Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Veil of Ignorance and the Veil of Civility



People may disagree what the world would look like if designed behind the veil of ignorance but there seems to be no disagreement that it prevents one from making rules that play to their self interest. In terms of a law faculty it would be nice if all procedural rules could be made with an eye to fairness and without knowledge of who will be better off or worse off. Law faculties, however, seem to dislike making any kind of rule without assessing how it will affect them. The veil of ignorance is something to be avoided whenever possible.

If  a faculty should stumble into acting behind the veil of ignorance, they forget about the purpose of the veil when convenient. This came up a few years ago when the faculty decided that Visiting Associate Professors (VAPs) could not be hired after finishing their one or two year stint. Not long after that, the Dean and the Appointments Committee advanced a candidate for a VAP without a search. They also did not disclose that the candidate was the spouse of a faculty member. (One of the people who knew this information but did not disclose it is a frequent player of the "collegiality card.") Within a few short months as the couple endeared themselves, the rule against hiring VAP did not seem like such a good idea and pressures built to jettison it. But wait, you might think, isn't the rule designed to ensure no one will hired because he or she merely "liked." You would be right to think that but any if raised it you would then encounter the "veil of collegiality."

It is, in fact, the veil of collegiality that law professors love, not the veil of ignorance. Rather than prevent rules and actions that are designed to further self-interest, the veil of civility or collegiality is used to keep everyone else from observing what are wholly self interested acts. It is also used to demonize those who raise the issues of fairness and self dealing.

For example, for years at UF Law, parents taught their family members and it went on without comment, most especially by any administrators. It was almost a tradition. People would grouse to each other but no one would say anything publicly. The practice existed because of the veil of civility. Had anyone raised the matter publicly the "collegiality card" would have been played. The same is true for a certain  pet foreign program. What would be said in the real world about the program is "You are fucking kidding. Have you lost our mind." What actually happens is office to office grousing because to make a public issue of it would be to pierce the veil of collegiality.

In fact, the collegiality card is played over and over usually by the same small group. It is a signal to others that says: Do not talk about this because you might ruffle someone's feathers and this cozy you scratch my back and I'll scratch your equilibrium could be upset."

When you think about it, the veil of ignorance and the veil of civility or collegiality do have something in common. Under the former, you actually do not know what will happen in the future. Under the latter, you pretend not to know.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Law Prof Wrist Band: Sociology of Law Profs: 6



Remember those wrist bands that said "What would ____ do."  I think they started out being religious in nature but then became funny. The one I wear says "What would Crazy one Eye do?"

I was thinking there could be wrist bands for all University faculty to wear that would say "What would a Law Professor  Do" and the law school would be a standard  for the right and ethical thing to do. You, know -- like the ubiquitous Lance Armstrong wristband above. Just kidding.  But then I realized that, if those bands existed and people wore them, when they read the little message it would be translated into "What would Tony Soprano,  Dick Cheney or Bernie Madoff  Do." Between cheating on the USN&WR rankings, hiring pals, crazy hiring, and tenure standards, vanity courses, and on and on, what else could they possible think?

This also made me think that law profs could have second careers as football coaches but certainly not as golfers.  Specifically, in football, there are rules but the idea is to get around them and try hard not to get caught. If holding can help you win, hold as long as you are good at concealment. Pass interference is also dandy, just don't get caught. In golf, believe it or not, players often report to the officials when they have broken a rule and take what ever penalty there even though it can mean a loss of thousands of dollars. Which of these approaches do you think most parallels that of law professors? -- football or golf. Actually, now that I think of it, which is more similar to many of the the folks locked up in jail. Of course, law profs do it with great civility where civility is the big blanket behind which you must not look. And, when caught they are silent.

I think I may go over the the Med School and check out their faculty. Suppose I find they are all  smokers, grossly overweight, and having lunch everyday at KFC. If so, I'll get rid of my "what would a Medical school professor eat." I've already thrown away my "what would a law professor do" wrist band.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Should You Be a Law Professor? Sociology of Law Professors: 5




Over on Facebook I have taken a slew of quizzes that are "designed" to tell me what color I am, which TV character I would be, what country I should have been born in and on and on. I realized that there needs to be a test for whether you would be viewed as doing a good job being a law professor. Here are 10 questions. Each question has two options. You are to choose the option that is the worst between the two. I'll tell you how to score after you take the test. OK, which is worse?

1. a. Not grading your exams carefully.
b. Objecting to  not grading carefully.

2. a. Recycling old exams.
b. Objecting to recycling exams.

3.a. Posting a job opening notice for a job that is filled.
b. Objecting to posting job notices for jobs that do not exist.

4. a. Recommending to the faculty to hire someone without a search because the person is married to a current faculty member.
b. Mentioning that it is not a good practice to conceal why someone is being recommended especially if the reason is unrelated to teaching or research.

5. a. Rehiring people with consistently awful teaching evaluations.
b. Objecting to hiring people with awful teaching evaluations.

6.  a  Dropping the names of elite schools and well know people you barely know as a way of impressing people.
b. Objecting to name dropping and appeals to authority by mentioning fancy  schools whenever possible.

7. a. Deciding to reject someone's application of a job you know they would be good at because they noted you were doing something illegal.
b. Objecting to rejections of applications based on spite.

8. a. Never speaking about about illegal and irresponsible activities by the school, the administration, or the faculty.
b. Objecting to the fact that colleagues never speak up about obviously irresponsible or  illegal activities.

