Thursday, October 23, 2014
Suppose behind the veil of ignorance you were designing a process to determine whether someone is awarded lifetime employment (or an annuity as some skeptics would say). You do not know if you are -- when the veil is lifted- the candidate, those deciding, those paying the salary, or those who would not be able to find a job because the one that might be right for you is taken up by a life-timer.
Here is the process I am pretty sure would evolve and has evolved at a school I have only heard about.
1. The candidate's scholarship would be mailed out to experts in the field some of which are friends of the candidate, some of whom the candidate has alerted in advance they the may be asked to comment, and some simply selected by the candidate. The letters are likely to be all positive and, if any are not, the writer of the letter is ignored or criticized. The letters are passed onto the faculty without comment or evaluation. An alternative to this is to not have scholarship reviewed at all since it rarely makes a difference.
2. People would visit the candidates class to evaluate teaching. Then they would sign what might as well be a form letter saying how much the enjoyed the class and that the teacher was superior. A really negative review might say the teacher's tie clashed with his trousers. An alternative would be to forego teaching evaluations and just submit a form letter written for all candidates for every class.
3.As noted, steps one and two are irrelevant in some cases. Suppose the candidate did not say hello to you properly on a couple of occasions. Maybe he or she was too friendly with some people you don't like. It is important to start the whispering campaign. Demonstrate your indignation to people like yourself who are only looking out for the students and taxpayers. Be sure to emphasize the clashing tie as indicative of disregard for good teaching and the fact that one of the review letters, although glowing, was late.
4. Be secretive and self righteous. Do not mention any of these concerns to the candidate or anyone other than your clique before the secret meeting at which the candidate is discussed because nothing is worse than opposing a candidate and giving the candidate an opportunity to respond.
So, there you have it. The process that takes everyone's interests into account, creates deniability and gives life time employment to the best people. Right? Yes, it is right but remember this is the Cookoo's nest and in the Cookoo's nest things are different.
There is also the not-in-the-Cookoo's-nest approach. It might go like this.
1. A committee of scholars and good teachers with no political axes to grind select reviewers for the candidates writings. The reviewers are asked to be completely frank. People who agree politically with the candidate are not selected nor are any people to whom the candidates has attempted to ingratiate himself. The names of the reviewers are not disclosed in hopes this will provide them with a spine.
2. Classes are visited but any letter that is unequivocally positive or uses words like "superior," "gifted," or "extraordinary" is rejected.
3. An evaluative committee examines all these materials and makes a recommendation to the faculty well in advance of the full meeting of the faculty and invites comments from others on the faculty and the candidate.
4. Individual faculty must voice concerns to the candidate or the evaluative committee before the faculty meeting. Anyone who snakes around office to office to voice their indignation is excluded from the full meeting, shunned, and sentenced to time out.
5. No subjects may be raised at the meeting that were not already raised with the evaluative committee and about which notice was given to the candidate.
Please don't comment. I know the non CooKoo's nest approach is unobtainable in the world of the entitled and self-important.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I have already written about the huge investment in legal research. I estimated it to be close to $3 million a year at my school alone and probably around $350 to $400 million nation wide. This could go down if schools concentrate more on teaching and on line publication becomes the norm.
A colleague of mine and I have launched a study attempting to determine what the pay off is from the enormous sums spent on legal research and writing. We've started looking at law review and judicial citations and are as aware as anyone else that this is incomplete in terms of determining the impact of scholarship. (I mention this so no one will reply as have a dozen of our colleagues, "but there are other impacts.")
Citation counts are not necessarily consistent with impact. From that one might infer that scholarly works have a much greater impact that citation counts would suggest. That may be true and it may not be true. What if citation counts actually overstated impact? In fact, this may be the case.
To understand why, think about why most law professor write. As I have noted, they usually write with a lawyer's mentality -- advocating an idea. To do this these they offer facts (often selectively gathered), reasoning, or both that, like a well-written legal opinion, lead the reader to agree that the proposal of the author was the only logical outcome. And, in a law professor's dream world, those conclusions, proposals, suggestions, whatever will be adopted by a court or agency.
So when a court cites legal scholarship, is that what it is about? Actually no. In fact, in the vast majority of instances in which legal scholarship is cited, the citation has nothing to do with the author's proposal, reasoning, or logic. Instead, except for very few instances the citation is to some fact found in the work. For example, it might be to "The UN Act of 2015 contains 5 sections." or "Twenty three states have laws prohibiting pit bull sainthood."
In short, the 400 or so million may result in high level thinking and important insights but, for the most part, what courts are after is not that. Courts are looking to the factual underbrush or what any decent research assistant could find for $10 and hour.
It is completely fair to ask whether this is also true of all the others ways in which people claim legal scholarship is of value. Do those impossible-to-count uses rely on the theories and reasoning of fancy articles? We have not looked at that yet but my hunch, and it is only that, is that all those other users to which law professors are fond of pointing are equally uninterested in anything other than cherry picking from the hard research -- not the ideas. We will see.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
I have posted (to some) way too many times on the closeness of faculty governance to the tragedy of the commons. I should say some faculty governance because I am confident that there are faculties that overcome individual self-interest and whims and avoid the tragedy. (Please do not tell me if I am wrong, I need the eggs.) Some do not. This was brought home to me over the last two days when a student described what the commons could look like and I compared that to the actions and logic of those in charge of managing the commons.
According to this student our law school should graduate the most effective and professional students possible given whatever budgetary restraints exist. This means, according to him, more competitive students, fewer disappointed employers (who will come back for more), and, most importantly, clients who get the best possible service. I have a hard time not agreeing with this.
According to him, this means that students should choose courses -- with proper advisement -- that best prepare them for practice. A factor that should not be part of the decision is "what grade will I make." He was not the only one with this view. A colleague on my faculty said just recently that one of the best things he heard when he entered law school was a statement by the dean that grades would not in any way be determined by the selection of courses or teachers. In short, the students would be free from pressure to game the system and from weighing a possible higher GPA against taking a course that would be part of his or her best preparation.
Maintaining that notion of the commons means that each professor at my colleague's school had to agree with the plan -- not just a curve but a grade distribution. In other words, there would not be some teachers who would achieve the required average by giving lots of As and Cs while others achieved it by giving mainly B+s. (Some of you will also note how, if there are varying ways of achieving the curve, the impact will be felt differently depending on whether students are risk averse or risk takers.) The answer, of course, is a curve with some semblance of a required distribution. And it would also mean that some, maybe all, teachers would have to subordinate what he or she preferred in order for the commons to be established and maintained.
