arvard College Stories for Orphans was founded at Harvard in the spring of 2008. This is an organization dedicated to bringing books to underserved children throughout the world. Every year, Harvard College Stories for Orphans partners with a different organization and collects personalized information about the children, such as their favorite hobbies, colors, and future career aspirations. We then assemble a team of writers and illustrators and, based on that information, create individualized books for each orphan, which we publish and deliver to the orphanage. We frequently translate the books into the native language of the children, though often, like this year, the books are bi-lingual. We are committed to bringing joy both to the children we serve and to the writers and illustrators who volunteer for us.

What We Do In the past, Harvard College Stories for Orphans collaborated with orphanages in nine different countries that include Peru, Poland, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Tanzania, South Korea, Ethiopia, China, and Kazakhstan. Some of these projects involved collaboration with other on-campus Harvard organizations, such as Harvard China Care and Harvard Polish Society. We have also annually collaborated with the Harvard Coop for events like Story Time and Craft Hour, where our members could read and enact stories as well as participate in crafting activities with the children. Such events allowed students to get involved with the community they are living in and hopefully, inspire children to be creative and to read, write, and draw. This semester we are also collaborating with the Coop for Story Time and Craft Hour and reaching out to local libraries for opportunities to interact and play with the children as well as help them in any way we can. Additionally, we are also incorporating cultural events for our members to enjoy so that the students in our organization can learn more about the country we are working with and how it is like to grow up in that country. The cultural socials feature traditional food and include screening cartoons, playing games, and listening to the ethnic music.

Current Project This fall, we are working with an orphanage in Ukraine, located in the village Krasylivka near Kiev, which is the capital of Ukraine. The “Svitanok” orphanage is home to 23 children from ages of five to seventeen. By creating personalized bi-lingual books for these children in English and Ukrainian, we hope to teach children English as well as send them a small piece of love and care from abroad in the form of a book. In addition to personalized books, we are also launching Coloring Book Project, which allows volunteers to create an alphabet-coloring book for children. In addition to coloring the book, the kids will be able to learn the English alphabet. Lastly, due to lack of government funding in Ukraine, many orphanages are being shut down or barely able to support their children. We were greatly touched by the “Svitanok” orphanage’s level of impoverishment and the requests for such simple things as toilet paper, pens, pencils, soaps, notebooks, clothing, and other basic needs for children. By launching an online donation campaign, we hope to acquire enough funds to buy and send some basic needs for the orphanage along with requested toys for children. We hope to collaborate with Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute in order to provide an opportunity for members of our organization to actually travel to the “Svitanok” orphanage and personally bring the gifts and books. Although we unfortunately cannot fulfill such heartbreaking dreams from some children at “Svitanok” to be reunited with parents, we hope that by giving them our stories and gifts we could at least make them smile. For more information about our organization and how to make donations, please email us at harvard.orphan.stories@gmail. com or visit our website: http://harvardstoriesfororphans.wordpress. com/ Nataliya Gorbachuk and Mercer Cook are Co-Presidents of Harvard College Stories for Orphans.

Photos Courtesy of Harvard College Stories for Orphans


Financial Regulation

Rebecca Brooks

is an undergraduate interested in law and politics. Her column, which appeared bi-weekly online, focuses on regulatory reform as it applies to the public interest.

