As members of the HLS faculty, we were surprised and disappointed to read Arkadi Gerney’s unfair attack on Dean Robert Clark in last week’s RECORD. Future lawyers should understand the value of researching and understanding the facts before making accusations. In keeping with this ideal, we feel compelled to set the RECORD straight.
First, Mr. Gerney asserts that the faculty voted against a three-tiered grade reform proposal in a “close” vote that was “pushed through” during the School’s Celebration of Black Alumni. This is inaccurate. It is not infrequent that a faculty meeting conflicts with another HLS event that demands the attendance of some faculty. In this case the turnout of the faculty for the meeting was unusually high and the vote on this issue was not particularly close. Of the 49 faculty members who attended the regularly scheduled meeting on September 22, 30 voted against the three-tiered grading system. However, this was not the death of grade reform as Mr. Gerney suggests. The faculty ultimately adopted a proposal to make grading more uniform across sections. This new approach will help address concerns about arbitrary grading.
Second, Mr. Gerney contends that the Strategic Plan does not focus on student life matters, but instead primarily addresses campus construction. This is entirely backwards. Not only is a significant portion of the Strategic Plan devoted to transforming the student experience at HLS, many of these “quality of life” proposals have been put into effect this month. This includes the smaller 1L sections, the establishment of Law Colleges with corresponding Faculty Leaders, and the assurance that all first-year students will receive mid-semester feedback from their instructors. Conversely, the part of the Strategic Plan that examines campus space needs is perhaps the least developed and most “exploratory” section of the entire Plan. Nevertheless, the Strategic Plan envisions campus construction aimed precisely at addressing such student concerns as new athletic facilities, a student center, improved housing, and better facilities for student organizations. These building projects, and others like them, are integral to the goal of improving the HLS student experience, an ambition that pervades the Strategic Plan.
Third, Mr. Gerney questions the Law School’s commitment to public interest law and seems to argue that loan forgiveness (LIPP) has languished under Dean Clark’s tenure. This charge is particularly bizarre since the Dean just recently expanded LIPP by removing income caps, eliminating the parental contribution formula, and rescinding the “law related” requirement for work in the academic, non-profit and public sectors. These changes went into effect on July 1, and we expect many more students and alumni to be eligible for LIPP as a result. This is the second year in a row that the Dean has liberalized the rules for receiving LIPP funding. Furthermore, the Law School’s clinical program has grown dramatically under Dean Clark’s leadership, including the establishment of the Hale & Dorr Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain.
Finally, on the issue of women and minority faculty members, Mr. Gerney could not be more misinformed. Under Dean Clark’s tenure, more women have become members of the HLS faculty than in the entire 172 years prior to his appointment. When Dean Clark was appointed, there were only six women on the faculty. Today there are 16. These appointments have included Professors Desan, Gerken, Guinier, Halley, Jolls, Kagan, Ring, Schlanger, Slaughter, Steiker, Warren and White.
Meanwhile, minority representation on the faculty increased substantially during Dean Clark’s tenure. Of the current nine minority faculty members, two (one who had been assistant professor and one who had been visiting professor of law from practice) were promoted to a tenured position during the Clark deanship, while four others were newly appointed to the faculty to either tenure track or tenured positions. While more can and should be done in this area, progress is clearly being made.