Everyone knows what causes the commons to collapse. Each person does what is in his or her self interest.
So what types of specific things cause the tragedy and what are the arguments for not having a required distribution. First, the first sign that the tragedy is in trouble is when a faculty member's first instinct it to see if his or her past grading would comply with a possible distribution. But beyond that how about these tragedy promoting arguments:
1. We already have a curve. This distribution thing is just too much. It requires even more math. (Oh come on! I really don't know what else to say this one.)
2. Since I don't like the curve I also do not like the distribution idea because I want to give the students what they "deserve." (You lost that argument when a curve was adopted.)
3. This impinges on my academic freedom. (Yes people who don't have the balls to say anything controversial raise academic freedom as a reason why they are entitled to help destroy the commons.)
4. Hey, why don't we compromise and just have the distribution in some classes. (The problem is not classes. It is people grading the classes. Applying it to some classes and not others does not solve the problem)
5. The students in my class all made As and they expect to get high grades. The distribution keeps me form doing that. (The curve already prohibits giving them all high grades. The distribution would only keep you from giving them all the same grade. If that is the problem and it could be, there are exceptions.)
6. I'm not saying anything because I hope to be dean someday. (Just kidding no one actually said this but in a way they did.)
Why the photo of Rick Scott? If there were a saint of commons destruction, he would be a prime candidate.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Suppose you are a historian and a great admirer of Martin Luther King. By digging around in various historical documents you discover he was a pedophile. Do you write about it? Or let's suppose you are a huge supporter of ObamaCare and know it will mean care for millions who go without. You read the law carefully and based on your understand of the Act and the Constitution, you believe ObamaCare is unconstitutional. Do you stay silent?
Paul Horwitz over on Prawsblawg wrote a fascinating post that opens this can of worms. To some extent, the issue can come down to whether you are an advocate or a scholar, but I am not sure of this, and the issue extends to what role a law professor should play.
As a preliminary matter let's be clear that an advocate can be passive or active. The pro Obama care professor discovering the constitutional defect who says nothing is an advocate just as the agenda driven law professor who writes thousands of pages on the matter.
But what is the distinction between the advocate and a scholar? The scholar does research to find answers to often difficult question or to test hypotheses. He or she is not driven by wanting to find something that supports his or her point of view but instead, is gratified by finding an answer even if that answer is inconvenient. The advocate presents his or her case for a position with carefully selected arguments. There is no effort to find the truth but, rather, to bring you around to a point of view that has two sides -- otherwise there will be no reason to advocate a position. I do not know if it is possible to be a pure scholar. I know I sat on a topic for years and did not write about it because I felt the analysis would reveal something that cut against my personal beliefs. I certainly was not a scholar in that case.
What should law professors do? First let's be clear. For many "scholarship" is the process of having ideas as clients and writing long briefs, called law review articles, in support of the client. In virtually every case the client behind the idea is the law professor him or herself in that the position taken is consistent with purely subjective political beliefs. Thus, a high paid law professor may take the salary from his law school and spend all his time writing in support of his political views in their various manifestations. These folks are simply being lawyers and now they have found a way to express themselves on behalf of themselves on someone else's dime. I know, I have done it too.
The problem is that if law schools are ever going to be viewed as legitimate graduate level colleges the trend needs to be more toward scholarship. This is hard for two reasons. First, unlike other graduate level teachers, law professors are not trained as scholars. The idea of testing an hypothesis is foreign to many. Second, without question they can point to the hypocrisy of so called sciences in which numbers and outcomes are fudged and then the outcomes reported as scholarship.
In any case, did anyone imagine when law schools started that a professor making 250,000 a year, half or a third of which goes for scholarship, would then believe the money is meant to be used for him or her to promote a particular political position? The decision to do that is evidence of a powerful sense of entitlement.
Saturday, October 04, 2014
The other day a few of us were feeling happy that our school had reportedly done well on the bar review passage rate. We had seen what appeared to be the official results. When I mentioned this to someone, he said, (jokingly, I trust) "wait till you see the next US News & WR rankings. You will be even happier." Of course the rankings can only make you so happy since they are only relied upon by people who have been under a rock but I said, "Why?" The answer was, "I wrote those bar results up and I will write up a the law school rankings. I just want people to feel happy."
"What a saint!" I did not think to myself.
Yes, it was life imitating the movie "The Matrix" only it was not really the red or blue or green pills but manufactured information that no one dared to investigate because who wants to become unhappy when you can be happy. In fact, law professors rely on a clever perversion of Rawls' veil of ignorance. This veil allows you be ignorant of the current reality.
The difference between the Matrix and being a law professor is that the profs are both the pharmaceutical companies -- manufacturers -- and their best customers. They create "pills" and then take them. They feel better but nothing changes except perception. Here are some of the best selling meds.
1. Your article will be published by a top ten law review. That's great, right? Why? Because a group of privileged 24 year olds who know very little about law or your area of expertise and knew nothing about law until about a two years ago decided it was not too risky and had enough appeal to authority that seemed like it was meritorious? Really, isn't that a bit like feeling joy about winning a figure skating contest judged by people who have only in the last year or so seen ice? Nevertheless, when that pill arrives you gobble it down and try to get a refill.
2. SSRN reports that your article is in the top ten most downloaded articles. SSRN has as many top ten categories as there are law professors. So, aside from the fact that the top ten scam is like the people who say they want to put you in Who's Who in the academic world if you pay $50 for a copy of the book, what else is going on? One thing is you helped destroy some trees. Another is that downloading is free, Think of it as more like someone picking up one of the 15 free newspapers next to the real ones. You put your newspaper out there and it was free. It is more than likely lining the floor of a parakeet's cage.
3. You look up your name on Westlaw and your articles have been cited 1500 times. That's a pretty good pill but how is it connected to reality? Did you change a mind? People mentioned your name in an effort to create their own pill that is likely to be as irrelevant as your own.
4. Several people on your faculty are asked to rank law schools. All of them rank their law school first and the one they graduated from second. Then they feel happy that those are ranked high. Actually this one happened not long ago. That's how much they need a fix.
5. Your hardback book just came out. Your mom will be so proud. Are you! Hmm. is it actually your last 4 articles loosely tied together? Is it a collection of articles written by others at your request and that were acceptable to you because of who they were and not what was said? That's all the medication you need. It does not matter that it is not evidence of new ideas or that only a small handful of people will read anything in the work, After all, others, also taking meds, will regard it as a good thing.