Buckley Revisited O

n Tuesday, October 8th, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case that may signal the complete deregulation of campaign finance. Not four years since the ruling in Citizens United, which not only endowed corporations with the same rights to speech as people, but also applied strict scrutiny of the First Amendment in favor of overturning the ban on soft-money contributions created by the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, McCutcheon challenges the constitutionality of limits on individual hard-money contributions. By manipulating the precedent established by Buckley v. Valeo to equate “money” with “speech” in Citizens United, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for eliminating all restrictions on campaign contributions. For any law to infringe upon a fundamental liberty, it must be narrowly tailored and clearly articulate a compelling federal or state interest. Shaun McCutcheon, a wealthy donor from Alabama who has made massive contributions towards individual candidates and PACs, is appealing to the Supreme Court on the grounds that his “First Amendment right” to free speech is unlawfully curtailed by the biennial aggregate expenditure limits imposed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The precedent set by Buckley v. Valeo distinguishes between contributions and expenditures (the totality of contributions made within a specific span of time) and between donations for the purpose of political expression and towards the outcome of an election. McCutcheon argues that Buckley established a formula of strict scrutiny for aggregate contribution limits and that the biennial cap of $123,000 for an individual donor is not only too low, but also unconstitutional in its inhibition of political speech. The Washington, D.C. federal district court rejected this argument and applied the ruling in Buckley to rule that aggregate ceilings are justified in preventing “both the actual corruption threatened by large financial contributions and the eroding of public confidence in the electoral process through the appearance of corruption.” The district court also asserted that the claim that the current aggregate expenditure limits are too low is a legislative, and not constitutional question, and, in so being, has no place in judicial interpretation. McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that Citizens United had clarified the ambiguities of the Buckley precedent in favor of protecting all vehi-

cles, corporate or individual, instantaneous or aggregate, for monied speech. Professor Lawrence Lessig of the Harvard Law School filed an amicus brief in favor of the appellee, the Federal Election Commission, in McCutcheon v. FEC. Appealing to the method of originalist interpretation employed by the five Justices that had comprised the majority in Citizens, Professor Lessig illustrates the intent of the framers of the Constitution to prevent against political corruption. By highlighting every specific mention of “corruption” in the Constitution, Professor Lessig demonstrates the safeguards constructed by the framers to prevent against “political dependence.” As he stated in the amicus brief, “Without aggregate limits, huge hard money contributions of the sort federal campaign finance laws were designed to prevent would likely return. The result would be increased dependence on an even tinier group of donors willing to bankroll campaigns. McCutcheon’s argument turns the Constitution, which was designed to prevent such improper dependence, on its head.” In addition to specific references to “corruption” throughout the Constitution, certain clauses, such as the Ineligibility and Emoluments clause and Foreign Gifts clause, are expressly designed to check the influence the of private interests on the electoral processes and on representative governance.

Veritable political speech may be muted altogether.

Professor Lessig also refutes the argument espoused by McCutcheon and the RNC that the elimination of aggregate limits would be a continuation of the precedent established in Buckley. “Since Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), it has been settled law that the government has broad leeway to regulate campaign contributions, including by establishing aggregate contribution limits, to limit opportunities for corruption. While the limited burden on the freedom of speech in this case counsels intermediate scrutiny at most, any level of First Amendment scrutiny should take into account that the government’s interest in combating real and apparent corruption is deeply rooted in the Constitution’s text, history, and structure. Amicus respectfully submits that Congress’s aggregate contribution limits serve this long-established, anti-corruption interest by diminishing candidates’ and political parties’ dependence on high-dollar donors, reducing opportunities for individual corruption, and restoring public trust in government.” On September 26th, Professor Lawrence Lessig was joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma) in an event sponsored by the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington, D.C. Senator Warren, who was integral to the creation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and also served as chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee for TARP, warned that: “If the court continues in the direction of Citizens United, we may move another step closer to neutering Congress’ ability to limit the influence of money in politics and another step closer to unlimited corporate contributions given directly to candidates and political committees.” In short, the efficacy of the American system of republican government, which is contingent upon the checks upon undue influence, may give way to an oligarchic model of powerful financial pressures. Veritable political speech, in being conflated with financial contributions, may be muted altogether.

