Letters: Defending Clark, but not Strang or Lipper

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Faculty defend Dean Clark’s record

The April 10 issue of The RECORD contains a column by George Farah, the general drift of which can be gathered from its title: “End of Clark as dean bodes well for HLS.” This column – which purports to render a verdict on Bob Clark’s deanship as a whole – recites a contentious version of a few events early in Bob’s deanship in an effort to show that he has been “the consummate corporate dean.” It is astonishing, but true, that the last event even mentioned in the entire article occurred in 1992. Accordingly, one is never told that, as of 2003 and directly as a result of efforts made during Bob’s deanship:

– First-year classes now meet in sections of 80 students, rather than 140;

– Langdell Library, once drab and uninviting, has been renovated to become an astonishingly beautiful and user-friendly facility

– The Law School’s civil clinic now operates out of the first-class Hale and Dorr Legal Center, and its criminal clinic from prime space in Austin Hall;

– The Law School’s Low Income Protection program, which supports graduates in tackling public-interest jobs, has roughly tripled in size to become a $1,500,000-a-year program;

– First-year students are now supported by the law college system;

– HLS has adopted and is now implementing a mandatory pro bono requirement;

– As a result of a major expansion in funding, last summer 297 students spent their summers in public interest jobs being supported by HLS, and this year any student who wants the opportunity will have it;

– And, perhaps of greatest importance because it is the most general of all, the student/faculty ratio at the law school is the best it has been in living memory, permitting smaller classes and greater student/faculty contact than ever before.

And this is only a partial list of the significant improvements that have been made at HLS over the last 14 years. Farah’s article is faulty as an argument and faulty on the facts. It betrays a depressingly simplistic adversariness that implies that one cannot celebrate a newly named dean without attacking the prior one. We think you can celebrate both.

– Prof. Charles Fried
Prof. Christine Jolls
Prof. Daniel Meltzer
Prof. Martha Minow
Prof. Charles Ogletree
Dean Todd Rakoff
Prof. David Wilkins


Strang is an embarassment

Could The RECORD please stop giving so many column inches to Lee Strang’s bigoted rhetoric? I’m all for freedom of expression and opposing viewpoints, but this continual assault of one-sided, anti-gay, uber-conservative-Christian tirades is getting old. I can’t imagine that The RECORD would allow a Nazi or a Klan member to espouse his or her narrow-minded agenda on a weekly basis. As an atheist, I feel strongly that Strang’s op-ed pieces are as offensive to me as an anti-Semitic essay would be to a Jewish student.

As a side note, I think it’s a testament to Strang’s own ignorance that he seems to believe Catholic churches in the Midwest don’t suffer from child abuse problems because there is less “dissent” regarding church policies in other parts of the country. I was raised Catholic in the Midwest and the priest who gave me my First Communion was sent to prison for molesting teenage boys while the archbishop who performed my Confirmation has been plagued by accusations as he’s moved from diocese to diocese. These are not isolated anecdotes. Perhaps Strang should instead commend Catholics in Boston for exposing these horrors rather than condemning members of the clergy for questioning Church policies. Clearly the Church’s policy of covering up abuse allegations is worthy of dissent, if not criminal prosecution.

– Melinda McLellan, 1L


LSC President defends Clark

George Farah’s opinion column (“End of Clark as dean bodes well for HLS”, The RECORD, April 10) focuses mainly on Dean Clark’s responses to events that occurred during the first few years of his tenure. Farah’s criticism says a lot about the intensity of the campus conflict in those days and the energy and apparent unity of many students and faculty. But it does not say much about Clark’s overall record. Inevitably, over 14 years as dean, Clark made his share of mistakes and it sounds as though the actions Farah describes were among them.

But Clark is also at least partially responsible for many positive changes over the last few years. During my three years here, the Law School has shrunk 1L sections, increased LIPP funding, devoted more money to financial aid, added the pro bono requirement and hired more faculty and staff for OPIA. Just this week, an alumnus endowed HLS with a million dollars. I have no doubt that Clark nurtured the process that led to that endowment. It’s worth noting that the money will endow OPIA, not another professorship in corporate law. We’ve seen major physical renovations as well: improvements to the classrooms of Austin and Langdell and to the Ames Courtroom. I think the school is a better place now than it was three years ago and I think Clark deserves a lot of credit.

Farah’s condemnation of Clark as “the consummate corporate dean” is also somewhat unfair, reflecting the popular paranoid vision of HLS as the Evil Corporate Empire and Clark as its Imperial Wizard. We should recognize this myth for what it is and move on, rather than demonizing Clark and HLS for (some of) our career choices. The myth is that HLS accepts idealistic 1Ls committed to public interest and all things good and glorious. Then, over the course of three years, it transforms us into greedy, cynical big-firm toadies eager to defend corporate America and attack the poor and defenseless. Meanwhile, it strips us of enough self-awareness that we don’t recognize our transformation until it’s too late to do anything about it. We gain the world but lose our souls, ending up bitter, alienated and burned out.

It seems true that HLS deploys more resources getting students jobs in private law firms than in government and other areas of public interest law. But I think that is the beginning and end of the myth’s validity. The school reflects our career goals as well as our doubts. Many of my classmates have broad social concerns and commitments, yet chose to work in large firms. To some extent, I think of myself that way. I may be na├»ve, hypocritical, selfish, optimistic, confused and even delusional, but I believe that decisions I make about my work life are mine, not the result of Harvard Law School’s subtle mind control. Other than recruiters, very few people around here advocate the law firm path. Most professors portray it as a hellish rat-race, whereas many extol public interest work. And yet, most have more or less abandoned both options to teach us (maybe that still counts as public interest; I’m not sure), so they’re conflicted too. I realize I’ve gone beyond merely responding to George Farah here; for all I know he really does plan to work in public interest; and, if that’s the case, I admire him for it and congratulate him. But many of the rest of us are conflicted about our career choices. We should think carefully about what we are doing, now and as we go forward, and then take responsibility for our decisions rather than turning Dean Clark into our scapegoat because he wears a suit, wrote a treatise about corporations, and raises millions of dollars for the school.

– William Dance, 3L
President, Law School Council


Lipper is wrong

Greg Lipper’s column (“The mother of all columns”) in last week’s RECORD unfortunately oversimplified the issues Katie Biber wrestled with in her opinions about education and the military. I do not think Lipper read those columns very carefully, as he quickly dismissed Biber’s column on the military as a lazy inconsistency. He missed the main point of Biber’s argument, which was a call to respect and support our troops. Part of that argument involved an attack on the debate about funding the armed forces at an o
perating minimum and the soldiers’ meager pay. Biber was not making a blanket argument that “money was the answer,” as Lipper naively suggests. She was simply advocating that our soldiers deserve better. In addition, the issue she addressed was not the solution to the poor and inadequate state of one of America’s establishments (as she did with education in “Education done the ‘right’ way”). Biber instead called on us to support the individuals who protect our freedom.

But everyone’s favorite student liberal disregarded this petition, pulled words out of their context, and fabricated Biber’s supposedly inconsistent line of reasoning. And he did not even do a good job, either. For example, how did the resourceful Lipper overlook the fact that our troops are the world’s best armed forces even while living on such meager pay? Read more carefully next time, Greg.

– Robert M. Fojo, 1L

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