Students Vote for Dean Clark To Address Commencement

Graduating law school students voted in non-binding referendum last week that Dean Robert C. Clark should be allowed to address the class and distribute diplomas in next month's commencement ceremony.

But the referendum, held in response to petitions calling for Clark's absence from commencement, offered the Dean only a slim margin of endorsement, with a significant minority saying that Clark should not take part.

The Harvard Law School News Office did not offer any comment yesterday.

Students said yesterday that demonstrations would almost certainly occur at graduation.

Clark has been plagued by controversythroughout his tenure as dean, and many studentshold him responsible for the school's series ofcontroversies this year, including outrage overlack of faculty diversity and a Harvard LawReview parody which many found offensive.

The first referendum question, "Do you believethat Dean Clark should make an address at the June4 law school commencement ceremonies?" drew 186yes votes (54.1 percent), 155 no votes (45.1percent) and 5 abstentions.


Students answered the second question, "Do youbelieve that Dean Clark should personally deliverto you your diploma?" with 199 yes votes (57.5percent), 136 no votes (39.3 percent) and 10abstentions.

A total of 369 students--53.5 percent of thegraduating class--cast ballots. Twenty-fourballots were disqualified as "improperly turnedin," according to a memo from class marshals.

Ahpaly J.G. Coradin, a third-year student whoinitiated the move to hold the referendum andopposed Clark's speaking at graduation, called theresults somewhat surprising.

Coradin said he felt the results were notentirely indicative of student opinion, pointingout that only 345 students out of approximately700 eligible cast ballots.

"I would think that a lot of the people who didnot vote would actually have voted no," Coradinsaid.

Though Coradin conceded that the turnout wasfairly high by law school standards, he said heexpected at least 70 percent of the class to voteon this topic.

Those voting no on the two questions represent22 and 20 percent of the total graduating class,respectively. Although Clark prevailed in thereferendum, Coradin said the dean should notconsider the result a vindication.

"Fully a fifth of his student body disapprovedof him strongly enough that they would be willingto forego an integral part of their graduationprocess," Coradin said. "I don't think that's awin for the dean. If anything, that's anindictment."

Many speculate that this sentiment will lead todemonstrations at graduation.

"I think everyone at this point expects thereto be some protests," Coradin said.