PhotoCourtesy Courtesy of Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons Commons


Journal for Public Interest

Financial Regulation

JPMorgan Chase Reaches $13 Billion Settlement O

n October 20th, JPMorgan Chase & Co. reached a tentative $13 billion settlement to the civil suits brought by the United States Department of Justice, New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, and the Federal Finance House Agency. This settlement does not absolve JPMorgan Chase from criminal prosecution. After acquiring Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual in 2008 (the former for just ten dollars a share—down from its earlier recorded annual value of a hundred and seventy dollars a share—and the latter, which had $40 billion in shareholders’ equity, for $1.9 billion), JPMorgan Chase denied both the liabilities attached to its purchase of the two failed banks and its culpability in continuing the fraudulent practices of Bear Stearns. Claiming that JPMorgan Chase had done a “favor” to the U.S. by purchasing Bear Stearns, as CEO Jamie Dimon asserted before the Council of Foreign Relations on October 10th, 2012, the bank has adopted a consistent policy of assuming minimal fiscal responsibility. As though the acquisition of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual had been a benevolent, rather than a lucrative, measure (the purchase of Washington Mutual brought an immediate return of $2 billion in profit), JPMorgan Chase has insisted upon compensatory immunity for its own role in misrepresenting mortgage-backed securities. This $13 billion settlement, which is more than half of JPMorgan’s record annual $21.3 billion profit in 2012, may signal a new chapter in financial regulation and accountability. Invoking the prosecutorial powers invested in his office by the Martin Act, NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman initiated the civil suits against JPMorgan Chase. With provisions for regulatory leeway and investigative discretion stronger than any other in the country, “The Martin Act gives the Attorney General broad law-enforcement powers to conduct investigations of suspected fraud in the offer, sale or purchase of securities. Where appropriate, the Attorney General may commence civil and criminal prosecutions under the Martin Act to protect investors” (Investor Protection Bureau, Office of the NY Attorney General). Since its ratification in 1921, the Martin Act has been strengthened in its legal force through judicial precedent and political practice. In People v. Federated Radio Corporation (1926), the New York Supreme Court held that the Martin Act does not require proof of intent to deceive the consumers for the Attorney General to file suit for fraud on behalf of New York State. Establishing the expansive powers of the Martin Act, the New York Supreme Court set the precedent in People v. F.H. Smith Co. (1930) that the Act must, “be liberally and sympathetically construed in order that its beneficial purpose may, so far as possible, be attained.” Filing suit in October, 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman described the fraudulent proceedings of JPMorgan: “Defendants committed multiple fraudulent and deceptive acts in promoting and selling its RMBS [residential mortgage-backed securities]… Defendants led investors to believe that Defendants had carefully evaluated—and would continue to monitor—the quality of the loans in their RMBS.

In fact, Defendants systematically failed to evaluate fully the loans, largely ignored the defects that their limited review did uncover, and kept investors in the dark about both the inadequacy of their review procedures and the defects in the underlying loans. Furthermore, even when Defendants were made aware of these problems, they failed to reform their practices or to disclose material information to investors. As a result, the loans in the Defendants’ RMBS included many that had been made to borrowers who were unable to repay, were highly likely to default, and did in fact default in large numbers. At the heart of the Defendant’s fraud was their failure to abide by their representations…while the “due diligence” review that Defendants represented they undertook should have assessed the quality of the loans deposited into the RMBS, Defendants’ actual due diligence process was very different from their public representations about it…Defendants’ misconduct in connection with their due diligence and quality control processes constituted a systemic fraud on thousands of investors.” An editorial published by the New York Times on October 3rd, 2012 denotes the lack of federal action in prosecuting JPMorgan Chase and questions the success of unilateral state prosecution: “So where are the feds? If systemic fraud is alleged under New York law, why aren’t there parallel federal charges, civil and criminal, for violations of banking, tax and securities laws? Clearly, unless there is a pathway to criminal prosecution even a successful civil suit is likely to leave the impression that justice has not been done. Mr. Schneiderman is pursuing his case under New York’s Martin Act, a powerful tool that does not require the attorney general to demonstrate that the defendant intended to defraud. But unless and until federal prosecutors and regulators are willing to follow up Mr. Schneiderman’s actions with broad suits based on violation of federal laws, the full range of potential wrongdoing by banks will go unaddressed. And the rule of law, as well as the opportunity for redress, will suffer irreparable harm.” Perhaps responding to public demand for enhanced federal financial oversight, as articulated in the editorial above, the Federal Finance House Agency brought claim for $6 billion against JPMorgan Chase in August, 2013 for its role in defrauding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and then the United States Department of Justice followed suit in September, 2013 with claims for $11 billion. In negotiations with the Justice Department, JPMorgan Chase reached a settlement for $13 billion, of which $4 billion would be returned to consumers (the structure for distributing this compensatory fund is yet to be determined), $4 billion would be returned to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and $5 billion would be imposed as a fine. It is too early to know whether this settlement will be a precedent for augmented financial regulation. One can only hope that the regulatory agency of the office of the New York Attorney General will lend its model to federal practice.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Financial Regulation

