Monday, October 05, 2015

Message or Messenger: The Rise of Professor Porn and the Death of Ideas

Gone are the days in which law professors could be viewed as people who lived a "life of the mind."[Not being quite old enough, I am not sure they ever lived a life of the mind as much as other academicians and I suspect not.] In those days, teaching, thinking, and writing were the principal activities. Professors put their work out there and it spoke for itself. They might attend a conference or two each year and mail out a few reprints. It seems old fashion now but the process of thinking was in itself a reward. Personal recognition was a side effect.

Over the last 30 years, probably to coincide with the rankings race, this changed. Law schools and law professors began to sell themselves like soap powder, beer, and used cars.   The louder the "commercial" or  the noise, the more likely that a school or a person will be "heard" regardless of what he or she has to offer. In fact, sales tactics by professors have become so intense it appears that sales are made simply by being persistent to the point of pestering.  Recognition  may come just to make the pestering stop and the professor quickly reports it to the Dean and the world as an accomplishment. These profs are constantly on the road, no conference is too far away. They blog and write several articles a year which typically reveal little deep thought. Every thing they do is reported as important. At the extreme it is almost a frenetic effort to make one more sale. Promoting oneself is far far more important than any idea. Ideas,  in fact, are passe.

These are the two ends of the law professor continuum -- the "life of the mind" and the "soap." I am not sure anyone fits at either end of the continuum although I think I have known  and know people close to the "life of the mind" including some on my own faculty.  Increasingly I know people crowding the soap seller model.

I have a bias against the soap sellers and I think this is not only because I am lousy at selling. To me they are like the kids in little league who hung around the coach saying "put me in, put me in, please coach" while others just worked their asses off in practice and quietly  hoped their work would be noticed. They made so much noise they practically drowned out anyone else.  On the other hand, the idea of the life of the mind in which little effort is made to connect with others seems wasteful especially in a discipline that is supposed to address real world events and problems.

I do not claim to know the right balance but fear the future means more soap. As long as the soap sellers are reinforced others will feel they must follow. Those who follow might be talented writers and researchers but will have little choice but to raise the noise level and this means less effort devoted to actually solving problems.

Mainly I see a parallel between the law school rankings race and the law professor "recognition race."
Think about it. Among law schools the tail began to wag the dog as they adopted policies to increase rankings without making sure it mean better teaching and research. With professors it's more articles, more presentations, more everything to advertise one's name regardless of whether there is underlying value. With law schools it meant fudging the numbers. Law professors pad their resumes and claim everything they do is evidence of recognition and influence. In articles they include meaningless footnotes or ones who do not relate to what they claim the cite supports. Law schools disseminate gobs of law porn. Professors look for every chance to have their photo in law porn and many many articles exist simply to exist and not because there is conviction and hard work behind them They are professor porn.

In the process  the underlying raison d'etre is lost unless there is value in simple being someone other have heard  of or being able to drop the names of those you claim to know you.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Antitrust Assassins

Antitrust law has increasingly become anti-antitrust law. This is generally the influence of those who claimed to be well-versed in economics but who apply basic principles inconsistently to favor big business.

For the most part we want businesses to compete by offering the best they can to consumers at the lowest price. Sometimes being competitive means also being anti-competitive or so the theory goes. In fact, most of the examples of this are duds but let's take the example of college football. The theory is the college football is a product and the market for sports entertainment is better for it. If colleges competed for football players by paying them, so the theory goes again, the rich schools would get the best players, beat all the less rich school and college football would not be a very interesting sport. So the schools can agree not to pay the players at all. That is their logic, not mine.  (There are other justification but they are even sillier than this one.)

The cost of having college football is largely put on the back of laborers who are not paid.  This cost is like the cost of uniforms, balls, and coaches except that those costs are absorbed in some measure by those who profit from college football. The cost of labor, though, is paid by the players, not by those who profit from their labor.  It is exactly like a producer of cars that pollutes, factories that put toxic substances in rivers or employers whose employees are injured because of unsafe work conditions. In economics the costs imposed on others are called externalities. The fact is that we have a massive network of environment regulations, tort law, and the like that force those who give rise to externalities to absorb them.

In every area but antitrust,  businesses are given the choice -- reduce the externalities or pay for them even if they make you more competitive.  In short, produce what you want but pay all the costs of production. Now a contingent of law professors and judges have decided that rule does not apply when it comes to the costs of anti-competitive activity  It's fine for business to force everyone from football players to consumers to absorb the externalities. They do this my refusing to ask businesses to reduce the costs of their antitrust externalities  as much as possible. In fact, they argue against the position they generally support for other costs.

The message from these folks is to "trust business."  Yes, you know, like we trusted BP, Volkswagon, Enron, Exxon, and all the others who, in an effort to maximize profits, shifted costs to others. It is the nature of business to try to cut costs they have to absorb  to make a profit. On the other hand, why cut costs you impose on others, like the costs of  being anti-competitive.

Inconsistent is probably too nice a way to put it when thinking about why the anti-anti-trusters  say business should internalize all costs, even in the interests of producing better products, except when it comes to the costs imposed on the public by anticompetitive acts.

Make no mistake. These folks want to kill antitrust and their economic principles go by the boards when it comes to anticompetitive activity. Yet, don't you just know when looking for a car, house, or shirt, they want the best deal possible for themselves.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Class Bias In Sport: Academia and the NCAA

If there is better example of class bias in academia than support of any kind for the NCAAs exploitation of mainly African-American and relative poor 18-21 year olds I do not know what it is. And since most academics identify as liberals there is more than a smidgeon of hypocrisy. In fact it is the ultimate in unliberalness found on College campuses. Let's count the ways.

1. First is the wacky anti-trust matter. Although there are major cracks in the NCAAs wall of exploitation, it continues to insist that it is seller a different product (amateur sports) and increases competition. I guess if you were in the South in the 1850s and you found buyers who wanted slave-picked cotton and you joined other slave owners and agreed not to pay slaves anything you would be fine under the antitrust laws because slave-picked cotton competed with cotton picked by non slaves.  In effect, if there is a market for anything, even if it only exists through exploitation, capitalism gives it the stamp of approval. Of course, there is no real proof that there was a slave-picked cotton preference any more than there is a preference for football games played only by the exploited players, ( I am not using the knee jerk notion of exploitation but the actual official definition of exploitation -- look it up if you do not believe me). Nevertheless, at the top of the season ticket holders list you find college presidents and professors. And, many of them will even support the NCAAs right to keep on exploiting and desperately seek credit for it.

2. There is also the twisted logic. Why are football players amateurs? Because the people who hire them refuse to pay them.  Somehow it seems like being a amateur should be a choice. If you are forced to be an amateur are you still rightfully viewed as a amateur?  To me, amateur means you do not ACCEPT money. Being willing to accept money but having a club of fat cats refusing to pay hardly makes you an amateur in any meaningful sense.

