Law Students Demand More Minority Faculty
Protest Features Blues Harmonica
Mixing folk songs, blues harmonica and speeches, about 150 people gathered at the Law School yesterday to press for more minority faculty hiring.
The 45-minute long protest, organized by the Coalition for Civil Rights (CCR), was designed to maintain activism begun last year, when students twice occupied the office of Dean Robert C. Clark.
"There is a bias at the Law School--able bodied straight white men," the CCR's Morris Ratner told the crowd assembled in front of Harkness Common.
Several activists defended themselves from charges that they wanted faculty hired solely on the basis of their skin color.
"The national press has portrayed our goals as a nutty quest for quotas," said CCR spokesperson Peter Cicchino. "Nothing could be farther from the truth."
CCR members present at the rally also worked to disassociate themselves from the stereotype of ivory-tower liberals. "Strategically, we want to show that this isn't some passing fad of the children of privilege. This is an issue of justice," said Cicchino.
The CCR, a coalition of various student minorities, is currently involved in the establishment of an alternative investment fund for prospective Law School donors, organizers said. Plans call for the fund to be held in escrow until trustees decide that Harvard has made substantial progress toward a diverse faculty.
Although he is currently on an indefinite leave of absence to protest the lack of minority hiring at the school, Weld Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell was clearly on the minds of the protestors.
"We are sick of injustice, and we are sick of excuses, and we will not let Professor Bell's sacrifice be in vain," Jan-Michele Lemon, a third-year law student, told the crowd.
"He believes that we may fail temporarily, but we cannot be defeated," she said of Bell, who made a late appearance at the event.
Last year, Bell's surprise announcement that he was going on leave until the Law School tenured a minority woman put him at the center of attention, but he said he plans to maintain a lower profile in the movement this year.
"There's nothing I can add that hasn't already been said," said Bell in an interview after the rally, one of three Black faculty members at the school.
"I plan to come back if we've made some progress and I think that progress will be made," Bell promised. "I don't expect to go."
There are currently three tenured Black faculty members at the Law School and five women, but no Black women.
Yesterday's rally came only two days after an open forum, in which Dean Robert C. Clark was presented with a proposal for a joint student-facultycommittee on diversity. Clark refused to make acommitment on the plan immediately but promised toconsider it.
Clark received an invitation to the rally butdeclined to attend, citing a previous engagement.In a written letter to CCR officials, Clarkenumerated several steps the faculty is taking toaddress the lack of minority appointments.
"Different faculty members have ratherdifferent views, but diversity is clearly an issuethat the faculty takes seriously," Clark said inthe letter, dated September 24.
In support of increased attention to facultydiversity, Clark cited a "special effort" of thefaculty to recruit minority candidates justbeginning their law teaching careers. He alsonoted that minority hiring was on the agenda atthe September 14 faculty meeting.
But some activists at yesterday's rally saidthat Clark's commitment to the increased hiring ofwomen and minorities was rhetorical only. "He isconcerned about diversity. That's become hismantra in the last few months, but he hasn't donemuch about it," said the.
Also addressing the crowd was Boston Universityprofessor Iris Gomez, who spoke about thedifficulty in connecting a legal education withreal-world experience. "As a representative of thelegal community, it is hard for me to havecredibility...when those institutions that trainedus do not represent that integrated model ofjustice," she said