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Video of Harvard Law student who resumed argument after fainting starts debate on overwork

‘Why do we push this narrative that we have to keep going even when we are not well?’ one viewer asked

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Wednesday 13 October 2021 19:12 BST
Viral TikTok of Harvard Law Student fainting and then resuming argument sparks debate
Viral TikTok of Harvard Law Student fainting and then resuming argument sparks debate (TikTok / @iletd)

A viral TikTok showing the moment that a Harvard Law student fainted before resuming her argument during a mock trial competition has sparked a debate on social media about the dangers of “glamourising” work ethic at the cost of health.

This week, a TikTok user who goes by the username @iletd uploaded a portion of the 2019 Ames Moot Court Competition, during which teams of third-year law students argue a hypothetical case before a panel of judges.

During the competition, which saw Merrick Garland, then-chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, preside as chief justice, oralist Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie fainted while responding to a question from the panel while standing at the podium.

The moment, which was captured on camera, saw Gilbert-Lurie’s teammates rush to help her as the judges and others in the courtroom looked on in concern.

After the incident, the law student, who was given a glass of water, could then be seen resuming her place behind the podium, at which point she asked to laughter from the crowd and the judges: “Would you mind repeating the question, your honour?”

On TikTok, the clip of the incident was shared along with the caption: “Kids that go to Harvard are not human. She’s a trooper,” while the video also included text that read: “Harvard Law student faints mid-argument and then gets right back to work!”

As of Wednesday, the video has been viewed more than 2.8m times. However, not everyone has been impressed by Gilbert-Lurie’s dedication to continuing her argument, as many viewers expressed concern over the incident and what it suggests about the pressures placed on the law students.

“I don’t really think hyping someone fainting and still going is healthy for anyone, Harvard students included,” one person commented.

Another said: “I hope she’s getting the rest she needs. This was a combination of stress and exhaustion, not funny at all.”

“Not y’all glamourising this,” someone else wrote.

The video also prompted a response from a viewer who claimed to have also gone to Harvard Law School, who described the incident as “completely unsurprising” given the “immense pressure” placed on students.

“We should not be cheering this behaviour on - full stop,” they wrote.

However, according to others, the video isn’t about “glamourising” the incident but rather about praising the law student’s “work ethic”.

“Nobody is glamourising this, they’re literally applauding her work ethic and passion for making a difference in law,” one viewer claimed.

According to Harvard Law School, the Ames Moot Court Competition, which was established in 1911 and takes place in three rounds, showcases “some of the most talented oral advocates to attend HLS”.

The Independent has contacted Harvard Law School and Gilbert-Lurie for comment.

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