Anniversary of the Kent State tragedy

On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on anti-war protesters at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine others. The events at Kent State happened just as final exams for the Spring Semester were about to begin at the Georgetown Law Center. On May 6, 1970, Adrian Fisher, Dean of the Law Center, wrote a memo to the Law Center community which addressed the situation. The letter now resides in the Law Center Archives, located in 210 Williams. The memo began:

“Recognizing that the events of the past week – the entry of American troops into Cambodia, the Kent State University killings – have given rise to crises in the consciences of many individuals which affect their ability to follow traditional Law Center procedures, and in order to allow those members of the Administration, Faculty, and Student Body of the Law Center to act upon their individual consciences in this crisis, the Law Center alters the Spring 1970 Term examination schedule in the following way.”

The memo outlined three options for students regarding the taking of final exams or submission of legal writing papers.

  • Take the exam or submit the paper as originally scheduled.
  • Take a delayed exam or submit a delayed paper. The memo specified a due date for delayed exams and papers to be turned in to the Registrar’s Office.
  • Take an “administrative pass”, which allowed the student to opt out of taking an exam altogether. Students had to notify the Registrar’s Office of their intention to exercise this option; for those students a note would be attached to their transcript stating the reason for the administrative pass. If a student later found that the administrative pass would not meet bar admission criteria, he/she could arrange to take a delayed exam at a time to be worked out with the Registrar’s Office.

Dean Fisher’s memo was a sensitive and compassionate response to an extraordinary set of circumstances. However, he made sure to note that the special conditions outlined in the memo applied only to the Spring 1970 term. He noted, “This action relates solely to the situation existing at this time and shall have no precedental force.”

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