An Affirmative Action


Stuart Singer, president of the Harvard Law Review, may be right when he says that everyone on the review recognizes the underrepresentation of minorities and women on the publication, but not everyone agrees on what action should be taken to remedy it.

The disagreement over whether to alter the procedures by which new review members are chosen came to a head this week when the review voted to accept an affirmative action proposal. But the issue continues to divide the review membership.

Currently, the review includes only one minority student and fewer than a dozen women. Last year, the journal selected three women and no minorities to join the ranks, which include more than 80 members.

The new affirmative action plan attempts to improve on those statistics by giving minority and women candiates a better chance of gaining membership on the review on the basis of their grades. In the past, the review offered membership to the five highest ranking students in each of the four sections into which first-year law students are randomly divided.

Under the new procedure, the review will still offer membership to the top four students in each section but will then search for the highest ranking minority student among the top 25 students in each section.


If no minority student is found in a section, the review will select the section's highest ranking woman. And, if no women is found--which members consider unlikely--the fifth ranking student in the section will be chosen.

The new procedure--adopted by a vote of 45 to 39--should result in at least four minorities or women joining the prestigious law journal every year. The writing competition, a second way of gaining review membership, is still open to minorities and women.

The review this week also reaffirmed its commitment to minorities and women by establishing an outreach program designed to inform and encourage potential minority and women candidates to enter the writing competition.

For the review to implement the new procedures during next year's selection, the law faculty must agree to give the journal first-year grades--as it has done in the past. Although the review now needs more detailed grade information, members expect the faculty to go along.

Proponents of the new procedure hope it will increase diversity on the review and help compensate for past discrimination. Increasing representation of minorities and women on the review may eventually lead to an increased number of minorities and women in academic positions. As Bruce N. Kuhlik, an editor of the review noted. "Many Harvard Law faculty members were once on the review."

Opponents of the affirmative action proposal wanted the selection process to remain based purely on performance--as manifested by first year grades--and not on gender or race.