Shape Up or Get Out


HARVARD LAW SCHOOL is a mess. Some students sit in the hallway outside the dean's office instead of in their classes. Faculty members take pot shots at each other in widely distributed memoranda.

And the Law Review, the product of the elite students who will create legal policy in the following generations, sees fit to publish misogynistic articles in their spoof edition.

The Law School needs a leader, someone who can bring it out of its current malaise. Dean Robert C. Clark has not shown himself to be that person.

ORIGINALLY APPOINTED by former President Derek C. Bok as a conservative to quell the liberal Critical Legal Studies scholars, Clark is too partisan to stop the faculty infighting at the Law School.

Fifteen liberal faculty members have called for the disbanding of the Appointments Committee and have charged their school with sex discrimination. That's a big accusation for a quarter of the faculty to make. Even the conservatives felt prompted to respond publicly, instead of waiting for Clark's response.


And the liberals remember Clark as the professor who disbanded the Public lnterest Law Office in his first year as dean. They know him too well to want to listen when he talks. Which, coincidentally, isn't often.

In fact, for a dean supposed to be dealing with the issues on campus, Clark rarely opens his mouth--to the faculty, to the students or to the press. He barricades himself inside his office, building glass walls to distance himself from the very students he needs to be responding to as dean.

Sure, Clark has met with students, but when they held a silent sit-in in his office, he hid behind the power of the stick to bring the first ad board hearings for civil disobedience since the early seventies. And they were dropped in the seventies.

In fact, as the students were clamoring for greater diversity and the police officers who patrol the dean's office every day said they were unaware of Clark's whereabouts, he was found hiding in the halls above his office. It's clear the dean is not facing up to his job, but retreating from it.

THE WORST recent example of the dean's slow responsiveness came last month with the publication of the Mary Joe Frug parody. The insensitive and misogynistic parody was condemned by almost all members of the Law School community. But Clark waited a week before responding and still has not acknowledged that the parody is a symptom of larger problems at the institution.

Clark did not take the initiative to hold town meetings, speak with the authors of the parody or even address the Law Review. In short, he did little to alleviate the pain and shock the Law School community was feeling after the publication of the article.

And when Clark does open his mouth, it's only to put his foot in it. Clark rarely speaks to the press--his media relations as spokesperson of the school are terrible.

Still, Clark chose to give an interview to The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper he believed would be sympathetic to his beliefs. Clark referred to the student protests as a result of "a need for self-confidence," suggesting they were "worrying about the role affirmative action played in getting them here."

We fundamentally disagree. Affirmative action has its problems, but for Clark to blame student protests on it is misguided and destructive. Because Dean Clark does not and will not see that the students have legitimate concerns, he cannot have the vision to bring the school through the 1990s.

In short, Clark has lost the students' confidence. Nine student organizations, representing about half the student body, are calling for his resignation. Many do not think him capable of responding to their concerns. And even alumni are worried the dean is not taking diversification of the faculty seriously.

Diversity on the Law School faculty is a problem. And the recent appointments of five white men won't help it. Dean Clark cannot alone make the faculty more diverse. But the dean does create the Appointments Committee and should be able to influence the faculty. Clark simply needs to demonstrate his commitment.

Dean of the Law School is a tough job. Dealing with argumentative law professors and angry students is a tough job. We recognize that. But Dean Clark only seems to be worsening the problem.

We don't doubt that Clark is a fine leagal scholar, especially in his field of corporate law, but that in itself does not make him fit to run the Law School. If Clark can find in himself the ability to clean up the Harvard Law School mess, he should get the job done now. If he cannot, he should step aside and let another person try to bring peace to the school.