Law faculty rates high in diversity

Yale Law School has one of the highest percentages of black professors among the nation’s 20 highest-ranked law schools, based on numbers provided by the Law School and a survey conducted this year by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

Statistics provided to the News on Monday by Law School Dean Harold Koh place the school fifth on the list — Yale Law School has six black professors out of 66 full-time faculty — though Journal editors claim Yale previously withheld its data on black faculty levels. Koh said the school had not refused to disclose information but rather had only become aware of the survey on Monday. Law students and professors said that while Yale’s figures are encouraging, they are concerned that numbers of black professors nationwide remain low.

“Yale Law School is utterly committed to promoting diversity in its faculty hiring, and we will continue working as hard as we can toward achieving that goal,” Koh said. “As dean, one of my core public commitments is promoting the renewal of our faculty, a goal broadly supported by its members, which we both hope and expect will promote greater faculty diversity over time.”

Bruce Slater, managing editor of the journal, said his staff first attempted to contact Koh in January via e-mail. When the Journal received no response, Slater said, editors arranged a follow-up call and sent a letter to the Law School several weeks ago.

But Slater said, in reaction to the figures provided on Monday, that Yale has reason to be proud.

“Blacks are 13 percent of the population, but they are not 13 percent of the lawyers or the people with law degrees, so [Yale’s 9.1 percent black faculty level] is a pretty healthy percentage,” he said. “Certainly, [Yale] could do more, but they are also one of the highest among the top schools, so I think that sheds good light on Yale.”

Although no black professors returned requests for comment on Monday, Harold Martin LAW ’07, co-chair of the Yale Black Law Student Association, said that while he applauds Koh and the rest of the faculty for their efforts to hire a diverse faculty, it is unfortunate that a faculty with only six black professors can nearly top the list.

“It’s fortunate for this law school, but it’s unfortunate for the state of the black legal academy,” he said. “I am also aware, though, that we have no Hispanic faculty members at Yale Law School. Though I’m willing on one hand to applaud the administration’s effort to recruit black faculty members, we must be aware that there is a very large population at Yale that does not see their demographic represented on the Law School faculty.”

Martin said he thinks Yale could do a better a job of attracting black “heavyweights” of the legal academy as he said Harvard Law School has successfully done. Harvard was ranked 12th in the survey, with black professors comprising 7.4 percent of the faculty.

Embry Kidd LAW ’08, also a member of the Black Law Student Association, said the percentage reflects a deep-seated challenge for blacks in legal academia.

“I think that part of it is a pipeline problem,” Kidd said. “Professors are expected to have a certain pedigree, and part of that is attendance at one of the very elite schools, but there are only so many black people who graduate from these schools each year. … It’s not an ideal number, but my expectations are tempered by reality.”

Director of the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs Valerie Hayes declined to comment on the number of black law professors at the University but noted that while an initiative to enhance faculty diversity is ongoing at Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, none is planned for the Law School.

Stetson University law professor Darryl Wilson, who founded a Web site for black law professors across the country, said a larger problem than the recruitment of black professors is their retention. He also said a “concerted effort” must be made to attract and mentor potential black law professors, especially since nationwide figures have remained relatively constant over the past decade.

“We don’t really have any more than 600 black law professors in the country,” he said. “I’ve been teaching almost 15 years, and I dare say that when I started, it was about the same number too. … It’s kind of sad to see a plateau that lasts more than a decade.”

Elizabeth Patterson, deputy director of the American Association of Law Schools, said the plateau is a larger reflection of a recent decline in the number of black law students across the nation.

Peterson said her association’s diversity committee has focused on retention of black professors but will now turn its focus to recruitment.

“This is definitely a challenge and an issue,” she said. “Diversity is a core value of the association … in terms of faculty but students as well. That needs to be addressed and is being addressed in law schools.”

Although Cornell University originally topped the Ivy League ranking, Yale’s percentage indicates that it in fact has the highest black faculty level in the Ancient Eight. Slater said the survey results will be printed in an upcoming issue of the Journal.

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