THE HIRING – AND FIRING – of professors is nothing short of an annual rite at Harvard Law School. In a school filled with such contentious ideological debate, the entry and exit of particular advocates is a ritual marked by exuberation and angst. And not just among students.
Page through a copy of Eleanor Kerlow’s 1994 missive, Poisoned Ivy, for accounts of heated ideological battles among HLS faculty on the issue of appointments. Even in recent years, rumors occassionally surface on alleged debates among professors on questions of candidate ideology, although, years after the days of “Beirut on the Charles,” professors have learned to whisper these things on no basis other than “deep background.”
This year’s appointments have brought swift acrimony among the students, however. As noted last week, many have decried the decrease in “diversity” following the release of two female professors. (“HLS to lose three assistant profs,” 04/22/04). Two-L Jennifer Chong told us, “We absolutely need more women if Harvard is ever going to shake its misogynistic old boys’ club tradition.”
Rhetoric such as that should signal to everyone that perhaps students are beginning to lose their grip on the bigger picture.
We agree that diversity should be a core concern in hiring. But let’s not forget why demoraphic diversity is important: it represents, to some extent, a proxy for diversity in worldview and experience.
It is, however, only a proxy. And this year, although both of the tenure grants were to men, one of those men represents, proxy or no proxy, a particularly absent form of diversity at HLS:
He’s – gasp! – a conservative.
Professor John Manning comes to HLS nationally recognized as a leading scholar in matters of Administrative and Constitutional Law. He was very popular in his visiting stint here last year. And his legal theories and conclusions point in a direction contrary to much of the conventional wisdom on this campus.
At HLS, you can count the number of actively, politically conservatives on one hand and still have enough fingers left to flash a peace sign. On a campus filled by hundreds of instructors, is this really sufficient diversity?
John Manning is not a good professor because he is conservative. But he is a good professor, and he is conservative. If true diversity of opinion is what proponents of “diversity” are looking for, then Manning’s hire should be celebrated by all students, Right and Left.