9. a. Name calling in a faculty meeting.
b. Objecting to name calling in a faculty meeting.

10 .a. Leaning on untenured faculty to vote for your favorite candidate for a job.
b. Objecting to leaning on untenured faculty to vote for specific faculty candidates.

Here is how to grade. Give yourself 1 point each time you selected "a." Give yourself 2 points each time you selected "b." If you engaged in a and selected b, give yourself 3 points.  A perfect score 30. If you made 30, you are as qualified to be a law professor as is humanly possible. And, what's more, you are probably lying so give yourself another 10 point bonus. You are truly elite.

A score of 20 also means you can expect to be a success as a law professor. As your scores drops below 20, your fit will diminish and, if you are below 15, I do not think you will cut it as a law professor and you might just check under your car each day for an explosive device. Do not expect raises; do not expect plum assignments.

Some people may think the scoring is backwards but it is not. The most cherished characteristic for a law professor is civility or collegiality which in the world of law professors means this: Do anything you want. Do not utter anything that would in any measure suggest anyone on the faculty ever did anything that was less than honorable.

I guess that is what elite schools teach since  graduates from elite schools are pervasive in legal education as is "civility."




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Protecting the Untouchables



I do not intend to equate law school administrators with the Tallahassee Police Department or the FSU administration as reported in this article  nor to equate law faculty with football players but there is a similar pattern -- protect or turn a blind eye to what I will refer to as the "untouchables." The untouchables fall into two categories: "yes" people and people who can make a credible threat to sue the administration or, at least, destroy its reputation.

I will list a few instances of things untouchables can do that draw little or no response. While the touchables can do very little and be called in for questioning.
1. The director of a program that is required to list its costs and benefits leaves out $25,000 of the cost. 
2. A faculty member or administrator posts a announcement for a job opening for a job that does not exist.
3. In a faculty meeting one faculty member refers to two others as "insane." 
4. A faculty member on the appointments committee misrepresents the reviews of a candidate as all favorable when they were not.
5. A faculty member copies entire books.
6. A faculty member uses independent study  credits to, in effect, hire students as research assistants. The independent study is largely running errands and tracing down materials for the teacher.
7. Students are given externship credit for summer appointments where the so called supervisors do not know who they are or what they are doing.
8. Faculty members publicly state unlawful reasons for favoring or disfavoring a candidate. 
9. A faculty member misses blocks of classes that are not made up.

How long to do you want the list? It could no on and on. 

What accounts for this? Why are some faculty untouchable while others can be brought in for questioning?  In the case of the football player it was either incompetence or a sense that even investigating carefully would be politically unacceptable.

On law faculties, it's a bit different. The reason for the special  treatment of the "I will sue you" people is obvious. What about the others? Here is my theory and it is only that. The untouchables seem to have a few common characteristics.
1. They are from elite backgrounds.
2. They are part of "groups" or over lapping "groups" in that if one were sanctioned the others might be upset.
3. The are masters of facial but not substantive collegiality.
4. They are secretive.
5. Most important, they never ever question authority. This seems to be the crux of the informal contract between administrators and the the untouchables. If you never question authority nothing else you do matters no matter how deceptive, unfair, or damaging to the welfare of the students. 

The result is similar to that of the football player but the reasons are different. In fact, the football player would be closer to faculty if he were cut some slack because he is an informant. 

The untouchables are comparable to informants in that they have an informal understanding with administrators that they will follow orders and never question authority as long as there is reciprocity in the form of peachy assignments and freedom from scrutiny. You do not want to be in a fox hole with any of these people. 


Monday, April 07, 2014

A Public Apology



For several posts now I have been complaining about my law school posting a notice for a job that was essentially filled or at least was only available to the spouse of a candidate another department wanted. I have been harsh in my criticism and I have not even discussed that vast majority of the faculty who evidently thought it was the upstanding thing to do.

The ad drew about 20 applicants some of whom went to substantial trouble to prepare their application. My first inclination was to think my Law School had been deceptive, wrong not to admit its misdealing action,  and insensitive to those who might spend an afternoon or longer getting their materials together.

Now, through the miracle of a home made BLT and a good talking to by myself, I know I am wrong and here are the top ten reasons to send out a fake job ad.

10. Good practice for when there is a genuine job opening to advertise.
9.   Practice for those applying when there is a real job to apply for.
8. Increased happiness for those thinking there might be a job for them.
7. You graduated from Harvard and you'll do what you damn well please.
6. It was almost April Fools day.
5. Toughens up those who are unemployed.
4. Being honest just wastes time.
3. It makes used car dealers look good by comparison.
2. If we don't post fake job openings someone else will have to do it.
1. Global warming (I did not understand this one either.)

So, my apologies for not seeing the silver lining.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Harvard, Humility, and the Elites



The whole elitist notion of a sense of entitlement and the disasters that it creates played out yet again at UF. As you know, if you have read this blog,  the Law School was told to hire the spouse of someone another college wanted. Whether a good thing or not, it happens all the time.

Under UF regulations, all positions have to be advertised. So what is a college to do when told by the Central Administration to hire someone but posting  an ad would be fraudulent since the position is  filled.

You might think, "since this goes on all the time, it would be odd that the University would post multiple fraudulent ads." And then, especially if you  were a lawyer, you might do some research and  find out how these things are handled to avoid a constant flow of fraudulent ads that may very well lead to some form of legal exposure. And you would discover that the posting requirement is waived in some spousal hiring situations. You might go with this logic which involves common sense and the humility to know you might learn something.