3. I love this one.(not really). You have probably heard it: "They are paid. They get scholarships." Now if you really believe they are paid you are conceding that they are not amateurs. That's fine    but to be consistent you must actually mean "They are not amateurs but I oppose giving them any more money." Somehow those who make this argument run out of gas at this point. They have no argument for why the amount currently paid is enough or should not be determined by the market as it is in the case of their  own wages.

4. Frankly I am not sure where millions of dollars go from college football and basketball but I do know many college sports to not generate the revenue it takes to run them. So they are subsidized. Maybe the money does not go directly from football to the golf team but let's face it, the football money makes it easier for those sports to exist. Now let's think of some of these sports -- swimming, golf, tennis, lacrosse, etc. I am willing to bet that the kids getting those scholarships on average come from a much different socioeconomic class that the football and basketball players. Do academics have any objection to the redistribution from those less well off to those better off. If so, I have not heard a peep.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I have written so often about the racket of being law professor that I get sick of myself. Sometimes I hear myself saying "Oh just shut up!" "Oh come on" and other things.  Sometimes, though, you come across a gem of an article that sums it up in a  way you never could. In this case, it is an article by elites about elites. Here is the scaled down version as I have not been able to crack to code to get into the full article in Science.

Anyone generally familiar with behavioral economics (or has taken a decent course in law and economics not taught by an ideologue) knows about the dictator game. Basically it tests whether you are selfish or not or, in more specific terms, do you exhibit self-interested behavior as economists predict, or at least assume.

Ray Fisman, Dan Markovits and other authors varied the game a bit and applied the test to three groups -- Yale Law Students, Berkeley undergraduates, and a panel selected to represent average folks.

The test revealed two things. One was greed as opposed to fair-mindedness and the other was an interest in efficiency as opposed equality.

It will not be a surprise to anyone on a law faculty but the Yale law students and Berkeley undergraduates were far less fair-minded and greedier than the panel of regular folks. Yale law students were efficiency obsessed, even more than the Berkeley students and both were more efficiency oriented than the panel of average people.

I know if no reason the same result would not be found among students of other elite law schools. [I do have one reservation in that they do not appear to have tested law students at schools other than elite ones. This leaves open the possibility that, on average, all law students fall in the greed/efficiency category.]

Look at the law schools most law professors attended and you know the reason law schools are bastions of greed, self-promotion, self-interest, bogus conferences that are vacations, misleading resumes, demands to teach vanity courses, demands for special treatment including two day teaching schedules, truncated semesters, and extra pay for just doing the job.

It was never a mystery to anyone who thought about it but law school hiring committees fish only in the ponds of the greedy and hypocritical.

Best of all is the final part of the article that I think is wishful thinking more than anything else:
"Elites—in both parties—remain baffled by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ appeal; and they prayerfully insist that both campaigns will soon fade away. Our study suggests a different interpretation, however. These bipartisan disruptions of elite political control are no flash in the pan, or flings born of summer silliness. They are early skirmishes in a coming class war."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Oh No, Say it Ain't So Cass

When writing my article with Amy Mashburn devoted to finding empirical support for the huge investment law schools make  in legal scholarship, the silliest defense I saw was one by Richard Posner. He likened law review articles to salmon swimming upstream. As I understood it,  some turn out to make it and some don't but that's the way the cookie crumbles. If we change the process, even the good swimmer may not make it.

Of course, Salmon have no choice. Plus, when they swim upsteam making it or not making it does not depend on the rank of the school they were once in. Instead it is quality of their effort. Perhaps I have misinterpreted Posner and what he is really saying is that articles in the reviews ranking below the top 20 are just floundering salmon.

But now here comes Cass Sunstein of HARVARD and other fame writing a defense of law reviews and legal scholarship or that is what the title would lead you to believe. Before I go any further, I want to tip my hat to his courage. Can you imagine the risk of asking a law review (if he had to ask) to print an article in defense of law reviews and putting the name Cass Sunstein on the piece. That takes double balls. And it really takes courage to label the writing with which he most disagrees as  smug and anti-intellectual. (Actually he only says there is a whiff of anti-intellectualism but I could not figure out how to get that in one sentence.)

If fact, his defense is a bit puzzling. As I read it I kept thinking maybe the real Cass Sunstein, whose work I have read, learned from, and admired did not really write this. I mean it's a bit like seeing Ted Williams take a job as a carnival barker and making the points of his critics without knowing it.

Here are some of the problems.  First is the fallacy of composition. The core of his argument is the example of seven book he refers to as some of the best recent law books. These books are all based on or derived from works published in law reviews. So, therefore, we should as he puts it "praise law reviews," Really? All of them, some of them, the top 20, the fourth review of the 177th ranked law school? Why would we praise law reviews on this basis?   This is an echo of every critic of the article Mashburn and I wrote who has thought of an article that influenced something and cited it as defense of a terribly screwed up and expensive system. Not you too Cass!

Second, if we praise law reviews for containing the articles that led to the seven best books, what about the tens of  thousands of articles that law reviews published that used up the time of students and professors, destroyed a few forests, and amounted to nothing except a line on a resume?

Third and this one it a real corker. Sunstein explains how each book was the result of prior law review articles. So you are probably thinking Professor A wrote something in one year and 5 years later Professor B added to the idea and then the authors of the 7 great books wrote their books. That is what I was thinking and actually looking forward to reading.  Not quite. As best I can tell, as it turns out the books were compilations of articles and essays of the same authors.(I attempted to cut and paste the paragraph here but it only shows up as one word per line but it is the first full paragraph of page 4)  Yes, the law professor recycling issue and definitely not standing on the shoulders of those who came before.  It is not as though the law reviews were repositories of the great ideas and small treasures  that were then picked up on and extended by others in subsequent generations.   Maybe I have this all wrong. Perhaps he is just illustrating that some reviews published some articles that were good enough to be on the Sustein must read list had they been books in the first place. If so, so what?

It's like Sunstein missed the debate and then stumbled into writing a big non sequiter. Or maybe he was pranked into writing a defense by someone who did not explain the real issue.  As far as I know, no one is lobbying for the end of legal scholarship or law reviews. The important and only relevant debate is about how much is too much. On this issue, he utters not a word about the possibility that we have overshot the mark in terms of investment, nor how we could make the system more rational, merit-based or accessible.

It's not as though he has forgotten that nothing is free. In fact, he devotes a good page and half to the costs of legal scholarship and concedes that most law review articles have very few readers and very little impact. [page 10].

Since the article is a "defense" it would be nice if Sunstein had defined what needed defending -- law reviews. legal scholarship, the writing style found in most articles? Perhaps just a more accurate title would help -- "Some Law Reviews Published Some Articles that Became Books that I Think are Important." I am pretty sure that is a better title.

By not being precise his worst sin is providing all future knee jerk responders to those who question the massive investment in legal scholarship with yet another mindless "See e.g." citation with the implication that it must be true because Cass said it and the Michigan Law Review printed it.

