A University of Iowa Law School professor says she has some concerns about the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court by President Barrack Obama. Professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig was among those who questioned Kagan’s record on diversity while Kagan was the dean of the Harvard Law School.
“She presided over a large expansion of the faculty — an expansion that’s virtually unheard of in academia — she hired 32 tenured and tenure tract academic faculty, and of those numbers, only seven were women,” Onwuachi-Willig says, “and also during the time of her deanship, four women left so it was a net gain of three.”
And she says only one of Kagan’s hires was a racial minority. Onwauchi-Willig says the diversity record didn’t match Kagan’s other accomplishments. Onwauchi-Willig says it was a period where Kagan was clearly committed to ideological diversity, and was able to preside over the faculty in a way that had meaningful results for ideological diversity, but did not have the same results in hiring female and minority faculty.
Onwauchi-Willig says that past record is a concern. “It is disappointing because it suggests to me that the White House or President Obama, those who made the nomination, are willing to take a risk on the issues of gender and racial diversity,” Onwauchi-Willig. Kagan is currently the solicitor general and has not been a judge, so Onwauchi-Willig says the past record at Harvard is the only evidence they have on her racial and diversity record.
She says they don’t know Elena Kagan’s position on important issues like affirmative action, as she hasn’t written on them. Onwauchi-Willig Kagan hasn’t written on many other issues such as abortion, church state issues. “And essentially by nominating her, the White House says they’re willing to take a risk on that,” Onwauchi-Willig.
She says they don’t know if Kagan is going to follow the lead of her stated hero Justice Thurgood Marshall. Onwauchi-Willig says she’d like to see Kagan be an advocate for ordinary people like Marshall was, but says right now “I can’t feel confident that that will happen.”
Kagan is 50 and would be the youngest Supreme Court justice if approved by the U.S. Senate, and it would be the first time that three women would be serving on the high court.