Law Profs Debate Dean's Role
Student-Sponsored Forum Addresses Dean Search Concerns
Law School faculty dean search committee chair Laurence H. Tribe '62 still won't say who is being considered to succeed outgoing dean James Vorenberg '49. But yesterday he did--for the first time--say publicly what his committee and President Bok are looking for.
"It's going to be someone with a serious commitment to the educational process, someone who has demonstrated a commitment to improving the quality of education," said Tribe, who is also the Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law.
Almost a week after a student committee advising Bok on the dean search released the results of a student poll on the role of the next dean, the committee yesterday assembled nine faculty members who debated that subject in an open forum.
At least two of the professors in attendance--Professor of Law Robert C. Clark and Byrne Professor of Administrative Law Richard B. Stewart--are among the candidates now being actively considered for the dean's post, according to Law School sources.
Though the session proceeded without incident, Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell--who sources say is not among the candidates for the deanship--drew applause from the half-filled Langdell lecture hall when he criticized the secrecy of the search process.
"It is worthwhile to let the record show that this is not the way it has to be," said Bell. "Many law schools have open processes."
Tribe said he too wished the process could be more open. But he added that the present process was better than past ones, which were conducted "unilaterally" by the president with no faculty or student input.
Last year, the faculty elected a six-member committee to advise President Bok on the dean selection. Bok has said he hopes to appoint a successor to Vorenberg by January.
Although yesterday's panel agreed that the faculty needed more diversity, they disagreed on the means. Bell, one of two tenured Black faculty members, argued for a policy of hiring only women and minorities for the next three years, while others urged less stringent plans.
"I think it's important to have affirmative action goals to increase women and minorities in the faculty," said Clark. "I guess I disagree with [Bell's] idea that mechanical numbers is the best way to do that."
Stewart, who since last spring has been mentioned as a likely inside candidate for the dean's post, said student charges that he was insensitive toward sexism were unfounded. In a poll released last week, 40 of the approximately 325 students responding offered negative comments about Stewart, and many said he had sexist attitudes.
"My teaching evaluations over 13 years have been good," Stewart said. He later added, "I hope I'm improving or doing better."
Stewart said he thought most of the negative comments came from his torts class last year, which he said had bad "chemistry." Stewart also said many students might have criticized him only because of his views on the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork to the United States Supreme Court or his opposition to tenure appeal of then-Assistant Professor of Law Clare Dalton.
Members of the student dean search committee said they wished there had been more time for questions from the student audience, but that they thought the event was successful anyway.
"It was as important for the faculty to hear each other as it was for the students to ask questions and hear what the faculty had to say," said committee member Jeffrey C. Levy '86.