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Letters Protest Clark Public Interest Policy

By Tara A. Nayak

About half of the Law School's students have signed letters criticizing Dean Robert C. Clark for saying that controversy over the changing role of public service law has died down, according to members of the Emergency Coalition for Public Interest Law (ECPIP).

Steven R. Donziger, one of three ECPIP members who delivered the 813 letters to Clark yesterday, said the meeting with the dean "was constructive in that we seemed to be able to get our point across that student outcry has not died down."

"The purpose of these letters and the meeting," ECPIP member Lori M. Wallach said, "is that we want him to recognize that there's a cost to operating against the majority's wishes."

Last week, an open meeting of the public interest advisory committee-- appointed by Clark in October to examine the future of the field at the Law School--attracted about 80 students. But the letter, endorsed unanimously by the Law School Council, is the largest protest on the issue since 1055 students signed petitions in October demanding that Clark restore the public interest career counseling positions eliminated over the summer.

This month's form letter stressed that the public interest "crisis" and "student outcry" over the closing of the counseling office have not "died down," as Clark told The Crimson in October.

"Pressing student needs for public interest counseling remain unmet," said the letter, "and...the decision [to eliminate the counselors] reflects a disturbing underlying philosophy."

According to Wallach, more than 200 students added full-page comments, including "long, analytical letters about the school's role and perception in society." These letters were separated from the rest so Clark will hopefully read them first, she added.

Donziger said Clark promised to read the letters and respond within one week.

And Wallach said Clark expressed interest in speaking at an open forum.

"He seemed appreciative of the time and effort on the part of the students," Donziger said, "and...he did seem surprised that there were so many letters. We felt like the dean demonstrated remorse over these comments as he did in earlier over comments he made in national publications."

"This whole year many students have had differences with the dean that persist in large part due to his inability to deal with student concerns." he said. "When we meet with him, we like him. He's a person we can talk to...but a lot of students think that doesn't mean much unless down the road it translates into real results."

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