Yale reappoints law dean Heather Gerken amid campus controversies

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Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, October 7, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES)

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  • Gerken will head up the No. 1-ranked law school through 2027
  • She became Yale Law's first female dean in 2017

(Reuters) - Yale University said Wednesday that it has reappointed Heather Gerken to another five-year term as dean of its law school.

Yale President Peter Salovey in a statement praised Gerken’s navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, her fundraising and her efforts to diversify the student body. He noted the past five entering classes were the school’s most diverse.

Gerken’s tenure has also had its polarizing moments, however. She oversaw a sexual harassment investigation centered on Professor Jed Rubenfeld, who denied any misconduct but was suspended for two years in 2020. Last year the school investigated Rubenfeld’s wife Amy Chua—another well-known professor who wrote the 2011 parenting book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," for apparently violating an agreement that she would not host students in her home.

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Chua was stripped of teaching a “first-year small group” this academic year. In November, two anonymous law students sued Gerken and other administrators, saying they faced retaliation for refusing to aid the school’s investigation into Chua. (A federal district court judge on Tuesday denied the plaintiffs’ bid to proceed under pseudonyms.)

In October, the law school’s attempts to address a student’s email invite to a “Trap House” party that some minority students deemed offensive prompted critics to allege the school was trampling on free speech rights. Gerken later wrote to the law school community to express "regret" over how her administration had handled the incident.

Gerken’s reappointment extends her deanship through July 2027. She joined the Yale Law faculty in 2006 and became the school’s first female dean in 2017. During that time, Yale Law School has maintained its position at the top of U.S. News & World Report’s closely watched law school rankings.

Gerken also spearheaded the creation of the Joseph C. Tsai Leadership Program, which launched in November. That initiative seeks to modernize the law school curriculum and do more to prepare students for diverse careers and leadership roles.

Read more:

Yale suspends law prof Jed Rubenfeld following sexual harassment investigation

Yale Law students 'blackballed' for refusing to lie about professor, lawsuit says

Yale Law dean says new curriculum needed for next batch of leaders

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com