So, what if law profs dropped their version of the veil of ignorance and went into rehab. Are there any pills that make a law professor feel better and do so without the veil. I do not know. There is a pill can make things better but seem not to make law profs feel better since so many veiw it as poison-- teach as many students as possible and tell them everything you know. That pill is not a big seller. Not FDA or AALS approved to be safe and effective, I suppose.
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
It is good to start this post with this quote from the Wealth of Nations:
"Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it ... He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."
The question arises with the last two words. What is "public good." One look at the plight of law schools today tells you how the Adam Smith approach -- a constant battle in service of self-interest -- is working. It is a world of low teaching loads, vanity courses, massive spending on irrelevant "scholarship," travel to do little or nothing, crushing debt for students, and dishonesty in the rankings game.
That is the good news; it could be worse. Why? Two points. First, I can count on one hand the number of law professors who do not attend the church of Adam Smith. In fact, I can count on the fingers of no hands the number of times I have heard a Law professor say in response to a policy or program question, "That is inconvenient to me and will cause some changes but I can see it is better for the institution,"
Conversely I do not have enough fingers and toes to account for every time I have heard "I oppose this policy/program because it will mean I have to change what I do."
How could it be worse? Suppose faculty began acting like one big happy family. They celebrated birthdays together, ate lunch together, and really cooperated. The cooperation was designed to maximize total benefits for faculty with the distribution of those benefits determined later. So even lower teaching loads, more travel, more vanity courses, etc. You might call this the Tony Soprano model.
If so, the best outcome is that faculty continue to "compete" not because it increases the public good, as Smith would have it, but decreases the damage.
So should we encourage law faculties to act like families? Like that slippery notion, "leadership," it all depends on goals and values. If they are not in the right place, kinship is a dangerous thing.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
I've heard it said that Joe Don Looney said, "I never met a man I didn't like except Will Roger" but maybe I just read that somewhere. In fact. maybe Joe Don did not say it. Maybe Will Rogers, in a moment of self-loathing, said it.
I was thinking about Joe Don, Will, and my 150 page, 300 footnote law review article thanking all the tenured members of my faculty, several people I hardly know but may have met at a conference in Barcelona, and citing myself 37 times when a law school pal walked in with a problem. It was a real problem but I could not solve it How does Joe Don fit in? Keep reading.
In the course of the conversation my pal said (and I am changing the names) "Emma told me that Jane told her that Phil had personally attacked, Lucy." Well, I was taken back because I know Phil; Phil is a friend of mine and he's as sweet as pumpkin pie with double Karo.
Then I realized that "personal attack" accusations are all part of the civility game -- the way the "ins" stifle dissent by the "outs."
Lots of people have been writing about this lately, The most direct (if there is anything direct) way to use civility as a weapon is "I don't like your tone," or "I am offended." It goes like this. You express alarm to see Jack stocking up school supplies to take home. Jack's reply is "I don't like your tone," as he closes the back door of his Volvo on 100 reams of 8.5 x 11. Another version is "I am offended." No one asks why because the civility rule is that everything stops when someone shouts "Offense." In fact, right now I am getting pretty offended by just thinking about the "O" bomb.
[I am stopping here to catch my breath.]
The other silencing tactic I discussed two posts ago -- do not engage. No engagement means no discussion and no discussion means the status quo is safe.
What about the personal attack accusation. Here is how it works. Go back to Jack's Volvo or any other transgression. No matter what the perceived transgression is, if anyone can figure out who is involved, you have engaged in a personal attack. So, Billy Joe has been running a questionable foreign program for 20 years. If you complain you have personally attacked Billy Joe. It does not matter than you would complain no matter who is running it. You can avoid this by saying "It is possible that someone, somewhere, at sometime, is running a less than 100% indispensable foreign program" or, in the case of Jack's insatiable need for 8.5 by 11, "Golly, I wonder where all the printer paper went." In other words, say nothing.
This is different from the perfectly valid rejection of an ad hominem attack as in: "Bill can't be right about that because he is a puppy kicker." Or maybe that is just a non sequiter.
Tone complaints, do not engage, and accusations of personal attacks are ways to protect what is and to stop change when it threatens you.
And, Joe Don Looney? He never met and, therefore, did not know Will Rogers. He did not know what he was talking about any more than Jane knew Phil. [see above]
I also want to start from the premise that in law teaching the minimal goal is not "do no harm" but "do some good." I'll put aside my view that this means about 95% of legal scholarship falls outside the "do some good" category. (Ok, now it is aside.)
How are law professors supposed to know what it means to do some good as in making someone better off? This is the problem, most law professors when straight for grade grubbing undergraduates to grade grubbing at a small group of so called elite law schools. Most have had very few life experiences that would help them understand what it means to "do good" or why one might choose to "do good" for those worst off in society. (I like to say sometimes some law professors seem to "have feelings too," just really tiny ones. That is likely not true -- they probable have the same capacity to feel as anyone else, they just do not know from experience how certain things feel.)
If we are turning to experiential learning for students, how about some experiential learning for law professors so they will have a fuller idea of the breadth of "do good." To this end I am hereby propose to the ABA, the AALS, the ASPC and whatever that all wannabe law professors and incumbents be required to select three of the following activities in order to improve their teaching and the quality of their scholarship:
1. Live as a homeless person for 2 months.
2. Go without dental or medical care for 10 years.
3. Take no vacations of any kind for 5 years.
4. Work as a laborer on a construction site for 6 months.
5. Do not eat out except in fast food restaurants for 5 years.
6. Don't own a Prius but get by on $30 worth of gas a month.
7. Teach 9th graders at a school located in a urban low income neighborhood.
8. Bus tables for 8 hours a day 6 days a week.
9. Be a firefighter or police officer for a year.
10. Work as the nurse in an emergency room, operate a bulldozer in 95 degrees, process chicken, etc.
This is only a partial list of experiential learning opportunities for law teachers because, let's face it, is there a more inexperienced group than the people who teach and write about law?
Saturday, September 20, 2014
I cannot say my rile is where it once was. I blame the current administration at UF law which is demonstrating an unprecedented and alarming lack of indifference to the welfare of the students, fiscal responsibility, and even handedness.
But there is an interesting condition that seems to afflict the privileged more than others. I am not sure it is laziness, boredom, a character flaw, or a political tactic. It a is cousin to the obsession with civility as a means of stifling dissent and maintaining the status quo. You know what I mean - its not what you said but your tone.
