If you have been following the law school news you know about the events at UT Law School leading to the "resignation" of the dean. Seems he was paying some people more than others and then not exactly being direct about what was up. My particular favorite is the forgivable loans. Yes, a loan that you do not have to pay back
Saturday, December 10, 2011
If you have been following the law school news you know about the events at UT Law School leading to the "resignation" of the dean. Seems he was paying some people more than others and then not exactly being direct about what was up. My particular favorite is the forgivable loans. Yes, a loan that you do not have to pay back
Friday, December 02, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Here is an example of what mean. John Lombardi, the topic of the article, is now President of Louisiana or something like that. His activity at Uf sounds like making people comfortable who made him comfortable. I believe at the time he was in the process of being tossed out, I read that he was making sure the University department to which he was headed was especially well-funded. Ironically, one of last significant acts was to appoint an acting dean at UF Law who, again this is hearsay, while in that post, transferred funding from faculty slots to the unit to which he would return. If true, this is the administrative version of apples not falling far from the tree. The interesting thing to me is that this is all evidently viewed as part of the business. Lombardi, as I noted, ended up being sought after for other administrative posts and his acting Dean pal is revered in some circles.
So the self dealing stops short of writing yourself a check. On the other hand, it is putting your comfort and the security of your post ahead of the overall interests of the institution. Or it might mean, as I think it does a UF, supporting a program in which one has a deep personal interest. It is a form or shirking. That is, unless there is a consistent coincidence that what is good for administrators is good for the institution.
Is it unfair to compare this characteristic of Universities to Enron? Of course it is -- to Enron that is. At least in the case of Enron, there is some chance of discovery, auditing and shareholder action. In a public university these activities, with the help of University counsel, the "not technically a lie" culture, an aversion to transparency and rules that are created on the spot can persist indefinitely.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Somewhere in all of this goes the "new rule" strategy. That is, an administrator is caught at best just being incompetent or at worst playing favorites. When asked about it, the administration announces the new rule that applies in that situation that no actually knows about.
The worse instance of this came several years ago and involved the worst dean. After a year or two, people began to notice that without any explanations the teaching loads varied. Repeated requests for information went unanswered until the dean said the leaves were research leaves. We already had a sabbatical program so it was puzzling. When pressed about how one applied. . . well, there was no actual procedure. Asked about how the program had operated, there were no answers. Evidently we had a research leave program known only to the Dean and his buds.
My school has a policy that full teaching load is 12 hours but you can request 9 hours if you more or less promise to do research. Most people ask for and get the 9 hour load. Very recently, though, some even lower loads popped up. So, again, a request goes down to the office for an explanation of how one teaches less that a nine hour load. After an extended delay the answer comes that the 8 hour load is a result of the policy that if you teach a 10 hour load you get a 8 hour load the next semester or will teach 10 hours in the future. The problem is that none of the people with the light loads taught 10 hours and many people who have taught 10 hour loads have never heard of their entitlement to the lower load the next semester.
Here is the part that takes the cake. The administrator who announced the rule could not say whether it had ever been applied in the past. Huh?? I think I know why -- there was no rule until one had to be created to explain what made no sense.
Was Enron any less arrogant?
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I appreciate the opportunity to write about capture and the self-dealing in legal education. There is one part of the system that I have not addressed directly. Every law school, or so I believe, has faculty members who know better and who are productive enough to have the legitimacy to influence their colleagues to put self interest aside and behave more ethically. By ethical I mean, as Dale Whitman has defined it, “[doing] the right thing even when it is contrary to our perceived self-interest.”
If there are excellent and potentially influential people at every school who know better, how does capture persist? I have already noted that lack of objective standards, weak deans, and appeals to “civility” play a role. Still, why don’t productive scholars and teachers overcome the inertia at their schools? I think a combination of two factors contribute to what is ultimately an institutional shirking problem.
First, being excellent as a scholar and teacher is not the same as having a backbone or any sense of obligation to anyone other than oneself. I believe this is called the independent contractor mentality. Law schools are full of them. You know them and you may be one of them. They go to a class visitation and privately concede that the person they observed was terrible but when their report appears the candidate was “a terrific teacher.” Or, they privately reveal that they read a tenure piece and it was not very good. Then at the tenure and promotion meeting they are silent. Or, they are appointed to a committee to assess the value of various pet programs. Privately they express concern that a great law school is not built by creating multiple tangential programs that have little value and reduce scholarship. But when it is time to actually have an impact, they are most likely to be found hiding under a desk.The world is full of brilliant and gutless people, but it is just possible that legal education attracts them in disproportionate numbers.