As for the fallacy of composition, the centerpiece of his defense is the description of seven well-know books that build on prior law review articles.

Friday, September 18, 2015


Dear Dean:

I do not want to take even one second  away from all the people telling you  what we need to do to  move up, make money, be nationally recognized. attract the very highest (higher than highest) level  people, place our articles better,  and  all the other great ideas law professor have because they are, after all, the elite of the elite (except, of course for those people who are even more elite, if any). And I would less than dream of taking up the time who want to bond by kissing your  . . . . . hand.

But I  have an idea to raise serious money. I got the idea when thinking of a friend of mine who spent a bundle to name a baseball  stadium  after  his company. He is a very cool guy and the best employer in the land.

I know we have sold naming rights to everything ranging from the entire operation to the toilet paper dispensers so we cannot become the Shell Oil Law School but so far we do not have uniforms with the names of our sponsors on them -- you know, like race car drivers, soccer players, golfers.

 So here is the plan:

Everyone gets measured for button down oxford cloth dress shirts in light blue and everyone gets five. (Former employees of Blockbuster may have a surplus.) On one shoulder we have patch that says "Steve Black." On the other shoulder a patch with "Winston Smith" (who. by the way. was one of the best people I have ever met). And then, a patch on the left side of the chest that says "Sweeden and Day" and so on. So like sponsors of race cars the name can be put on our uniforms for, say, 50K a year. Perhaps we could branch out -- Dairy Queen, Domino's, etc.

Your humble entrepreneur.
Chair, Professor, Director, Associated Director, and Certificate signatory
My latest books are for sale everywhere
Here is my SSRN website
I got a cool letter from a former student which is available on request.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Law School Flash Mobs

My students surprised me today with a flash mob performance that I think was spontaneous. I asked a question and as a group they performed John Cages 4'33". You may enjoy a stirring rendition by clicking on the little underlined text just above this. It's not as good as the performance by my class which was the best I have seen.

This flash mob incident made me think of other law school flash mob performances.  We have one every month in the form of a faculty meeting. Sometimes, completely out of the blue, it will be a performance of MacBeth although the actual play is understated in terms of treachery that  often appears in faculty meetings. The characters are all there. The amazing thing is that the cast is so fluid that at one meeting the person playing Duncan may take the role of one of the witches at the next. Sometimes there are cameos by wannabe Tony Sopranos but, luckily they are neutered. Remember that whiney guy from Friends, Ross? Cameo Ross impersonations are very common and people are really good at pretending they do not just want to swat him or her.

Virtually every faculty meeting has significant elements of The Crucible but it is most pronounced when hiring or tenure and promotions decisions are discussed.  There is intense scrutiny with political philosophy being the way in which one is possessed and the goal is to do away with those possessed in the "wrong" way.

Sometimes at social gatherings everyone just starts doing the minuet.  The are dainty and respectful even of the people in whose backs they may have recently inserted a knife. The dance is something to behold.

But the best and longest lasting flash mob performance because it happens every day for at least the last ten years is a law school wide rendition of Catch 22. Yes a massive confluence of problems that cannot be solved without creating another problem that itself would require a rational response to solve but rationality is in short supply. I think this captures it best.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


My last post or at least the last I can foresee about the silly process of checking cites to determine which scholars or which schools have the greatest impact. Some of this sums up what I have said before but I could not help but notice parallels to the other areas of law.  So here are some things that make simple cite counting maybe the worse way to determine impact.

1. One of the biggest mistakes cite counters do is ignore the inter-generational transfer problem. Suppose Professor Cage, now approaching retirement, does not want to work on the treatise he started 40 years ago. He finds and eager younger person who will be listed as editor or coauthor. Since Professor Cage's treatise is the "go to" source, it is cited frequently and now, in the later editions the citations are to someone whose actual contribution, and impact if any, are unknown. There is also the reverse. The old guy gets cites based on things he never thought of.

2. You've had a book out for a few years, say in the 3d edition. The publisher wants a 4th and although you could do it, why not take on a coauthor who will spruce it up a bit and maybe add a chapter. The coauthor is now routinely cited but for what? The answer: Every word in the book regardless of their origin and impact, if any.

3. You get a contract from a publisher (Hart would be likely) and under the contract you are to round up 30 other people to write short articles (or maybe just find 30 articles that already exist or let Hart find them for you) and out comes what you will refer to as "your book" and for which you will be cited but in a manner that reflects nothing about impact, if any.

4. Cite counters tend to leave things out, like judicial cites. I was surprised to see that WestLaw now has (an maybe always has had) listings of cites in documents filed with courts. So your article about post Toasties (a previously unknown cult of marshmallow worshipers who were cooped by Peep worshipers)   is cited by an actual lawyer. The interesting thing about those mundane cites is that you can bet the citer and the opposing attorney actually looked closely at the work. [Sorry, my mistake to bring this up. I realize it is rarely about real law.]

5. Where does monopolistic competition come in?   First that refers to market in  which goods are soled with minor differences. So you write an article on "unusual" or "antitrust standing" or what ever. The next article kind of overlaps a bit, and so does the next and after writing 3 of these sort of overlapping articles that are all based on a closed universe of sources you BOOM make it into a book. You are kind of an editor of your own book of readings. Sure you do not get cited for things you did not write and, yes, maybe it means reaching a slightly different and equally indifferent  audience but somehow this seems like citations for good marketing, not good thinking.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How Many Seagulls Does it Take to Create A Pooptastrophe? Updating Counting Crows

One way to know how many crows are on a telephone wire is to count them. If fact, it may be the only objective way to know how many crows are on the wire. What do you know about the crows once counted? You know how many crows there are. Do you know if they are wonderful for people too look at? Are they tormenting some poor kitty cat? Really all you know is the number of crows. What about the impact of the crows? You would laugh if I told you that counting them tells you anything about their impact, importance, usefulness, or whatever.

In the most recent effort to rescue citation counting as a measure of the importance of legal scholarship from being completely disregarded by all but a group of people who teach law, the gang at St. Thomas has published another work that purports to measure the impact of scholarship by counting the number of citation regardless of what what a work is cited for. The jump from counting to impact is a hard one since there appears to be no separate definition of impact. In the tautological world  of citation counting, counting equals impact and impact equals counting. And, impact is reserved for citations by other legal scholars only. Citations or impact on courts (it's all the same thing to counters) is irrelevant. Your school could have 27 Supreme Court citations and 13 citations in the Bosco State Law Review and your schhool would be ranked higher in impact than a school with 0 Supreme Court citations and 14 Bosco State citations.

I thought initially that the authors were pretty good at counting but I am not so sure. For example,  if you are the editor of a book of, say, 30 articles, you (and your school)  will be cited every time one the articles is cited, regardless of your contribution, including if it was strictly administrative. If you an editor or coauthor of a prexisting treatise or book of any kind, you are cited and, thus, have had an impact whether or not you had anything to do with the material that is cited. In fact, I am beginning to think cite counting may be the worse measure of impact.

