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Harvard Law School is refusing to say whether it will allow conservative judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh to return to Cambridge to teach the course on the Court he is slated to offer Law students in Jan. 2019.
The school’s silence comes as students on campus are increasingly calling for decisive action to address allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted at least two women.
Last week, four Law School students demanded in a Harvard Law Record article that the school bar Kavanaugh from teaching until “a full and fair investigation is conducted” into the allegations of sexual misconduct. On Monday, several hundred Harvard affiliates walked out of class to rally in support of the two women who have accused Kavanaugh of misbehavior.
The Crimson contacted Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 three times over the past week to ask whether Harvard will permit Kavanaugh, who serves as a Law School lecturer, to teach this winter. In response, school spokespeople once did not respond and twice declined to comment.
“It is our longstanding policy not to comment publicly on personnel matters,” Law School spokesperson Robb London wrote in a statement Tuesday.
As of Tuesday evening, a Harvard website still listed Kavanaugh as the “Samuel Williston Lecturer on Law” and indicated he will be teaching the course “The Supreme Court Since 2005” in Jan. 2019. Kavanaugh has taught at the Law School since 2008.
President Donald Trump in July named Kavanaugh his nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The judge seemed a surefire bet until two weeks ago, when women began to come forward with allegations that he had sexually assaulted them at parties held decades ago.
First, Palo Alto psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh had forced her onto a bed, pressed his body to hers, and tried to take off her clothes at a party the two attended in the 1980s, when both were enrolled in private D.C.-area high schools.
Just a few days later, another woman — Deborah Ramirez — told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh had exposed himself and pushed his penis in her face at a party both attended while freshmen at Yale College.
Kavanaugh has repeatedly and unequivocally denied the allegations.
Both Kavanaugh and Ford are set to testify at a high-stakes and nationally televised hearing before members of the Senate on Thursday at 10 a.m. The Law School has said it will provide space on campus for students to watch the hearing.
At first, Kavanaugh’s nomination seemed to please the Law School’s top brass. Shortly after Trump announced Kavanaugh was his pick, Manning lauded and congratulated the judge in a statement posted to a Law School website.
“I congratulate Judge Kavanaugh on his nomination to the Supreme Court and thank him for his superb teaching at Harvard Law School over the past decade,” Manning said in the post. “Let me take this occasion to thank Judge Kavanaugh for the generosity, dedication, and collegiality he has shown our community.”
More recently, Manning has stayed quiet. He has not commented on Kavanaugh at least since Ford publicly detailed the nominee’s alleged sexual misconduct for the first time on Sept. 16.
As his public silence stretches on, some Law School students are privately contacting the dean to seek answers.
Alexandra “Vail” Kohnert-Yount, one of the authors of the Harvard Law Record article who helped organize Monday’s walkout and rally, said that several students have reached out to Manning regarding Kavanaugh — and at least some of them have asked whether the Law School will allow Kavanaugh to continue teaching. Kohnert-Yount said she has not individually contacted Manning.
Manning has responded to at least a few of the students. In a reply email to one student obtained by The Crimson, Manning wrote that he had received “a similar expression of concern from some of your fellow students.”
He then thanked the writer for engaging with “the important and difficult issues with which our nation and its institutions are grappling.”
“I am very grateful to you for sharing with me your views and your perspective… with respect to the specific question each of you asked: For reasons I’m sure you understand, it is our longstanding policy not to discuss personnel matters,” Manning wrote, ostensibly referencing a question about Kavanaugh’s employment at Harvard. “I know that may be frustrating, but the policy serves important purposes even in challenging times.”
He added: “Please know that we take concerns about our teaching program very seriously. Again, I am grateful to you for reaching out to me.”
Members of the Senate are slated to take a final vote on Kavanaugh on Friday.
—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.
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