Law School seeks student views on new dean

May 23, 2012, 2:10 a.m.

At a Tuesday town hall meeting, law students were given an opportunity to engage and question the search committee that will recommend a list of candidates to the president and provost to replace Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer.

Kramer announced in March that he will step down from his post to serve as president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“Of the great qualities I’ve seen in Dean Kramer in the past three years I’ve been here, I think one of those is his responsiveness to students,” said Teddy Kider J.D. ’12, co-president of the Stanford Law Association and member of the dean selection committee. “The fact that there is someone at the top of the administration who I do think cares about students is important in a big way.”

The current list of candidates for the position will be kept completely confidential until a new dean has been selected, as a way to ensure that certain candidates will consider running for the position.

The committee expects to present anywhere from three to five candidates to University President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82. To select this list of candidates, the committee began holding meetings with the public two weeks ago.

Around 50 students attended Tuesday’s town hall meeting, presenting a number of questions that led Law School Vice Dean Mark Kelman to describe students’ opinions as ranging from “valuable reinforcement of information” to assessments that he “didn’t see coming.”

One of the qualities that students consistently identified as an important trait in the future dean was continued responsiveness to students as previously demonstrated by Kramer.

As part of Kramer’s willingness to engage with students, he has held periodic town hall meetings open to all and has committed himself to teaching classes and participating in school musicals every year.

“I would agree that one of Dean Kramer’s biggest assets from a student’s perspective is that he is responsive to all students, especially students that he doesn’t necessarily agree with,” said Barbara Smith J.D. ’12. “He is still just as supportive with them as he is with anyone else.”

Kramer has led a number of initiatives, including switching the law school’s academic calendar from the semester system to the quarter system.

“Although we wish the law school rankings didn’t mean anything, they do,” Smith said. “It’s important to find someone who’s sensitive to that and who is going to continue the great trend that Dean Kramer has started.”

Students also voiced concerns about the impression that Stanford Law School may be “a little California-centric.”

“It is unfortunate because we’re the second best law school in the country and we don’t have more connections to places like Washington, D.C., and New York,” Smith said. “There’s certainly no discouraging of students who want to go to those types of places, but I’ve found that the search has been a little self-directed.”

“It would be wonderful to have more East Coast, and even Midwest, sensitivity to what Stanford has,” she added.

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