In some ways, the St. Thomas effort may reflect too much time at the counting punch bowl. First, in an effort to illustrate that scholarship does not interfere with teaching,  they cite studies showing the absence of a negative correlation between writing and teaching "quality" which is measure by -- you guessed -- student evaluations. My personal hunch is that writing does not detract from teaching but,  I wonder if they missed the numerous studies showing that teaching evaluations by students are rarely correlated with actual learning. What I took from their analysis is that writing was consistent with being a good entertainer in the classroom.

Second, as a demonstration of their objectivity they select the most recent 5 year period completely arbitrarily. As best I can tell this is done for ranking the schools as well as individual faculty. I am not sure it makes sense for ranking schools. For individual faculty, it is to reduce the impact of oldsters like me. In a sense this makes individual rankings more current although one wonders about the difference between one or two citations without regard for judicial citations or the nature of the citation -- in text, an aside etc. (This is all the less excusable since WestLaw now includes cites by scholars, judges, administrative agencies and even documents filed with courts.)

 The problem with simply counting arises more importantly when they include  new lateral hires who have written nothing or very little at their new schools. What does this mean exactly?  The only thing that it can mean is that the school that was left has less scholarly impact (but how could it?) even though every or most citations are to  works produced at that school. At the same time, the new school gets impact credit even though that particular scholar has written nothing (and may never) at the school to which the impact is now assigned -- so much for the accuracy of counting and ranking the scholarly impact of school or even its current faculty.

Since they must defend the citadel of counting,  they are obliged to take on a recent study by Amy Mashburn and myself attempting to determine not counts (which are highly correlated with where you teach, where you published, and where you went to school) but whether you were cited for anything that seemed to influence another author. I guess you might all this "actual impact" as opposed to "faith based impact" on which citation counting is based. No doubt our effort is fair game, as is any subjective effort. And, as you would also expect from legal scholarship cheerleaders (all of whom are  on the team and almost none of whom are not law teachers)  we are accused of being too conservative in our labeling. For example, if someone quoted someone else as saying "the common law is complex," we did not regard the author of that incisive statement as having a significant impact on the citing author. We were even criticized for selecting a sample composed of the articles most likely to be cited and to have an impact. That critic, who was uncomfortable with our findings, actually suggested a sample of articles that would result in a worse outcome in terms of "impact."
In our work we were particularly worried about hearsay and appeals to authority.  For example, how about this: "Citation counts objectively measure impact," with the following footnote:"See David L. Schwartz & Lee Petherbridge, The Use of Legal Scholarship by the Federal Courts of Appeals: An Empirical Study, 96 CORNELL L. REV. 1345, 1354 (2011) ( saying in study of citations of legal scholarship in court decisions, “measuring the use of legal scholarship by measuring citations in opinions has the benefit of being a fairly objective measure”); Arewa, Morris & Henderson, supra note 7, at 1011 (referring to “objective criteria such as citation counts and the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) downloads” for peer review  of faculty scholarship, although acknowledging these “are not perfect measures either”)."

This is from the St. Thomas article. In a citation count, these citations will be as important as ones noting works the authors actually grappled with. But what are we to make of these citations. Did they influence the St. Thomas authors? I doubt it. Instead it looks like an appeal to authority without any real examination of whether the "authority" is "authoritative." At also represents, unfortunately, a norm in legal scholarship and, also why it gets so little attention outside a small world. What it means is "you should believe me because I found someone who agrees with me."But who knows if they know what they were talking about?  It is, at best, a substitute for real research.  Indeed, when my coauthor and I tracked down some citations, those cited were citing a third party who also cited someone farther down the line. That amounted to a hearsay appeal to authority.

The Mashburn/Harrison work has received a fair amount of attention and, surprisingly, most of it has been favorable. (In their hearts law professors know.)  In that article we challenged defenders of counting to redo our study. The St. Thomas group did not do this opting instead to decide it cannot be right because -- well, just because. Moreover,  no one challenging our work has opted to prove we are wrong by selecting an article and indicating how each cited work was influential or did not fall in the hearsay category.

The bad news is that that the authors may be right. Citation may equal impact. If so, based on the research methods widely used by law professors, we are in even bigger trouble.

And, finally, and this time I mean it. Suppose citations do equal scholarly impact. One law professor influences another and so on. There is hardly anything useful going on unless that impact is felt somewhere outside their closed group. Unless you assess that, you have no meaningful measure of anything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What Do I Tell My Friend?

A friend of mine just took job as the head of a corporation which is owned by another corporation. The parent corporation knew its subsidiary needed help and my friend understood this. No one mislead anyone.

But when my friend arrived at the new job here is what he found:

1. Employees were responsible for the product lines to be offered and they always selected the products they personally liked  whether or not there was a market for them.

2. Some employees were paid for full time work but were, in fact, only working part time.

3. Some were paid who actually were never at work.

4. Prior management knew all this but did not address it for fear of a revolt among employees.

5. Instead the prior management was weak and made secret side payments to employees for "extra work" as defined by the employee.

6, If  prior management made any effort to address issues, the employees closed ranks and defended each other.

7. When employees feared one of there product lines might be examined they formed into bands designed to spread disinformation about management and its motives.

8. The subsidiary was consistently out of compliance with some of the basic rules of the parent corporation.

9. The corporation kept no written records.

9. It was impossible to fire anyone regardless of their lack of production.

What can he do?

Monday, August 17, 2015

How Not to Lose Your Tenured Position

[Rerun] Over on Faculty Lounge and to some extent on the Caron Tax Blog a discussion has broken out about what to do with all the old (and privileged)  folks in law teaching who are clogging up the system so all the young (and privileged) folks who want to be law teachers have a hard time getting those plum jobs. My view? I'm just happy to observe the intraclass warfare.  As the John Revolting character said to the Christian Slater character in "Broken Arrow" when he set off a small nuclear device, "Ain't it Cool."

In the course of the discussion (I'd link to it but have no idea how to link to a comment) someone made a comment like "Young or old, let's have standards and if people cannot keep up, out they go."  Orin Kerr then writes: "Can you say more about how/if you would do that in a way consistent with tenure protections? Would you say that failure to reach a minimum productivity level is "good cause" to fire a tenured professor, and if so, what kind of standard would you propose? Or would you end tenure protections first?"

 And, right there we have the issue, don't we. I like the ways he phrases it -- "good cause." I think of it as "for cause."  When we think about tenure the running joke is to lose it you have to do something really awful -- kill someone, rob a bank, sexually harass a student,  Simply punching a student is not enough. In fact that gets you a paid vacation. Being a God-awful teacher is not enough; stealing from the school is not enough. In fact, and here is my punch line:

There is nothing connected to actually doing the job or not doing it that can be a basis for dismissal.

