Tuesday, May 02, 2017
Moonlighting Sonata: Conflicts, Disclosure, and the Scholar/Consultant
Jeffrey L. Harrison & Amy R. Mashburn
Abstract: Although the impact of conflicting interests is of constant concern to those in legal education and other fields, a recent scholarly article and an extensive analysis in the New York Times suggest the problem is more pressing than ever. In the context of legal scholarship the problem arises when a professor is, in effect, employed by two entities. Disclosure of possible conflicts is the most commonly proposed response. The article argues that disclosure is merely a risk shifting devise that does not fully address the issue of bias. It draws on comparisons with products liability and legal ethics to suggest that many conflicts should simply be avoided.
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Today I parked in the Dean's parking spot. Her car was not occupying it at the time so I thought to myself "Isn't it time you put some of your academic freedom to use?" And I then thought to myself "Yes, Chadsworth, go ahead an park in her spot. Express yourself in a way that may lead to controversy."
She called later that day, having recognized my 288 BMW Super Z car with the "Eat More Fruit" bumper sticker, and expressed some displeasure. I hit her with "academic freedom" and she got very, very quiet -- so quiet that I could barely hear the subdued "oh" as she hung up the phone. Chalk one up for free expression. So much for vivacity!
I kind of feel the same way about the times I teach class. My time, or should I say the time I feel most free, is 1-2 Monday - Wednesday. Assigning me any other time is an infringement on my academic freedom as, I might add, is the requirement that I give my exams on certain days. I'll give them when I am good and ready. In fact, part of my academic freedom extends to my teaching -- including whether I choose to meet class -- and most definitely to the type of exam I give and even more most definitely to the day I give the final exam and most, most definitely to whether I will allow the students to use number 2 pencils on their multiple choice exams. So what if the machines will not read anything other than number 2 pencils? Pencil choice is a critical part of my pedagogical divinity.
Thank goodness for academic freedom or we professors might be discouraged from doing research and expressing views that cause others to think. You can imagine the profound message inherent in my pencil allocation decision. Sadly, one of the things that most gets in the way of academic freedom is teaching or, even worse, teaching something just because the students need it or it is on the bar exam.
Life is hard when you deserve everything and only get 99%.
Monday, April 03, 2017
Yes, it's that time of year again -- teaching schedules for the next two semesters. And, as usual, when I filled in the form asking for my preferences, I gave the Deans all kinds of options. I am willing to teach Monday-Wednesday at 1-2 or Monday -Wednesday 1:05-2:05. Mornings are out! I spend the morning reading the Times until my massage at 11. Lunch is at noon. But what do they give me? Monday - Wednesday 2-3. These people do not know who I am. Do they have me mixed up with someone who went to a state school?
And what lowlife did they give my times to? I will find out and, when I do, that person will pay especially if he or she is untenured. Geez!
Thursday and Friday are off limits because I am expected to spend those days at my condo on the beach when I am not consulting, that is. I mean, otherwise, why have a condo on the beach? It just would not pay. I cannot possibly teach later than 2:30 the other days because I need to wind down after a hard day and how can I do that in the mere hour between 3 and 4, when I have to leave for my personal training. If I do not get the training in by 5, I can forget about making it to the club in time for cocktails.
I'll tell you what. I will email my students and tell them that we meet at 1-2 Monday-Wednesday. I'll tell them it is in room 108 because I like the lighting there and it is close to my office and my teaching assistant (who actually does most of the actual meeting with students) also thinks 108's colors complement my wardrobe. Like the little critters, I am really getting mad now just thinking about the disrespect. Let the bastards work it out when my 8 students show up.
But wait, it gets even worse. I have told them repeatedly to schedule my classes concurrently, Instead they put one of my 3 credit courses in the fall and one in the spring. What is it with these incompetent people? Don't they know I need to compress my 6 hour teaching schedule into 3 hours one semester a year so I can do my writing and be of service to the school (at the condo at the beach)?
What a hard life it is when you deserve everything and only get 99% of it.
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
I hate the US News rankings but had to smile when I saw that UF Law had gone up 7 slots. Once I retire I expect it to sky rocket into the top 15 or 20. Some of the increase came by raising the LSAT score of entering students while NOT decreasing enrollment (like other schools) and actually increasing diversity. I personally am not keen that students are recruited and courted like football players but, then again, it is a mixed bag. It appears to be the way the "game is played" these days and if you can do it without cutting class size it's amazing and an example of what a dean with focus, grit, and energy can do. Plus, a higher ranking and higher student credentials likely lead to better employment outcomes. That, in particular, is hard not to like.