It's the reluctance to engage. Here is an example. Someone on your faculty, or any workplace for that matter, does something that you think is wrong -- let's say he says everyone in a faculty meeting who disagrees with him is "insane." It that bothers you there are a couple of ways to go. You could go to the person and say, "I'd like to convince you that broad non substantive statements like that are a problem." Or you could go to your own little mini mob and complain that the person is a jerk and add to that all of the other offenses by the person. And, in future years you could describe the incident in slightly more extreme terms - he said we were insane and then starting cackling like a hen -- to get even more converts to your view that the person is truly evil or a nut case. This happens all the time.
Other than the law professor priss factor of which I have written before, what else is true about non engagers? Two things, but for this I need a better example. Let's suppose that a professor has a long list of speakers come to his class and none of them are gay. You decide this is a sure sign he or she is homophobic. If you engage the person, that means that you are conceding that he or she has something to say. Now you would not want that would you because, after all, you, the non engager always knows there can be no room for discussion. You are not about to change your judgment because after all, on matters of homophobia, you are never wrong. In effect, not engaging but spreading the word to your mini mob is just a fancy way of silencing. The other prof cannot speak to the issue because he has no idea it is an issue.
The other possibility is just plain sloth. In this case, it's just easier to go next door and complain. But what this really means is that you did not actually care that much about, in this case, the possible homophobia at all. Naw, you're just engaged in recreational BS.
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
I am still struggling to get my rile back. I think it's the fault of the new dean. One has the distinct impression that his deanship is not 100% focused on "what do I do to extend my deanship." I guess I should not complain but I do miss being riled. It makes me realize that an old blog about the benefits of having an interim dean missed the point. Not the whole point but there is another way to have a dean who will actually put his or her self interest aside -- hire an old dean. A Dean at the end of his or her career is like an interim dean -- no need to worry about anything other than the school. I guess a term limit dean would work too. On the other hand, an old dean has seen it all.
I am not riled but disenchanted by the data on scholarship my coauthor and I have turned up. A few things stand out. First there is a statistically significant correlation between both the rank of the review and the rank of the school from which the author graduated and the number citations by other scholars. The good news is there is no significant correlation between judicial cites and either of those. Courts, to my surprise, don't care all that much about institutional authority. There is, though, a bad side to this. They also don't care much about what law professors have to say. Citations to legal scholarship are not rare but they are almost never for the analysis or the proposals found in law review articles. Instead they are for things like:"this section of the UCC has 4 subsections." or "12 states have laws against this." Yes, mainly they lift facts from even the fanciest articles. It's hardly worth the $300 million a year spent on legal scholarship. That, btw, is a very conservative estimate. It does not account of the costs of running reviews, mailings, postage, time, etc. What a terrible waste.
I guess the 300 million plus a year for legal scholarship does rile me not just because the scholarship so rarely relied on in a meaningful way but because so much if it is not scholarship at all -- more like extended op-ed pieces.
I have been riled for a long time about the absurd "we will hire whomever you are sleeping with" policy at UF. I have been told it means more jobs for women -- a feminist thing. Huh. I do not know the gender breakdown on trailing spouses but, if it is to hire women, what an insult to feminists -- hiring women not because of who they are but because they hooked up with the "right" men. My rile on this has faded mainly because I have had my say.
I am kind of riled by Obama being such a dud and those who somehow think the Ravens are heroic for cutting Ray Rice once they saw the video. The relevance of the video is lost on me other than to suggest that battered women should start wearing those little cameras because that appears to be what it takes to get some action.
Any law professor who utters anything about academic freedom could rile me. I have never seen a freedom so infrequently used.
I am sure there are things I should be riled about but since I cut off all information coming out of the months the law school's biggest agitators and least accurate people, the rile-o-meter has been very low.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Have not written much lately -- just have not been riled enough. I am not sure what accounts for that.
Could be that I became a grandfather and my thoughts are on that. Could be that we have a new "acting" dean who is pretty direct so, for the most part you know what he is thinking. This would be in comparison to the old dean who seemed to get the vapors if he had to say something that would be controversial or offend one of the "yes" people.
It could be that I have been doing my best to avoid gossip. In fact, I have imposed an embargo on my best pal on the faculty from telling me anything that two blabber mouths who are often wildly inaccurate and mischievous have to say no matter what and for all time.
And, there is a pretty reliable source saying that the world's least rational and most single-personality-driven foreign program is kaput.
But my rile came back a bit lately. Partly it is the result of an empirical study that shows that citation in law reviews is largely correlated with the status of the school you attended. Yes, the elites prefer to cite the elites. My hunch -- actually far more than a hunch since I have been told this by law review editors -- is that articles by elites are more likely to be read in a timely way and accepted. Why? because top reviews perpetuate the elitist system in legal education.
And then there is this piece from the New York Times. discussing the failure of elite colleges to make much if any progress in admitting those who are not privileged. You should read it but this quote from the article captures most of it, "But critics contend that on the whole, elite colleges are too worried about harming their finances and ranking to match their rhetoric about wanting economic diversity with with action." Is there really any surprise here? Why would there be? When was the last time your hiring committee was even willing to break bread with a stellar state school grade as opposed to bottom of the top third at an Ivy.
Of course they don't because it would be an admission that they are not so special. Plus, little Nancy or Trevor may be in the market for a law teaching job some day and it's better for them if the system stays as rigged as a clipper ship.
Yep, the privileged are not giving it up until it is ripped from their greedy little paws or it is torn down. I'm up for either one.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Recently a colleague circulated a list of various specialties our law school offers and the enrollment in the highest enrollment classes within each specialty. In effect, it was a assessment of the demand for various classes. The effort was to assist us in long term planning. Where are we using resources and where should they be used? It is a really tough question for public law schools which I guess are really only quasi-public these days.
As one might expect, the demand for law school classes is a derived demand. That is, demand is determined by what is selling in the market. So, there is a high demand for business oriented courses and a low demand for family law, environmental, criminal law, and poverty law.
To me this captures the dilemma of today's law schools. Do they serve market demand or not. I think I know what most will do if for no other reason than to survive. The problem is that public law schools exist, or so I thought, to produce public goods. I cannot think of another justification. Why else force tax payers to foot a substantial part of the bill?
The public good rationale would mean offering courses in areas in which attorneys cannot internalize the benefits of the services they sell. This would mean more attorneys specializing in consumer law, perhaps family law, and environmental law -- all areas with poor financial prospects because the demand (or should I say need) for those areas is not manifested in the market.
