IF all seems quiet on the ivy-covered campus of Harvard Law
School, that's only because it's holiday time. But behind the quiet
facade, a storm is brewing.
Last month a group of students, calling themselves the Harvard
Law School Coalition for Civil Rights, filed suit against
prestigious Harvard College for failing to hire enough women and
members of minorities to the faculty.
"We're suing Harvard on the grounds that a diverse education is
not being offered at this school. Without a variety of teaching
perspectives, students are not getting the best possible education,"
says Pat Gulbis, a second-year student who helped draft the 38-page
complaint filed in Middlesex Superior Court.
In the case, the students charge that Harvard violates
Massachusetts state law by excluding a disproportionate percentage
of qualified women and minority candidates for tenured and
tenure-track faculty positions."
Instructors draw from their own life experiences when they stand
in front of classes and present cases and arguments, say the
students. Without teachers who are women, African Americans, Asian
Americans, of Latin American origins, and physically disabled, they
argue, students are not introduced to varying viewpoints of these
These views are needed, not only by minority students, but by
whites who will be influential in structuring and defining the
future of American justice, say the student activists.
"Teachers are really powerful in shaping what you're exposed
to," says Lucy Koh, a first-year student. "Too often professors
don't think they should be spending valuable class time talking
about social and historical perspectives of cases. So, the really
important issues are never raised."
For students who anticipate working in public-interest law,
which often deals with minority concerns, the education is
impractical. Asks student Laura Hankins, "If we've learned
everything in a vacuum, how can we practice?"
Harvard Law School Dean Robert Clark declined to talk about
the pending lawsuit. But he describes Harvard's record in the area
as strong. Over the past decade, he notes, 45 percent of all
professors hired in tenure-track and tenured professorships have
been women and minorities.
But no racial-minority women have been in tenure-track or tenured
positions. Of the Law School's 66 faculty members, five are black,
five are women, and the remaining 56 are white males. In contrast,
of the 1,620 students in the Law School, 45 percent are women and 22
percent are members of racial minorities.
"It's a reflection of historical circumstance," says Stephen
Bernardi, assistant dean of the law school. "Many of these men were
hired in the '30s and '40s, and they have tenure. You can't make
them go away." (Tenured positions last for life, or until
The disparity of minority faculty at universities is not limited
"The problem is acute across the country," says Dennis Archer, an
attorney in Detroit who is chairman of the American Bar Association
(ABA) commission on opportunities for minorities in the legal
profession. "There are a number of law schools without any
minorities in tenure-track or tenured positions. Without these
professors, there is no minority voice in the policy or the
government of the law school."
Last year, of more than 5,000 full-time professors at 174
accredited law schools in the United States, less than 9 percent
were members of minorities. …