Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Even More Careful

One theme of this blog has been how elites want you to believe that there is give and take in the world and that life is a series of negotiations as in "we can work it out." It is a strange negotiation because they actually rarely negotiate in the sense of giving anything up. This is the result of a sense of entitlement.

In my last post I noted that one element of carefulness, with respect to oneself that is, is never taking position on the basis of principle but to wait and see which was the wind is blowing. The wind is never blowing in the direction of questioning authority. Thus, I used the example of the "I have to assume the administration knows what it is doing" in the context of a staff member being fired after decades of service. "Having to assume" is a non sequitur. Instead people choose to assume when it suits their self interest.

Here are two more elitist cop outs. The apology that goes like this: "If I hurt your feelings I apologize." This is the deniability apology. It accepts no responsibility and involves no admission of fault. Of course you have have to actually corner the elitist to get even this worthless apology. Can you hear George Bush saying "If I caused unnecessary loss of life in Iraq I am sorry." Thanks George, that really takes care of it.

And this is one I have seen more recently. Suppose someone has been turned down for tenure or does not get an article accepted at a top law review after it seemed to be definite. That someone is disappointed and the response is "I am sorry that you feel bad." Notice how surgical this is. First it is probably not true that the person is sorry. Second he or she is careful to stay miles away from actually recognizing the validity of the reason for feeling bad. How about "Getting rejected really sucks and I wish it had not happened to you." The "I am sorry that you feel bad" is a bit like someone coming upon you while you are double over with acute appendicitis and saying "I am sorry your appendix seems to be causing you discomfort."

Remember as an elite, say as little as possible, let the others to the work whenever possible, and never commit. But this leads to the question. Do law professors who have no passion really only lead half a life?

6 comments:

Lucky Jim said...

How about "Getting rejected really sucks and I wish it had not happened to you."

Of course, that response might imply that the speaker has likewise felt the sting of rejection, and admitting to such defeat is something that no bona fide elite would ever do.

monicagtr said...

Professor Harrison,
As a 1L, I've read your blog since stumbling upon it in the fall, when I had you for Contracts (loved the course). I'm interested to read what your perspective on the student's role in law school academic administration matters should be, because the University has just requested student input on the upcoming contract renewal evaluation of the dean. What kind of input should I be able to give at this point--how do I as a student evaluate the quality of a law school dean, not being privy to most inter-faculty disputes? Certainly I care about the school's ranking (accurate or no), the availability of classes, the quality of teaching (so far so good for the most part of year one)...do I attribute any criticism of the law school itself to the dean? How do I as a student evaluate a dean's performance?
Thanks for any input.

Jeff Harrison said...

That's tough. There is no bright line that defines a dean's responsibility and very few things would be visible to students. I suppose there is a distinction between "administering" the school and the actually teaching research. On the administration side the dean is ultimately responsible for scheduling classes, making sure important classes are staffed, registration and enrollment issues, the condition of classrooms, lighting, library hours and conditions, placement services and things like that. Deans tend to play a big roll in orientation as well. When you get to things like poor teaching or professor unavailability, I sense is that unless it is symptomatic of the institution, the dean is really not involved. I am not sure how a student can assess these thing expecially a IL. Good luck

monicagtr said...

Thank you!

The Mouse Who Roars said...

What a great blog! I like the aggressively clunky title. Could I put a link to your blog from my blog? Anyway, I just want to say what about the division that arises when the "academic lawyer" profs tell some students they ought to think about academics. Ought I to feel as abashed as I do that no one has suggested this to me? And I say this in good part, quotation marks and all, because I adore my academic profs. I just felt when I heard this as though we had already come to that path in the yellow wood and passed it by and no one bothered to mention it to me. Re: passion. Of course, but those leading only half a life never know it.

Jeff Harrison said...

Please feel free to cross link. Thanks for the comment. Oh. . and be careful. Jeff