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Student Activists Put on Pressure

Dean Clark Battles Sit-ins, Protests

By Natasha H. Leland, Crimson Staff Writer

In September, it looked like it was going to be a good year for Law School Dean Robert C. Clark.

He kicked off a $150 million dollar fundraising campaign. The student activists who had been troubling him for years were coming off a year of setbacks, and several of their most vocal leaders were due to graduate in June . Even Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz was off promoting his bestseling book, Chutzpah and remained relatively quiet.

But 1991-92 turned into a nightmare for the dean.

In March, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson spoke at the school, and drew national attention to student calls for more faculty diversity. And in April, even the usually tranquil Harvard Law Reivew added to the controversy by publishing a parody of an article by a slain feminist scholar on the an niversary of her death.

The dean ended the year with low approval ratings--only 54 percent of the student body voted in a non-binding referendum to allow the dean to speak at graduation.

The campus remained relatively quiet throughout the fall semester, the clam broken only with a new in November that the Massachusetts Court of Appleals had agreed to hear an appeal of a case brought by the students that alleged that the Law school used discriminatory hiring practices.

But in late January the student activists were energized when the Supreme Judicial court decided to grant direct appellate review, enabling the students to baypass the appeals court.

The high court heard the case in March. From then on, the year was filled with more than the usual share of student dissatisfaction.

The case was brought to the Massachusetts courts by the Law School Coalition for Civil Rights, a student group composed of six minority organizations and the Women's Law Association, which would be responsible for much of the ensuing unrest.

The coalition was appealing an earlier decision by a lower court which dismissed the case on the grounds that students are not the appropriate group to challenge the school's hiring policies. The case is the first in which law students are suing their school for discrimination in faculty hiring.

The coalition, represented in court by two third-year law students, has filed for the right to discovery, which would give them access to previously confidential personnel files.

If the court finds for the coalition, the case will be returned to the Massachusetts Superior court, which will then address the charges of discrimination in hiring practices.

The five justices on the bench will likely make their decision by early this summer.

In the days following the oral arguments, the protest season began.

It started with a speech on the steps of Langdell Hall by Weld Professor of Law Derrick A. Bell Jr., who took an unpaid leave of absence in April 1990 to protest the absence of a woman of color on the faculty.

Bell, the first Black tenured professor at the Law School, announced his decision to ask for a third year of leave, which would have required a special extension from the University.

President Neil L. Rudenstine and the Harvard Corporation did not grant the extension to Bell, who iscurrently a visiting professor at New YorkUniversity Law School.

Bell Called upon students to take action andstand up to Law School officials. "A commitment tochange must be combined with a readiness toconfront authority," Bell said.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, a personal friend ofBell, also expressed his belief that the studentsshould protest in a speech later that month. "Youmust be prepared for litigation, demonstration andeven jail," Jackson said.

Some students, taking Bell and Jackson's wordsto heart, organized numerous discussions with thedean, protest marches and even a series of sit-insin professors' officers.

The students began their campaign quietlyenough, sending out letters to the Law Schoolcommunity and to Dean Clark. Later, they organizedsurprise visits to the Law School faculty diningclub to speak more directly with faculty members.They also rallied outside Harkness Commons.

The students even woke up early one morning tomeet Clark outside his home and walk him to work,after an eight-day ultimatum they had issuedexpired.

The students outlined their demands to thedean, who had expressed his interest in hiringmove women professors in an open letter earlierthat week.

Students demanded an immediate increase inminority hiring, an increased role in the hiringprocess and a cooperative faculty-student effortto identify candidates to hire. None of the threestudent goals have been met, and of the 64 tenuredor tenure tracked professors at the Law School,there are still only five white women and sixBlack men.

Although Clark tried to address some studentconcerns by holding a series of forums anddiscussions, the talks did little to appeasestudent anger and in fact convinced many that theadministration had little will to changelong-standing policies.

As the semester continued and theadministration continued to resist change, theprotests became more angry and more provocative.

The students held two silent sit-ins in theoffices of Professor of Law Reinier H. Kraakmanand Carter Professor of General JurisprudenceCharles Fried. Fried subsequently filedAdministrative Board charges against a few of thestudents involved. The students said the sit-inswere an attempt to gain faculty attention, as theytargeted professors they considered to be the mostvocal opponents of their diversity movement.

Detractors said the sit-ins were not productiveand interfered with office work, while activistsmaintained they were the only way to force theadministration to make changes.

