Law Faculty Gives Tenure To Ogletree

The Law School faculty unanimously voted to offer tenure to Assistant Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree Jr. late last month, a move that has drawn widespread approval on campus, amidst persistent calls for greater faculty diversity.

An Ogletree appointment would increase to four the number of tenured Black professors currently at the Law School. One of those four, Professor of Law Christopher F. Edley Jr., is currently on leave as Associate Director of the Office of Budget and Management in the Clinton administration.

Ogletree, a specialist in criminal law, is best known outside the Law School for being Anita Hill's counsel during the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Within the Law School, Ogletree is immensely popular. Recently, the graduating class chose him to receive the 1993 Albert M. Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence.

In an interview last night, Ogletree said he would be extremely pleased if he receives an official offer.

"It will be a very refreshing and positive culmination of a long process of struggle," he said.

But Ogletree said he "won't have an offer until the governing board approves the faculty's recommendation."

In an interview soon after the faculty's vote, Law School Dean Robert C. Clark said that it was almost certain that the governing board would approve the offer.

Ogletree was hired by the Law School in 1989 as an assistant professor--specializing in clinical legal practice--after four years as a visiting professor.

His scholarship focuses on the role of public defend- ers in society, and he has been concerned more with the practice of law than with legal theory. Ogletree also has considerable experience with the use of DNA fingerprinting for identification purposes in criminal trials.

His promotion was based on a resolution passed by the faculty of the Law School in May 1988, which set down criteria to be used in making tenure decisions for primarily clinical faculty members like Ogletree.

Clark said that Ogletree has fulfilled "superbly" both criteria in the 1988 resolution--providing clinical teaching and developing a clinical program.

Clark, who has come under fire in recent years from people who say he has not moved quickly enough on the issue of diversity on the Law School's faculty, said he was "really happy" about the decision to offer Ogletree tenure.

Student Support

Student support for Ogletree has been overwhelming. Those interviewed praises him for his contributions to the clinical programs as well as the general atmosphere at the Law School.

Graduating Class Marshall Viet Dinh, who will present the Sacks-Freund award to Ogletree during the Class Day ceremonies on June 9, said, "Harvard Law School has greatly benefited from his 'Introduction to Trial Advocacy' class, his Saturday School speaker program, and his warm and receptive presence."

Lucy Koh, another third-year law student, said, "Professor Ogletree has made the largest contribution of anyone on the faculty."

Apart from his teaching and clinical work, Ogletree has participated in the Project on Community, the group working to heal tension on the Law School campus.

The faculty's vote came during the same week that The New Republic reported a rumor that Ogletree had not actually authored an article published under his name in the Harvard Law Review's 1993 issue.

Although the New Republic's article concluded that the rumor was false, it contained a host of statements demeaning to Ogletree, attributed to an unidentified professor or professors.

Dean Clark said he "didn't want Professor Ogletree's tenure decision to be affected in any way by this article."

He says he met one-on-one for about 30 hours with some of the people involved so that he could say to the faculty, that there was nothing to the rumors.

Yet some students feel Clark has not been forceful enough in his endorsement of Ogletree. They are currently meeting with him and Williston Professor of Law Emeritus Roger D. Fisher '43 to voice their concerns.

"Pretty disgraceful" is how Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz described the New Republic's article. "To knowingly publish a false rumor is the worst form of yellow journalism."

Yellow Journalism

Describing the magazine as one of "shoddy" journalistic integrity, Dershowitz added. "The New Republic is Martin [H.] Peretz's personal revenge vehicle."

Peretz, the owner of the New Republic, is a lecturer on social studies at Harvard.

Ogletree said the article has not had any detrimental effects on his career.

"It has caused the overwhelming majority of my colleagues, including one of the two anonymously quoted, to offer their enthusiastic support of the tenure vote," he said.

Ogletree speculated that the article was a reaction from conservatives in Washington to the possibility of his being offered the position on the D.C. Circuit Court vacated by Justice Clarence Thomas. Ogletree said he is not interested in the position.

Elizabeth A. Moreno, a member of the graduating class at the Law School, said the reaction among the students to the article has been "visceral."

Describing the piece as "almost McCarthyism," Moreno said she finds it hypocritical that a professor could make "anonymous accusations that are so damning" against Ogletree, and yet be part of a unanimous vote to offer Ogletree tenure