Second, speaking out at a school that has not already internalized a common commitment to excellence is met with sanctions. So even if the productive and potentially influential person has some sense of obligation other than to him or herself, there may be a price to pay. (Of course, isn’t the baseline measure of ethical conduct the willingness to pay that price?) One is the threat that the faculty member will be described as “not a good colleague” when higher-ranked schools express interest. This has always been the black ball for decanal candidates, but it seems to be the black ball for faculty hires as well. The result is very “careful” people. In fact, good advice for an ambitious scholar is to avoid controversy – even if on the side of righting an injustice – at any cost. The second sanction is internal social exclusion.
The productive but weak must respond to these sanctions or forget about moving up or being invited to the latest faculty cocktail party. Many professors I have observed who could have influence just cannot do it when anything is on the line that may get in the way of personal, professional and social ambitions.
There is an ironic twist to this. If a higher-ranked school actually is thinking about hiring a promising scholar or a dean, what are they getting if the candidate has pleased or even attempted to please everyone at his or her captured, mediocre, self-dealing, and underachieving school?
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Now to the legal staffs. If you are hired by a corporation the corporation is your client. Ideally, like any client, you advice them about what is legal, illegal, risky, etc. And then if they get in trouble you advocate, within the bounds of ethical standards, the position that benefits the corporation meaning the shareholders. The key is that it is not about the individuals. When someone in the organization is in trouble there should be a decision about how can the staff best serve the client and not the individual. The problem is that it is the individuals who can hire and fire the legal staff. It may be fine for an individual client to shop around for an attorney but a corporation has to depend on others to do that.
Universities have the same untenable arrangement. The client is the institution, not the President, the Provost or the Dean. My sense is that the arrangement holds up pretty well before decisions are made. For example, a President may ask about a proposed program and the legal consequences.
Where is falls apart is when there is trouble. Instinctively the staff decides it must serve those who are in trouble without first asking, "What is best for the client." One of best indications of this, possibly unethical, tendency is how quickly a Dean will call the University's legal staff when he or she has screwed up. The idea that the staff should weight its obligations to its client, the University, when discussing an individuals dean's screw up is out the window. There appears to be no stepping back and saying "if we successfully defend what you have done will the client actually be better off." Again, the university counsel who declines to respond to the individual because it is not in the interest of the institution is also failing to respond to the person who can hire or fire them.
Yes, they are caught between a rock and a hard place and I have yet to know of one who has put the interests of the institution ahead of an individual administrator's cry for help. For the basic practitioner, adhering to ethical standards may mean losing a client. For University counsel it may mean losing a job which is part of a different career path thus also meaning the career path is blocked.
This all portrays University counsel as victim and that would be unfair. They can also aid in the desire to avoid transparency and the "not technically a lie" culture. Two quick examples:
1. A year or so ago at my schools a faculty member assaulted a student by shoving him. The punishment was one week suspension with pay during a holiday. Aside from looking for 14 students I could shove in order to get a semester off with pay, I was curious about University policy on physical altercations involving faculty. Repeated requests to University counsel finally resulted in the "why don't we meet and talk about it." Obviously no policy was to be written down and no one actually claimed to know anything about a policy.
2. Sometime ago the University issued a warning about using one's University affiliation to promote an idea. The idea, as I understood it, is avoid the implication that the University has a position. I wondered, how can this be the rule when law professors write briefs using University funding and identifying themselves as part of the university and invariable those briefs represent their personal views. So, I asked. "Difficult question," was the answer. "We'll look into it."
The point is that the University legal staff is in a tough position but they are part and parcel of the cover ups. Anyone who thinks the ill fated moves or lack of them at Penn State all took place without University Counsels' involvement at some level is more than likely in for a surprise. They are important cogs in the Enronification.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
1. Statement in Email to faculty: "Professor X will be unable to participate in our foreign program in Spain." Actually story, the person writing the memo (Professor Y) did not want to go to the summer program he was scheduled to participate it. It is more desirable that Professor X's assignment. So, Professor Y asked Professor X not to go to his initial assignment but to take his place.