You might do that but if you are from Harvard you do not think that way. In fact, your instinct is to go the sneaky route although you do not think of it as sneaky since you are from Harvard and, thus, entitled to do exactly what you want pretty much when you want to and it becomes OK because you are from Harvard.

So when the Harvard products who ran UF law hiring this year were faced with hiring a spouse they appeared to put their noggins together (no one person has fessed up yet so I cannot be sure it was a joint fuck up)  and did what people with a sense of entitlement do -- exactly what they want to do and placed what amounted to a fraudulent ad. Yes, no one had the balls or the humility to say "can we really do this?" Or, "Isn't this unfair to the people who will  apply for this job?"Nope. After all, those folks who might apply are just riff-raff.

So once again, the Law School, rather than the place others look to for ethical standards, actually becomes a substitute for a Three Stooges movie.

Hey, Harvard, how about a course on humility? Oh, sorry, no one there is qualified to teach it.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Looking for Lou and Still Whining



Some of you may have been so desperate to procrastinate that you stumbled across this blog and my series on favoritism in hiring at UF Law. Of course, having been beneficiaries of favoritism their whole lives, many law professors think it is as natural as pissing on a poor person.

You know the story. UF Law was told to hire the spouse of someone another department and Bernie Machen evidently decided had "vision." When he told the faculty to jump, they obliged by saying "how high."

I actually went for the head fake when  Bernie said he wanted excellence for the law school. That is until in virtually the same breath he told the Law School to carry the luggage for another College. I was  pretty ashamed of my own Dean and fellow faculty for have not a shred of the "question authority" gene. (Tenured faculty remember, who need tenure because of all the courageous positions they take.)

But just when your feelings about this hit rock bottom you find something else out.  This gets a little complicated. The very day Bernie was telling us he and the other department would foot the bill for the new new hire who teaches in a very narrow area and who was to be hired at a very specific rank, up pops a public job opening announcement for someone teaching that very specific area and at that very specific rank. If you blinked you might have missed it.

Yes, a public announcement  that a reasonable person might actually think meant there was a job opening when in fact there was none. Think of it this way:  A car dealership advertises it has the perfect car you have been looking for. You show up to buy it and not only is it not there but it was never there.  This is a better analogy than you might think since it appears the morals of many of  those in higher education are a few notches below those of car dealers. Enronesque, to put it mildly.

So, yes, those of you who did not have a rich mommy and daddy, no legacy admission, did not married the right person, did not have a string to pull of any kind,  welcome to the world of white collar academic duplicity. Where is Lou Reed when you need him to write the academic version of Dirty Boulevard? because this is the velvet glove version of Pedro's dad.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Counting Sheep



Anyone reading this knows that UF Central Ad scuttled the search for a new dean a couple weeks ago even though the faculty was overwhelming in favor or two candidates. Later President Machen came to the Law School to explain why. It was because we need someone better. (Some cynics think it was because we rejected Alexander Acosta but who knows.) So it was a bit of a pep talk about aspirations and how great we can be.

At virtually the same time he sent over his own candidate for a faculty position. Not in an area where we needed help. And since there was no search, maybe not someone we would have hired even if we were looking in that area. Her main qualification -- she was married to a person the Med School wanted to hire. I'm trying to look on the bright side. I guess this is diversity hiring since we actually do not have anyone on the faculty married to her spouse.  But really, which is it Mr. President? Do you want the law school to be excellent or to be the water boy for the rest of the University?

There had to be faculty vote and she got a positive one. Some people voted yes out of fear after the Dean announced the reaction of the Central Campus would be a "catastrophe" if the Law School voted no.  Some, who share her area of specialty, likely voted out of self interested noting how hard they work teaching classes with as many as 30 people in them some semesters. Yes, as many as 30. At the top of this post I have provided a photo of many of the voters.

The thing that amazes me is not any of the above but  the hypocrisy of people who talk about excellence and diversity but would not waste a molecule of energy to really go after it. Unless, of course, diversity means having someone on the faculty to whom no one else is married or pulling some strings to get your own spouse hired.

But it also means these people do not give a fuck about simple fairness or equal opportunity.   Their willingness to vote to hire someone whose hubby will likely pull down 500K a year without asking 1) is she the best candidate? 2) is there someone more deserving out there? astounds me. In fact, giving 150K of someone else's money means nothing to them.  Hiring without giving all qualified candidates a chance at the job is OK in the club of the privileged. Yes, UF is an Equal Opportunity Employer but don't believe it no matter how much ass covering takes place.






Sociology of Law Profs: Part 4 -- The Faculty Meeting and the Charade

The best place to observe this species is a faculty meeting. Putting aside all the nervous tittering to signal you are a good person and not to be feared, there are many other traits. One is the it's OK to say something that has nothing to do with anything as long as it seems to support one side of the argument.

So today  there was a big meet about hiring someone who we had not heard of in an area we had never considered but who is the spouse of someone another department wants, or so we are told. It's actually the President who wants to hire him and will pay us to do it. Yes, it's really a salary laundering deal. Before getting into the sociology I have to note that the meeting was the finest example of a charade. When the dean was asked how important this was to the President he said correctly, I do not want to talk about because our focus should be on the candidate. And then within 30 seconds  he said not hiring him would be a "catastrophy." So one might ask why have a vote at all with a gun to our head?

This will give you some measure of how law faculty react to the humiliation of being ordered who to hire: they go on with the charade that they are actually making the decision when they all also know they are willing getting their asses kicked.