Think of this in the context of other jobs. If you delivered mail, you could be fired for punching the boss but never ever for putting the wrong mail in the wrong box. If you were a meat inspector, you could get fired for shop-lifting from WalMart but never ever for simple stamping as OK, rotten meat that then makes 1000 people sick. A physician could be canned for getting drunk and smashing his Porsche into a pedestrian but not for performing an accidental lobotomy.

I'm thinking. What kind of job security is it that says the main thing you can never be fired for is screwing up on the job you are being paid to do? 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Laughter and Respect

I am experiencing a relatively rileless summer. Some have noted that this is correlated with the departure of side-deal dean. I tell them correlation is not causation but, on the other hand, it does not rule out causation.

But this is not really what this post is about. It is about two different things. Yes, two for one and if you call now, you will get a pocket sized fly fishing outfit. Operators are standing by.

Laughter Lately I have been thinking a lot about laughter. It's that odd hacking sound people make when they find something funny. Surely evolutionary biologists have looked into this. What is the  function of genuine laughter? Why didn't we evolve to click our teeth  or flex our toes.

An aspect that is particularly interesting is laughter inflation.  It has devalued real laughter. I am talking about social laughter which is not an involuntary reaction at all.  It's a way to recognize others, make yourself seem impressed or non threatening, or just a way of saying I am jovial, fun loving, or what ever. It is a form of signaling. So, instead of saying "Hi, I am Phil, this what I want you to think I am like," you act it out.

I notice this at faculty meetings where there is a fair amount of nervous laughter -- "yes Phil, I am getting ready to say in coded terms that you are a idiot but I am just a nice guy." See, hear me laugh --ha, snort, ha, ha!

I was on a ship the other day and seating near a group of 10 guys just getting to know each other. It was either a laugh riot or a laugh off. Everyone seemed to signal to others that they were good guys by laughing at whatever anyone said that was within a mile of being funny. I think there must have been prizes for first laugh, loudest laugh, longest laugh, and last laugh.

After several days of meals and several hours of hanging out with each other, I noticed the laughter was infrequent. Did they all use up all their jokes? Naw, after about 40 hours of eating together the personality "marking" was over. Each had done what he could to communicate why he was likable and the other had bought it or not. The "laughter" had served its purpose

I also see it with my wife. It's  never in response to anything I say but in response to someone she does not know that well. They can say,  "Do you want a nickel, go get a pickle" and the deep laugh comes on and goes on forever or maybe it just seems forever.

Now laughter is spoiled for me. Am I laughing because it is funny or is it signaling? Are you laughing because I am funny or because you are telling me something about yourself. If it is the latter, please keep it to your self or email it.

Respect: A little over two years ago I wrote a post in which I said I respect people in inverse relationship to their power, status, and income. Yes, there can be false positives and false negatives but it's a really good starting point.

One of the things that can help you spot false positives and negatives is the way people treat secretaries. This is not fool proof. Some will be sweet as can be because that is the way to get what they want. On the other hand, those who treat secretaries badly drop off my chart of people who deserve even an atom of respect. In fact, the first level of a**holes on your faculty are those who treat the secretaries in a disrespectful manner. You might be surprised about who is "outed" by the secretary treatment check list.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Is it Racist? I Do Not Know

A recent study shows that, when you hold constant for nearly everything imaginable, minority students, on average, receive lower law school grades than white students. This has some commentators , who find the study "carefully done" and compelling, wringing their hands about what can be done.

I have no doubt about the outcome of the study but the actual color of the students -- since there is blind grading -- cannot be the cause.  Unless I missed something in high school biology, there is no correlation between pigmentation alone and anything else. There is a causal factor, to be sure but, before coming up with solutions, how about putting social class into the equation or anything that can actually explain the outcome. 

 There is something going on and studies like this do make while people feel righteous but they are useless at identifying  specific remedies. Plus, as with all  averages, unless one is ready to say every minority student, even those who made high grades, suffered the same level of disadvantage, generalized findings do not lead anywhere.

 Increasingly I think white liberals want to classify deep social issues as exclusively matters of race. This means they can continue to ignore matters of class -- of which there is a great variety within races --  more generally. The reason for this is easy. Class differences, more than race differences, are responsible for their successes and we would not want the legitimacy of their success questioned, now would we?

In fact, something makes me uncomfortable about the use of race as a variable in a study about grades or scores that are blind graded. Some of that discomfort comes from the possibility of stereotyping -- minority students do worse can too easily become all minority students do worse. Or, worse yet: Since you are a minority student, you will do worse.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Commercial Monetary Policy Conference

I have been in hot water lately with most academics because I took a vacation and did not figure out a way to get my School to pay for it. Several faculty complained to the Dean. I  was so out of line, I complained about me.

Problem solved. I was checking out of the 7 room Volcano Hotel and asked if they took US dollars. They do but I did not quite have enough to cover the tab. Together the manager and I determined how many dollars and how many Iceland Krone (the coins are so cute, the have fish on them, more fish more value).

We took some time and  I realized we were having a CONFERENCE on Contract Law and International Currency. And, it was kind of a conference version of cinema verite. So I had some programs printed up and they looked like this:


July 15, 2015

Volcano Hotel  (about 10 miles west of Vik,  Iceland)

Meeting Room: Check Out Desk in Entry Area

Speakers: Jeffrey Harrison
Jeff's wife, Sarah

Papers Delivered: On the Complexity of Dividing Everything By 750.

Skype is available for those unable to attend.

Registration Fee: $500
Late Registration $300
No Registration $200.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Competition and Consumer Surplus and unSurplus

Is there another area of law so buried in an outmoded analysis as antitrust? My goodness, allocative efficiency is "wealth maximization" labeled differently. Richard Posner made a disasterous effort to claim wealth maximization was tethered to a desirable normative outcome and got clobbered for it in the early 1980s. It was not that hard since wealth maximization was cobbled together by Kaldor and Hicks in the last century to support a claim that economics could be an aid to forming public policy.  It can be, but no one has figured what it is saying.

Stranger than allocative efficiency is consumer surplus. It is the different between what you must pay for an item and the most you would have paid. The problem is "most you would have paid" is assessed before you actually pay or know the outcome.  So it is your hunch about the how happy you will be about making the purchase.

That is hardly any surplus in any rational sense. Consumer surplus should be the difference between what you paid  and the how much you valued what you actually got. A good way of showing this is the graph above. D1 is the usual one based on expectations. D2 based on the most you would have paid had you know what the experience would be like. Yes, this reflects disappointment. The curve could shift up or even stay the same. My hunch is that shifts down because sellers are so intend on raising expectations. In time the market night draw the curves closer but who knows?

