Friday, March 07, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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