People who are in this person's area really want him (or perhaps anyone) even though there was no search to find the person best suited for the job and no one has ever mentioned needing someone to cover the area.  We are all about diversity except when we don't want to be about it.  One argument  by people in the area is that they are working their fingers to the bone and need the help.  And then the next argument is that he will not actually teach anything they currently teach. Yes, the opposite argument but for the same purpose.  But this is not uncommon.

And then there are the placators. Let's just say they will not be part of the revolution. In fact, they will not be part of even a mild protest.  In fact, when they order a hamburger and are served pudding they say "This is really great hamburger." So one guy says, the President would not let us have the dean we wanted and that was like being hit by a sharp stick and if we do not hire this person we may be hit with a sharp stick again. So what is the sharp stick here? Hiring someone you do not want or getting smacked if you do not even though you have no idea if you will be smacked or how hard. Put in coarser terms, you'd rather take it up the you know what than risk maybe being hit by a stick. (Oh, did I mention these prissy people are tenured professors.)

The angriest person was the one who actually does have a trailing spouse. In fact, he may have violated the law professor rule of never showing that you care. And, Mr. "Don't hit me with that stick" does or did too. So guess which side they were on.

The worst thing about attending faculty meetings as a sociologist is that the quality of the discussion is so very low and the discomfort of watching grown ups humiliate themselves is high.



Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Wealth of Visions



Around UF Law there has been quite a bit of talk about a vision for the law school. I thought we should call in Joan Quigley but no one agreed. So what do we have?  I think the same thing all law schools have. If you have 50 faculty there are probably 40 visions. Law schools are vision rich which also means they are vision poor.

What to do with a wealth of visions? One idea is to pursue all of them. Each faculty member has his or her vision and proceeds to do what ever is necessary to promote the vision. The outcome is 40 half-assed efforts to go after those  visions. It's the jack of all trades problem and the one law schools tend to pursue. Actually, that is an overstatement. For those whose vision is dozing and not being bothered, the outcomes are excellent.

You know this is the case by adding up the number of programs, certificate programs, centers, foreign programs, directors, associate directors, LLM degrees, and whatever a law school has.  By my count there are 33 directors or associate directors or associate deans at UF law. There are 27 programs, centers, foreign programs, certificates, etc. We had one center whose director was so aggressive that she made nearly everyone in the law school an associate director so they could put it on their signature lines.

A few years ago, I tried to designate myself "Director of Teaching and Research" because I thought that could be viewed as an important function of a law school. There were no Associate Directors.

So can there be vision when there are 26 different areas into which resources are poured and 26 pieces of turf that are protected by 33 people who are listed as part of one or more programs?  Well, how is your vision when you look through a pin hole and everyone you know is looking through a different pin hole?

I am not sure if the opposite of vision is delusion but I do know it is delusional to think a School can have vision and excellence when there are 26 different areas of concentration.

I only know about my law school but I'll bet it is the same everywhere and what it reflects is a lack of leadership in legal education generally  in the context of people who feel entitled to pursue personal interests at the expense of all else.






Harrison New Dean at UF

Florida President Bernie Machen finally showed his had today and revealed that he had shut down the UF dean search because Harrison was not among the finalists. Under a little known provision of the UF code of decanal appointments he appointed Harrison the new dean of UF to serve no less than 3 hours and no more than 5 hours. His explained the appointment by noting several qualities.

Vision: With corrective lenses Harrison has 20-20 vision.
Wardrobe: Although he has not seen it, he has heard that Harrison owns a suit.
Ability to work with others:  Harrison, he said, might be able to work with others if he tried.
Respect of his colleagues: Harrison, in a parallel universe, might be loved and respected by his colleagues.
Respect for his colleagues: Harrison respects 60% of his colleagues 60% of the time.



Friday, March 21, 2014

Is Becoming a Dean a Promotion?




This is not a commentary  on the Florida dean search except to announce my availability as a search firm for the very low price of $20,000 with a money back guarantee.

My comments are, however, inspired by comments of one of my colleagues that increasingly women and minority men are becoming deans and this is seen as a good thing. This made me wonder if becoming a dean, regardless of who you are, is really a sign of success, respect, or progress.

I do not want to paint with too broad a brush but almost every dean I have known has had no management training and little or no aspiration to become an administrator. In fact, the very word "administrator" might be scoffed at. I know of no law teaching applicant who has said he or she was interested getting into law teaching as a stepping stone to law school administration.

A very typical path is that after a few years of teaching the person finds the "life of the mind" is not his or her cup of tea. In fact, in a substantial number of instances the soon to be administrator is under performing or, even if not, has realized they made a career choice mistake. I know I felt that way in about year 15 and wanted out to do virtually anything other than being a law school administrator. No matter how you cut it, a move over to administration for more than a year or so is a career change and it is a step taken as frequently (perhaps more frequently) by those failing in the other job that it is by those succeeding. I stop short of saying it is a place to put them since they are not doing much else but sometimes this is part of the evolution.

Plus, the simple appointment to an administrative post is not  what deserves congratulations. There is no success in that. The test is what happened. Sometimes a failed dean search is  far worse that a successful search followed by a failed deanship. There are successful deanships that last five years and failures that last much longer  (although for the dean who just wants to "last" it is a personal success).

In some cases the change to administration can be a huge success. The person was made for that job. But the actual appointment can mean many things including "We can't find anyone better," or "Don't  know what else do for you." In fact, when people I have known have been asked to be administrators my initial reaction is to offer condolences, not to view it as progress. After all, don't you think most faculty select deans based on their personal self interest.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Many Fred Fishers Will There Be?



