Clark has served as dean for over 13 years and said yesterday that the time was right to step aside.
The school will kick off the four-year public phase of a massive fundraising campaign in June—an effort that Clark said a single dean should see through.
“I do not think it appropriate, in light of current norms at Harvard University, to continue my already long tenure to such a time,” Clark wrote in a letter to colleagues yesterday.
Clark wrote that June will be an appropriate moment to turn over the reins, as he will be able to provide his successor “with an enormous head start.”
“We’re concluding the ‘quiet phase’ of our campaign, and we’ll have a humdinger of a figure to report,” Clark said in an interview yesterday.
Colleagues at Harvard and at peer institutions described Clark’s contributions to the school in both healing serious rifts within the school and sketching out a direction for the school’s future.
According to several longtime HLS professors, some of Clark’s biggest accomplishments came early on in his tenure.
Clark was appointed in 1989 by then-University President Derek C. Bok. He was charged with getting around sharp ideological divides that had developed within the faculty in the 1970s and brought HLS’ faculty appointment process to a halt.
“In 1989 there was such extreme factionalism within the faculty that it was impossible to make appointments or school-wide policies,” said Beneficial Professor of Law Charles Fried.
While the faculty of law schools naturally split into various camps and are still active in debating issues of policy, HLS professors say the climate was out of hand.
Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz described a “classic left-right divide,” leading to an unhealthy, divisive atmosphere.
Professors from the various ideological camps blocked appointments of candidates from opposing camps, causing stagnation and deepening the rifts.
Yesterday, Clark recalled the situation as almost “civil war.”
According to Dershowitz, Fried and outsiders, Clark was responsible for ending at least the worst of the internecine fighting.
Through persuasion, Clark was able to restart the flow of new appointments.