Never mind the stacks of law books and the jockeying for grades at Harvard Law School: Second-year student Molly Coleman is working on bigger things.
"At Harvard, it feels like when you get your admissions letter, you get this platform to make change," the 27-year-old from St. Paul said Saturday while home on break.
Coleman was a writer on a Sept. 20 opinion piece for the law school's newspaper titled, "What is HLS (Harvard Law School) doing about Professor Brett Kavanaugh?"
At the time, Kavanaugh was fighting for Senate confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Coleman's article asked: "Will Harvard Law School take seriously the credible allegation of Kavanaugh's sexual assault against a young woman before he is allowed to continue teaching young women? Or will Harvard allow him to teach students without further inquiry — and continue paying him our tuition money?"
Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, but he won't be back at Harvard, where he had taught for about a decade. After Coleman's piece and scattered protests, the school announced last month that he wouldn't be back in January. Taking on a powerful figure and challenging the administration at the hallowed halls of Harvard was a no-brainer for her, Coleman said.
She said she received support from her most admired professors, as well as hundreds of students who joined a walkout. Of Kavanaugh's appointment, she said, "It's so infuriating. … We are saying so loudly for everyone to hear that women don't matter."
Coleman has more writing in her future: She was recently elected co-editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.
A graduate of St. Paul's Central High School, where she was "not even close" to being valedictorian, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Coleman said she was drawn to the law to seek systemic change on racial and gender equity issues. "Being at Central, it's hard not to think of things through a racial inequity lens," she said.
She's taken time off from her studies to work with inner-city New York schools. Last summer, she was a clerk in the Hennepin County Public Defender's office. Next summer, she'll split her time between two jobs. She'll be at Gender Justice, a St. Paul nonprofit legal and advocacy group fighting discrimination based on sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
But first Coleman will head to New York City to work at Paul, Weiss, a Manhattan law firm that is working with families separated at the border.
Coleman is the daughter of former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, a lawyer himself. Will she follow in the political footsteps of her father and her late grandfather Nick Coleman, who served as majority leader in the Minnesota Senate? Coleman demurred, saying she sees lots of ways to push for change.