Harvard adds more minorities to law faculty, quiets protesters
Cambridge, Mass. — Student activists won't be clogging the corridors, classrooms, and offices of the Harvard Law School, as they repeatedly have in the past few years. Their cause c'el`ebre has been nullified. The law school has voted to give faculty tenure status to a black and two women, effective July 1, and to hire another black professor. The hiring of minority faculty members and the granting of tenure to minority and female faculty members have been advocated by the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BALSA) ever since it was organized in 1967. Harvard ranks third in the nation in terms of black students enrolled in a law program.
``I'm pleased with these developments,'' says law school dean James Vorenberg. Dean Vorenberg has often been the target of past demonstrations led by BALSA, demonstrations that were openly supported by most of the law student body.
``We've made some progress as the result of efforts made during the past few years,'' Vorenberg says. ``This is really a forward step in our normal recruiting and search process to bring the best possible people to the Harvard law faculty. . . .''
A black alumnus who supports the appointments is Muhammad Isaiah Kenyatta, a 1984 graduate who as a student led many protests against law school policies. ``For the first time I can say I'm proud of being a Harvard Law School graduate,'' he says. ``Once more the law school is taking the lead in setting an example for other Harvard disciplines to follow.''
The law school's tenure vote comes on the heels of BALSA's third annual spring career conference, which was held in mid-March. Participants had discussed what they called a declining enrollment of new black students in the law school and their desire to see more blacks on the faculty.
Many black Harvard law students express concern about the lack of black women on the faculty and the declining number of blacks in the law school.
They say they are not satisfied with their status in the Harvard Law School, although Harvard is called the nation's ``third-largest black law school.'' Only two historically black colleges, Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Texas Southern University in Houston, enroll more black law students than Harvard does.
``The Harvard BALSA is required to do more than other students in addressing these issues,'' says Millicent Hodge, BALSA's new president.
Mr. Kenyatta, however, says he deplores the decrease in the number of black freshmen enrolled at the law school since 1982. Eighty-three accepted and 65 enrolled in 1982. The figures were 81 and 68 in '83; 79 and 54 in '84, and 66 and 44 in '85. ``During the past two years Harvard [has echoed] the national trend of fewer black students enrolling in college and in graduate and professional schools, although more are graduated from high school each year,'' Kenyatta says.
``BALSA has led student unrest at Harvard since it was founded,'' he says. ``It's our duty today to set the pace in recruiting more black students.''
Money seems to be the reason that many blacks enroll at other schools instead of at Harvard, some BALSA members say. Other schools provide more scholarship funds than Harvard, they add.
Harvard's two new black faculty members are Derrick Bell, returning as a tenured professor after leaving the school five years ago to become dean of the law school at the University of Oregon, and David Wilkins, a lawyer from Washington, D.C., who graduated from Harvard College in 1977 and from Harvard Law School in 1980. ``I'm happy to say we persuaded Professor Bell to return, and we were able to convince Mr. Wilkins to leave the practice of law for a career in teaching,'' Dean Vorenberg says.
Other black faculty members include Christopher Edley, Charles Ogletree, and Randall Kennedy. The two women approved for tenure are Susan Estrich and Martha Minow, bringing the total number of women tenured by the law school to five.
``Teaching in the law school is not lucrative,'' says David L. Evans of Harvard's admissions office, who has studied the problems of recruiting both black faculty and black students on predominantly white campuses. And so blacks who work at Harvard must be dedicated, he adds.