Robin Hood and His Merry Tax O

n October 30th, thousands of Americans donning green caps and tights marched down Constitutional Avenue, D.C., in favor of ratifying the “Robin Hood Tax.” H.R. 1579, The Inclusive Prosperty Act, would impose sales taxes on financial transactions, namely the trading of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. Reintroduced on April 17th, 2013 by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Chief Deputy Whip, legislation for a financial transactions tax was drafted earlier in 2011 by Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). The DeFazio-Harkin Bill would have imposed $3 in taxes for each $10,000 in transactions and was estimated to generate $350 billion in revenue over ten years. The idea for a financial transactions tax was first proposed by John Maynard Keynes in 1936 and initiated again into the economic discourse by Nobel Laureate economist James Tobin in the 1970s (later earning the name the “Tobin Tax”). Britain (with a levy $50 per $10,000 per stocks traded), China, Singapore, and Russia have all already imposed such a tax. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has emphasized, in recent years, and continues to assert the need for such financial legislation in Germany. As she said before the German Parliament in 2011, “We all agree that a financial transaction tax would be the right signal to show that we have understood that financial markets have to contribute their share to the recovery of economies.” As part of an international campaign to levy financial transaction taxes, over one thousand economists signed a letter addressed to the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in 2011. Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman, one of the signatories of the letter, wrote about transaction taxes as they concern the U.S.: “I don’t just mean a return to Clinton-era tax rates. Why should 1990s taxes be considered the outer limit of revenue collection? Think about it: The long-run budget outlook has darkened, which means that some hard choices must be made. Why should those choices only involve spending cuts? Why not also push some taxes above their levels in the 1990s?” Regulation of financial transactions in the United States is limited to a marginal tax on stock trades imposed from 1914 to 1966. Since the mid-20th century, the quantity, frequency, and technological mediums of financial trades have changed radically. Without any check on the rate at which transactions can be conducted, the financial sector has adopted its technological mechanisms to accommodate and drive the exponential increase in trading speed. A report published in September 2013 by the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission revealed that algorithms and robots executed 90% of high-frequency trades. As former Goldman Sachs investor and current senior fellow at Demos, Wallace Turbeville, wrote in an article for US News and World Report, “How does society benefit when we reduce the average trade-completion time from, say, 125 milliseconds to 5 milliseconds?” He added, “By society, I do not mean a single financial institution or even the entire financial sector.” The Inclusive Property Act seeks not only to recover revenue for the United States in the aftermath of the financial crisis, but also to curb the massive fiscal danger and risk posed by high-frequency

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

trades. University of Massachusetts-Amherst economist Robert Pollin described its provisions: “The Inclusive Prosperity Act, which establishes a modest tax on virtually all financial transactions in the United States, is a hugely important policy initiative that addresses three of our most important economic problems today—austerity, financial instability, and inequality. This measure is capable of generating in the range of $300 billion per year in tax revenues. These funds would enable us to fight against the austerity-agenda cuts to Social Security, Medicare, public education and other vital social programs. The Act will also discourage excessive speculation in financial markets, by increasing the costs of Wall Street gambling.”