The problem is that while my school offers a huge supply of those types of training, the demand is very low. If one were only interested in matching supply and demand there are two answers. One is to decrease supply. The other is to increase demand or apparent demand. In other words, make those classes more attractive to students and I do not mean by giving everyone an A. Instead, you stimulate demand by making investment in those area attractive. I do not suppose there is any way to cause salaries to increase but another approach would be to decrease costs so that the return to investment rises.
What does this mean? Perhaps differential tuition for those willing to practice, at least for some period of time, in areas in which there are public good elements. Or scholarships for those willing to concentrate in those areas.
Pie in the sky, I know but if public schools only serve market demand, why do they exist?
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Back when Moneylaw appeared to be an up and coming blog, I think it was Jim Chen who used to respond to anonymous comments with the salutation Dear Anony-mouse. I thought about that when two of the commentators on my last post remained anonymous although not saying anything controversial and saying what was said in a completely civil way. This made me wonder about the reasons for anonymous comments.
One reader informed me that a person is in the private sector who says things that could result in formal or informal sanctions in his or her job may well prefer to remain anonymous. That one maskes sense to me as long as the comment is substantive. When they get nasty, I'd say the commentators just want to snipe and the private sector excuse is inapplicable.
I suppose untenured people might also have good reasons to remain anonymous. Law profs can be very petty and taking someone on who may be reviewing your work or voting on your promotion, even in civil fashion, is probably not a good idea. I wish it were not so but we are talking about law profs.
Add to the list of those who can justify anonymity disgruntled students. They bought into law school advertising and many are without jobs but do have debt. Putting their names on anything that could come back in haunt them in a job search would be foolish. Plus they may have more standing that any group to get a little upset.
But let's get to the nub of things. I am willing to bet that a fair percentage of anonymous comments are from tenured law professors. Sure, I cannot prove it but, if you can prove otherwise, I am all ears and I will pay your way to Disney World if you do prove it. So what is up with this? Are they afraid they may not be invited to the next conference or asked to contribute to yet another symposium consisting of someone and his or her pals? What are we to make of people who want to send a strong message and then hide behind a rock after sending it? Are they afraid the person they complain about will not want to be friends if their their identity is revealed? Do they actually think people attribute as much weight to views that can only be expressed if no one knows who is expressing them? If the author has so little conviction, why should the listener pay attention? Or is this just wide spread paranoia. The biggest problem is that they are free riders on the understandable need of others to remain anonymous so the reader does not know how to separate those with legitimate concerns from the hyper-cautious prissy law profs.
Don't get me wrong. I realize, perhaps more than most, that there are sanctions for being outspoken but isn't it better to deal with them than to creep around with a mask on when you feel strongly about about something? I'd feel sneaky.
My hunch is that it is closely related to law professors' obsession with deniability and cost/benefit analysis.
But really, I am quite curious about the explanation and am open to comments that would help me understand. Anonymity is fine -- I don't have enough readers to be picky.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
I did not know Dan Markel but all I need to know comes from photos of him with two smiling children. It appears from that and everything that has been written that he was a terrific person. It also appears that I was one of a small handful of people who did not know him. Nevertheless, it is beyond sad to think of the way lives have changed and I do not mean just his.
Some commentators, however, have used the event to engage in typical law professor BS. Tripping over each other in a desire to seem to know him best and to have inside information, stories have mentioned that he was in the middle of a divorce (false), that it was a home invasion (false), that he was shot in the back (maybe but it would be the back of the head.) This is the kind of loose talk usually reserved for the know it all, name droppers who spend too much time trolling the halls or in the faculty lounge. In effect, for some, his death became a means to the end of showing off.
One other factor that reflects badly, at least to me, about the commentators is the persistent description that he was a good scholar, an internationally known scholar, a gifted scholar. I do not doubt any of that for a second nor do I care. To me it trivializes the loss. The loving father of two children was gunned down. My hunch is that he would have traded all the scholarship, citations, and accolades for a mere chance to see his children grow up, to be in a happy relationship, and to have good friends. Somehow, if I were describing the loss of a decent loving person, "scholar" would be way down on the list of characteristics that made the death so tragic. Is it harder to lose a good scholar than, say, the clerk at a 7-11? Not to me. Scholarship, like the 7-11 clerk who gets the change right every time, is simply something a person does. It is not who they are -- not at any meaningful level.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
This is actually Part 37 of Sociology of Law Professors but I could not get it all on the same line.
I've not been around many work groups in my life time. In fact, for the most part, it has been laborers, lawyers, and law professors. In spite of that small sample, the prissiest and most insufferable group in the world must be law professor or those interested in what they have to say.
I have to describe some of them as "interested in" because some of the most insufferable language is found in anonymous comments on blogs. Although there are rumors that some of the anons are actual law professors and one Chicago blog Czar in particular I do not know that. In fact, that accusation may be completely wrong and the product of anons who just want to demonize the other professor.
The best place for the truly wacko and insufferable anon comments that I know of is the Faculty Lounge blog. Over there a barroom brawl among sissies can break out at any time. Things can be fine and then the discussion devolves into pure mush of innuendo, accusations, and a game of gotcha. I suspect the people most likely to pull the civility card when not anonymous are often anonymous when the calls for civility are rightfully attributed to lame efforts to silence someone or are ridiculed as they should be.
Those comments are not as much insufferable as they are evidence of a somewhat wacko need to one up the other guy without have to say anything substantive or say who you are.
Some of the signed comments are the most insufferable and penned by those who must have an amazing sense of importance. Over on the contracts list serve, a discussion of contract law quickly went to hobby lobby and then to thinly veiled law prof name calling with one truly screwed up person calling the dean at the school where one of the commentators teaches to complain about the commentator's comments. Yes, this may set the record for prissiest law professor. Hopefully the dean told the complainer to get professional help. I know I did suggest it would be appropriate if, that is, there is treatment for being an asshole.
Here is the type in insufferable language you might find over there and I suspect on any law professor list serve. This is only an example: "But I cannot help add that Peter today perpetuated the unfair "permission to post" meme that Ben started yesterday. Objecting to threads as being off topic are entirely appropriate on a subject matter listserve, though the objection could be unfounded. Characterizing it as Peter (and Ben) did as my insisting on my permission to post, and referring to me by name as Peter did this morning, is itself a polemical and uncollegial means of stifling fair comment."
That was the public post and I do not mean to pick on that writer specifically or Peter or Ben, whoever they are. You may disagree but when I see "polemic," and "uncollegial," I begin to tear up. Just kidding. I do not know if the writer was the dean caller but when I responded publicly that the full comment sounded a bit over the top in the self importance department, here is the private and intimate note I receive in response: "Maybe you should have hesitated a moment before pressing send, Jeff. That's an asshole comment to make and I am telling you that directly and not anonymously."