The straight answer: At my request Professor X is now going to take over the summer teaching I had assigned to myself.
2. As I understand it an email exchange with Kyle Cavanaugh who is at Duke now. Here he was generally explaining how the grievance process works to a potential grievence filer. Just to set this up, one of the procedures we have at UF requires you to grieve to the Provost -- not the real provost but Dr. No. That decision can be appealed to the provost and if you do not like it you can pay for an arbitratio, The President can then decide whether to accept the impartial arbitrator's decision or not. I know what you are thinking but it is true -- after arbitration the President can decide. Kyle explains all this the interaction continues:
Q: After the President decides can you then appeal to the courts?
Kyle: At that point the is process over
Q; Yes I see that there is nothing else to do at the university level but can it be appealed to a court.
Kyle: At that point procedure is over.
Now think about this one. Why do this? The answer is yes or no and if Kyle does not know he can say do. It's just being an ass. In this case the questioner found out in about a minute and quickly emailed Kyle back that "yes," one can then appeal to the District Court. This way Kyle could be sure to "help" others who ask.
I concede I may have some of the exact wording wrong and Kyle did not lie just displayed the arrogance and hunker down mentality of a company man when it did not help the company.
The straight answer. "I do not know." or "I will not tell you."
3. Letter to Law School administrator: I noticed that you dropped course X from the spring schedule. Most of the 50 students who would have signed up for that class will now sign up for my course even though they would prefer the one originally schedule and we have someone who wants to teach it.
Finally an answer: Let's make and appointment and talk about it.
Response of questioner: Would it just be possible to explain in an email the rationale for dropping the course?"
The straight answer: "the truth is I . . . .
So, it may be deliberately misleading as in example one, sleazy as in example two, or just the paranoia of people who are afraid to just write it down.
I am willing to bet that all of this happens at Penn State and Enron. It represents the mentality that helps explain why institutions go off the rails.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
1. The struggle against transparency.
2. Self Dealing.
3. A captive legal staff.
4. The "not technically a lie" culture.
5. No real rules.
I will discuss one in each entry. The struggle against transparency is part of the believe that information is power. Universities fight to avoid disclosures. One of my own experiences with this was a request to an administrator at my school, per University instructions, for the documents I wanted. I was told that I had to make the request to a different University official. I did. After weeks of waiting I contacted the official who told me the request was actually forwarded o the administrator I had asked in the first place. Eventually, weeks after asking, I received a partial request. That is minor matter but at the other end of the struggle against transparency is lying to a grand jury. Take a look at the two Penn State officials who are accused of doing that. Are their backgrounds and educations any different than those holding similar posts at your school. Are you sure. But for the randomness of life they could have been Enron officials. You may say they were involved in a cover up while avoiding a documents request is not a cover up. Well, the best cover up is to make sure the information never gets out in the first place. Many university officials just can't stand the fact that what they do is your business, not theirs. When they keep the information to themselves they are stealing what belongs to you.
There are other version of the transparency issue including the refusal to write things down --"come down and we can talk about it"-- and not technically a lie. More on those later.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
So what about law school cheating. There are many ways it occurs:
1. Favoring or disfavoring students.
2. Not honestly evaluating scholarship for tenure and promotion purposes.
3. Not honestly reviewing the teaching of tenure candidates.
4. Being influenced in hiring because there are friends or spouses involved or the candidates attended a specific set of schools.
My law school has done all that can be done with respect to number 1. Grading is anonymous and professors are not permitted to teach relatives or the equivalent. The last part of this was not always true and for many years the School dealt with the discomfort of parents teaching their children.
My school and I suspect most others have done miserably with respect to cheating in forms 2-4. The problem is that there is no "security staff" that observes without being influenced by personal connections. This is not to say the personality is irrelevant but scholarship, teaching, and hiring should be independent of personal connections. This would be the law school version of the cameras.
Could law schools get a little closer to the ideal. Suppose all articles from a group of schools were submitted to a panel of scholars. Each piece would be anonymous and the evaluators would assess several pieces and each piece would be reviewed by several scholars. A ranking would be provided to the schools involved as well as an absolute score. Teaching is a bit harder partly because the occasional pre-announced class visitation is so full of holes as a valid form of evaluation. It is close to silly because virtually anyone can do a decent job for a few days and faculty visitors would rather do the stair machine than actually put in writing anything that is negative.
