The attacks on Elena Kagan about her not hiring many minorities when she was Dean of the Harvard Law School are stupid in many ways. One of her professors at Harvard, Randall L. Kennedy (a black man), has written a post over at Huffington Post telling why this is so wrong. A piece from that piece….(emphasis mine)
She was in one of the first classes on race relations law that I taught at Harvard Law school. I recall vividly that she was an outstanding student — so much so that I recommended her with superlatives to my former boss Justice Thurgood Marshall. I thought that she would be an excellent clerk for him partly because she was so able analytically and also because her quiet but passionate commitment to equality before the law would fit in so well with “Mr. Civil Rights.” I was delighted when Justice Marshall offered her the clerkship and was unsurprised later when the Justice told me that her work for him had been exemplary.
Now really, with that kind of cred on civil rights, someone is going to accuse her of not being sensitive to minorities? Give me a break, please. This next bit reminded me of my first thought when I heard the criticism about who was hired while she was the Dean at Harvard Law. I work at a university and have been on selection committees for faculty, certainly not Harvard type faculty. But my first thought was, the Dean doesn’t freakin interview anyone. They certainly can if they want, but usually the Dean will just meet the candidates and weigh in with the committee with his thoughts. From Randall’s post…
First, it is mistaken to suggest, as some have, that the Dean of Harvard Law School is responsible for all that happens or does not happen with respect to hiring. The Dean is the single most influential member of the faculty. One does not get hired at the law school without the Dean’s blessing. At the same time, the Dean does not have the power on her own to hire someone to the faculty. To be hired, a candidate must receive at least a majority, usually a super-majority, of votes. The Dean can seek to persuade, but the Dean at Harvard Law School cannot force professors to move when it comes to faculty hiring, traditionally the most contentious arena of struggle at a famously contentious institution.
Second, Kagan was attentive to issues of race in faculty hiring. I say this on the basis of what I observed as the Chair of the Harvard Law School’s Entry Level Appointments Committee, a Committee on which, as Dean, Kagan also sat. I often agreed with her assessments of candidates but sometimes disagreed. Even when I did disagree, however, I found her judgments to be eminently sensible. She evaluated candidates carefully and generously, deploying her tough-minded independence but also paying close attention to the opinions of her colleagues.
So really now, you liberals who are looking for reasons to reject her, find something else. Or better yet, come to your senses and help us win in 2010 and 2012 instead of undermining our elected leader.