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Welcome to our featured discussion on law school faculty diversity

May 31, 2012 4:08 PM

James R. Copland

Anyone who's been following the news cycle even casually has heard about Harvard Law professor and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's ill-documented claims of (trace) Native American ancestry. Harvard faculty, including Reagan solicitor general Charles Fried, have been quick to claim that Warren's appointment was based on her academic and teaching credentials, rather than to further faculty "diversity"--a claim that at least on the surface seems to undercut the legitimacy of diversity hirings in the first instance.

As someone who was a student and active campus participant at elite academic institutions in the 1990s, I saw first-hand the significant pressure placed on administrators by students eager to diversify faculties that were overwhelmingly white and male (a composition one would expect in that era for bodies of lifetime-appointed professors). At the University of North Carolina, a key rallying cry for campus activists in the early 90s--and a regular agenda item on the student advisory committee to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, on which I served--was the call for a "Native American faculty member." Any member, in any discipline, with essentially any record. At Yale Law School, which sponsored a free-speech wall in which students could voice their signed opinions in the days before blogs, Internet message boards, and social media, certain students grabbed a significant portion of the available space by blowing up the profile pictures of the entire faculty to emphasize its whiteness and maleness. (My bold red counter-poster, "diversity is more than skin deep," asked how many of the faculty were registered Republicans, Evangelical Christians or Latin-Mass Catholics, or the like? It proved provocative, though it did highlight the "dirty little secret" of the true agenda of those calling for diversity.) As vigorous as the student protesters were at my own alma maters, they had nothing on the student protesters at Harvard Law School around the time Elizabeth Warren was offered tenure, who stormed the dean's office and won a seat at the table with the faculty appointments committee.

To discuss the issue of faculty diversity, particularly as it relates to law schools, we're thrilled to welcome back our founding editor, my friend and former colleague Walter K. Olson. Since leaving MI for the Cato Institute in 2010, Walter has released his fourth book, Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America, which as its title suggests makes him eminently qualified to opine on this subject.

In addition to Olson, we are excited to welcome the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Hans Bader, where he serves as senior attorney and counsel for special projects. Hans was formerly a senior counsel with the Center for Individual Rights, which has led many of the legal challenges to government affirmative-action programs.

Opposite Olson and Bader, we are happy to welcome Texas Law professor Gerald Torres, a former president of the Association of American Law Schools and a leading proponent of Critical Race Theory. Among Professor Torres's many writings about race and diversity is his 2002 book, co-authored with Lani Guinier, The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy.

We hope you will visit back over the ensuing days to see what our distinguished participants have to say, in what promises to be a fascinating discussion.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.