One big step in hiring is not to hire into a specific department anyone who is closely related to a current faculty member. That would reduce some of the temptation. When the hiring of the trailing spouse is in a different department, it should occur only after an national search and an audit of the search procedure.
Law schools are not casinos but are affected by cheaters. They are way behind casinos in efforts to curb cheating. Maybe they just do not want to.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
This just raises the question of why deans will sometimes fight so hard to keep people by giving into their demands. For example, "give my spouse a job or I will leave" or "I must teach X or I will leave." Even assuming these are not idle threats I can think of only two reason to cave in -- the person teaches a course for which it is hard to find teachers (this makes them a bit less fungible) or the transaction costs of finding the replacement exceeds the cost of granting whatever is demanded. Let's face it, someone with an actual better offer is going to leave anyway. Those who make demands based on the threat of leaving have, at best, a marginally better offer.
Coming to grips with one's ease of replacement is not easy. On the other hand, it does make you take yourself a little less seriously. For a law prof that is not a small improvement.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I was pretty happy to see that over on PrawfsBlawg, Howard Wasserman wrote a comment on my New Cronyism post (scroll two down) and it was followed by several – too many to read – comments. One thing is certain; there is no class warfare in law teaching. The privileged won long ago and many rushed to defend the stacked deck in the form of a practice that means privileged people help other privileged people cut in line when it comes to jobs. Make no mistake. This is not like a pal letting you cut in line for a theater ticket that will not be sold out anyway. No, these pals let significant others cut in line and there are not enough tickets. Every job claimed under the cronyism system is unavailable to someone else.
Among the comments was a fair amount of defensiveness by those for whom cronyism worked. That is to be expected. Some of the logic of the arguments, thought, left me worried about what goes on in teaching students how to think. And, of course, there is the infinite capacity to rationalize which I suppose we all put to good or ill use from time to time.
For example, the fact that partner hiring does not always work to mean more privilege for the privileged does not mean my general point is wrong. Second, the fact that someone got a job for a partner and it worked out fine or the University is pretty darn happy is silly. Surely every law professor knows and understands the notion of opportunity costs. With this type of thinking if you buy a car without shopping around you would also conclude – for no reason in particular – that you bought the best car.
Some folks seem rattled by my notion that law professors were pretty much fungible and, thus, any school that caves into the leverage of “if you want to hire me you must find a job for my partner” is taking the bait. Perhaps fungible is the wrong word to use here but it never ceases to amaze me at how quickly a school gets over the departure of someone and how little lasting effect there is of not hiring someone in the first place. I know it is hard to come to grips with the fact that you are not as big a shot as you thought but let's be real about the number of people who could do our jobs. I’ll stick to my position on this. Nevertheless, even if profs were not replaceable, fungible, whatever, you would have to balance that against the downside of not even looking at people who may be better than the trailer.
And, then there was something like “We we did not consider these people we would be limiting our choices.” WTF. I am not talking about not hiring married people. No it’s a matter of not hiring based on to whom they are married. If you put a thumb on the scale because a candidate is a partner of someone you want, you are already limiting your choices
Somewhere in all of the comments there was a sense of entitlement -- but we can't both get jobs if a school will not hire a couple. I hardly know what to say. You are both adults with more educations than 90% of the out of work people in the USA. Get a real job.
The most baffling thing is the lack of discussion of what is actually going on. Suppose a candidate comes along whom people thing is hot stuff and she has a spouse that would not have been looked at. Then suppose the “hire my partner” chip is played. If the partner is hired it is simply a higher salary for the wanted spouse. Antitrust experts will recognize this as just a form of tying and really all the benefits in the form of a job for the not-really-wanted partner can be attributed to the wanted spouse.
