While Republicans work furiously to salvage Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, there’s another position he may be struggling to hold on to: lecturer at Harvard Law School.
Students at the school have been protesting Kavanaugh’s nomination for days and demanding that he not return to campus without an independent investigation of the allegations that he sexually assaulted women when he was a student at Georgetown Prep and Yale College.
On Friday, John Manning, Harvard Law School’s dean, who initially praised Kavanaugh as “an inspiring teacher and mentor” when President Trump nominated him in July, responded publicly for the first time, writing in an e-mail to students that “these have been painful, difficult times for our nation and our community.”
“The Supreme Court confirmation fight has brought into sharp focus questions about sexual assault, fair process, fitness and character for high office, the integrity of the political process, and more,” Manning wrote. “I appreciate the many students who have spoken out and expressed views on these critical issues.”
At the same time, Manning refused to comment on Kavanaugh’s status at Harvard, where he has taught since 2008, and is slated to return in January to teach a three-week course on the “Supreme Court since 2005.”
“I know that many of you are unsatisfied with the answer that we cannot comment on personnel matters in particular cases,” Manning wrote. “Still, I can provide you this assurance: When concerns and allegations arise about individuals in our teaching program, we take those concerns and allegations seriously, conduct necessary inquiries, complete our process, and then act.”
Several students said they were not satisfied with Manning’s response, particularly after Heather Gerken, the dean at Kavanaugh’s alma mater, Yale Law School, released a statement Friday declaring that she, along with the American Bar Association, supports an independent investigation of the assault allegations before a confirmation vote is taken.
“This personnel matter is very personal to us,” said Sejal Singh, a second-year student at Harvard Law. “We hope Dean Manning will lead — like Yale’s Dean Gerken did — by joining the ABA and calling on the Senate to halt confirmation proceedings until there is a full investigation.”
Senate Republicans agreed Friday to delay a vote on Kavanaugh for a week to allow the FBI to investigate the assault allegations. The FBI investigation, students said, should determine not only if Kavanaugh can serve on the court, but if he can teach in Cambridge.
“Certainly, someone who is not fit to serve on the US Supreme Court is not fit to teach at Harvard Law School,” said Alyx Darensbourg, a second-year student from Bakersfield, Calif.
Kavanaugh himself suggested during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that he may be too toxic to return to Harvard, where he holds the title Samuel Williston Lecturer on Law.
“I loved teaching law, but thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed,” Kavanaugh said, referring to the Democratic members of the committee, “I may never be able to teach again.”
Students who were watching the hearing on campus cheered when they heard that remark, Darensbourg said.