The Inclusive Prosperity Act

0.5% tax on stocks 0.1% tax on bonds

0.01% tax on derivative speculation in currencies and commodieties

In a briefing about the Inclusive Property Act held before members of Congress on October 30th, which hosted a panel of economists and Congressional representatives, as well as notable speakers such as European Parliament Vice President Anni Podimata and economist Jeffrey Sachs, Mr. Turbeville described the nature of this new form of high frequency trading as “an arms race.” As he said, “The speed, this technology, these complicated algorithms—their whole point is to be faster than the next bank. The transactions that are going to be affected are going to be overwhelmingly those between high-frequency traders. Now will it slow them down? I really hope so.” As Robert Pollin described the purpose of the Inclusive Property Act, “Everyone shopping on Main Street today pays sales taxes when they buy things. It’s time for Wall Street traders to face up to similar obligations.”

PhotoCourtesy Courtesy of Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons Commons


Journal for Public Interest

The Fiction of Libor S

peaking at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on October 29th, Chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission Gary Gensler revealed a startling truth about Libor and Euribor, two critical reference rates for the global swaps and derivatives market: “they are more akin to fiction than fact.” In other words, these rates, which impact most, if not all, spheres of financial transactions are not tethered to actual economic activity. If these reference rates themselves are purely speculative, then the swaps and derivatives markets, which are supposedly grounded in these standards, are reflective only of skewed benchmarks and, in so being, are utterly detached from reality. Derivatives and swaps (the latter is a type of derivative), as the name of the former suggests, are not actual assets in themselves, but are contracts that derive their value from fluctuations in value of the underlying asset. The underlying asset can include a range of entities, such as stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, as well as non-entities, such as conjectures “based on weather data, such as the amount of rain or the number of sunny days in a particular region.” What if, to make an analogy based on Mr. Gensler’s statement, an entire market, worth trillions of dollars, was contingent upon weather predictions? And to comply with or facilitate hedged positions in this market, the National Weather Service, an agency that most Americans would consider to be a reliable and legitimate source of information, began to present misleading reports about the weather? In other words, have we reached the point in our financial system where, say, the traders could profit from a report by the National Weather Service stating that it will be a sunny day today, while, in fact, those same traders are bringing their umbrellas to work because of the rainstorm outside? Mr. Gensler described the role of Libor in domestic and international markets, “Libor and Euribor are critical reference rates for global futures and swaps markets. In the U.S., Libor is the reference rate for 70 percent of the futures market and more than half of the swaps market. It is the reference rate for more than $10 trillion in loans.” Libor, the London Interbank Offered Rate, is an average interest rate published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) daily at about 11:45 GMT, and is contingent upon estimates for interbank lending rates submitted by leading banks. Libor is the “primary benchmark for short-term interest rates globally and is used as a reference rate for many interest rate contracts, mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other consumer lending products.” Libor also has another function: it is sets the rates for currencies and their maturities. These rates, which have tremendous global impact, can, and have been repeatedly, misrepresented. Mr. Gensler asserted that, not only did October 29th mark his visit to the Kennedy school, but also the announcement by the CFTC of its, “fifth settlement against a bank for pervasively rigging key interest rate benchmarks, Libor and Euribor… Through hundreds of manipulative acts spanning six years, in six offices, and on three continents, more than two dozen Rabobank employees, including a senior manager, manipulated, attempted to manipulate, and falsely reported crucial reference rates in global financial markets. Rabobank employees also aided and abetted other banks to manipulate benchmark interest rates.” Rabobank, a Dutch bank based in Utrecht, was a member of the Contributor Panels of both Libor and Euribor (these are panels of

