We welcome the announcement last week that noted scholar Lani Guinier '71 accepted tenure from Harvard Law School (HLS) and hope her appointment will be followed by offers to others from a diversity of backgrounds.
Guinier will become the first female African-American professor in the 181-year history of HLS. A former Clinton nominee and former NAACP lawyer and an expert on voting rights and civil-rights law, Guinier is a welcome addition to the HLS faculty. However, her appointment is the first in what continues to be a painfully slow process of bringing professors of minority ethnicities to the Harvard University faculty.
Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American. The racial makeup of the HLS Faculty has been an issue before as well: in 1989, Harvard dismissed Weld Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell after 18 years of teaching because the noted expert on race and law refused to end his leave in protest of the absence of minority women on HLS faculty.
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Guinier said, "Though I am the first woman of color to join the tenured faculty, I know that I will not be the last, and this is important to me". In the news release, Dean of the Law School Robert C. Clark said he felt Guinier's appointment would help "attract other top scholars of diverse backgrounds."
Harvard Law School and Harvard University as a whole are woefully behind their peers in the ethnic diversity of their faculties, and therefore are missing out on the benefits that a diverse group of top scholars can bring. The administrators of Harvard University must increase the pace of their search and work harder to bring innovative scholars from a wide array of backgrounds to the Harvard University faculty.