HLS responds to racial incidents

BY CLINTON DICK

Five months after a race controversy exploded on the Law School campus, the administration debuted its formal response. In a Sept. 6 letter to the law school community, Deans Robert Clark, Suzanne Richardson and Todd Rakoff outlined several initiatives designed to improve racial tolerance and ease the tension that erupted last spring.

In what may be regarded as an attempt to set a new tone for the academic year, Clark outlined his four initiatives designed to improve the law school’s ability to communicate about race, religion and gender. The first initiative is the formation of a Dean’s Committee on Healthy Diversity, which is made up of six faculty members, including Prof. Alan Dershowitz and Dean Todd Rakoff, three other administrators and five students.

Professor Martha Field, who chairs the committee, said their goal would be to “figure out what the real problems are and how we can help resolve them.” One area she highlighted was a lack of communication between faculty and students. “Faculty can inadvertently do things that offend students,” she said, adding that she hopes the committee can find a way to resolve such problems.

Field also emphasized that the committee will not just be looking at race. “The same thing can happen with religion and sexual orientation,” she said. “Women do not necessarily feel comfortable at Harvard Law.”

When asked about the possibility of constructing a new Law School racial harassment policy, Field said that the committee will be examining the issue, but that it was more difficult than simply writing a policy. “There are questions of legality, partly because the Supreme Court has been confusing on this,” she said. “The two problems in adopting such a policy are getting faculty agreement on any formulation and sidestepping all the legal questions that are not yet settled.”

The committee will have its first meeting on Monday, and Field said that students with questions are welcome to e-mail her.

The other initiatives in the Dean’s letter include a “difficult conversations” workshop, a teaching workshop and several presentations to the Law School community on race, religion and gender. In an interview with The RECORD, Rakoff said these programs are a way “to think about the things that happened last year and to address

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