Is there really any difference between the "hire my partner" demand and a demand for a higher salary? Please don’t say it is because the spouse is doing something. As long as he or she would not have been hired in a completely anonymous process, the subsidy exists. For example, a hot candidate could say “I’ll come for 20K more” or “I'll come at the offered salary but my partner, who does not work, would like 20K for spending money” or "I'll come if my partner gets to cutin line for a job in legal writing or in the Spanish department." In contracts, I think that is consideration, there is nothing illusory about it, and it is a result of what the hot shot offers, not her partner. Next we may have the (single) hot property saying. "I’ll come for the lower salary but your next hire must be a single person about my age of whom I approve for a possible dating relationship." Ultimately, if they both would not have been hired on their individual merits, there is a subsidy. If I were a hot shot I would say I needed both a good salary and a really cool dog.
My point that seemed to be lost on many is that the system is rigged. It’s a cousin of legacy admissions to elite schools. The rigging is pervasive in America and the class version of it has long escaped the attention of law school (and you know why).
I conceded in my original post that I prefer not to have partnership faculty. I’ve seen it work OK and I have seen it be very divisive. If you have a couple and they both bubble up in an anonymous process and you also have 2 candidates who are their equal but not partners, I prefer the latter. If one or both are untenured, I feel even stronger. Why would the greater probability of greater diversity be less favored? This, though, is a different matter than a system of hiring that is rigged in so many ways it could pass for a the Santa Maria (and it is even older.)
Thursday, October 06, 2011
The whole matter is an indictment of people in my profession. We have known about this and participated at least by our silence for years. On the other hand, I have yet to hear of a faculty member badgering the dean to hire more of our own grads or admit more transfer students or offer more bar oriented courses. Unless I am missing something, most faculty would like the School to be ranked higher but are not losing sleep about it. After all, a higher ranking does not mean we are doing a better job and a lower one does not mean are students are less prepared.
Yes, most of us have stood by but my impression is that the vocal supporters of doing what ever is necessary are alums. I have heard that at my School, if we drop in the rankings, the alums have fits. I am not sure whether it is because we compete with FSU and they are terrified we could drop behind them in the US News and World Report "rankings" or because they somehow think that the education they had here is of lower quality if we drop. I am also not sure why we don't ignore them. Perhaps because we want their money. On the other hand, if they are serious about action and not whining, they could hire a few more or our graduates at better salaries.
Ultimately, though, when a public school begins hawking its products or programs like pajama jeans (Just saw them in an infomercial last night) an misrepresenting its outcomes, it's not much different than the government paying $16 for a muffin or $200 for a toilet seat. It stinks.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
"About half of U.S. states no longer require civics classes, she said. She contrasted that fact with the requirement that new citizens pass a written exam about government.
"Our high school graduates cannot pass that test," she said. "I mean, it's appalling we make some stranger pass it but we don't require it of our own children.""
So here is the deal. If you are a naturalized citizen, you are a stranger -- not one of "our children." That is, if you were born here and had no choice but to be an American, you are one of us. If you chose to come here, did a crap job for years, learned some English, and passed an exam you are a stranger.
Sandra's (people delight in being in the realm of those permitted to say Sandra.) classism and entitlement tendencies are showing. There are those of us born to be on the inside and then there are strangers -- the little people who work in her yard, no doubt
Sunday, September 11, 2011
It's ironic that UF rolls out the red carpet for her. Her shock at the possibility that Gore would win Florida in 2000 election is well documented. Bush v. Gore was easily one of the Modern Court's most unprincipled decision and she telegraphed her vote before she heard the arguments. It was a vote that essentially said we are terrified of knowing how Florida actually voted.
Then we had the the Bush wars, the war on the environment, Supreme Court appointments that turn back the clock, and the economic melt down that seems never to stop. The whole thing illustrates how we grovel around high placed people even when they tell us their ideology trumps our fundamental rights. People always complain that law schools are populated by liberals. They are right but, as the O'Connor visits illustrate, they are elitist liberals without an ounce of conviction.
The 2000 election also makes me think of the Florida Nadar voters whose little snit made it close enough that any of this mattered.