Of course, while not anonymous, this note came "off list" so none of those who read the list would know about it or how quickly words like polemic and uncollegial gave way to "asshole."
I loved the private response. First, because as my pal Eric Fink reminds me, it's not worth writing if it does not get under someone's skin. Second, because the writer -- someone who I now have much more respect for -- was willing to forego the code words of law professors and show some emotion. Third, it reveals he can be a real person, not just the typical posturing, indirect priss, so many law professors are.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Each year law school publications publish about 8,000 articles.These are written by law professors and a few judges and practitioners. In addition, law faculty publish books (often recycled articles), casebooks, book chapters, and edit books compiled of the writings of others. How much does it cost? That is hard to say but here is a rough estimate based on my law school. Let's say the average yearly earnings of a law prof is $150k. At my School you teach 9 hours year instead of 12 on the theory you are doing research. So about 37K a year goes to research per faculty member. In addition, anyone who wants to can research in the summer for about 15% of his or her salary. Most people do this so add another 20K for a total payment for research of 57K. We have a large faculty, conservatively at 50 people. So my school invests about $2,850,000 a year in law professor research. For that each of our 1000 students could be given a $2850 scholarship or have tuition lowered by that amount. Or 15 well paid faculty could be hired and class sized dramatically lowered.
For $2.85 million you might want to know what you get. But there is no connections between money spent and the usefulness of what is written. Unlike other areas in which someone makes a proposal and someone doling out the money decides if it is worthwhile, there is no similar gate keeping in legal research unless you count the 23 year olds who decide what gets published where.
As I noted, UF is a big operation. Let's say it's the biggest and that all of the other 200 laws schools are half as large and, thus spend half as much money on legal research. That would be $1.4 million times 200 or $285 million per year. No, you did not miss something, Each year law schools invest about 285 million dollars on law professors writing mainly law review articles, books including casebooks, chapters for books, or editing books of chapters written by other people.
It is a scam? That is not easily answered. Some of the works are useful. Many are interesting and there is something to be said for that too. How useful it is impossible to know. For example, 33 of lead articles in the top 100 law reviews in 2003 have been cited by at least one court somewhere. Sixty-seven have not. Of the 33, most show no sign of actually having influenced the decision. Maybe that is not so bad but of the 100 lead articles in the secondary reviews at those same top schools, only 8 have been cited by any court anywhere.
Judicial cites, as every law professor reading instantly thought to him or herself upon reading this, are not the only way to assess usefulness. It is but one way but you would think if you were going to spend $285 million dollars a year on something you would do it based on something more than a hunch or faith that most of it is not wasted.
BUT WAIT there is more and OPERATORS ARE AVAILABLE.
I have not counted the research assistants, secretarial aid. submission fees, copying and, of course, travel in the name of legal scholarship.
And here is a final kick to the gut. When these projects generate income, the professors keep it although only the most hypocritical reading of copyright law could lead one to believe the scholarship is not "work for hire" with the earnings going to the employer.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
My special awards for those who took risks and did something for someone else only to have it bite them in the butt.
1. The Dean who went out on a limb to support someone's application for tenure, only to be sued by that person on the basis of that support.
2. The dean candidates who studied the UF Law School, flew to Gainesville at least twice, and submitted to days of questioning only to find out the job was only available to one person.
3. The job seekers who replied to a UF law school notice for an environmental law teaching job by sending extensive personal materials only to discover the job was promised to someone else before they applied.
5. The colleague who fought very hard to get a non traditional background person hired only to find that the person was actually greedier, nastier, and less truthful that anyone else.
6. The faculty member who worked hard to pull off a lateral hire only to discover the lateral hire's lack of productivity means he has to work harder.
7. The Whole Foods chain which was sued for overcharging when, what it sells to customers, is the good feelings they get by paying high prices.
8. The faculty member asked to read an untenured colleague's scholarship, comments extensively, and finds the advice was ignored and the request made after the articles was accepted and ready to be printed.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
I think it was 1984. I was at a faculty retreat daydreaming (this was before Ipads and wifi) and someone left the meeting and a door slammed. About an hour later the slammer returned and apologized for his behavior. I did not know what he did. Then maybe 10 years ago, a really unpleasant faculty member was found to have penned an email describing us all as loafers. That might be right but at the time she was attempting to be Ms.Congeniality. Busted. She apologized.
Let's see, that's 30 plus years of law teaching and two apologies. Are law profs always right? I doubt it. So what explains this inability to fess up, admit fallibility, show a little humanity. I am not sure. I suppose it is a sign of weakness to apologize and when your culture is one of constant negotiation you never never show weakness.
So I am waiting for these apologies:
1. From the person who knowingly posted an ad for job already filled: "Sorry, I screwed up and embarrassed the School. Won't happen again."
2. From the Law School officials who refused to acknowledge or address the issue: "Yes, sometimes our paranoia is more powerful then common sense. Sorry."
3. From the professors in meetings labeling others as "insane." "I guess that was not helpful. Sorry."
4. From the professor who insists on an interpretation of a committee proposal that is wrong and takes up 15 minutes while people try to explain it and then just goes silent. "Sorry I used up the time of 50 people today because I had not read the proposal. I'll do better."
5. From the faculty member who says a particular proposal is a good solely because that's what they did at his law school or his daughter's. "sorry for taking up your time with a complete non sequiter."
6. From the dean so obsessed with maintaining his job that he could not make a decision simply based on what was right and wrong. "Sorry I let my selfish needs get ahead of my obligations to the school."
7. From the President who abandoned a dean search when the right politico did not emerge as the favorite (which anyone could have predicted) and said he wants excellence but 2 days later ordered the law school to hire someone it would not hire in a field that is covered. "Sorry, that does not make sense does it,"
8. From colleagues teaching 50-90 students a year. "Sorry, I am clearly not pulling my weight in the classroom."
9. From the professors giving their work to secretaries and then complaining if it is not done the way they would have done it which they should have been doing. "Sorry, I guess my lack of humility is showing."
10. From the snake who gossips, live in the dean's office, and complains constantly about his or her treatment. "Sorry, I'm a miserable person and from this point on I will not say anything until I have the facts right."
11. From the chair of the appointments committee who lied about the contents of reviews of a candidate's scholarship. "Sorry, sometimes chairs get so invested in bringing in the right candidates they lose their objectivity."
