Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ray Rice, Tenure, Swedish Fish, and Other Matters

Ray Rice may or may not get another job but, although his stats were not so great two season ago, it is obvious that something other than on field production kept him from earning a paycheck last year. If you want to think about law teaching jobs you might say he was fine as far as scholarship, teaching, and service but had a big problem in the "being a decent human being" department.

So what about law teaching and the "being a decent human being" factor when tenure decisions are made.   Are teaching, research and scholarship all that matter? I assume people disagree about this. I remember being on a a hiring committee meeting in which it was revealed that a very attractive (in terms of scholarship) married visitor kept an apartment near campus for entertaining "the ladies." This was discussed and then the Dean who was sitting in on the meeting said, "Ok, why don't we concentrate on the substance." Some of said "Isn't character part of the substance." I mean if it is in professional football, shouldn't it be raised in the context of legal education?

Think of a few possibilities. Assume in all cases, the candidate, although not stellar, would ordinarily pass the scholarship, teaching, and research standard. Further suppose these are known facts, not rumors.

1. There is a video of the faculty member punching his or her partner in a elevator.

2. A candidate  is arrested for mistreating a dog by leaving in a very hot car for several hours.

3. A candidate is caught lying about people on the faculty and students.

4, A candidate shoves or punches a student.

5. A candidate  is arrested for shoplifting Swedish Fish from a candy store.

6.A candidate is arrested for DWI or DUI for a second time.

7. The candidate  has a consensual affair with a student. (Yes, the power relationship begs the issue of what is consensual.)

8. A candidate member has an affair with another married member of the faculty and the marriage breaks up or doesn't.

You can mix and match these. Pretend the someone is the same person for all of them or for some of them.  Are these fair game to raise in a tenure and faculty meeting or, since they are arguable "only" about character, they must be ignored? Or can character be an issue? Or is it about character or illness?

Here are my druthers. I vote no on 1,2, and 3 even if told I may not consider them. They are dead ducks unless there is something deader than a dead duck. If so, they would be in the deader than a dead duck category.Seven and 8 are irrelevant to me -- consenting adults and all that,

Others are more complicated. On 4, I would have to know more about whether it was a fight or abuse. On 6, suppose it is an addiction. That is not character although knowing you have the addiction and driving may be. I guess that could be said about the liar. Suppose she  actually believes what she is saying and is unaware that she tells different people different things.

The most difficult is Mr. Swedish Fish shop lifter. I love those little fish with their gummy texture, the hint of cherry when you bite in, and then the every so mild after taste of fresh herring. I ate 50 at one sitting once and my hair turned blonde and I developed a knack for building Viking ships. But what if the lifter had simply though they were Laffie Taffy. Stealing those is always permitted. The lifter gets a pass from me.

[As an aside, we all know that these things will be factored in no matter what the rules are unless the person is on your side politically in which case all of this will just be rumor.]


Prof. Pedro A. Malavet said...

Careful Jeff, in addition to often being gross displays of immaturity, Nos. 7 and 8, depending on the circumstances, could violate university regulations and then constitute not only a matter of concern for promotion and tenure, but potentially an offense affecting employment status even for tenured faculty.

Even allegedly consensual relationships, and you correctly note that agency may not be entirely free in such cases, can run afoul of the policy.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Good points, and especially that any of these could result in a loss of tenure.

Anonymous said...

Slow down Solomon. I grew up in the 50s and 60s. My father was a machinist and by all accounts a good one. However, his discipline of his children (me included) sometimes crossed the line to what arguably was child abuse. Not infrequently, he also physically harmed our mother who was a stay-at-home mother. That he should lose his job, that he should be unemployed and unemployable would have meant that our family would lose all its income. Welfare and food stamps? Refigure your lose-his-job verdict to take into account those externalities.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Yes, I understand but I wonder if the same concerns apply to people with law degrees who want a lifetime guarantee of employment that means they keep their jobs even if they are not so good at them. Most will not go hungry I do not think.

Anonymous said...

It might apply to a football player whose only marketable skills for high salary are physical and temporary. His other opportunity might be to drive a Fed Ex truck (nothing wrong with that, understand, but the pay is not as good as a running back).