Retiring Law Dean Leaves Mixed Legacy

Letter to the Editors

To the editors:

I am afraid that readers of “Law Dean To Retire After 13 Years at Helm” (News, Nov. 26) might be left with the impression that Harvard Law Dean Robert C. Clark will leave a wholly positive legacy when he retires at the end of the year. It is true, as sources in the article emphasized, that Clark deserves recognition for his fundraising prowess and for renovating and rebuilding the campus, as well as for major improvements to the first-year curriculum and the loan forgiveness program.

But while sources in the article praise Clark for having quieted down an unruly faculty in the early ’90s, many believe this “quieting down” amounted to a victory of conservatism over a then-emergent movement in progressive legal thought. The article also fails to note that under Clark’s watch the faculty has diversified at a snail’s pace; white men today still make up more than 75 percent of those with tenure.

Finally, the article neglects to mention the fact that in the eyes of many, Clark’s devotion to fundraising has come at a price: the influence of and esteem granted to corporate law at the law school has gone through the roof, while students and faculty concerned with public service and public interest lawyering have had to play a perennial second fiddle. Indeed, early on Clark famously abolished the school’s Office of Public Interest Advising, only to be forced under pressure to reverse his decision.

A fair and complete reckoning of Dean Clark’s tenure would have taken into account these weaknesses, along with his clear successes.

Geoffrey C. Upton ’99

Dec. 4, 2002

The writer, a third-year student at Harvard Law School, was editorial chair of The Crimson in 1998.