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As the search for a new Harvard Law School dean enters its second month, students at the school continue to demand further involvement in the selection process and have started to hone in on their priorities for the search.
The search began after Dean Martha L. Minow announced in January that she plans to step down from her position at the conclusion of the academic year. University President Drew G. Faust and University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 will will work with a 12-member Faculty Advisory Committee to select the next dean of the school.
After some students raised objections about having a limited role in the search, the Faculty Advisory Committee organized two open-mic forums for students to share concerns directly with members of the committee. Last month the Law School Student Council sent Faust a letter with specific requests for student involvement in the search process.
Law School professors Carol S. Steiker, Kristen A. Stilt, Randall L. Kennedy, and Gabriella Blum represented the committee at the second of the two forums, held Tuesday. Dean of Students Marcia L. Sells also attended, according to Law School student Amanda Lee.
Lee said about 30 students attended the wide-ranging discussion. Law School faculty at the meeting told students that Faust would be most receptive to emailed feedback.
“The faculty were very open to working with student concerns,” Lee said. “ A large take away seemed to be that they would be amenable to do more forums, but they emphasized that to reach [Faust], the best way to do that would be by letter.”
Peter D. Davis ’12, a second-year Law School student who attended the forum, said students focused primarily on three issues at the event. Students at the forum said they were interested in the selection of a dean who will bolster public interest career training and financial support for those careers. They also discussed better integrating international students into the Law School and said the next dean should prioritize transparency with students, according to Davis.
Davis thanked faculty committee members for hosting the forum, but he added that he thinks Faust should take a more active and personal role in soliciting student concerns and opinions.
“I think that if President Faust was very serious about student input, President Faust would hold routine, direct meetings with her and open forums of law students,” Davis said. “Not pre-selected forums, but open-mic forums of law students, multiple times throughout the coming weeks to have an opportunity to hear from us directly.”
Following the first forum last week, the Law School’s student council submitted a 10-point questionnaire to Faust, requesting that candidates complete it during the search process.
University spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson wrote in an emailed statement that Faust will consider the questionnaire as the search continues and that Faust and Garber have sought feedback through many avenues.
“As is common in dean searches, the President and Provost have been pursuing various ways to solicit advice and nominations from many members of the HLS community, including students,” Jackson wrote. “Representatives of the HLS student government have recently submitted a set of questions proposed to be directed to candidates for the deanship, and President Faust has let them know that she’ll keep those questions in mind as helpful indicators of students’ interests and concerns as the search progresses.”
In an interview last month, Minow said she expects Law School will find a new dean before the end of the academic year.
—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JamieDHalper.
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