Interview Barbara Bader Aldave BY KATHRYN KASE WHEN BARBARA BADER Aldave was named dean of the St. Mary’s University School of Law in June 1989, she became the first woman law school dean in the state of Texas. Aldave’s appointment also marked a new beginning for the San Antonio school, which had been scarred by faculty infighting and poor relations between the law school administration and the student body. In the short two years that she has been dean, Aldave has worked to heal the law school’s scars, implemented three legal clinics, established specialties in environmental and international law, and sought to diversify the mostly white faculty and student body. She also has cultivated a high profile in San Antonio, joining such groups as the San Antonio 100 and the San Antonio Community Law Center, and accepting one speaking engagement after another. Aldave’s accomplishments do not surprise those who knew her at the University of Texas School of Law, where she taught business and constitutional law for 15 years and repeatedly won awards for teaching excellence. A member of several social justice organizations, including Bread for the World, Aldave was known for her outspoken advocacy of progressive causes. She also led efforts to encourage the hiring of more minority and women faculty at UT Law School. Last spring, Aldave spoke with Kathryn Kase, a San Antonio lawyer and 1990 graduate of St. Mary’s Law School, about her experiences and her plans for St. Mary’s. What follows is an edited version of that interview. You were among the first women faculty members at the University of Texas Law School, and I understand that that was not always a smooth experience. How does that experience influence your dealings at St. Mary’s with faculty members, students, and the community? I was the first woman faculty member at the University of Oregon and then two of us began together at the University of Texas, so I have been a first in a law school environment before. This is the first time I’ve been the first in decision-making authority and that makes it a lot easier for me. I think that most of my experiences at the University. of Texas were good ones. One of my great disappointments there was the inability of the administration to hire women and more women faculty members. I found it hard to accept the explanations that were offered for this difficulty. I was heartened yesterday to receive a letter from a friend of mine at University of Texas who told me that this year the University has hired three women, one of ” I think the school ought to serve the community more di rectly than many law schools have in the past, initiating pro grams that will help to bring about justice, not only in the nar row legal sense a dean has a responsi bility to work toward social justice.” Barbara Aldave whom is a Hispanic. So, things are getting better there, too. When you decided to leave, was that a factor that slowness to hire more women faculty members in your decision to leave? I think slowness in the sense that I really had been working for a number of kinds of change over the years, and I was getting tired of the amount of energy I had to expend in order to accomplish less than I had hoped to accomplish. Diversification of the faculty, diversification of the student body were both of great importance to me. Over the years that I was at University of Texas the student body became much more diverse in a whole variety of ways. So, it wasn’t solely the lack of women faculty that influenced my decision to move. I had a lot of programs that I would have liked to implement. And even if I could gradually implement them in another institution, it’s much easier at a smaller school, especially at a school where one has more authority. along and I didn’t recognize it as such! Why do you think that the law school has been, perhaps not impervious to change, but very slow to assume it? Law professors, whatever their political orientation, tend to be very conservative. I think law professors see their institution as one that ought to be what Harvard was 20 years ago. And law professors, like all other people in the world, feel most comfortable with people like themselves. I never thought that there was conscious discrimination against women and minorities in the hiring process. I did think that decisions were influenced by the fact that the decisionmakers were almost exclusively Anglo males. Someone who values diversity can overcome his or her own inclination to associate primarily with people who are just like himself or herself, but it does take a conscious effort on the part of those who are doing the hiring. What is the role of a dean at a Catholic law school today? One thing I believe, a dean who is at a Catholic law school in San Antonio probably has a special responsibility to make legal education accessible to Mexican Americans, a large majority of whom are Catholic. I think that such a dean also has a responsibility to make the faculty of the law school more reflective of the society that the school is meant to serve. I think the school ought to serve the community more directly than many law schools have in the past, initiating programs that will help to bring about justice, not only in the narrow legal sense, but such a dean has a responsibility to work toward social justice. And that’s one of the reasons, among many, that I am such a strong advocate of more clinical programs. Those programs serve in general the poor, the disadvantaged, the desperate. To what extent do you think Church doctrine on particular issues, such as abortion, ought to influence curriculum at a Catholic law school? I don’t think that Church doctrine ought to influence the curriculum at a Catholic law school. I was engaged in a series of discussions last weekend with the deans of all the other Catholic law schools about what should be the collective reaction of the schools to a new regulation of the Association of American Law Schools that bars discrimination in placement and admissions on the basis of sexual orientation. And I saw some diversity of views on what would be appropriate methods of implementing the policy, but no one seemed to think that it was inappropriat&for a 12 SEPTEMBER 6, 1991
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