Yale President Richard Levin announced law professor Harold Koh’s appointment as Yale Law School’s next dean in an address to the Law School faculty yesterday.
Koh, an international law scholar and human rights activist who has taught at the Law School since 1985, will officially begin his five-year term July 1, 2004, succeeding Law School Dean Anthony Kronman, who will step down at that time after serving as dean for 10 years.
Koh said he is “very excited” about the opportunity.
“It’s not every day you get this,” he said. “[The announcement] had been coming for a while, but when it actually happens you’re very humbled, thinking of all the scholars and lawyers who come through here.”
A search committee, formed in May, unanimously recommended Koh to Levin as the next dean, Kronman said.
Levin said Koh was the choice of the entire Law School community.
“He was the absolute consensus choice of faculty, students and staff at the Law School,” Levin said. “He’s one of the most popular teachers at the school and he is devoted to the mission of the Law School.”
Kronman, who will continue to teach at the Law School after he steps down from his position as dean, said he was pleased with the choice of Koh as his successor.
“I have the highest regard for [Koh’s] scholarly work and his activism on behalf of human rights,” Kronman said.
Koh served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor from 1998 to 2001.
Translating the Law School’s traditions and values into a new century while maintaining its position as “the best law school in the world” will be Koh’s chief goal, he said.
Koh said as dean he will face the challenge of renewing and rejuvenating the Law School’s faculty.
“We have a great faculty, but we don’t have the youngest faculty in America,” Koh said.
Koh said his other challenges will be to make Yale into a truly global law school that is not exclusively focused on American law, to meet the needs of the legal profession and to prepare students for public service.
Koh said he hopes to continue Kronman’s legacy.
“I think [Kronman] is a great leader,” Koh said. “We share the exact same values about the school. If there’s one thing I don’t want to do, it’s to turn us away from a true cause.”
Koh said he will consult with members of the Law School community before he takes office and considers making any major changes to the school.
“One of the great things about having a position but not yet having responsibility is that I don’t have to make snap judgments about what to do,” Koh said.
Steve Vladeck LAW ’04 said Koh, who is his academic advisor, will bring enthusiasm to the position.
“If [Koh] brings the zeal he brings to everything else to the deanship, the Law School will be in great hands,” Vladeck said.
Koh is one of the 44 Law School professors who together filed suit against the Department of Defense Oct. 16, alleging discrimination in recruitment policies due to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Koh said that he hopes to continue working against discrimination in his new position.
“I think discrimination against gays and lesbians is the issue of our time,” Koh said. “I care a lot more about stopping discrimination than I do being dean.”
Koh, who first moved to New Haven in 1961, said being named dean has sentimental value for him because of his family’s history of service to the school. His mother, father and sister have all taught at the Law School.