Harvard Law Student Faints Mid Argument And Carries On, Sparks University Stress Debate

The moment a Harvard Law student continued arguing a case after fainting has gone viral online, sparking fierce debate over the expectations of students at the Ivy League school and pressure put on them.

Graduating Harvard University Law School students stand and wave gavels in celebration at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. J.K. Rowling, who wrote the popular Harry Potter books, was the commencement speaker. © Getty Images Graduating Harvard University Law School students stand and wave gavels in celebration at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. J.K. Rowling, who wrote the popular Harry Potter books, was the commencement speaker.

In 2019, third-year Harvard Law student Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie took to the podium during the annual Ames Moot Court Competition. The event sees students take part in a "moot court" where they argue a hypothetical case before a panel of judges, presided by Merrick Garland, then-chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,

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While answering a question, Gilbert-Lurie became visibly flustered, shortly before fainting and falling to the floor. Afterwards, the student was given a glass of water before continuing with her work. "Would you mind repeating the question, your honor?" she asked, met with cheers from other students.

Two years later, the video was shared by a motivational TikTok account, which dubbed Harvard students "troopers."

What wasn't shown in the clip was that, according to Harvard's report on the competition, Gilbert-Lurie was asked whether she wanted to resume with her argument and declined Garland's offer of a "brief recess."

The video has gained over three million views and received compliments towards the student's determination and decision to carry on. "The fact that she continued is amazing," wrote one user.

However, dissenting users have suggested that continuing even after fainting should not be applauded, arguing that it's symbolic of a far larger problem.

"I don't think hyping someone fainting and still going is healthy for anyone, Harvard students included," commented one user.

Harvard Law graduate and former corporate attorney Julian Sarafian expressed his lack of surprise at the video in the comments, due to the "immense pressure" on students. "We should NOT be cheering this behavior on. Full stop," he wrote.

Sarafian, who champions mental health online and voices concerns over the mental health of Harvard students, said in a reaction video that, "there are so many things wrong with this that I'm not even surprised," pointing to the cheering from fellow students.

The former student described Gilbert-Lurie's continuation as "commendable," in a LinkedIn post but also referred to the apparent lack of mental health support from the university in reference to the pressure students face while studying. Sarafian added that he lost a university friend to mental health while studying at Harvard.

Others online however suggested that the video simply supported the student's dedication, rather than the events leading to it: "They're applauding her for being dedicated, not for pushing through literally fainting. Plus, whether they told her to sit down or not, she has to want to sit down and it did not seem like she did."

In July 2020, Harvard University released the Report of the Task Force on Managing Student Mental Health, and found that: "Harvard students are experiencing rising levels of depression and anxiety disorders, and high and widespread levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness and other conditions."

"In addition, undergraduates reported high levels of stress, overwork, concern about measuring up to peers, and inability to maintain healthy coping strategies. Extracurricular activities, rather than providing unqualified relief, often represented another source of competition and stress. Graduate and professional students reported high levels of isolation, uncertainty about academic and career prospects, and, among those in Ph.D. programs, financial insecurity and concerns about their relation to advisors. Students at all levels reported a lack of clarity about when, how, and where to seek help with potential mental health concerns. The problems we identified were not universal, but were sufficiently widespread to merit action."

The Task Force offered eight recommendations for the university to follow to improve tackling mental health issues among students.

Newsweek has contacted Harvard University for comment.

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