Boalt's New Dean and Diversity

BERKELEY'S CIVIL-RIGHTS COUP: For years, student groups have complained that the University of California at Berkeley's law school wasn't doing enough to diversify its faculty and student body. Now they're singing the administration's praises.

Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law has appointed as dean a Harvard law professor who is one of the nation's top civil-rights experts. Christopher Edley Jr. also will be the first African-American to hold that position.

Mr. Edley, 50, who has served as an adviser to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He plans to set up a West Coast affiliate of the Civil Rights Project, a multidisciplinary think tank that he cofounded at Harvard.

"I have turned aside deanship inquiries in the past, but this opportunity is unique," he says. "California is ground zero for the transformation of America into a multiracial society, and the challenges of creating equity and opportunity are nowhere more urgent."

Mr. Edley will begin as dean on July 1, replacing John P. Dwyer, who resigned last year after being accused of sexually harassing a student.

Mr. Edley is one of only a dozen black law deans around the country and the first to lead an elite American law school.

Guy Johnson, a second-year law student at Berkeley and chairman of the school's Coalition for Diversity, says the move is "a decisive step in re-establishing Boalt Hall as a leader in legal education committed to progressive social change."

Yungsuhn Park, vice president of the Boalt Hall Students' Association, says he hopes that the new dean will make diversity among faculty members and students a top priority. The law school has struggled to rebuild its minority enrollment, which plummeted after California banned affirmative action in the mid-1990s.

-- Katherine S. Mangan
Chronicle of Higher Education
January 9, 2004