A senior professor at the Law School announced last week that he will begin a four-day vigil in his office this morning to protest the recent denials of tenure to two left-leaning junior faculty members.
Professor Derrick A. Bell said he would protest the faculty's vote to deny tenure to Assistant Professor Clare Dalton and the decision by President Bok to reject the tenure appointment of Visiting Professor David Trubek.
In what he calls an "Academic Vigil," Bell will stay in his office in Langdell Hall from 9:00 this morning until Thursday evening, after Commencement exercises end.
"It may not be a sensible thing to do. But I feel that the diversity at this Law School is threatened, and I am part of that diversity," said Bell, who until this year was the only Black tenured professor at the Law School.
Bell's vigil is the latest in a series of protests against these recent tenure rejections. On May 13, more than 200 students gathered to hear five professors speak about Dalton's tenure case. Afterwards, 75 students marched on President Bok's office in Massachusetts Hall and the office of Law School Dean James Vorenberg '49.
Last week, 22 professors signed letters requesting that Vorenberg ask Bok to review Dalton's case to resolve questions concerning the fairness of the process. Several professors at the Law School contend that both Dalton and Trubek were denied tenure because of their radical academic views. The two scholars are affiliated with a school of thought known as Critical Legal Studies that challenges traditional thoughts on the nature of justice.
In a letter to the Law School faculty dated June 3, Bell wrote that the tenure debate was fueled by a fear of the threat that diversity poses to the traditional order at the Law School. "To counter that threat, diversity is to be patronized, not protected, and tenure--the policy intended to protect academic freedom--is made a bastion for the status quo," he wrote.
Bell said he intends his protest to "resist a return to that narrow vision of academic worth that for so long limited this faculty to white males from upper-class backrounds."
Bell will not attend any of Commencement activities. He said he hopes that students who want him to speak to their parents will come to his office, where he will be able to meet them, "and also speak to them about the concerns here,"
"I hope that I am missed and that my absence points up the fragility of our progress toward a more diverse faculty." Bell wrote to his colleagues.