In the academic world being labeled racist or homophobic ends a career. It does not have to be true -- the label is enough. It is ususally expressed like this: "He is insensitive to racial issues." or "He did not reach out to the LGBT community." Most of the time no facts are presented. Correct thinking people do not question these allegation once made. It is an non falsifiable allegation. 

Many years ago at UF, during a dean search, a promising candidate was nailed with the "insensitive to African Americans" label. He was stopped dead in his tracks. Further research revealed that some semester in the past at the school where is was already dean he had denied a summer grant to an unproductive faculty member. It was not an uncommon event but this time the person denied was African American and the rumor started that ended his candidacy and perhaps his administrative career.

In the latest dean search, comparable allegations were made about one of the finalists. The accusers, who police these things with great dedication,  did not have or could not present any facts but evidently they just knew. Often their faith matches  that of the fundamentalists they ridicule. I do not know if the accusations played any role in UFs decision to scuttle the search but I doubt it. Nevertheless, the cruelty of people who accuse but  have nothing else to say always amazes and saddens me. They brand people and the brand, like that on a steer, stays. (A friend likens the law school to the missing airplane and these people are the ones who broke into the cockpit. They set the agenda by virtue of the fear they generate.)

It reminds me of Fred Fisher. Most readers will not know who he is. In the McCarthy era he was a young attorney working for the firm that represented the Army in the McCarthy hearings. It was discovered that he had been a member of the National Lawyers Guild and that was all Joe McCarthy needed to label him a Communist. In response, Fisher's boss, Joe Welch spoke up with this:

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me."

 The cruelty I see by those attaching labels to people today is just as reckless and irresponsible. But there are no Joe Welches on law faculties, not a single one.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

UF Pulls Plug on Dean Search



UF paid a search firm 90K to find a new dean. Add to that the cost of flying in and taking care of 8 candidates and then additional flying in and entertaining 4 more and I think you are pushing 150K easy. And, this does not count the time spent by all involved.

After  the 4 candidates candidates visited, the faculty voted that one was unacceptable and 3 candidates were passed on  the Central Administration. Today, three and a half weeks later, according to Florida Central Administration, "we did not find one ideally suited to lead the College through a decade that will be simultaneously challenging for the profession and replete with opportunities for growth and advancement."

In the meeting at which one candidate was eliminated, the committee Chair asked if the committee was willing to risk a failed search by virtue of eliminating that candidate. That should have been a signal. Why ask unless you had a hunch and that candidate was already the favorite of the Central Administration? If he was, does that mean a 150k sham search occurred because there was always only one acceptable candidate?


This is the harshest interpretation and I do not believe it although it is possible. I do not believe it in part because the Law School seems so unimportant to the Central Administration. (Except when it wants to bribe the law school to hire someone the law school would not otherwise hire.) But why wait for 3.5 weeks if the candidates were unacceptable and no offers were made at all. In fact, one candidate in the final three reports never hearing from anyone at UF.  Not a phone call to say "we are at the final stage and will let you know." Not a phone call to say, "you are in the final three, please let us know if anything changes in your situation." Nor even a phone call to say "You are not going to be part of or final considerations." In short,  there was evidently no concern during that time that the candidate could find something else. Arrogance squared. 


At best, a shameful process. At worst a sham. If you think a 49th ranking was unsatisfactory, fasten your seat belt and put on a helmet. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Salary Laundering and Tying Arrangements



I will return to the sociology of the interesting subculture I have been examining next time but, a few blogs ago, I mentioned UF had dropped 90K on a search firm for a law dean which is a bit like hiring a search firm to find yourself. Evidently there is no end to the money pot.

The Law School determined its hiring priorities several months ago. It interviewed and hired some terrific people. But then comes the provocative and vague email:

"The Appointments Committee is pleased to announce the call-back visit of a junior lateral candidate, * * * , on Thursday, March 20th.  This position will be made  available from joint funding from the Provost and the College of Medicine.  Bob will provide additional details about how we acquired the position during his tea-time meeting in the faculty lounge at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.  If you’re unable to attend tomorrow’s session, please feel free to  speak with * * *  or me to learn more. "In the meantime, please mark your calendars and plan to attend the office interviews and job talk on the 20th.  As always, thank you very much for your participation in our appointments efforts."

I made an email inquiry to the author of the email and asked two questions:
1. Are we looking for someone in the areas in which the candidate teaches.
2. Is this hiring based in some way on to whom the candidate is married.

The author did not respond but the dean did indicating it would all be explained at the Tea Time meeting. 

So it seems,  out of  the blue,  we are going to have another interview. And, it's not a field we were interested in but the person will be here anyway. Plus, its a "freebie" in that the University and the Med School are picking up the tab.  Let's say the tab is 100K a year and assume it really does not evolve to come out of the law school's pocket as these things often do.

Why would the University -- supposedly strapped for funds -- decide essentially on its own to hire someone for a area in which there is no need for teachers. In fact, in this area, law school enrollment is already so low that the School may have over committed to hiring in that area.  This kind of like saying to the Law School "we are buying a new super duper movie Robotics machine for you even though you do not need one." Naturally, you understand this is all hypothetical.

It's either an example of having more money than you know what to do with or, YES-SIREE-BOB, the trailing spouse issue and yet another instance of salary laundering.  Let's say the lead spouse is Phil and the trailer is Angie. So where is the equal opportunity here? Is it that everyone had an equal opportunity to hitch their wagon to Phil? Of course not. I guess Phil just gets to designate as part of his deal who else will be hired.

