Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sociology of Law Professors, Never Admit a Mistake: Part 15.

I think it was 1984. I was at a faculty retreat daydreaming (this was before Ipads and wifi) and someone left the meeting and a door slammed. About an hour later the slammer returned and apologized for his behavior. I did not know what he did. Then maybe 10 years ago, a really unpleasant faculty member was found to have penned an email describing us all as loafers. That might be right but at the time she was attempting to be Ms.Congeniality. Busted. She apologized.

Let's see, that's 30 plus years of law teaching and two apologies. Are law profs always right? I doubt it. So what explains this inability to fess up, admit fallibility, show a little humanity. I am not sure. I suppose it is a sign of weakness to apologize and when your culture is one of constant negotiation you never never show weakness.

So I am waiting for these apologies:

1. From the person who knowingly posted an ad for job already filled: "Sorry, I screwed up and embarrassed the School. Won't happen again."

2. From the Law School officials who refused to acknowledge or address the issue: "Yes, sometimes our paranoia is more powerful then common sense. Sorry."

3. From the professors in meetings labeling others as "insane." "I guess that was not helpful. Sorry."

4. From the professor who insists on an interpretation of a committee proposal that is wrong and takes up 15 minutes while people try to explain it and then just goes silent. "Sorry I used up the time of 50 people today because I had not read the proposal. I'll do better."

5. From the faculty member who says a particular proposal is a good solely because that's what they did at his law school or his daughter's. "sorry for taking up your time with a complete non sequiter."

6. From the dean so obsessed with maintaining his job that he could not make a decision simply based on what was right and wrong. "Sorry I let my selfish needs get ahead of my obligations to the school."

7. From the President who abandoned a dean search when the right politico did not emerge as the favorite (which anyone could have predicted) and said he wants excellence but 2 days later ordered the law school to hire someone it would not hire in a field that is covered. "Sorry, that does not make sense does it,"

8. From colleagues teaching 50-90 students a year. "Sorry, I am clearly not pulling my weight in the classroom."

9. From the professors giving their work to secretaries and then complaining if it is not done the way they would have done it which they should have been doing. "Sorry, I guess my lack of humility is showing."

10. From the snake who gossips, live in the dean's office, and complains constantly about his or her treatment. "Sorry, I'm a miserable person and from this point on I will not say anything until I have the facts right."

11. From the chair of the appointments committee who lied about the contents of reviews of a candidate's scholarship. "Sorry, sometimes chairs get so invested in bringing in the right candidates they lose their objectivity."

12. From the appointments committee meeting chair who could only interview graduates of two or three schools. "Sorry, I guess a broader perspective would be a good idea."

13. From the small covey of mean people  who ran off a talented faculty member for a youthful mistake. "We are sorry. We let our pettiness get ahead of the goals of the school."

14 From the faculty member who claimed a dean candidate was not friendly to the lesbien/gay community but was unwilling to state why, "I am sorry and as soon as I stop being an a**hole, I will apologize.

15. From the Director of a Program who writes "will you do this?" and then says she has no recollection of making the offer; "Sorry, I had promised someone else and it slipped my mind."

16. From the faculty committee chair who sponsored a candidate and did not reveal he knew it was an inside job. "Sorry, I guess I thought playing ball with the administration was better for my career."

17. From the hiring committee member who told the faculty the committee refused to even consider a candidate but sat in a meeting in which the candidate was discussed at length. "Sorry, I lied."

18. From the colleagues who leaned on me to write a chapter for a book that never came out or came out several years later: "Sorry, I should have told you that it is iffy."

19. From cost conscious usually liberal leaning faculty and administrators who think nothing of dropping thousands and thousands of dollars of the money of others' so they can give ten minutes of off the cuff remarks at some distant location. "Sorry, we are selfish and we will try to do better."

20. From the faculty member who refused to hand over a public document in spite of a written requirement that the document be produced. "Sorry, I guess I got carried away."

21. From anonymous sniping blog commentators: "I'm sorry and I will get treatment."

22. From the colleague who made it impossible to ever have an open and honest discussion of faculty candidates for tenure and promotion when he/she  violated the trust of those spreading word of what was to be a confidential meeting. . .

I guess these apologies will flow in any minute but sometimes I think there really is a course at elite schools called "never ever apologize."


Anonymous said...

On no.14: you would have to add that such a person is a cynical, unprincipled, self-interested, a**shole.

jack said...

Nice to see the details here. Helpful for us.

Tung Yin said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but #5 seems to me to be qualitatively different from the others on your list. (I may have been guilty of it on occasion....) For example, is it wrong if a faculty member says, "I notice that we do things in manner X, which seems to cause problems in some instances. At my previous institution, we did things in manner Y instead, which eliminated those problems."

Of course, just because something was done one way elsewhere doesn't mean it's necessarily right everywhere, but it is some indication that the idea isn't totally crazy.

Is your #5 more about the manner in which such suggestions are offered?

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Thanks. I changed it a little.