Education Dept. Examines Hiring At Law School

Complaint by Derrick Bell Investigated

A complaint that the Law School practices discriminatory hiring is under investigation by the Department of Education, according to a spokesperson in the department's Office of Civil Rights.

The complaint, filed last spring by former Harvard Law Professor Derrick A. Bell, charged that Harvard has "violated several anti-discrimination provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

Bell alleged that the Law School adheres to a set of "arbitrary" hiring criteria that have "had a discriminatory impact on qualified women and minority candidates."

These criteria include degrees from prestigious law schools, former editorships on law journals, outstanding grades while at law school and work as judicial clerks, according to John Bonifaz, a 1992 Law School graduate who helped draft the complaint.

Bonifaz said the criteria exclude many qualified candidates, such as practicing attorneys who are outstanding in their fields.


"When you look at Harvard's current status in terms of who sits on the faculty, it is very clearly white male," Bonifaz said. "Other schools don't have the same picture."

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Because the Department grants scholarship funds to the University Harvard is required to comply with Title VI regulations.

These funds contribute to scholarship programs at the Law School, according to Paul W. Upson, assistant dean for finance and operations at the Law School.

University investigations are "comprehensive" and usually take about a year to resolve, the Department spokesperson said.

The Department's investigations usually involve interviews with students and "analysis of data," the spokesperson said, adding that he is not permitted to discuss specific cases while they are under investigation.

Bonifaz said that a member of the Boston officeof the Department of Education interviewed himlast spring about the Law School's hiringpolicies.

The official requested the names of otherstudents and Law School professors he couldinterview, Bonifaz said.

Several Law School administrators said theywere not aware that the investigation had beenopened.

"I haven't even heard a rumor that there was aninvestigation going on," said Acting AssistantDean Suzanne Richardson.

"If they're doing it, they must be doing itvery confidentially."

Professor of Law Paul C. Weiler, chair of theLaw School appointments committee, said he knew ofBell's complaint, but "had no idea that [the case]had been opened."

Bell took an unpaid leave of absence from theLaw School in April 1990 to protest the absence ofminority women faculty members.

After the University declined last spring tomake an exception to its two-year leave policy,Bell forfeited his tenured position at Harvard. Heis now a professor at New York University Schoolof Law.

Of 64 tenured or tenure-track professors at theLaw School, six are Black men and five are whitewomen. In the Law School's 175-year history, noNative Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos orBlack women have been on the faculty