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Despite a protest by about 80 students, University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law’s faculty voted Wednesday night to offer a tenured position to constitutional and environmental law scholar Daniel Farber. Law students crammed into the hallway outside Boalt’s faculty lounge with their mouths duct-taped shut in silent protest as one professor after another calmly walked past on the way to vote. The protest marked a shift in student concerns from three months ago. Then, the debate at the 800-student school over Farber centered on whether there were enough women on the faculty. Now, students say they wonder whether he’s even qualified to lead Boalt’s program in environmental law. But what disturbs many of the students the most was the feeling that they were excluded from the hiring process — the debate and vote over Farber took place behind closed doors in the faculty lounge. “I really do think they were not listened to, they were not consulted,” said professor Angela Harris. The Wednesday vote — in which Farber passed by a simple majority — took place because he failed to muster the 80 percent necessary to receive an offer in a prior vote Monday. Two candidates voted on earlier in the year for other faculty positions garnered at least 80 percent in the first vote. Representatives from Boalt’s Ecology Law Quarterly and the Coalition for Student and Faculty Diversity, which organized the protest, said they were excluded from the hiring process from the outset and that they found out about Dean John Dwyer’s plans to have Farber lead the environmental program just two weeks ago. But law school officials say students were given appropriate access to the hiring process. “Student views are important, but we don’t let students at any other educational institution elect their teachers,” said professor John Yoo, who teaches constitutional law. Dwyer said he met with representatives from the Ecology Law Quarterly, the Boalt Hall Women’s Association and the Coalition for Student and Faculty Diversity. “One of the things that we do is that we give them the opportunity to express their views,” Dwyer said. “Could we have met more frequently? I think so. Could we have met earlier? I think so. And we plan to do so in the future.” Farber, currently the Henry J. Fletcher Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, was traveling Thursday and unavailable for comment. Dwyer said he met with about 25 students Thursday to talk to them about their concerns and about the process. “We talked about hiring in general and that their voices were heard,” Dwyer said, adding that he came away from the meeting with a positive and constructive feeling. But not everyone feels as good. “We found out last Tuesday by accident that Farber was slated to play a fundamental role in the environmental law program — we had no notice about it prior to that,” said Matt Vespa, an editor for the Ecology Law Quarterly. As a member of the Boalt Hall Student Association’s six-student liaison committee to the faculty hiring committee, Carrie Williamson was among the students closest to the hiring process. She said she has no beef with Farber. “I had no negative impressions when I met with him; he was very honest about any potential flaws in his teaching. He stated that he would be able to teach any first-year class,” she said. But Williamson says she does have concerns about the hiring process. The liaison committee met with Farber in January and sent an evaluation of him via e-mail to the hiring committee, giving the hiring body the most direct student input of any group on campus. But Williamson says she felt a sense of powerlessness in the process. “The student liaison committee is the only official voice that the students have, but it’s really not a voice at all,” she said. “Our only link to the committee is through e-mail. And the very bottom line is that if the students can’t have an actual vote on who becomes a faculty member here, I think they should have actual conversations with the faculty on the faculty appointments committee.” Dwyer said the student evaluation is taken into account along with reviews from other committees and faculty peers. But other students said Farber is ill-qualified to take the reins in the environmental law program. They complain that he is involved in several areas of law, instead of just being focused on environmental law. “Our environmental law program needs to be revitalized and I think to revitalize the program we need someone who’s dynamic, that’s committed to environmental teaching and scholarship and really passionate about the environmental field,” said David Owen, an editor of Ecology Law Quarterly. In 1999, Farber published a book entitled Eco-Pragmatism: Making Sensible Environmental Decisions in an Uncertain World. His published work also includes Environmental Law: Cases and Materials, and a long list of journal articles. In addition, Farber is widely published in public choice theory and constitutional law. “Any school would be lucky to have such a scholar in any one area of law,” Dwyer said. Students said that if Farber accepts the position, they’ll try to be gracious. If he comes here we’ll make the best of it,” Owen said, “but this is not the way we want things to work out.”

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