12. From the appointments committee meeting chair who could only interview graduates of two or three schools. "Sorry, I guess a broader perspective would be a good idea."
13. From the small covey of mean people who ran off a talented faculty member for a youthful mistake. "We are sorry. We let our pettiness get ahead of the goals of the school."
14 From the faculty member who claimed a dean candidate was not friendly to the lesbien/gay community but was unwilling to state why, "I am sorry and as soon as I stop being an a**hole, I will apologize.
15. From the Director of a Program who writes "will you do this?" and then says she has no recollection of making the offer; "Sorry, I had promised someone else and it slipped my mind."
16. From the faculty committee chair who sponsored a candidate and did not reveal he knew it was an inside job. "Sorry, I guess I thought playing ball with the administration was better for my career."
17. From the hiring committee member who told the faculty the committee refused to even consider a candidate but sat in a meeting in which the candidate was discussed at length. "Sorry, I lied."
18. From the colleagues who leaned on me to write a chapter for a book that never came out or came out several years later: "Sorry, I should have told you that it is iffy."
19. From cost conscious usually liberal leaning faculty and administrators who think nothing of dropping thousands and thousands of dollars of the money of others' so they can give ten minutes of off the cuff remarks at some distant location. "Sorry, we are selfish and we will try to do better."
20. From the faculty member who refused to hand over a public document in spite of a written requirement that the document be produced. "Sorry, I guess I got carried away."
21. From anonymous sniping blog commentators: "I'm sorry and I will get treatment."
I guess these apologies will flow in any minute but sometimes I think there really is a course at elite schools called "never ever apologize."
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, aren't sleeping with the right person, did not have a string to pull of any kind, welcome to the world of white collar academic duplicity where trickle up economics is the theme. 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.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Ready to play?
1. Which dessert appeals to you most:
a. cherry pie.
b. Hot fudge sundae.
c. I don't eat dessert.
2. You listen to music:
a. in our office.
b. at home
c. in your car.
3. Your favorite music decade is.
a. the 50s
b. the 60s
c. the 90s
4. You've just been hired as dean. Who do you make associate dean for foreign programs:
a. Someone who wants to continue a program in which none of your students participate and does none of the things listed in b.
b. Someone who speaks a second language, teaches international courses, and has a good head for budgets.
5. Someone in your administration posts a notice for a job that does not exist. You:
a. Look the other way.
b. Try to figure out what went wrong and take that authority away from the person who did it.
6. Your faculty is meeting to decide who gets tenure. One person says he will vote for a particular candidate because he is a good father. You.
a. Pretend to have instant onset temporary deafness.
b. Say, "I think it is important that the discussion be focused on the relevant factors."
7. An adjunct teacher consistently has the worst teaching evaluations in the school. You:
a. rehire the person.
b. look for another adjunct.
8. Someone mentions that some faculty teach 200 students a year while other teach 60. You:
a. wring your hands and figure those are the breaks.
b. Tell the people not teaching many students to take their pick of high enrollment courses.
9. You notice that some professors give no A grades which means they can also avoid giving low grade in order to comply with the curve. This can have an impact on class rank. You:
a. Say it will probably even out in the end.
b. Try to figure out a way that class rank is not determined by the luck of the draw.
10. You talk about fiscal responsibility but when asked if it is OK to spend other people's money to finance trips to make 10 minutes of off the cuff remarks you:
a. say "gimme some of dat."
b. question whether it can be viewed as in the public interest.
11.. A faculty member attempts to ridicule another by writing snippy little emails every time the first faculty member tries to address issues of important but takes unpopular positions. You.
a. Don't say anything because Mr. Snippy likes car rac'n and has contributed gobs of dough to the school.
b. Sit down with Mr. Snippy and discuss the market place for ideas.
How to score: Ignore questions 1-3. On the remaining questions give yourself 100 for each "a" answer and minus "1" for each b answer. If your score is above zero, you have the right cut.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
For some of us older guys -- products of the late 60s - and especially those of us who did not know the ways of the upper classes, the end of idealism is a hard landing. We imagined a profession in which the notion of "public interest" was of some importance.
Granted it is sometimes hard to square professional education with public subsidization but you can get there. If you do, you imagine each decision to have a common theme:
1. How will this program make students and the public better off.
2. How will this course make students and the public better off.
3. How will this class schedule make students and the public better off.
4. How will this research project make students and the public better off.
5. How will hiring this particular person make students and the public better off.
6. How will granting this person life time employment make students and the public better off.
Those are the idealistic forms of the questions. In 30 years of law teaching I think I can count on my fingers the number of times the questions have been framed in that form or something like it. And, when I have I can count on less that one finger the number of times the discussion stuck to the interests of the students and the public.
I want to be clear that I am not talking about what makes students and the public happier. I mean what makes the students better in their professions. I also want to be clear that part of the end of idealism stems from the public under funding which means law schools have to resort to cheapo sales tactics and advertising to survive. Sure, they do not have to do these things and if they did not see themselves as ends but the means to the end of public service, they would not. And most disappointing of all is that at the head of the advantage takers are the products of the late 60s themselves.
Some examples (a short list) of things that kill any hope for a public interest goal are these:
1. Confercationing. I've been on this topic quite a bit but does any professor, or dean, every ask "Is my trip justified by any benefit to the students or public." If you are going somewhere to make 10 minutes of off the cuff remarks, the answer is always no. But it goes on and on even by those who go to church and talk the talk.
2, Caps on class size: Some caps are good, I suppose, but good and what actually happens are different matters. Nearly all classes are better if small. These decisions are typically made on what a professor thinks is best and are not weighed against the costs of crowding in other classes.
3. 4 credit courses scheduled in 2 two hour blocks. I have seen no study that suggests this is sound as a matter of learning. But, even that were shown to be the case, no decision about this seems to be based on an actual examination of the benefits to the students or public.
5. Law schools throw millions of dollar a year at people who claim to do research. Most of it goes unread and most of it is advocacy for the professors' pet political causes. As far as I know the idea that funding and the importance of the work to the students and the public is a completely foreign one.
6. One thing I have never heard in a tenure and promotion discussion is this: Will giving this person a 30 year employment contract actually benefit the students or the public in some way. The subtext, even if it is sub at all, is do we like this person, is the person politically acceptable, has the person shown he or she will play ball.
If you are an idealist you have to hold your nose, look the other way, or undergo a partial elective lobotomy to survive.
