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Rumors On New Law Dean Intensify; Bok May Have Offered Post To Judge

By Michael G. Harpe

President Bok last December may have offered the deanship of the Law School to Robert E. Keeton, a federal judge and former law school professor, but Keeton allegedly turned down the offer.

Sources within the Law School have recently disclosed that speculation about Bok's offer to Keeton has circulated within the Law school, but cautioned that the secrecy of the dean selection process makes confirmation of the speculation difficult.

"I have heard the rumor and I suspect it is true," Duncan M. Kennedy, professor of Law, said yesterday.

Keeton on Wednesday refused to confirm or deny that Bok offered him the post, saying, "It would be most inappropriate for me to talk about it."

Bok, who is responsible for choosing a successor to Albert M. Sacks, the current law dean who steps down in July, yesterday refused to comment on the Keeton speculation. Bok last weekend declined to say whether he had already offered the position to someone, adding that he does not comment on speculation about his choices for dean "out of principle."

The current rumor about Keeton is the latest of many that have circulated in the law school about possible dean candidates. Since last fall, the leading contenders for the position have been professors Frank I. Michelman, James Vorenberg, and Jerome Cohen.

Russell A. Simpson, assistant dean of the Law School, who said yesterday that he has heard the speculation, added that the current speculation about Keeton "makes some sense," because he was seriously considered for dean during the last search in 1971.

Richard D. Parker, professor of Law, said yesterday that many rumors have circulated in the law school because of the secretive nature of the selection process.

Parker signed a faculty memo last fall which asked the faculty to consider changing the dean selection procedure the next time a dean must be chosen. The faculty decided to wait until the current search is finished before considering any future changes.

Roberto M. Unger, professor of Law, said yesterday that Keeton has always been mentioned as a candidate for dean but that in the last few weeks, speculation that Keeton had refused Bok's offer began to circulate. "It's futile to speculate because all the names of possible candidates have been up and down," Unger said, adding that "this is the nature of the process."

Keeton became a U.S. District Judge in April 1979, after teaching at the Law School. Marjorie Corman, president of the law school council, said yesterday that Keeton enjoyed the respect of both students and faculty at the Law School, and that he would be the best choice for dean.

Bok last fall said he wanted to announce his choice for dean by January, 1981. Last weekend, he said he was "pretty close," and is answering the final questions about his choice.

Cohen, a possible dean candidate, traveled to New York yesterday--after a trip to Germany and before his departure for China today--possibly to meet with Bok, who was also in New York yesterday. Cohen was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Bok denied yesterday that he met Cohen in New York, saying he was there to work on the fund drive, and that Cohen "was not even a minor prospect for the fund drive.

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