Taking the initiative after a spring of bitter and emotional conflict, Dean of the Law School Robert C. Clark has appointed a respected professor emeritus to lead a major effort to improve the sense of community on campus.
In a letter distributed last week, Clark sounded a conciliatory note and called on students, faculty and staff to raise the level of civility in the ongoing discussion of race and gender issues.
"The events of last spring were disturbing and difficult for many members of this community," Clark wrote. "It has become apparent that the ways in which we deal with each other ought to be improved."
Clark said Williston Professor of Law emeritus Roger Fisher '43 has agreed to head a working group to create an environment at the school that fosters mutual understanding while preserving freedom of speech.
Fisher, a leading expert on negotiation techniques and a best-selling author, was in South Africa yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
Tensions at the school ran high last spring after the Law Review published a parody of the writings of feminist scholar Mary Joe Frug, who was murdered in Cambridge in 1991.
The parody, which most considered offensive, fueled the ongoing debate over efforts to hire more minority and women faculty members. The spring was marked by a series of sit-ins and protests, as well as a failed lawsuit against the University.
Derrick A. Bell Jr., the school's first tenured Black professor, also continued to boycott the school in protest. The University refused this summer to extend his leave of absence, and he is no longer a member of the faculty.
Clark, in his letter, expressed regret aboutBell's departure and said he hopes that Bell "willseek reappointment to our faculty in the nearfuture."
The dean, who was criticized by students andfaculty for not responding adequately to the Frugparody, promised to focus on bringing more womenonto the faculty. He said the appointmentscommittee will meet periodically with studentrepresentatives this fall.
Clark said the new working group would alsoinclude student representatives, and staff membersas well.
He did not specify what authority the committeewould have, nor what steps it could take to healthe divisions between students and theadministration, and within the faculty.
"Our differences should be an asset of ourcommunity, not a liability," Clark said in theletter. "They should be a source of stimulation,insight and growth."
Touroff-Glueck Professor of Law and PsychiatryAlan A. Stone '50 and Assistant Professor of LawCharles J. Ogletree Jr. will also serve on theworking group, Clark said.
In an interview yesterday, Stone said he wasoptimistic about the upcoming year. "I actuallythink we may be able to do some things," he said."I'm very enthusiastic."
Stone said the group met for the first timeWednesday, but said other members have not beenchosen yet.
"We will organize meetings to talk about anyissues. We are lookin