Financial Regulation banks responsible for submitting estimates for currency exchange and maturity rates), including the panels for the Libor rates for the dollar, British pound, and yen. The ability of traders to collude and manipulate critical exchange rates can be better described by none other than the traders themselves. A report by the U.S. Department of Justice on the Rabobank scandal included the instant message transcripts between Rabobank traders: “On Nov. 29, 2006, a Rabobank dollar derivatives trader wrote to Rabobank’s Global Head of Liquidity and Finance and the head of Rabobank’s money markets desk in London, who supervised rate submitters: ‘Hi mate, low 1s high 3s LIBOR pls !!! Dont tell [another Rabobank U.S. Dollar derivatives trader] haa haaaaaaa. Sold the market today doooooohhhh!’ Two days later, on Dec. 1, 2006, the trader again wrote to the money markets desk head: ‘Appreciate 3s go down, but a high 3s today would be nice… cheers chief.” The money markets desk head wrote back: ‘I am fast turning into your LIBOR bi***!!!!’ …In an example of an agreement with traders at other banks, on July 28, 2006, a Rabobank rate submitter and Rabobank trader discussed their mutual desires for a high fixing. The submitter stated to the trader: ‘setting a high 1m again today - I need it!’ to which the trader responded: ‘yes pls mate…I need a higher 1m libor too.’ Within approximately 20 minutes, the submitter contacted a trader at another Contributor Panel bank and wrote: ‘morning skipper..... will be setting an obscenely high 1m again today...poss 38 just fyi.’ The other bank’s trader responded, ‘oh poor customers.... hehehe!! manual input libors again today then!!!!’” It would be funny if it hadn’t actually happened. And now it appears to be happening again—this time with the currency market, which accounts for over $5 trillion in trades per day. This currency index, calculated by WM Co. and Thomson Reuters, represents the foreign exchange rates for 160 world currencies, and like Libor, it is calculated daily, with a “fixed” rate set at 4pm. This 4pm benchmark, the daily focal point, offers a source of massive potential revenue for bank traders. As The Guardian put it, “investigators suspect bank traders manipulated the market by coordinating high volumes of trades in efforts to nudge currency rates up or down at the 4 p.m. fixing. The tactic is known as ‘banging the close.’” Having launched an investigation into manipulations of the foreign exchange market, the Department of Justice has recovered incriminating instant messages in which traders from major banks refer to themselves as “the cartel” and “the bandits’ club.” These messages revealed that traders were colluding to fix exchange rates at the expense of their own clients. This investigation includes JP Morgan, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Lloyds, Deutsche Bank, and UBS. As United States Attorney General Eric Holder commented, “the manipulation we have seen so far may just be the tip of the iceberg.” Unlike Libor, the foreign exchange rate is not dependent upon bank estimates of interest rates, but upon trade activity itself, and “unlike in a traditional securities exchange, however, where the entire market knows who is buying and selling what at a given moment and can react accordingly, what goes on inside Autobahn, Velocity, and the other exclusive platforms is known only to the banks themselves.” Michael R. King, an expert on currency trading, said in an interview with the NY Times on November 14th,“These portals are like ‘dark pools,’ and they represent a major profit center for banks like Deutsche, Citigroup and Barclays…There is little transparency and that should concern regulators.” When regulating markets that are contingent upon manipulated benchmarks and are as opaque as they are vast, it is a bit troubling that, as the NY Times put it, “The inquiry could hinge on instant messages that traders typed into private chat rooms.” 16

