Like everyone in the legal academy over the last decade, we have watched with admiration the amazing changes that Elena Kagan brought to Harvard Law School. A fractured faculty, divided among ideological lines, seemed finally content, if not united. A boisterous student body was finally pacified. The logjam that had stopped faculty hiring had burst. Indeed, she hired so many new faculty the Harvard Law School’s newspaper’s 2008 April Fool’s issue declared, “Dean Kagan Hires Every Law Professor in the Country.”
The first woman Dean of Harvard Law School had presided over an unprecedented expansion of the faculty — growing it by almost a half. She had hired 32 tenured and tenure-track academic faculty members (non-clinical, non-practice). But when we sat down to review the actual record, we were frankly shocked. Not only were there shockingly few people of color, there were very few women. Where were the people of color? Where were the women? Of these 32 tenured and tenure-track academic hires, only one was a minority. Of these 32, only seven were women. All this in the 21st Century.
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One of us aired some of these concerns, which we expressed in a joint letter to the White House, on a blog. The White House never responded directly to us, but it did provide a defense of the Solicitor General’s record to concerned civil rights groups, who then made the document public. (Salon obtained a copy, which can be found here.) We are glad that the White House has responded to some of the questions that we have raised.
Unfortunately, the White House’s defense of the solicitor general’s hiring record while she was Dean at Harvard is surprisingly weak.
To begin, and most notably, the White House does not dispute our basic facts. When Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, four-out-of-every five hires to its faculty were white men. She did not hire a single African American, Latino, or Native American tenured or tenure track academic law professor. She hired 25 men, all of whom were white, and seven women, six of whom were white and one Asian American. Just 3 percent of her hires were non-white — a statistic that should raise eyebrows in the 21st Century.