BY OWEN ALTERMAN
As professors quiet down and students speak up, the process of finding a new dean is moving forward, sources say.
On March 11, the Law School Council will sponsor an open forum for students with University President Lawrence Summers, according to 2L Wade Ackerman, the Council’s vice president. In addition to that, a group of students will also meet privately with Summers to discuss the dean search.
Meanwhile, faculty — many unhappy with an advisory committee selected by Summers and not a faculty vote — have made no further moves of protest. Summers recently announced that he had personally chosen seven professors to sit on a committee to advise him on whom to select as dean. In December, disgruntled professors began to make moves to enforce a Law School policy, from the last dean search in 1989, to have faculty members elect representatives instead.
But the motion was tabled in January, and the faculty’s continued decision not to act on the issue has concerned Prof. Richard Parker and many others.
“I do think Harvard is out of step, or several steps behind other schools, in terms of collective faculty participation in advising the president about a dean,” Parker said.
Not all faculty agree. During a discussion in his Corporations class on Monday, Prof. Mark Ramseyer quipped that law schools should follow the lead of large law firms — and do away with democratized decision-making.
Later, Ramseyer told The RECORD that because Summers will ultimately select the dean, he can “get the information he needs by picking a committee whose opinions he’d like to hear.”
“My take is that it’s fine,” Ramseyer said. “The important thing is that the President not pick someone with no information on what’s going on at the Law School.” The committee has “been active in getting input,” he added.
Ramseyer admitted that most faculty would still want to choose committee representatives, but that his views are shared by a sizable minority of the faculty.
As for the committee itself, Prof. Charles Fried said the group last met on Feb. 12. According to Fried, Summers told committee members not to speak to the media, and then refused further comment.
Along those lines, committee members have declined to name the potential candidates. But according to media reports, some external names include Stanford Law dean Kathleen Sullivan, and former Law School Prof. Anne-Marie Slaughter, now dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. Internal candidates include Profs. Howell Jackson, Elena Kagan, Daniel Meltzer, Martha Minow, Robert Mnookin, and J.D. Dean Todd Rakoff.
In addition to Fried, the committee includes Profs. Lani Guinier, Christine Jolls, Louis Kaplow, Randall Kennedy, Frank Michelman, Minow, Mark Roe, and Laurence Tribe, as well as two professors from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Students have no seat on the committee, but Law School Council representatives said they have arranged ways for students to express their views.
Following a meeting with Summers staffer Clayton Spencer, LSC president Bill Dance and Ackerman received a commitment from Summers to come to the Law School for a March 11 open forum.
Ackerman said the forum was intended primarily for students, though faculty would not be kept out.
“We’re going into this with an optimistic view that students’ input will be influential,” Ackerman said. “Clayton [Spencer] expressed that the President has a genuine interest” and that the moves are “not just for show.”
In addition to the forum, Ackerman is arranging for a small group of students to meet with Summers and share their opinions. These student representatives will be chosen by LSC officers. Ackerman said the group will probably only be able to meet with Summers once or infrequently.
Still, Ackerman suggested that students should not regret that the faculty advisory committee does not include them. “I’m not sure that you would even call that a ‘faculty committee,'” he said.
Like Parker, Ackerman added that he thinks that Harvard’s decision-making process is more centered on the University President’s authority than at other schools.