There are two things I do not understand about these things. First, why not give the 100K to Phil.  If he would not come here without it, then it is part of his salary. (Antitrust experts who know about the single monopoly profit response tying arrangement will understand this.)  In fact, from this angle it is  really Phil hiring Angie since it is part of his compensation that will have her name written on the check. Phil and the University have agreed to launder some of his salary through Angie. The second question is where is Angie on this? Does Angie like being a conduit for some of Phil's salary? Or if she does not see it that way, how about just getting to cut in line to get something that others who did not marry Phil will never have the opportunity to get. Doe she cut off other drivers, cut in the movie line? What's the difference? It's all a version of feeling entitled.

Now it could be that a school is out there who is really looking for someone in both fields and both are highly qualified. I've seen those cases and it can be fine. In fact, being a large school means being able to make offers to people who otherwise might not find jobs  in the same area.  But suppose the school had completely different hiring needs.

But remember this is all 100% hypothetical.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Mole or Beauty Mark? Sociology of Law Professors: Part 3


Law professors have a odd relationship with the law. For them it does not just exist but it is something to be reckoned with. Sometimes it's something to work around and sometimes it is an ally.  Take the recent dean search at my school. The search was subject to  all kinds of openness requirements -- meetings, documents, notice and so on.

When the faculty first met with the Chair of the search committee, who indicated that the initial part of the search would be conducted by an outside search firm, there were all kinds of serious and important comments about whether the law with respect to openness was being observed.

Later, though, when the candidates were revealed, virtually all faculty discussion took place privately with one member of the committee actually reassuring the faculty that their emails about the search were being deleted.  So, the law was initially a way for faculty to get their way and then something to carefully work around also the get their way.

This tendency to use the law when it helps and skirt it when it does not extends to virtually every rule. When the law school has an open position, sometimes there is a full and open search with all the required bells and whistles and sometimes someone's spouse is hired without much of anything happening.

In my state, for better or worse, we have something called "One Florida" which eliminates racial and gender preferences. For faculty, though, it's just a pesky thing --something to be worked around in order to  implement whatever preferences they have regardless of the law. If it were a matter of civil disobedience it would be one thing but it is very far from that.

I am tempted to say law professors have a love/hate relationship with the law but it is not that. With apologies to the blog of this name, it is as though the are above the law. They will decide when to adhere to it or not adhere to it and this depends on whether it is consistent with a personal agenda. In the title to this post I suggest the law to a law professor may be a mole or a beauty mark but maybe it is closer to having a big wad of gum on your shoe.  Most of the time it is a nuisance and once in awhile the extra traction helps.


Monday, March 03, 2014

The Sociology of Law Professors 2: Mobbing



You may remember old movies, primarily westerns, in which the outlaw is held in a jail and the townspeople want to "string him up."  They just want to get at that sucker and hang him from the nearest knotty pine. And, in those movies, very often the outlaw innocent.

I think there probably were mobs like that back then and in more recent times clearly actions by gangs of people in the South mobbed together for "low tech" lynchings.

Law professors are way too sophisticated (at least I hope) to string anyone up and if they do I am sure the victim is strung up by his khakis from the nearest latte machine. Nevertheless, according to Ken Westhues,   academic mobbing does take place. The noose in this case, takes the form of shunning, gossip, ridicule, and bureaucratic hassles. Among the  factors likely to lead to being mobbed are: whistle blowing, not adhering to politically correct positions,  belonging to a discipline in which standards are imprecise and subjective, opposing a candidate who ends up being chair of the department [I would add to this opposing anyone for tenure who then does get tenure.] Being different in terms of  class also makes one more vulnerable according to Westhues. He also includes being different in terms of race, gender, sexual preferences but I think he veers way off course on these factors. No doubt those factors have played a role in the past and may still in a variety of ways, but in the law school context they are more likely to make you mob-proof because of the fear of being labeled racist, sexist or homophobic. In fact, those labels are often used by the mobbers.  On the other hand, being a classist is actually a very popular.

I am pretty sure I have seen mobbing efforts although not any that made much of a difference. When I have seen it, it's like a bandwagon effect. A critical mass of people begin to act like a mob but they do not constitute a mob until they are joined by follower-types who would never lead anything but are always looking for a group that will include them. After all, if you do not join the mob, you set yourself up to be mobbed. 

The one problem with the mobbing theory is that the subject of the mobbing has to care. If not, unless the mob can convince someone in authority that steps must be taken and they are taken, it is not of consequence. Of course, the failure of the mobbee to respond just riles mobbers even more. 

I think, rather than have all this stress, Law School faculty should up the level of  sophistication and engage in more dueling. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Herding to Deniability: Part 1 of a Sociology of Law Profs



In yesterday's episode I wrote about the loyalty oath being passed around at the law school that is a bit like a Soviet-era high school textbook in terms of its effort to rewrite history. This is in the form of a letter that essentially says, the search was fair and open and newspaper reports by the local paper which carefully documented the closedness of the search and faculty unhappiness were inaccurate.

I thought about what this all means from a more detached sociological perspective. The same people urging others to sign were often the ones who were very  concerned about the search. When one of those people asks someone to  sign who was also upset, it signals a norm of hypocrisy. That is, there is no shame in saying the opposite of what one said 3 weeks ago.