Friday, September 09, 2011
One of my facebook friends, Babara Burke, wrote the following dead solid perfect post:
The NYLJ reports that Suffolk City has depleted its 18-B attorney funds. Adequate representation to the indigent, welfare for lawyers, call it what you will but it provides a needed service in the county. Perhaps, my alma mater the only law school in Suffolk will see this as the impetus to awake from its complacency, and channel its own funds into creating a post-graduate grant program for those wanting to assist the poor. I'm thinking one Prof's trip to Brisbane can pay a year's salary.This makes me thing of all the upside down priorities in which law schools are involved. Conferences and foreign travel are good examples. I can read much faster than I can listen. And, people can read what I write (if they care to) much faster than I can say it. Mostly at conferences you see people preaching to the choir, showing off, goofing off, or hanging with pals. A huge portion are trolling around looking to relocate. I'd make an exception for the recruiting conference which does seem like a good way to see many candidates. On the other hand, why send more than 3 or 4 people?
I'll pass on some of the ways my own school has chosen to spend money but there are some doozies. So many seem to exist because no one has the balls to actually say "Why are we doing this." They don't ask this because we know the answer: We do it because someone on the faculty wants to and will have a tantrum if anyone questions the program. As far as I know, like most schools, no program has ever been discontinued. Is it really possible that we got it right every time? I am not sure I have met a law professor who fully understands and has the courage to act on the notion of opportunity costs.
We used to have ridiculously expensive retreats. We'd go to the beach at the School's expense, eat, drink and talk about nothing. I once asked to have the cost of my attendance contributed the county we are in because it could not afford school books. I was looked at like I truly had lost my mind. Turning down a free trip to the beach? Thank goodness we now have a dean who has retreats at school with sandwiches for lunch.
To bad every law school can not start over -- add courses when absolutely necessary, reevaluate all tenured faculty, and only add programs when disinterested people say so.
Monday, August 22, 2011
But Brian Leiter takes the cake in this prissing contest. Evidently he is deeply offended and, thus, has launched an extended ad hominen attack on poor timid Mr. Scam-man. Oh, my goodness! For example, according to Mr. Leiter, Mr Scam-man is "notorious in the legal academy." Ouch, now that is big. It's about as important in the scheme of things as being notorious in a Denny's kitchen. And he notes of Mr. Scam-man's accusations, which admittedly are exaggerated, " "None of this warrants the absurdly offensive description of American legal education as a "'scam.'" When was Mr. Leiter appointed the protector of the virtue of American Legal Education. Where was he when Hester needed him? And then, we find that Mr. Scam-man is a "failed academic." I have never actually followed the logic that a "failed academic," even if that is true, cannot observe and report on what he sees. But, if Mr. Scam-man is a failed academic and his record is the standard, he joins 95% of the other law professors who few people know and even fewer people give a rat's ass about what they write or say.
And now a personal note. I really want a comment on this post. And this comment must say this: "Jeff, you've been duped. This was all Performance Art." I really want to believe this because if it is not true, Mr. Scam-man has only scratched the surface and everyone in on this kerfuffle, including me, needs to be spanked just enough to get the priss out.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
What follows in quotations is part of a letter to the NYTimes from Rick Matasar. The bracketed parts are my own comments. You may recall that Rick was more or less the target of an article in the Times last week. I am not picking on Rick because any dean I have known could have written this. And, for the record, after weeks of pounding on law schools it's clear that someone at the Times has a son or daughter who cannot get a job or into law school. Still the inability of Law Schools and their representatives to stop selling their stories continues." In my 11 years at New York Law School, which was highlighted in the article, the first-time bar exam passage rate improved to as high as 93 percent." [As high as 93 percent? What does this mean? Most likely that one time it reached 93%. As soon as I see "as high as" I know I am reading something that is biased or intended to make me believe something other than what is most relevant. For example "as high as 30 miles a gallon" or "as high as 50% off"]
"We have built an acclaimed student-centered facility and have instituted a practice-based curriculum, specialized research centers and an intensive first-year skills program." [I am sure that most other deans would claim to be in the process of doing the same. So does that mean the employment rate is higher?]
"Of 10 private metro New York City law schools, our tuition is lower than all but four." We have a flat-rate tuition and guarantee that the price won’t go up while a student is enrolled. [O.K. If my math is right, if there are ten and 4 four are less expensive, this puts you pretty much in the middle. Why say "all but" 4?
"In its rankings of law schools, U.S. News and World Report publishes median salaries for graduates, but those figures are nearly two years old. We give our students current, detailed job and salary information." [This one puzzles me. Students apply in the fall or early spring of the year they are admitted. Are they provided the data from the class that graduated 5 months earlier? Maybe, but why not say that. By the time the applicants begin school, the only statistics the schools themselves could have are a year old. But here he says the USNews numbers are "nearly two years old." What is nearly? I think that means less than 2 years old. How different can that be from the USNews data?