Spotlight on Service Reflection

Service that Transforms


By Jalem Towler

y summer with Roxbury Youth Initiative as a co-director of a 7-week camp for 80 campers, 8 junior counselors, 8 senior counselors, and 1 co-director has to go in the category of life-changing experiences. Over the course of three months, I was transformed into a better leader and a more caring individual, as I was instilled with a love for my campers and staff that cannot be replaced. I recommend that anyone given the opportunity should participate in the Summer Urban Program in any capacity, from junior counselor to director. I don’t just say this to mean you will have the best summer of your life. You may in fact have the most challenging summer of your life, but the point is that this program challenges you. The Summer Urban Program creates a space where individuals are challenged to grow, socially and personally; those who participate cannot walk away without first taking a long look at themselves in the mirror. Starting in January 2012, I dedicated two hours of my Friday and countless hours of other random evenings to building the best camp imaginable (in a realistic sense). In order to achieve this, a team of two-co directors (one of whom became a senior counselor during the summer) was in charge of hiring all junior and senior staff, planning all of the summer’s field trips, contacting and enrolling 80 campers, and completing more than a dozen other miscellaneous tasks. During the summer, directors were in charge of anything from attendance and confirming field trips to planning the camp’s final show and managing senior staff for nine weeks of the summer. Days typically began at 7am and ended around 5pm with an additional hour afterwards dedicated to more meetings, planning weekend retreats with staff, and buying supplies for the camp. Nevertheless, I have to admit, at the start of the summer, everything was like a dream. Coming back to direct RYI again for the summer filled me with incredible joy, but it also left me with that same, “I don’t really know what to expect,” mentality. Yet, my motto for the summer was, ‘same mission, better vision,’ a phrase that truly manifested itself, not only in me, but also in the team that I had the blessing of working with this summer. Therefore, none of the success of the summer was rooted in what I did. The amazing staff, wonderful kids, and loving community that surrounded me for ten straight weeks built it. The mission of RYI has never just been to bear the weight of the program on your own shoulders, but to balance the weight off each other’s shoulders, carrying the program with us wherever we go. PBHA has one specific workshop where everyone on your team chooses to dedicate his or her summer to something or someone. My summer was dedicated to God and RYI. With that always in mind, I was determined to give 120% of myself to create the best summer ever. However, three weeks into the summer, I was hit with a SUPwide condition known as burn out. Burn out isn’t just when you get tired and want to sleep for twelve hours. It’s when you literally lose so much energy that you forget why you’re doing the service that you’re doing. So as I sat in my room one Saturday afternoon, I attempted to quell this feeling of emptiness that involved a little voice repeatedly whispering, “You’re not really making an impact.” This voice grew into the fear that what I was doing wasn’t really unique. In the midst of an attack from past inhibitions and fears, the turning point would

the day of Midsummer. Midsummer is the one celebration of the summer that brings all twelve SUP sites together: parents, children, relatives, SUP alumni, PBHA staff, Full Time Support, and everyone else all gather for the biggest celebration of the summer. Every year, on top of food and carnival games and activities, there is a basketball tournament and a talent show where each camp does a performance. This summer, I witnessed my oldest boys win that midsummer basketball tournament and my oldest girls open up the talent show with their ‘go hard or go home’ dance that I had watched them perfect for two weeks straight in their AC-less classroom. In that moment, I didn’t know that midsummer would serve as my turning point, but as the weeks continued, my daily experiences began to remind me of how RYI had been making me whole for the past two summers. The young male who used to get angry at campers was no longer present. The young male who didn’t look like he had a heart for working with children could now lead a game of Simon Says for the camp and have campers begging to play again. The same young male who hadn’t grown entirely too close to anyone in his first summer was now up late talking with his staff on work nights and weekends. That young male was also behind the driver’s wheel now, but most importantly, he was riding through the summer with purpose. At the end of camp, RYI staff and I could only begin to miss the summer and think about how we could have gone two to three more weeks.

Photo Courtesy of Jalem Towler

Ultimately, my summers with RYI have made me whole. They have transformed this compassionless freshman, fresh out of his first year of college, into a junior who hasn’t left the Roxbury community since entering and has been made into a stronger willed and more loving individual. The most challenging thing I faced during my first summer was actually opening myself up to campers and staff. On the other hand, this second summer left me with another challenge: being able to fully embrace my role, have confidence in my ability to lead, and rely on others instead of myself to create a family and not just a camp. The work I have done in RYI and for the Phillips Brooks House Association as a whole has shown me that this style of work with people is built most solidly on relationships, dedication, and, above all, love.

