Law Students Hopeful About New Dean of Students

Following a months-long search to replace Ellen M. Cosgrove as Harvard Law School's dean of students, Marcia Sells, an administrator at Columbia, will assume the post on Sept. 21.

Starting in the spring, the search for a new dean of students incorporated student input, and students said in the spring that they hoped the Law School would appoint a dean with professional experience with issues of diversity and inclusion. Students from affinity groups and student government played a role in formulating a job description for the position, and they helped interview finalists, according to students involved in the process and Jeffrey C. McNaught, the acting dean of students.

Faye E. Maison, a student leader of Students for Inclusion—a student group at the Law School that focuses on the common concerns of different affinity groups—said questions focused on issues of mental health and diversity. Maison said she did not interview Sells, who is a black woman. Sells did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

“A lot of the questions were pretty student centered and focused or based on what had happened in the last school year. There was a lot of concern about how you would handle issues of mental health and how you would approach issues of diversity,” Maison said.

Diversity and inclusion rose to the forefront of campus discourse last year after several groups of students said the Law School’s administration support for minority students after several prominent cases of police violence against unarmed black men nationwide was inadequate.


Maison said Sells’s extensive experience in student administrative and human resources positions makes her a very qualified person for the job.

“It seems like people are pretty excited about her,” Maison said.

The Law School also consulted with Diversified Search, an employment consulting firm. The Law School's dean of students, much like the dean of the College, oversees extracurricular and out-of-the-classroom aspects of the Law School experience.

The dean of students has also historically served as a Title IX coordinator. McNaught said he will continue to serve as a Title IX coordinator, adding that Sells may eventually take over. The Law School is rolling out a new Title IX process this fall.

Sells comes to the Law School after a long career in higher education administration. She currently serves as the associate dean for outreach and education in the School of the Arts and associate vice president for program development for program development and initiatives. She has previously served in human resources and development roles at organizations including Reuters American and the National Basketball Association.

Students from affinity groups said they are optimistic about the administrative change. Leland S. Shelton, the president of the Harvard Black Law Students Association, said he hopes Sells will help change the environment at the Law School.

“In an ideal world a new dean of students would look to address issue of intersectionality and microaggression both at the Law School and at the classroom and helping minority students acclimate to the Law School environment and helping them feel comfortable,” Shelton said.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.


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