Committee Was Wary of Clark

Profs Say Decision Made Despite Faculty Reservations

When the search for a new Law School dean began last spring, faculty members said they were optimistic that President Bok would include them in the process of naming a successor to outgoing dean James Vorenberg '49.

After Bok chose Vorenberg in 1981--largely without faculty input--law professors resolved to elect their own search committee to advise the next dean search, hoping to ensure that the president would appoint a dean to their liking.

But a highly placed source said yesterday that Bok will name Professor of Law Robert C. Clark to the law deanship, despite strong reservations from the five-member faculty committee that advised the president on this year's search.


The selection of Clark, said committee member and Professor of Law David M. Kennedy, "goes to show that Bok is out of step with the majority of the faculty."

Clark--who was originally elected to serve on the faculty committee--is known as much for his caustic attacks on the radical Critical Legal Studies (CLS) movement as for his nationally recognized scholarship on corporate law.


And committee members contacted yesterday said that Clark's outspoken opposition to Harvard's CLS proponents made him the candidate least likely to quell the political turmoil the Law School has seen in recent years.

But Bok, who could not be reached for comment last night, said only last month that he was not looking for a "consensus candidate," as some committee members had urged. He said then that he wanted a strong scholar and leader, someone who would make the faculty put aside its political differences and concentrate on academic issues.

Controversy over the merits of CLS--which holds that the law is skewed to reflect the existing distribution of economic wealth--has divided the faculty in recent years, often bringing the tenure process to a halt. Left-wing, right-wing and moderate professors have aligned themselves in hostile camps, with Clark leading the criticism of the radical scholars.

When Vorenberg announced his resignation last spring, faculty members said they hoped Bok would pick a conciliatory candidate to take over--a professor who would bring the Law School's factions together.

So when it was reported in November that Clark was on the "short list" of nine candidates for the deanship, professors and students said he was an unlikely choice. They said appointing Clark would probably exacerbate existing conflicts, and doubted that Bok would choose such an outspoken professor.

Committee members said yesterday they told Bok as late as January that appointing Clark would inflame the hostilities.

But while committee members said the selection seemed to defy their advice, students said they thought Bok considered student and faculty reaction when he chose Clark.

For example, students said that Bok might have decided against Byrne Professor of Administrative Law Richard B. Stewart--originally considered the top contender--because there was strong sentiment against him from students, professors and staff.

Though Clark has alienated a score of left-wing scholars, he is highly praised by at least some of his Law School colleagues, and is respected nationally for his corporate law work. He is also generally well-liked by students.

Still, Clark's choice came as a surprise to many observers, who expected Bok to appoint a scholar who would appeal to both extremes in the Law School's politics.

"There was no sense that he was a leading candidate at all, I think perhaps because he was the candidate...who had shown the most contempt for the traditions of the Law School," Kennedy said. "It's a surprise to me."