This mass movement to reclaim deniability or CYA has a peculiar aspect. Typically law professors and others from privileged classes achieve deniability by the way they state things in the present. I've labeled this "not really a lie." I will not go into all the details of this but it's like saying "Joe plays an important role on the faculty" and then then  hammering Joe the next day. After all, hammering Joe is not inconsistent with playing an important role. The point is CYA is a constant process but it rarely involves, as it does in this case, a effort to retroactively CYA.  A norm seems to have  evolved which legitimizes the retroactive CYA.

I recall seeing films of chimps sitting around in a circle kind of grooming each other and picking off lice or whatever chimps pick off one another. And sometimes one gets out of line and is smacked or bitten. Sociologists have great fun discussing what is actually going on. It is a bonding, mating, altruism, establishing a pecking order?

This the same with faculties. What is actually going on? What are these weird rituals and norms that evolve without accountability -- nervous laughter, not technically a lie, pretending to like people, the importance of facial civility over actual civility, looking the other way when people protect turf that benefits no one but themselves, pretending to be interesting is student welfare and acting in a opposite fashion, etc.

In the next episodes I attempt to examine some of these rituals from the perspective of an outsider with just enough knowledge of sociology to be dangerous. In the meantime, this is ground I have covered to some extent before: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=931632

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Law School Loyalty Oath




The UF dean search is winding down with three good candidates still in the mix. Let's hope an offer is made to one of them who says yes.

Now, however, in one of the most ironic twists ever and a herd-like effort to claim deniability, a loyalty oath type letter is being circulated through the halls and even sponsored in a sense by the administration. It's one of those "are you for us or against us?" letters. People are even being called at home to sign.

The letter thanks the committee for its work. Fair enough. Then it goes on to praise the openness of the search and to claim that newspaper reports about the search were inaccurate.

Now lets think about this. In the fall, the Chair of the Committee met with faculty but could have phoned it in. There was no information about the level of faculty participation. No mention of how, when, or where the faculty would be consulted. No mention of how, when, and where faculty would express their preferences. Just silence. And through the weeks no committee member reported anything about the search.

In the weeks that followed, newspaper articles appeared about the search, noting the lack of information, the effort to delete information, and the lack of information about faculty participation.

All of a sudden, faculty were informed repeatedly about meetings, asked to fill out a questionnaires about the candidates, and invited to two one hour meetings to discuss the candidates. They were not permitted to rank candidates but at least could say yes or no on them individually.

I know that correlation does not equal causation but there is no doubt that when the press began to focus on the search the information began to flow and participation increased.

If anything, the letter, rather than condemning the press, should be praising it. Oh, but so many of these folks fancy themselves First Amendment scholars. I must be wrong. Or maybe this is just mass groveling.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Shush, We're Law Professors



Sometimes you do not fully understand how dysfunction a profession can be until you experience it through the eyes of someone else. That's what's happened to me and here is the background.

I have been pretty outspoken about the Dean Search at UF. Not so much about the candidates but about the process and the faculty reaction which is basically to mutter to themselves in the hallways.

 I've brought up the fleecing of the University by a search firm that charged $90,000 for a list of 24 names that could have been thought up by a couple of law professors having lunch. This seems to have been just fine based on the silence of others.

I have raised the issue of one Committee member's assurance that emails about the search had been deleted although all communications are public. Again, this seems to have been fine with everyone else based on their silence.  In fact, in this case, the deleter was subsequently  praised by another faculty member as a great First Amendment scholar. (You can figure that one out.) But actually, and I know this is a bit of a tangent, the source of the praise was a faculty member who appears to have undergone some kind of ethical lobotomy and thought the New York Times rule, a ethical guideline, was actually the opposite and stood for hiding things.

I am also the only person of a tenured faculty of 50 to actually write  down with no expectation of secrecy (YES, the revolutionary act of putting something in a form that means no deniability) the pros and cons of each candidate for dean with a ranking.

Now a few thoughts on this.

 First I rest my case on whether law professors need tenure. Why would they? Even with it, they are for the most part (I have to add that to avoid commentators pointing out very isolated instances in the past in which a law prof actually said something controversial to people other than other law professors) gutless and say nothing. OK, maybe without tenure they would say less than nothing.

Second, does this appear to be bragging? Well, is it bragging to describe what normal, non paranoid, not conspiracy addicted, non quaking in their boots people generally do? I don't  think so.

So back to my opening line. I was describing all the shenanigans to an outsider -- a professional person with no experience with law faculties. You lose perspective with you are in the middle of these things but this normal regular person 's reaction, while not laughing,  was disbelief and befuddlement. And he added, "you guys are supposed to be law professors, right? Speak up and question authority? Do you any of you ever do that and, by they way, do you actually know anything about law?"


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Smarmy or Unctuousness



Once  when I was talking to a colleague about a professor at another school the colleague said "he is really unctuous." I had to look it up. I knew smarmy and knew it was not swami but did not realize unctuous was high class smarm or as a Facebook commentator explains -- people who say unctuous scored higher on their SATs.

I guess they both mean oily for the purpose  of endearing yourself to someone else. Man have I seen smarm is my business! For example,  there was a  jerk on the faculty who is pretty darn nasty, monopolizes faculty meetings, etc. Then one day I say him teaching and he was like Dr. Phil (the epidome of smarmy). It's like he has a Smarm switch attached to his side. He was Mr. All Care and Understanding.

There are so many kinds of smarm. One that is quite prevalent is law school name dropping. "Now when I was in Harvard." I much prefer a colleague who says, "While is was doing time in State prison." That is not smarmy. Related is "When I was Editor of the Law Review." Of course there were 37 editors of the law review.

