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Saying the Law School should solve its own problems, Dean Robert C. Clark has declined the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's offer to help mediate a stand-off between the administration and Weld Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell over affirmative action policies.
In a letter written Monday to the Coalition for Civil Rights (CCR), the student group which had invited Jackson to mediate, Clark said he admired Jackson, but does not "think it would be useful now to involve any public figure from outside,"
"The controversy within the school is inextricably linked to appointments policies," Clark wrote. "Our appointments standards and decisions are not properly subject to third-party negotiation."
In a nationally publicized protest, Bell, the Law School's first tenured Black professor, announced two weeks ago that he plans to take an unpaid leave of absence next year until a Black female professor is tenured. He said yesterday that he took his action in "support" of law students who have held a series of demonstrations and two sit-ins in Clark's office this spring to advocate more minority faculty hiring.
There are currently five Blacks and five women among the Law School's 60 tenured faculty, but no Black women.
In a brief interview with The Crimson lastnight, Jackson said he remained available to helpstudent activists in whatever way possible.
"Anytime rules are established that eliminatethe ascension of Asian-Americans, Hispanics orwomen, then those rules must be re-evaluated,"said Jackson after an address at the Institute ofPolitics. "I cannot accept that a set of rulesthat eliminates minorities is a sound set."
Jackson will meet today with Bell and threemembers of the CCR, according to coalition memberKeith O. Boykin, a first-year law student. Theclosed session will be followed by a pressconference with Jackson and Bell at 10:30 a.m. anda speech and rally on the steps of Austin Hall.
Even though Jackson will not meet with the LawSchool administration, activists said that hispresence will have an effect on the controversynonetheless.
Bell said that the civil rights leader andtwo-time presidential candidate's nationalprominence will ensure that "proper attention willbe focused on Harvard."
"What Harvard needs to realize is that this isa national issue," said second-year student LindaJ. Singer, a CCR member. "It's something that willbe discussed across the country."
Singer said Clark's rejection of Jackson's helpreflected poorly upon the dean's commitment todiversity and communication.
"Dean Clark and the administration repeatedlyemphasize their good faith, but this shows justhow shallow that good faith is," Singer said. "Thequestion that it raises is just how much do wehave to do?"
But Clark said that he remains open tosuggestions from Bell and students about solvingthe crisis.
"I understand that you are concerned aboutProfessor Bell's plans for the future. I too amconcerned," Clark wrote in his letter.
"I respect Professor Bell and the channels ofcommunication between us are open. He and I willbe talking further."
Eryn R. Brown contributed to the writing ofthis story.
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