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Harvard Coop to sell off remaining merchandise with law school shield

It’s been stripped from Harvard Law School’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and it is being wiped clean from the university’s website.

Now, the controversial shield with ties to a slave-holding family that has represented the law school for nearly 80 years will slowly disappear from the shelves and online store of The Harvard Coop.

The Coop, located in Harvard Square, is the main retailer of Harvard textbooks and swag, including sweatshirts, mugs, hats, T-shirts, decals, and umbrellas.

Jerry Murphy, president of the Coop, which has served the Harvard community since 1882, said the store will sell off its remaining law school inventory that bears the symbol following the university’s decision this week to let the school abandon the use of the shield.


“Typically, when someone changes a mark, and there are T-shirts and sweatshirts and whatever, you have an opportunity to sell through all of that stuff,” said Murphy. “That’s what we are planning on doing as of right now.”

The shield uses elements from the coat of arms of the family of Isaac Royall Jr., whose bequest endowed the first professorship of law at Harvard, according to the school.

The image, first designed in 1936 and adopted a year later, depicts three sheaves of wheat arranged inside a blue-and-crimson shield.

In October, the shield became a focus of controversy when a group called Royall Must Fall noted the symbol’s ties to slavery.

In response, Martha Minow, dean of the law school, launched a special committee to examine the continued use of the shield. The committee ultimately voted to discard the image. The Harvard Corporation, one of the university’s governing boards, accepted the law school’s request on Monday.

In addition to scrubbing the shield from the Web, officials have begun removing it from common areas and buildings on campus.


Francis X. McCrossan, dean for administration at the law school, said in a letter Friday to the school community that vendors of officially licensed law school merchandise have been instructed to cease further production of items showing the shield.

The law school has also formally notified the University’s Office of Trademark Programs, which enforces all Harvard use-of-name and trademark policies, to withhold approval of any commercial designs that continue to incorporate the shield, the letter said.

The law school has not asked the Coop to take the items off the shelves or its website.

Murphy said the Coop will no longer submit orders for additional clothing with the controversial seal. Instead of throwing out the clothing that’s left, the store plans to deplete its stock.

He said it was the school’s decision to discard the seal, not the Coop’s, and the logo was valid when the store’s current inventory was purchased.

Murphy said that he hasn’t heard of an uptick in sales of law school paraphernalia. He expects, however, that some alumni may want to purchase the goods as memorabilia.

“When someone — or something — is going away, there are usually some people that want to get it before it goes away, for whatever reason,” he said.

The Royall Must Fall group didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

When a new logo is drawn up and selected by the law school, a move expected to take place sometime in 2017, in time for the school’s bicentennial, the updated image will be incorporated onto future merchandise sold by the Coop.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.