As you see, the consumer surplus as traditionally described is PCA. Experienced consumer surplus is PEB. Lower, right? No  it is even lower than that.  All those who bought units Q1-Q2 actually are worse off (negative consumer surplus). That loss in consumer surplus must be substracted from PEB. So actual consumer surplus is PFDB. Yet antitrust policy is designed to push purchases out to Q1 when Q2 is actually more consistent with maximizing consumer surplus.

Of course, I am just playing around with some ideas suggested by the work of Kahneman and others on the difference between expected or decisional utility and experienced utility.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Elusive Excess Capacity on Law Faculties

Alternative Title: "I would do anything for law but I won't do that."

Yesterday I blogged that I have never heard a law professor say "great job, I am only working at 60% capacity." It was in the context of hard working law profs who seem to have unlimited time to do more but only if it means a little extra dough. If there is no extra money, they are currently  fully employed. The problem has a Catch 22 element to it. If they have extra time to pick up some extra coin then they actually do have excess capacity.  If there is no money involved, they have no excess capacity. So which is it? And, if they have excess capacity but only if there some extra money involved, how about a refund for all those years they were not working full time.

When I though about it, I realized I was wrong that they never say I am only working at 60% (which is another way of saying I am overpaid.)  I can think of three examples.

1. At my School we have the usually array of foreign programs. I think they are required to break even or make money but I am not sure that happens. But how about this argument for how to make them profitable -- staff them with people who are already on 12 month contracts. That way you do not have to incur the marginal costs usually associated with staffing those programs. But . . . .but . . . . but. Weren't those administrators already fully employed to earn their base salary plus 33%  more. Well, were they or not?  I mean if they can go away six weeks this year, could we please get a refund for all the times they did not go away because obviously they were not fully employed.

2. We run a massive externship program. It's the program where students pay the school and firms employ the students but do not pay them them. Yes, it's a pay to get to work program. To boost law school revenues someone got the bright idea to pay professors several thousand dollars to line these things up and to chat with the students from time to time. But wait, some of these folks also teach or do research in the summer. But suddenly they had excess capacity when there was a chance to pick up some more money. I am pretty sure at my school you can teach, do research, and do the externship things and get paid for all three. Plus, if another money making opportunity comes along there will be plenty of excess capacity for that.

3. From time to time law schools hire staff people for various institutes to write grant proposals and do research. That's all fine. They are full time employees. Then they propose to teach a course and it is approved and life goes on. If I teach a three hour course I devote as little as 5 hours a week to it a week and as much (I hate to admit) as many as 12. I assume these staff/teachers are the same (unless they are into asynchronous taping.) So what were they paid for before?  Weren't the fully employed. If not, will there be a refund?

Law schools seem to have unlimited excess capacity but it never appears until someone wants a side deal.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Just When I Was Losing My Rile the Side Deal Came Back

News of yet another side deal [I was going to list all the possible side deals but it would explode the internet] at my Law School came just in time. I had just about lost all my rile. It  felt pretty good not having rile but my rile rallied.

My Rile O Meter went up when I thought:  what  happened to just having a salary. For example, suppose I am making $200K a year and someone suddenly does not return in the fall and the course needs to be covered. The dean may ask me to do it. Should I be paid more? Why? Clearly, if I teach the course I will cut back on research and committee work.  Doesn't it work out? Of course, if I were not working at full capacity and am asked to teach one more course, I could do it without cutting back. That raises another issue and I do not claim to have an answer: what is full capacity for a law professor?  Is that even a relevant question?  Have you ever heard a full time professor say: what a great job. I only work at 60% capacity.

Let's say I worked at the local grocery store as a stocker. Someone does not show up in the deli that day and the manager asks me to move over to the deli. Does that person get to say, "sure but only for another $5.00 an hour." Of course not -- you cannot stock and make subs at the same time. So what is it about law professors who want to cash in anytime there is something different? 

This comes into play at my school where have the wacky program called super sabbaticals. We all get a semester off with full pay every 6th or 7th year. Or you can take a year off with half pay. There is some nominal requirement that you do scholarship. Perhaps it is more than nominal. A third possibility is a year off with full pay if you teach an extra course the year before. If you normally teach 9 hours, for that year you go to 12. A nine hour load is what you get if you claim to be doing research. Plus, the extra course can be on BOGO. Yes you can tape a course and that can be your extra course even if it is broadcast while you are in Africa and again and again.

So back to the stockers and deli.  For 9 credit hours I am a stocker and for 3 I work in the deli. Now the boss comes along and tells me if I will spend all 12 hours stocking and 0 in the deli,  I can have a year sabbatical with pay. But wait? Did I actually do anything more that I was doing? I can't teach (stock) 12 hours and do the same amount of research(deli work). How did I earn anything? If you think about it, the whole super sabbatical idea could be seen as based on the notion that everyone is underemployed.

If I had my way, faculty would be on 9 month or 12 month salaries and, aside for summer grants for truly doing something in the summer, that would be it. All this extra for this, extra for that, makes no sense.

Of course if I had my way, I would see and live that  new play Intimate Fantasies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dale Carnegie and Me

I had a beer in the early 50's with Dale Carnegie. Well not exactly. I did listen to a Teaching Company tape on American best sellers and one of the lectures was on the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's possible the lecturer read the book so it's the same thing without the beer  and without Dale. Warn water  was what Dale actually had.  As I recall,  he dipped a tea bag in it for just an instant.

I seems that Dale was all about getting your way by getting people to like you. I guess I wish we had spoken to each other before starting this blog but that is a different matter.

As I listened to Dale or  to the person on the tape who had probably read the book or who I just liked ( because he had Carnegie-likeablity) so much I did not care if he had or not, I thought about-- what else -- my job and the folks who are successful, particularly in administration. I don't mean actual successful administrators but people who move up in the administrative ranks.

Here are some of the best things I learned from Dale:“You can't win an argument. You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” [I do not think he had lawyers in mind.]  Wow is that ever true. Did you ever know a "successful" administrator who argued. It would not matter about what or which side. If you want to be an administrator, do not disagree with anyone openly because eventually that person will be called about you. Of course, Dale was mainly interested in sales and law school administrators . . . oh, that is sales too.

Dale also said,“I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument— and that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes.” Did I mention Dale tended to repeat himself. Maybe it was the tea, Maybe it was the tea.

I think the most important thing he said was "A barber lathers a man before he shaves him.” Did I say "most important? Well yes I did. If you have short term memory issue just look up one line. I think I meant to write "most unnerving."

I realized that Dean's must have read Dale's best seller and learned from it. Of course, they also benefited from the Peter Principle but the PP alone won't do it. For the PP to work, you have to be liked. People have to buy what you are selling. The PP and making yourself liked are all it takes.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


If all goes as planned, on July 1, the ninth dean of my law school teaching career will start her tenure. I don't think it is right to talk about people behind their backs so here are the names of those former deans:

1. Champagne Man
2. Smooth Operator
3. Pippy
4. Graham Cracker Lindsay
5. Little Ricky
6. Publicity Hound
7. The Can Kicker
8. Grumpus
(Number 9's name at this point is Hope.)

