When Dean Griswold set up the Joint Student-Faculty Committee on the Law School nearly four months ago, it was widely predicted that the committee would serve to delay significant action on the causes of student malaise. This view was understandably cynical. Many students had come to feel that the Law School's administration opposed any sort of student-initiated change. Yet it has become clear that a shake-up at the Law School--ranging from a re-evaluation of extracurricular activities to a tightening of procedures in the Placement Office--is certainly possible. A sizeable number of professor heartily sympathize with student complaints and are anxious to help the committee force action, instead of burying the issues in painful deliberation.
Thus far the committee has submitted only one proposal to Dean Griswold--that the Law School issue a statement pledging itself to do what it can to end discrimination by law firms hiring students through the Placement Office. Late last month Griswold announced that the committee's recommendations had become official policy.
Griswold's decision only affirmed Harvard's adherence to state law. But more important, it recognized a much-discussed student grievance. Many students had thought the Law School would refuse to take up the matter. Specific cases of bias are, after all, difficult to pinpoint, and the director of the Law School Placement Office denied allegations that she told students not to apply to certain law firms.
Griswold went so far as to state that the Law School will no longer supply students, even at their own request, with information on employers' attitudes towards race or religion.
The committee's recommendations could have been more stringent. It did consider the alternative of forcing law firms to sign an oath refusing to discriminate in hiring.
At any rate, the solution adopted by the committee and the Dean was a direct response to student discontent, was enacted quickly, and will probably have a salutory effect in prodding firms to think twice about committing noticeable hiring abuses.
Some of the other problems the committee will confront will be tougher to deal with, since they concern the premises of education, not administration. But Clark Byse, the committee's forthright and open-minded chairman, has encouraged his group to be responsive to the students-at-large, to meet objections openly, and give the Law School's students a sense of influence on their education which has heretofore been denied them.