Many students were also enraged by commentsmade by Dean Clark which appeared in an editorialin The Wall Street Journal.

Clark was quoted as saying he believed theprotests to be a result of feelings of insecurityon the part of minority students that they wereprograms.

Students responded to the statements and toClark's failure to meet their demands with a 25hour sit-in outside his Griswold Hall office.

Even as the school announced that theprotesters would face a disciplinary hearingbefore the Administrative Board, Clark foundhimself the subject of even more criticism.Students blasted the dean for not respondingadequately to a parody of murdered feminist legalscholar Mary Joe Frug in the spoof issue of theHarvard Law Review. The Harvard Communitywas shocked by what many called a misogynistic andinsensitive article in the Law Revue.

The turbulent semester finished in typicallegal fashion, with a hearing.

In early may, the students involved in thesit-in, dubbed the Griswold Nine, went before theAdministrative Board. The students received awarning, the most lenient punishment the Ad Boardcan give. It was the first time protesters hadbeen charged since the early seventies.

Some say protests occur every spring, as thestudent body grows restless. CCR members andcertain professors disagree.

They consider this year extreme in itsactivism. And many say they believe it willcontinue into the fall, until the Law Schoolfaculty votes to hire, or at least review, moreminority and women candidates

Bell Called upon students to take action andstand up to Law School officials. "A commitment tochange must be combined with a readiness toconfront authority," Bell said.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, a personal friend ofBell, also expressed his belief that the studentsshould protest in a speech later that month. "Youmust be prepared for litigation, demonstration andeven jail," Jackson said.

Some students, taking Bell and Jackson's wordsto heart, organized numerous discussions with thedean, protest marches and even a series of sit-insin professors' officers.

The students began their campaign quietlyenough, sending out letters to the Law Schoolcommunity and to Dean Clark. Later, they organizedsurprise visits to the Law School faculty diningclub to speak more directly with faculty members.They also rallied outside Harkness Commons.

The students even woke up early one morning tomeet Clark outside his home and walk him to work,after an eight-day ultimatum they had issuedexpired.

The students outlined their demands to thedean, who had expressed his interest in hiringmove women professors in an open letter earlierthat week.

Students demanded an immediate increase inminority hiring, an increased role in the hiringprocess and a cooperative faculty-student effortto identify candidates to hire. None of the threestudent goals have been met, and of the 64 tenuredor tenure tracked professors at the Law School,there are still only five white women and sixBlack men.

Although Clark tried to address some studentconcerns by holding a series of forums anddiscussions, the talks did little to appeasestudent anger and in fact convinced many that theadministration had little will to changelong-standing policies.

As the semester continued and theadministration continued to resist change, theprotests became more angry and more provocative.

The students held two silent sit-ins in theoffices of Professor of Law Reinier H. Kraakmanand Carter Professor of General JurisprudenceCharles Fried. Fried subsequently filedAdministrative Board charges against a few of thestudents involved. The students said the sit-inswere an attempt to gain faculty attention, as theytargeted professors they considered to be the mostvocal opponents of their diversity movement.

Detractors said the sit-ins were not productiveand interfered with office work, while activistsmaintained they were the only way to force theadministration to make changes.

Many students were also enraged by commentsmade by Dean Clark which appeared in an editorialin The Wall Street Journal.

Clark was quoted as saying he believed theprotests to be a result of feelings of insecurityon the part of minority students that they wereprograms.

Students responded to the statements and toClark's failure to meet their demands with a 25hour sit-in outside his Griswold Hall office.

Even as the school announced that theprotesters would face a disciplinary hearingbefore the Administrative Board, Clark foundhimself the subject of even more criticism.Students blasted the dean for not respondingadequately to a parody of murdered feminist legalscholar Mary Joe Frug in the spoof issue of theHarvard Law Review. The Harvard Communitywas shocked by what many called a misogynistic andinsensitive article in the Law Revue.

The turbulent semester finished in typicallegal fashion, with a hearing.

In early may, the students involved in thesit-in, dubbed the Griswold Nine, went before theAdministrative Board. The students received awarning, the most lenient punishment the Ad Boardcan give. It was the first time protesters hadbeen charged since the early seventies.

Some say protests occur every spring, as thestudent body grows restless. CCR members andcertain professors disagree.

They consider this year extreme in itsactivism. And many say they believe it willcontinue into the fall, until the Law Schoolfaculty votes to hire, or at least review, moreminority and women candidates

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