Smarm is pervasive in email but it depends on the email. An email to just one person, it is said, often reveals the worst side of a person. For me it is the opposite. I reveals the best. The problem is that the best is not so good. Mass email is like a Facebook posting. Then you write in the way you want to be perceived (smarm) So, as a friend tells me, neither form of communication is the real you. I'll gladly take a little nastiness over a stomach turning smarmfest.

One of the smarmiest moves goes like this. You see someone in the distance who would like to impress. Your brain goes into high speed smarm gear. You need to say something. So out it comes: "Hey, I was just thinking about you because I was just talking to [name drop] about your wonderful last article."

One version of smarm I call "know one thing." This is a good one  for deans or others who know everyone's name like you just mated the night before. But the key here is to remember one thing. For example, let's suppose Smarmy Phil meets Jane and for 2 minutes they mentioned how much they love La Traviata (expectially the Bob Marley version). Even though they have talked about 37 things since then, the conversation always begins with "Jane, how is your collection of La Traviata coming along." Now the truth is that Phil knows nothing about La Traviata, least of all the Bob Marley version, but he thinks Jane is  stupid enough to think because he remembers that 2 minutes he is her best bud.

I prefer smarm on rye toast with just a little Tabasco.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ten Reasons UF Paid a Search Firm $90k for Dean Candidates Who Were Just Under Our Noses





10. Tim Tebow asked nicely.
9. It was a great deal. Marked down 10% from 100K
8. The search firm agreed to throw in the Brooklyn Bridge.
7. The search firm agreed to throw in some swamp land in Florida.
6. UF had to get rid of 90K and could not find an understaffed department or underpaid staff person to give it to.
5. UF management thought the contract said $9.00.
4. They Knew William Proxmire could not be watching.
3.  Obama made them do it.
2.  They relied on the genius Rick Scott.
1. Global warming. (I did not understand either.)


Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Fleecing of UF:



According to the local paper today, the University of Florida paid $90,000 to a search firm in its effort to replace law school Dean Bob Jerry. What they got for that was a list of 24 names along with CVs and application letters. Some of the names were DOA. In fact, it took the 11 person search committee only 2 hours to go from 24 to 10. Now also consider this. The firm likely did not start from scratch. If it had conducted any searches recently, it's likely UF got a recycled list. It's like paying new car prices for a used car.

Two words come to mind here -- fleeced and incompetent. Fleeced is what happened to UF. It got 24 names that my 22 year old could have found in half the time. This is not a rap on the 4 finalists. I think all of them are up to the job. The problem is that there was utterly no need to spend 90K to find them. One has to wonder what the 11 person search committee was expected to do.  What a display of incompetence at least with respect to the decision to hire the search firm at this price.

But it does not stop with 90K. There are 11 people on the committee. I do not know if the University foots the bill for their visits from out of town but if so add a little. Add a great deal more for 10 campus visits for the ten left after the culling the list. And some of them evidently flunked the interview. Maybe an initial conference call could have weeded them out.  Now there is full bore campus visits (at which, by the way, the law faculty only meets the candidates in faculty meetings) and wining and dining candidates, committee members, alums and all that. My prediction is a total tab pushing 140K.

If academics ever wonder why funding is short and why those of us in the business are viewed with distrust, here is one small example. UF buys a Cadillac search that is unnecessary and, as usual, passed the tab on to others.What the hell, You can always raise tuition.

90K pissed away.


Sunday, February 02, 2014

(no) More Dean Talk



I think I have said enough about possible new law deans at UF. The truth is that it will not matter much since UF is huge and inertia is powerful. Plus, the challenges ahead are pretty clear. The curriculum must be designed to be relevant for today's practice. What is a far more interesting subplot is the reaction or lack of reaction by the faculty to the candidates.

I've been here many years and witnessed all manner of liberal (not left, oh my goodness way too squirrelly to do anything but dabble) shenanigans in programs,  hiring, tenure, courses offered,  and so on. Don't get me wrong, if things were controlled by the conservatives I would expect exactly the same thing only going the other way. Plus, some of them were good for students but I cannot say any correlation was intended except in the minds of the proponents.My friend Eric Fink reminds me of Phil Ochs' take on liberals -- ten degrees to the left when things are good and ten percent to the right when it affects them personally.

Still, although reputed to be charming, one of the candidates appears to be a Bushie who tried hard to suppress voting while in public office. I know, the other way to put this is that he  wanted to suppress illegal voting.  Fact is, it would have been mainly African American voters affected if he had been successful.  And, no one seems to argue that contacting a judge directly to plead your case was appropriate. So what would you expect to be the take of  so called liberals on this? Let's just say,  I've seen faculty candidates go down for far far less.

But where is the UF faculty on this? First, a fair number, perhaps most, realize their lives will not change no matter so why bother. But where are those who claim to feel strongly and, in most other instances, are carefully guarding the purity of the institution?  What's wrong? Cat got your tongue? Or is it just one big game?

Saturday, February 01, 2014

More on UF Dean

Since I wrote my last post a few minutes ago, the list has gone to 4 -- Acosta, Brennen, Huebner, Donaldson. Interestingly, my first and last choices -- Brennen and Acosta -- remain in the running. Joining them are two tweeners. One pick strikes me as odd. Huebner seems to have no  connection to Florida, UF, or the South. But he does have the most elitist credentials of the pack. Another, Donaldson,  could be the sleeper.  I know of no negatives except possibly on the matter of experience.