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The Law School Becomes a BATTLEGROUND

Academic Debate Between Crits and Conservatives Heats Up

By Natasha H. Leland, Crimson Staff Writer

Crits vs. conservatives. Everyone at the Law School knows about this ongoing debate, but the fight reached a new level in this semester's highly politicized atmosphere. This time the battleground is the school's appointments process.

The critical legal studies scholars, known as crits, for the most part maintain that the school's hiring policies are discriminatory and systematically exclude women and minorities.

The conservatives accuse the liberal crits of tokenism and maintain that the school uses fair criteria in judging all candidates.

There is one thing about which everyone agrees. This semester the appointments process is overtly politicized. Both sides accuse the other of letting ideological concerns override concerns about scholarship.

The debate is as old as critical legal studies--a left wing group of scholars who believe that law is subjective and must be viewed in a larger context.

Currently both the crits and the conservatives make up a third of the Law School faculty--a balance that both sides are fighting to maintain.

The battle over political control at the Law School intensified in the months before President Derek C. Bok appointed Dean Robert C. Clark. Clark was known as a conservative professor, who many believed would likely attempt to weaken the critical legal studies contingent.

This year, as Dean Clark appeared to lose control of the student protests, the crits stepped in, making their disagreements with the conservatives public in open letters to the community. The conservatives fired back with similar letters.

In recent years, the debate between crits and conservatives dramatically slowed the Law School appointments process.

But in an effort to pass a package of appointments, the crits and conservatives did make compromises this year. Four white men were offered lateral tenure appointments, a move which Dean Clark acknowledges was the result of political bargaining.

The package of Henry Hansman, Robert H. Mnookin '64, Joseph Singer, and Joel H. H. Weiler, consisted of a conservative, a crit and two moderates, students say.

The controversy over the tenure offers was heightened by a dispute over a rule requiring visiting professors to leave Harvard for at least a year before being considered.

Students said the faculty had used that rule to deny consideration of tenure to two black women professors last year. Two of the male professors were visiting at the school at the time the offers were made.

But Clark said the appointments committee overturned the rule last spring and suggested the need for better communication with students. Some professors, such as critical legal studies scholar Professor Frank I. Michelman, supported the students' call for a student representative on the appointments committee to enable greater student participation.

In a year of controversy, it is not surprising that the appointments process itself has come under attack and debate.

At the center of the debate is the fact that Harvard Law School currently decides its tenure offers without going through on official application process.

According to Clark, members of the faculty know the top scholars in the areas of specialty the school is trying to strengthen. After making inquiries about these scholars the appointments committee creates a list of candidates, without an application process.

The appointments committee, consisting of five faculty members, then votes which candidates should be considered by the entire faculty.

One woman serves on the committee, and critical legal studies scholars say they consider her unreceptive to the concerns of feminist candidates.

Two-thirds of the faculty must then vote to offer the position, but the war between crits and conservatives has made this approval difficult.

Students said they were disappointed that the two sides compromised by choosing a package of women and minorities. And at least one professor has criticized the appointments committee for adopting the packaging strategy to pass the white men but not using it to appoint women or minorities.

Of the 64 tenured or tenuretracked faculty members teaching this year, six are Black men and five are white women.

There have never been any Latino, Native American, Asian-American, physically disabled or openly gay or lesbian persons on the faculty. There has never been a Black woman faculty member.

Various law professors have suggested that there is systematic discrimination in the hiring process. Professor of Canstitutional Law Lawrence H. Tribe pointed to the parody of an article by murdered feminist scholar Mary Joe Frug in the spoof issue of the Law Review as evidence of institutional sexism at the Law School.

Twenty-six other liberal law professors signed a letter suggesting the misogynistic article was not caused by individuals but by a larger atmosphere at the school.

In the same letter the professors suggested a disbanding of the appointments committee and the creation of a new committee whose goal would be to find women and minority candidates.

But 21 more conservative professors said that while the piece was insensitive, it was not indicative of larger problems at the Law School.

The administration has argued that there is a pool problem, that there arenot enough qualified candidates who are women orminorities.

The protesters, and some Law School professors,say the criteria used in hiring are unfair anddiscriminate against candidates who are not partof an "old-boy" network. Some professors arguethat a woman must be "twice as qualified" as a manin order to be hired.

In a recent vote, the faculty decided to offeran assistant professorship to a white malecandidate, while in the same meeting denying theoffer to a woman candidate, who was known to be afeminist scholar.

Some professors compare the to the controversyinvolving Claire Dalton, a woman at Harvard LawSchool who was originally offered tenure and thendenied it after Bok called on a committee toreconsider the offer.

But according to Clark efforts have been madeto diversify the faculty. He points out thatone-third of the appointments made during histhree years as dean have been to minorities orwomen.

Last fall the faculty voted to offer twoassistant professorships to women. One of thosewomen was one of the three women ever to bepresident of the Harvard Law Review.

Last month a tenure-tracked Black law professorwas given full tenure. While students applaudedthe appointment, it was not unusual and had longbeen anticipated.

Dean Clark also issued a request to theAdmissions Committee asking them to provide a listof women and minority candidates by next fall.Clark said he was particularly concerned aboutwomen candidates.

In an open forum, Clark said he hopes thefaculty will continue to offer four or fiveappointments each year to dramatically boost thenumber of scholars teaching at the school.

But before Clark's goal can be met, the faculty will need to agree on the criteria for making thoseappointments. And as long s the debate rages on,it will be difficult for any consensus to bereached and any changes to made

The protesters, and some Law School professors,say the criteria used in hiring are unfair anddiscriminate against candidates who are not partof an "old-boy" network. Some professors arguethat a woman must be "twice as qualified" as a manin order to be hired.

In a recent vote, the faculty decided to offeran assistant professorship to a white malecandidate, while in the same meeting denying theoffer to a woman candidate, who was known to be afeminist scholar.

Some professors compare the to the controversyinvolving Claire Dalton, a woman at Harvard LawSchool who was originally offered tenure and thendenied it after Bok called on a committee toreconsider the offer.

But according to Clark efforts have been madeto diversify the faculty. He points out thatone-third of the appointments made during histhree years as dean have been to minorities orwomen.

Last fall the faculty voted to offer twoassistant professorships to women. One of thosewomen was one of the three women ever to bepresident of the Harvard Law Review.

Last month a tenure-tracked Black law professorwas given full tenure. While students applaudedthe appointment, it was not unusual and had longbeen anticipated.

Dean Clark also issued a request to theAdmissions Committee asking them to provide a listof women and minority candidates by next fall.Clark said he was particularly concerned aboutwomen candidates.

In an open forum, Clark said he hopes thefaculty will continue to offer four or fiveappointments each year to dramatically boost thenumber of scholars teaching at the school.

But before Clark's goal can be met, the faculty will need to agree on the criteria for making thoseappointments. And as long s the debate rages on,it will be difficult for any consensus to bereached and any changes to made

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