Some weeks ago on this blog, I wrote about the "not technically a lie" culture that exists at law schools. The idea is to tell the truth technically but to lead the reader to believe something that is not quite right. Rick's comments are so mild that I am not sure they fit into the "not technically a lie" examples I discussed in that post but they are representative of a culture and, to some extent, a profession, that has earned the distrust of most people.
Again, as I said before, I think Rick was a pretty good dean. (Since I wrote that some of my colleagues have let me know they disagree.) These comments are, in fact, just standard fare. On the other hand, wouldn't you love to take the deposition of one of these people? Makes me want to shove someone.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I had a number of thoughts. Nancy Grace continues to wave a red flag in front of people already upset about the Casey Anthony verdict and she is making a bundle for herself and the network doing it. She may just push it hard enough that she gets someone killed. I am certain that she has already pushed it enough that there will be funds spent to keeping Casey safe. In short, Nancy is exploiting listeners for her own gain and you and I will pay the bill for the consequences. If you think about it, Nancy is asking me and you to subsidize her money-making efforts.
Why isn't Nancy like a polluting factory that is required to clean up or pay for the area it has polluted. I am all for Nancy speaking her mind and as long as she makes money doing it I am sure her shameless sponsors will be for it too. I'd just like Nancy to be around to clean up the mess when the dust settles.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
"Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?[Long pause]
the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
"Bobby": In the garden.
the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
"Bobby": Spring and summer.
the Gardener: Yes.
"Bobby: Then fall and winter
the Gardener: Yes.
Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
the Gardener: Hmm!
"Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.
Benjamin Rand applauds.
"Bobby": I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.
People assumed he was special. A terrific little book -- The Drunkard's Walk (math talk for randomness) -- discusses the way that through luck people who are no more talented thousands of others become stars. And once they have that luck the assumption of expertise follows.
So, since somehow he has achieved a reputation as a genius, everything he says is interpreted to reinforce those expections.
That was alll supposed to be absurd but now with a few of today's politicians, the absurd has become the new normal.
Friday, July 08, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I think everyone has seen the movie The Matrix.If you have not, it portrays the battle between being "real" and feeling good. In effect, machines have taken over the world and cultivate humans as an energy source. They--the humans--actually grow in really yummy looking little pods. They are content because whatever consciousness they have is simply the result of a computerized reality.
Some bothersome Moneylaw-type humans are actually fighting for real reality even though it means some unhappiness. In the movie, the evil forces are those who want to perpetuate the sense of well-being. Thus, the movie assumes, counter to what the current demand for mood-altering drugs indicates, that we are instinctively on the side of those who fight for the real reality. The movie skips over a question that philosophers have addressed one way or another for centuries. Are we actually on the side of the real? Descartes saw the issue as whether our consciousness is imposed by some outside force or the result of our free will. The idea is reflected in Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia when he asks whether we would willingly enter an experience machine. In the machine everything is dandy, and you do not recall that you opted into the machine. Nozick makes the case that there are reasons for not entering the machine.
Most law professors seem to crave the painlessness of the Matrix. In terms of the experience machine, it amounts to a preference for sensing that one is part of a productive endeavor over actually being part of a productive endeavor.Having gone through the contortions necessary to change perceptions of themselves, their schools and programs, they then begin to take satisfaction from those appearances as though they were real. In terms of the film, it is comparable to constructing the Matrix or Nozick's experience machine and then happily jumping in. The pull is irresistible to many. Indeed, the unhappiest people I have known in the academic world are those who are unable to suspend their disbelief sufficiently to enjoy the illusion.
Some features of the Matrix are:
1. A new professor is asked to write an article for a symposium by a senior colleague. The article is called "peer-reviewed” because no law review students were involved. The article comes out and the senior colleague publicly congratulates the new professor and reviews the article for tenure purposes.
2. A faculty member goes all out to be appealing to the students. Assignments are modest, demands in class low and there is plenty of outside of class mingling. The professor's teaching evaluations are very high and he concludes that he is an "effective teacher."
