A forum last night about the selection of a new Law School dean quickly turned into a discussion about the alienation students have felt from the law faculty.
Forty students pointed to the inaccessibility of faculty and a paucity of minority and women faculty as the key problems facing the Law School as it searches for a leader to replace Dean James Vorenberg '49, who plans to leave his post at the end of the school year.
"This is Harvard Law School not Harvard Law Think Tank," Andrea Rocarell, a third-year law student said. "I just don't always feel that professors are here who can teach. The emphasis should be on teaching."
The meeting, which brought together the student and faculty dean search committees, was part of the process to filter Law School concerns to President Bok, who is ultimately responsible for appointing the new dean.
It is the first time that the Law School has created formal faculty and student committees to ensure diverse input to the selection process, said professor of Law Robert C. Clark.
Students, complaining of weak teaching skills among the school's highly touted faculty, emphasized the need for a new dean able to foster a "more humane environment," said Clark, quoting from a student's letter to the faculty committee.
However, Clark pointed to a rift between student and teacher concerns. "Very few faculty members that we interviewed seemed to say with concern, 'We're not close to the students,'" he noted.
"Law school seems to exist primarily for the professors," one student wrote in a letter to the faculty search committee, Clark said.
Tyler Professor of Constitutional Law Laurence H. Tribe '62, head of the faculty dean search committee, said the gulf between students and faculty "is not as wide" as many at the discussion made it out to be.
"The bottom line is the same," he said. "There is a common sense of mission."
In letters to the faculty committee, students emphasized the need for a new dean to serve as "peacemaker" to heal the divisions within the faculty over Critical Legal Studies, a nontraditional, left-leaning school of legal thought, and campus concerns over hiring more women and minority faculty, Clark said.
"We're lacking a leader. We need a forceful, bold leader," said one law student. "We need someone charismatic who can inspire and mend the divisions in Harvard."