I also had to smile because, according to rumor, the tax program has maintained its ranking. It is a testament to the Dean's efforts since people inside and outside the law school, including many grads, had decided the program was being dismantled and spread the word far and wide. Yes, even those who tried to scuttle the program to preserve petty interests evidently had no impact because the Dean was determined to rescue it from its 1950's mentality. Like the regular JD program, I would not be surprised if rose in the rankings given some of the newcomers to the program and one outstanding offer than I hope is accepted.
But where does that leave me? My blogging was motivated by the sense that the dean for 10 (seemed like 20) years defined his job as keeping his job which in turn meant saying yes to the right people (usually the wrong people), saying no to as few as possible, and leaving a legacy of wasteful programs and people with a sense of entitlement the size of Donald Trump's ego. If you have been around more than the smallest sample of law school deans, you get my drift so I will spare you the details. That blogging was fun, though. It drove some of my colleagues crazy, that is, when they were not quietly whispering to me, "I cannot say this to anyone but I want you to know I agree with you."
Those were pretty awful years but they were fun and now my Dean has taken the fun out of blogging. Sure, my stress level is 1/10 what it was, my blood pressure is rock bottom, I sleep through the night, and I am generally happier doing my research and teaching, but no blogging fun. So it is time for serious talk with my Dean. Can she make me a happy blogger without bringing back the past?
Sunday, January 22, 2017
As I understand it one million women and some men marched in DC. A million more if you add up the rest of the world. As best I can tell, and to my great disappointment, no bricks were thrown, there was no substantial blockage of traffic. Some of the speakers sounded a wee bit angry but I certainly did not sense that was the mood of the crowd. I read the list of complaints, and with the possible exception of Planned Parenthood and Obama care, where there may be some overlap, none of the issues addressed the blight of poor and working class people -- the very ones the Democratic Party needs to bring back into the fold.What's the use of preaching to the choir?
So, when 1 million people who already agree with each other get together, is it a movement or a pajama party? I hope the former, I fear the latter. To me, a movement means, ideally, a fair amount of civil disobedience, some bricks thrown, police clearing away determined demonstrators who refuse order to leave the Mall or the roads. A pajama party means going home tired because you stayed up too late but you had a great time. Maybe it's the difference between a rally and a demonstration.
Unless there is major follow-up and a concerted effort to cross class lines to recruit the poor and working class women who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, what's the point? In any case, probably by mistake, Trump played his cards exactly right. Although he engages everyone for even the most insignificant slight, he seems to have largely done the only thing he could do to win -- he ignored the marchers. I know this cuts against the grain of most readers but you've got to engage the enemy to make something happen, That or recruit more people to your side. So far, I do not see progress on either score but I sincerely hope I am wrong.
Friday, January 06, 2017
(cite as 2 Class Bias & Random Thoughts 17 (2017)
The Lorenz curves illustrates what percentage of income the lowest ten percent of wage earners get and then what percent the lowest 20% get and so on. If income is equally divided you get that 45 degree line. The gini coefficient is the same idea expressed as a number. If one person gets all income, the coefficient is 1 -- perfect inequality. In the US it is slightly over .40.
The concept has a great deal of promise for running a law school. Suppose a Dean or Associate Dean kept a record of how much time was spent attending to each individual faculty member. Then they would be ranked from least amount of time to most. Suppose it is a faculty of 50. The percentage of total time taken up by the lowest 20% (10 people) could be calculated. The percentage of time taken up by the most demanding 10 could also be determined. My hunch is that the bottom 20% take up about 5% of the time and the top 20% take up about 50% of the time. The Lorenz curve could be even more bowed than the one in the graph.
Actually, the real Lorenz curve and the faculty demands on administrative time may be similar in an important respect. If you think of the real curve, the upper 10%, income-wise, may very well be the greediest most self-interested in the land. Now switch over to the faculty-demand-on-administrative-time Lorenz curve. My hunch is that people in the top 10% share many of the same characteristics as those in the top 10% of the real curve. Instead of money, though, it is badgering and complaining about leaves, courses, teaching loads, days spent teaching, special treatment, self-promotion, and being "helpful."
The analysis bogs down a bit at this point. The real Lorenz curve can be used as a basis for thinking about income redistribution. It is hard to apply that to the demand for administrators' time since people in the lower regions actually are likely to be pretty happy with their jobs and do not want or need greater attention. In fact, my bet is that the time hoggers are actually generally unhappy people at work and in life. Still, if you could just lop off the top 20%, administrators would have much more time to tend to the needs of the students and the institution.
You could also use the gini coefficient to assess how many students people teach. Again, take the bottom 10 (20%) in terms of student contact hours generated and my guess is they generate about 10% of all the teaching that goes on. The top 20% of teachers in terms of student contact hours probably account for 40%. