A committee recommended Harvard Law School remove its official seal Friday, following months of scrutiny surrounding the symbol that has ties to an 18th-century slave owner.
The committee’s 10-2 recommendation was backed by Dean Martha Minow, but it wasn’t immediately clear when Harvard Corp., one of the university’s governing boards, will make its final decision.
“We believe that if the Law School is to have an official symbol, it must more closely represent the values of the Law School, which the current shield does not," the committee made up of professors, alumni, students and staff wrote in its recommendation.
The shield's meaning has changed over time, said Bruce Mann, committee chairman and Harvard Law professor.
"Too many people think the shield has become an impediment," he said. "Too many people see the association with slavery."
The shield, officially adopted in 1937, depicts three bundles of wheat, an image borrowed from the family crest of Isaac Royall Jr., under the university's motto "Veritas."
Royall donated his estate to create the first law professorship at Harvard University. His father, Isaac Royall Sr., made much of the family wealth on the backs of slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations and Massachusetts farms.
Minow created the committee after some law school students formed a group called Royall Must Fall to denounce the shield.
"I endorse the recommendation to retire the shield because its association with slavery does not represent the values and aspirations of the Harvard Law School and because it has become a source of division rather than commonality in our community," she wrote to students and alumni.
However, not everyone is agreeing with the decision. One professor on the committee, joined by a student, said keeping the current shield was a way to honor the slaves whose sacrifice provided the Royall family with its wealth.
They said the current shield should be tied "to a historically sound interpretative narrative about it" and suggested adding the word "Iustitia" — justice in Latin — below the word "Veritas."
According to The Guardian, the decision to remove the shields comes after Harvard University announced it would chance the title “house master,” used to describe the Ivy League’s residential administrators,” and use the term “faculty dean” instead.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.