Women Denied Affirmative Action In Harvard Law Review Staff Vote

The staff of the Harvard Law Review voted this week not to extend its affirmative action program to women, members of the group said yesterday.

For the past six years, the Review--a prestigious journal run by Law School students--has had a standing policy of affirmative action for minorities, but not for women, said Review President Dan M. Kahan. He said women "weren't included at the outset, and they haven't been since."

Women have traditionally been underrepresented in the Law Review, said Jean E. Engelmayer '86, a member of the journal. She said she thought the number of women on the staff did not reflect the proportional representation of female applicants.

Review member Patricia H. Borga said she supported the affirmative action proposal. "I have felt for two years that there should be more women [on the Review] by any means, not just through affirmative action," she said.

Borga said the percentage of women on the Review is not the same as the percentage of women students in the Law School.


Women make up between 35 and 40 percent of the Law School population, but only about one-quarter of the Review. Kahan said that 22 out of 89 Review members are women.

Kahan said the Review hopes to increase the representation of women and minority groups. He refused to comment on this week's vote.

"We make special efforts to encourage members of these groups to participate in the competition [for admission to the Review]." Kahan said. He added. "We're firmly committed to having diversity in perspectives and viewpoints of editors."

The number of women on the staff "varies from year to year, as does the number of women who try out," Kahan said, adding that he did not believe the number had increased significantly in the past few years.

Several Review members attributed the resolution's failure to low attendance at the meeting.

Law Review member Karen McGassey said she believed a majority of the members present at the meeting had supported the proposal, but the measure did not pass because the meeting was three or four members short of a quorum. She added she was disappointed the proposal failed.

Although female members of the journal said they do not believe the atmosphere at the Review is discrimi- natory, they said they feel in the minority.

"At the Law Review, women are definitely madeto feel they are a distinct minority, but not in apejorative sense," Engelmayer said.

Review supporters of affirmative action forwomen declined to discuss the specifics of theplan or compare it to the one that exists forminorities.

Applicants to the Law Review are selected onthe basis of a writing competition and on theirLaw School grades, Kahan said. He said theselection process was gender-blind.

But statistics have shown that women do notreceive as high grades as men at the Law School.Data collected by the Review indicates that womenhave not received honors in the magna and cumlaude categories in proportion to then numbers,according to one male member who spoke on thecondition of anonymity.

Hillary Richard, spokesman for the Women's LawAssociation, said one possible reason the LawReview has a small female staff is that women areintimidated by the school itself.

"The system is set up at the Law School toreward the male voice, Richard said. She addedthat many women feel "repressed in the class-room"because "there are few women professors, few womenrole models."

Richard said that many women feel defeated bythe end of their first year at Law School. "If youhave a perception that you're not going tosucceed, based on your experience in theclassroom, then you might be unwilling to spendthe time applying and putting yourself intocompetition for the Law Review.