Only two of them were God awful. One handed out semesters off on the basis of standards that were never clear. Another was the king of side deals so much so that if you had only one side deal you were being screwed. Those two had in common a dislike for transparency and straight talk.  I suspect that there were issues of transparency with respect to all  of them but the lack of transparency was so complete that you could not even see the smoke screens. I would love to see all but the last one in the ring for an all out Texas Grudge Match.

Starting with Pippy they were mostly a jumpy lot and good examples of the Peter principle. By jumpy, I mean a really big consideration was "but what will the faculty think." That is an important consideration but at least 4 of them would have asked that before rescuing a drowning puppy.

The odd thing is that I cannot think of one of them, even the awful ones, who did not seem like a decent person. Outside of the law school environment I shared some laughs with almost all of them. Thus, I wonder if there is something inherently corrupting about being a law school dean. A good friend of mine believes that is the case. At some point even the best intentions with respect to fairness and transparency seem to fade. Put differently and more harshly, they sell out. If they had the best intentions with respect to fairness and transparency they cave in. They usually cave in to faculty demands some of the most outrageous of which will be the subject of my next blog.

Since I have only taught at two schools I do not want to generalize but maybe, rather than being flawed, deans mirror their faculties. Take the same deans, make him or her dean at a law school, if there is one, in which the crowd (to use a term another colleague used to describe the one at Uf) is not as "rough" and most of those former deans might have "different" deans.

This is a fairly tenuous theory but could it be that deans, whoever they are, are ultimately faculty mirrors. In the case of my law school, the nature of the deans changed at a point when the faculty took a turn to the nasty side. It's pretty clear that no law school can become better if the dean is simply a mirror of the faculty.

The kicker is this. If deans begin to mirror their faculties and the deans fall out of favor, isn't it really an exercise in faculty self-hatred.

Here's hoping our new dean does not become the faculty, that side deals are over, transparency restored, and that those who object move out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wasteland in the Law School Industry

Several years ago I wrote an article equating law schools to a form of regulatory capture. As in the case of a captured regulated utility, law schools seemed to be run for the benefit of the faculty -- those supposedly regulated. Think of it having shareholders stilling on a panel deciding whether the utility in which they own shares should be permitted to raise rates. It's not quite that bad of course. Ultimately someone else holds the purse strings. But the day to day use of those funds is clearly faculty not student oriented although sometimes those intersect.

I'm sure others disagree and I hope they are right -- law professors  just want what is best for the students even if it means working longer hours, taking a hit as far as teaching evaluations, giving up some pet project to pitch in for the benefit of the school, and not spending hundreds of thousands confercating.  [OK,  enough of that.]

One thing, though, that seems completely out of wack is the massive advertising budgets found at public law schools. I know some of this is for fundraising but much of it seems to be designed to make the schools seem more attractive to applicants. Some of it makes lawyer advertising look dignified by comparison.  So money is spent to find people to accept a school's subsidy. Huh!  Or students are actually paid to go to one school as opposed to another.

That seems crazy to me but lets suppose the competing schools are both state schools in the same state. In my state, the chief public law schools are UF and FSU. Other states have the same set up -- Arizona for one. It may make sense to have to have more than one  state law school in a state as large as Florida although locating them as far away as possible from where students  live and have always lived seems odd.

But now look where we are. FSU and UF draw mainly from the same pool of in-state students. Probably FIU should be in the mix as well.   I would bet that the quality of education from all three schools is equal. So whichever one the student chooses, he or she will leave in three years with the same thing. Yet, all schools spend zillions on attracting students with glossy publications, orientation programs, accepted student days, follow up phone calls and, in some cases, straight up payments.

Obviously all the money spent has nothing to do with students.  Instead about the institutions as ends. Who benefits from the spending -- not the students, not their clients, not the taxpayers. What a waste.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Pet Rocks: James and the Giant Weed Machine [embedded trivia question]

Within minutes of posting yesterday's piece making a wee bit of fun of the idea of having a program called "Law and Mindfulness," I was told that  such  a program does exist. I thought immediately of the Pet Rock or, more precisely, is this another law school marketing gimmick, a  fad, or is it something else.

First, though, this is not a rant against mindfulness although I am happy to find no one still claiming it has any connection to the ideals of Buddhistism. After all, mindfulness, as it is currently marketed, is as useful to a monk as it might be to the most materialistic money grabber or serial killer. In fact, it is the emptiness of a moral component that puts me off but that is another matter. At least an honest economist will concede the same emptiness. In fact, mindfulness and economics are made for each other -- efficiency is the goal.

Mindfulness is taught at my law school but we do not have a Center, at least at this point. But here is what I do not get. If mindfulness is good for you in terms of everything from killing on the battle field to tending to the poor, why is it part of a law school as opposed to a core course for all  students. I mean, everyone wants to do whatever they do better.  Right ?! Of course, they do!

But there are many things that can help you do whatever you do better. Perhaps, for example, a little weed "for your personal use" [imbedded trivial question] would relax you and make you more effective. I don't see any weed machines but they are much more effective than comfort dogs which we do have. How about a good night's sleep, good nutrition, exercising,

Nevertheless, if law schools are now in the business of replacing the self help magazine aisle at the local bookstore I have a few suggestions:

1. Install Weed dispensers.
2. Install sleep pods and have someone lecture on how to sleep well or, in the near future, develop a Center for Law and Sleep.
3. Basic Nutrition 101.
4. Exercise for Law Students 101
5. Proper Pet Care for Law Students 101

 I imagine a perfect law school Center with the label "YOU." Students who complete 15 hours in YOU courses get a certificate. They can then join that with 6 hours outside the law school, 6 hours of independent study, and 12 hours of pass/fail courses, and 34 hours of externships for which they are not paid but the school is (go figure).

Intimate fantasies: a four act play (and coda)

Intimate fantasies: a four act play


Dean DeSpenser: Reginald Yu
Professor Been Madov: Clifford Irving
Professor Prince Towne: Jake Oz
Professor Kennedy Armstrong: j.j. Getty
Professor Ann Colt45: Fawn Hall

In tonight's performance the role of Professor Prince Town will be played by Hank Hu.. Mr. Oz was called away to a conference in Costa Rica with the highest level people.

All scenes take place in a well furnished office at a moderate sized law school. The plaque on the Door says "Dean DeSpenser." Each scene begins with a knock on the door.