Sunday, June 15, 2014
This one has so many participants that I cannot copy it all into this little bitty blog but have a look. It's a really winner for the serious scholar who does not want to waste too much time actually preparing for and attending a conference that, after all, just gets in the way of traveling on someone else's dime. And, yes, "confercationing" is my own invention.
There are some great ones here: http://www.law.ufl.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2014-Final-Program.pdf
I was particular intrigued by the second session on the first day. It appears to have close to 5 Co chairs for the 90 minute session. I think they may need a conference on Co Chairing, maybe in Italy somewhere. Of course it is 90 minutes if everyone gets there on time. When I lost count there were 7 speakers which gives them each a whopping 12-14 minutes to present the results of their careful study, exchange deep thoughts, and plan for the best dinner spots.
My goodness, this one has a federal judge who also happened to be appointed to the UF Law School dean search committee by the UF administration. You may recall the failed search.
I want to be clear that I do not know the participants traveled on someone else's money. And, if they did, I am not even sure where the money came from but if I were a betting person, I am betting on yet another example of trickle up economics compliments of your privileged friends in academia.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
As a service to law profs who have not found a way to vacation in Europe free this summer this is a public service announcement. First, obviously, after having gotten your school to pay your way you want to be sure to spend as little time conferencing as possible. So here is the perfect one day conference to justify your $1500 plus airfare.
Legal Education and Legal Profession in the Global World - Polish-American Perspectives
Commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Center for American Law Studies
a joint program of the University of Florida Levin College of Law and the University of Warsaw, Faculty of Law and Administration
June 16, 2014 r. (Monday)
Aula A.3, Collegium Iuridicum II, Lipowa 4, Warsaw
8:30 Registration. Coffee
9:00 Opening of the Conference
Professor Krzysztof Rączka, Dean, Faculty of Law and Administration UW; Professor Robert Jerry, Dean, Levin College of Law, UF
9:15 The Law School of the Future: How We Need to Change Legal Education to be Adapted to Rapidly Changing World
Moderator: Professor Łukasz Pisarczyk; Panelists: Professor Robert Jerry, Dean, Levin College of Law, UF; Professor Tomasz Giaro, Vice Dean, UW; Tomasz Wardyński, esq. Wardyński i Wspólnicy; Professor Hubert Izdebski, UW
10:45 Coffee break
11:00 Foreign Law and Legal Systems: To Teach or not to Teach
Moderator: Professor Julian Juergensmeyer, GSU; Panelists: Professor Maria Kenig-Witkowska, UW; Professor Stuart Cohn, UF; dr Ewa Gmurzyńska, UW/UF; Roman Rewald, esq., Weil; Witold Kowalczyk, student UW
12:45 Lunch for participants
13:30 The Changing Role of Lawyers in the Global World
Moderator: Professor Wojciech Kocot, UW; Panelists: Professor Jon Mills, UF; Agnieszka Stefanowicz-Barańska, esq., Dentons; Witold Daniłowicz, esq, DJW Legal; Andy Hall, esq., Hall, Lamb & Hall, Miami;
15:00 Coffee break
15:15 Comparing Polish and American Law Teaching Methods: Lessons from the Past for the Future;
Moderator: Professor Stu Cohn; UW; Professor Adam Bosiacki, UW; Professor Tomasz Stawecki, UW; dr Rafal Morek, UW; dr Kacper Gradoń, UW
16:45 Conclusion of the Conference. Presentation of Certificates to 2013/14 graduates of the Center for American Law Studies.
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
I was thinking of a perfect foreign program in the sense of symbolizing academia and a failure not just of leadership but of basic responsibility.
How's this. The program would be run by a public school (who really cares what private school do with their money?). It would fly faculty to a foreign but developed country for two weeks at a time during the school year where they would teach in English to students some of whom are fluent but many whom are very very far from it. They would teach American law in a lecture format which could be simply taped and broadcast. Their own students would have to make up the classes later.
So, let's add it up.
1. Public money to teach no UF students.
2. The State has no compelling interest in teaching the students.
3. UF students are burdened by making up two weeks of class because their profs take off in the middle of the semester.
4. The missing class practice probably violates the AALS best practices guidelines which read: "Classes should be met as scheduled, or when this is impractical, classes should be rescheduled at a time reasonable convenient for students. . . ." I'm no genius at interpretation but my hunch is that choosing to go somewhere else to teach mid semester does not render teaching class impractical.
5. The program costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How does this happen? Ah, there you have to understand law schools. First, it is nearly impossible to undo anything no matter how big a mistake. Second, law schools exist for faculty. Third, deans do not like to say no to faculty. Fourth, faculty don't like deans to say no to other faculty because it means the dean might say no to them next. Fifth, deans know all this. Oh, and if you read my last post, it's the free travel addiction, too.
Students struggling to make ends meet or sitting in a class of 100+, here is one of the places your money goes.
Monday, June 02, 2014
On average academics are a cheap, miserly lot but I want to be careful. Many are not cheap at all. Instead they just have to deal with the reality that they are not earning much of a salary. On the other hand, here is an example of cheapness. I am at a restaurant -- a fairly high end one -- and a colleague orders. Then he is asked if he wants soup or salad which comes with the meal or if he would like a Cesar salad for $1.00 more. He pondered this for awhile and asks "May I have the regular salad with Cesar salad dressing but not pay the $1." Yes, I am not kidding.
It's not about the money for most; it's about the deal. This should not be surprising. For many of these folks, life is a continuous negotiation -- am I teaching the fewest number of hours, am I grading the least number of papers, did someone else get a new computer, etc.
But nothing comes close to travel in terms of cheapness. Somehow traveling on someone else's dime is the holy grail, the creme de la creme, the quest to end all quests. And it does not seem to matter what the destination is. Professors will go anywhere if it is paid for. I feel confident that you could hand many a round trip ticket [from my point of view, one way would be better] and not say where is to and they would snap it up. For some, a lifetime of vacations turns on getting the best deal, not going anywhere in particular. I have heard stories of colleagues who insisted the expenses of their entire families should be paid for. Not kidding. Of course, they gobble up the frequent flier miles and make sure the single room rate is the same as the double room rate. Oh, and can we get 5 roll away beds in that room?
Sometimes I think it must be a status thing. If someone else is paying to have you go somewhere you must be important. In a sense it's not cheapness at all. It's all part of the play that they both perform and watch. No one cares about them except people who are like them. My pal who insists on not being identified calls it the terrarium effect. Their entire existence is inside a bubble of equally unimportant people.
BTW, do you want chicken or shrimp with that salad?