3. A new course is proposed and the faculty considers whether it is a 3 or 4 credit course. One argument in favor of labeling it a 4 credit course is that it could then be regarded as a full assignment for the faculty member teaching it.
4. A popular faculty member is proposed for tenure. His teaching evaluations are good to average. His volume of scholarship is high. In the file is a negative letter from a national expert asserting, correctly, that 30% of the candidate's work is recycled from earlier work. After twenty minutes of laudatory commentary at the tenure review meeting, nothing is said about the negative letter and its claim.
5. Another popular candidate is proposed for tenure. She, her husband, and their children are regulars at faculty social events. Dinner at her house is always fun. Her teaching evaluations are average and class visits reveal that she is, at best, an average teacher. In addition, even though she has met the numerical requirements for number of articles to be granted tenure, most of her writing came in the last year. Both of her last two articles--one of which was a fifteen-page symposium piece she submitted at the request of a friend--were in manuscript form when evaluated. The tenure vote is positive.
6. A faculty member travels to Italy where he has family members. He proposes starting a summer program in Italy. None of the students at your school speak Italian, your state has little trade with Italy, and United States law would be taught at the summer school. At least two other faculty would travel to Italy, at the school's expense, in order to do the teaching. The program is approved by the faculty.
7. Your faculty teaches twelve credit hours per academic year. This translates into six sixty-minute teaching hours per week. A faculty committee proposes reducing the teaching load to nine credit hours per academic year and reducing the class period to fifty minutes. An acceptable basis for reducing the class period is "We would still comply with accreditation requirements. "
8.In the course of arguing for a candidate a faculty member who knows the candidate expresses pleasant surprise that the candidate has been considered by the appointments committee. "What a wonderful coincidence." In the file that has been distributed there is a long letter from the candidate to that faculty member discussing the faculty member’s extended efforts to convince the appointments committee to recruit the candidate.
8. You have read this list and decide none of this has happened at your school.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Take one or two slices of bread. I personally like one thick slice.
Toast it or not, it's up to you.
Spread it with butter, margarine or one of the low cholesterol spreads.
Now sprinkle all over it dry roasted sunflower seed kernels. Lots of them! They stick nicely to the spread. I getting hungry just thinking about this.
Finally, jam, jelly, honey or what ever you like on top. If can skip the underlying spread and the jam and just use Nutella and put the sunflower seed kernels on top. Probably you should work your way up to this.
A wonderful breakfast that will supercharge you for the day.
Nutty and sweet -- just like my favorite people.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Can a film be cause for celebration? Most, including me, would say no. If so, I challenge them to rethink their position after seeing Fast Five. It aims exclusively at the sophisiticated viewer and dares him or her to think about what a medium that has lost its way can be. The film is moving, inspiring, and likely to cause some to drive really fast when leaving the theatre. Directed by Justin Lin of "Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift" and written by veteran Chris Morgan, their effort is not simply award worthy, it is a life altering experience. Set in the dreary favelas of Rio de Janiero, the pulse of the film is provided by Sir Vin Diesel, fresh off his extened run as Macbeth the Old Vic; Mr. Dwayne Johnson, most recently of Westlemania 27; and Mr. Johnson's spectacularly aggressive biceps. It is good and evil with the prize the unborn niece or nephew of Dom, Sir Vin's character. The homage to Rosemary's Babe is touching and sincere. The chemistry between Sir Vin and Mr. Johnson might best be decribed as a testosterone bath culminating in the film's finest scene when Sir Vin has an opportunity to drive a monkey wrench into the skull of Mr. Johnson. This scene will immediately take viewers back to Citizen Kane or at least their film studies classes in which every instructor taught them if they did not worship Citizen Kane they better fake it or risk getting an F on the final exam.
A superb supporting cast includes Ludacris in the role of Ludacris and Joaquim de Almeida, reprizing the role he so-often played in "Miami Vice" opposite Crockett and Tubs. Sung Kang, however, steals the show with his understated performance as Han. Kang is the newest Belmondo and his performance is Belmondo at his best -- think Breathless, unless you have been under a rock.
Most of the audience will simply laugh, groan, moan, cry, eat milk duds and text message. The film is lost on them. They will not recognize the magic and the celebration of art in Fast Five. For the sophisticated viewer it is cavier and champagne.