Act 1

The Dean: Yes. Come in.
Professor Colt45; Hi Dean, I see you are busy as usual. I was just telling everyone in the Lounge that you were once almost cited by the Supreme Court.
The Dean: Actually I was almost cited 300 times but go on.
Professor Colt45: I want to present the School with an opportunity to host a conference on International Patent Law and its Implications for SubSahara Africa.
The Dean: Now there's an idea.
Professor Colt 45; Only the highest level people will be there and with airfares and lodging I think I can do this for $50,000.
The Dean: Conferences! --- why didn't I think of that? In fact, several people who have not asked since they are not as , , ,  energetic as you may have great ideas for conferences. I'll get a memo out right away asking for proposals. Please include yours when you get the memo.
Professor Colt45: But Dean, suppose you get many proposals and there is not enough money for mine.
The Dean: My point exactly!. Hey, I think I hear your mother calling you.

Act 2

The Dean: Yes. Come in.
Prof Madov: Hi Dean. You are busy I see but this is really an important opportunity for the school. In fact, I was just talking to Obama and he sends his best,
The Dean: [Yawning.] My my,  you know so many people and I am so impressed. Go on.
Prof Madov: I want to offer a course in Reading the Law in Flemish. The problem is I do not know Flemish but I an eager to learn so I think the school would be happy to sponsor my Flemish lessons.
The Dean: Intriguing
Prof Madov: I've draw up a budget. $3000 round trip airfare to Holland. Room, board, etc. It all comes in at about 150,000$ not including the actual lessons.
The :Dean: Fascinating idea, Been. I am thinking there may be others who want to learn a foreign language but did not think to ask. And since we cannot fund everyone, I'll get a memo out to the faculty indicating that we will consider all proposals.
Prof Madov: But Dean some people may apply who have really bad ideas
The Dean: Thanks for that tip. Somehow I realized that already.  As soon as the memo goes out, please send your proposal.

Act 3

The Dean: Yes, Come in.
Professor Towne (walking with  a slight limb): Hi Dean, Golf game Ok? I wish I had time for golf but, you know me --- work, work, work.
The Dean:  I do not play golf. So what's up Prince?
Professor Towne: Dean, I have  used my travel allowance for the year but now how an opportunity to attend a conference in Prague on Post Modern Contract Law.
The Dean: Used it up. On what?
Professor Towne: Oh yes, I did spend some on the AALS convention. And then there was the Conference in Rio during Carnival which was on Carnival Law. I co chaired a session by Skype from my cabana,   Now this Conference has come up at the last minute and my secretary neglected to tell me about it.
The Dean: It is really important for us to attend conferences but I wonder if other people have used their funds and might want a supplement. I'll get a memo out saying we have a little extra travel money and asking others indicate if there are important conferences they might like to attend.
Professor Towne: But Dean, if they did not ask evidently they did not think it was important.
The Dean: Yes, on the other hand, Maybe they took me seriously when I said there was no extra money so didn't ask.

Act 4

The Dean: Yes, Come in.
Professor Armstrong: Hi Dean. Thought I could find you here. I just saw the Provost and he said this is a great idea to bring up with you.
The Dean: Did he say it was a great idea or that it was a great idea to bring up with me.
Professor Armstrong: Oh, good question. It is a great idea and I'd like to give the Law school a chance to get on board.
The Dean: My ears are your ears.
Professor Armstrong: Many of the student want us to begin a Center on Law and Mindfulness. I will, of course, be director to get things off to good start. And then we will need to hire a couple of junior faculty, and a secretary.
The Dean: Law and Mindfulness? [said with wonder]
Professor Armstrong: First Dean let's think about breathing. [silence for 60 seconds] Now [talking very fast and loud]. Law and Mindfulness raises issues of malpractice, licensing. and ethical issues. For example, should mindfulness be taught to a serial killer who just wants to be more effective in his work?
The Dean: Kennedy, Kennedy! Hold on, hold on! You've convinced me. And you know what? There maybe other people who can think of new Centers. Maybe we should decide among all the possibilities, not just yours. I'll get a memo out to everyone asking if they have ideas for enriching the student experience and you be sure to apply.
Professor Armstrong: But, But, Mindfulness is so important!
The Dean: Yes, Yes it is. And it will be considered. So why don't you try to relax and I'll be back to you.

Intimate Fantasies: A Coda [from an anonymous contributor]
Scene takes place in around a table in an expensively furnished restaurant. Madov, Towne, Armstrong, and Colt45 are all seated around the table in relaxed postures. The table contains the remains of meals, half-full wine glasses, and at least two empty bottles of wine. A well-dressed Waiter stands at Madov’s elbow as the scene begins.
Waiter, holding out a check folio to Madov: Here is the bill, sir. 
Madov waiving a credit card at the waiter, rudely: Here, just put it on this.
Waiter takes the card and Madov immediately ignores him. Waiter walks off stage left. 
Towne: Was it expensive?
Madov shrugging dismissively: I just charged it to the card the school lets us use for conferences.
Towne: Oh, right, of course. What was I thinking?
Colt45 interjecting loudly: But, like I was saying, DeSpenser needs to go. I’m sure he didn’t take my proposal seriously because I’m a woman! He just rejected it out of hand! It’s so blatantly sexist.
Armstrong: Oh, I entirely agree. I think he’s probably a homophobe too. Why else would he reject so progressive a suggestion as a Center on Mindfulness?
Towne firmly: You should tell everyone on the faculty. Who knows what other sentiments he secretly harbors?
Colt45 proudly: Oh, I already have!
Armstrong also proudly: And I sent an email about it to the list-serve for my entire field!
Waiter emerges from stage left, looking nervous and holding the check folio in one hand and the credit card in the other. He walks very slowly over to Madov, occasionally checking the inside of the folio.
Towne: That’s great! The whole school should know about him. I can’t believe we all voted to hire him last year.
Madov: I think we should not lose sight of how serious a threat to our academic freedom he has become. This is indefensible!
Waiter leaning over to Madov and in stage whisper: Excuse me, sir.
Madov ignoring Waiter entirely and forcefully tapping the table with his finger: I am going to write a letter to the ABA explaining how DeSpenser is prohibiting us from taking professional development courses. 
Towne: And prohibiting us from going to important conferences!
Waiter, still leaning over to Madov (stage whisper): Pardon me, sir.
Colt45 ignoring Waiter and speaking to Madov: I’ll sign that letter! Just be sure to list everything.
Armstrong also ignoring Waiter: Me too. That sounds like a great idea. 
Waiter standing up straight and in regular volume louder now: Sir.
Madov still ignoring Waiter: Maybe we can get someone to blog about it . . . 
Towne: Wonderful idea! 
Colt45: Absolutely!
Madov: After all, this is about more than just us.
Armstrong: No indeed! This is an attack on the very soul of our law school.
Colt45: On the rule of law itself, really.
Towne: The world really does need to know all about this.
Madov: Right, so I will write it up. You talk to the other faculty . . .
Waiter loudly: Sir!
Madov turning slowly to look at Waiter, with a disgusted look on his face: What? Could you not see that we were in the middle of an important conversation?
Waiter holding folio and card out to Madov in one hand: I’m sorry sir, but your card has been declined.
Freeze. Lights hold for five seconds, then down.