PhotoCourtesy Courtesy of Wikimedia Photo of Wikimedia Commons Commons


Journal for Public Interest

Reflection Opinion

Hands that Speak By Erica Eisen


n a Sunday afternoon in September, a small group of students gathered in a classroom in the basement of the Science Center. As people trickled in slowly, the students pushed the desks into a ring shape so that everyone could see each other. Then, after the seven minutes of Harvard time elapsed, they closed their lips and began, with their hands, to speak. While for most at Harvard, the weekends mean time to catch up on TV or assigned readings, these students have chosen to devote their time to a fifth or even sixth class – one for which they get no credit, no grades, and no university recognition. For though Harvard offers classes in Akkadian, Pali, and Cape Verdean Creole, no official class on American Sign Language exists. Those interested in studying ASL – this semester, there are 28 beginning, 10 intermediate, and 7 advanced students—must pay and give up their free time in order to take the weekend classes offered by the Committee on Deaf Awareness (CODA), a student organization run through PBHA. The lack of recognition by Harvard is difficult to disentangle from the marginalized status that the Deaf community has had for much of its history. Aristotle infamously asserted that the deaf were incapable of rational thought. In medieval Europe, deafness was thought to be caused by demonic possession, and many Christian theologians marginalized the deaf because they could not give confession. Until the beginning of the 19th century, no schools for the deaf existed in the United States; the children of the rich were given private tutors or sent to school in the UK, but the poor were left without options. That all changed in 1814, when Reverend Thomas Gallaudet met Alice Cogswell, his neighbor’s daughter, who had lost her hearing after contracting meningitis. When her father prevailed on him to found a school to teach children like her, Gallaudet decided to travel to Europe to research methods of educating the deaf. There, he met Laurent Clerc, an accomplished graduate and teacher at a Paris school for deaf children. The two of them traveled back to the United States together, Clerc teaching Gallaudet French Sign Language and Gallaudet teaching Clerc English. Together, they founded the American School for the Deaf in Hartford. The melding of Clerc’s French signs with the students’ own signs would eventually develop into the American Sign language we know today. The American School for the Deaf and Gallaudet University, founded by Thomas Gallaudet’s son, educated generations of deaf children, many of whom went on to become teachers themselves, spreading sign language and Deaf culture across the nation. But this so-called “golden age of Deaf education” was to be short-lived; Alexander Graham Bell, better known as the inventor of the telephone, made it his mission to eradicate deafness. He became an outspoken advocate of oralism, the idea that the deaf should speak, not sign. Bell even went so far as to promote forbidding the deaf from marrying each other (though much deafness is not genetic). This wave of oralism culminated in the Milan Conference of 1880, which banned the teaching of sign language in many countries, including the United States. In 1960, oralism was still the dominant method of deaf education. ASL was looked down upon; in public, the deaf tried to sign discretely to avoid being gawked at. But that year, William Stokoe, a

hearing professor of English at Gallaudet University, published “Sign Language Structure.” His argument was simple: that American Sign Language constituted a real language. Yet though this claim is universally accepted today, it flew in the face of common wisdom at the time – signing was viewed as a crude substitute for speaking, no more than pantomime. Stokoe’s research paved the way for resurgence in ASL and an increasing acceptance of the Deaf in hearing society. Stokoe’s research also led to an increasing interest in Deaf culture among the hearing, few of whom had hitherto been exposed to signing. ASL is now offered at high schools and universities across the country. Deaf culture has also garnered increasing interest from academics, including those at Harvard – a 2002 thesis on Deaf identity won the Hoopes Prize for anthropology that year. And yet Harvard continues to reject calls by CODA to create an officially recognized ASL class, citing financial reasons. CODA’s yearly budget is small; Harvard’s endowment of $32.7 billion dwarfs the GDP of Jordan. CODA has never turned a profit off of its ASL classes. Its ability to run them is dependent largely on grants and the fees charged for registration, which are higher for non-Harvard students – the classes are also attended by students from MIT, Brandeis, and Boston University. Rather paradoxically, then, CODA’s ability to offer ASL classes is contingent upon other schools’ lack of ASL programs, and yet the introduction of ASL classes at these schools is something we should and do support. If students at other schools no longer needed to come to Harvard to learn ASL, the fate of CODA’s weekend classes would be uncertain. What is certain, however, is that, even without the option of taking it for free and for credit, a small group of students has shown dedication, passion, and academic interest in ASL. There is no question about whether or not they want to continue. Whether or not they can, however, is up to Harvard to decide.

Photo Courtesy of Harvard Committee on Deaf Awareness


The Journal for Public Interest

A publication of the Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee Š Copyright 2013 Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee - Journal for Public Interest. All Rights Reserved.

Journal for Public Interest - Issue 1, Fall 2013  
Journal for Public Interest - Issue 1, Fall 2013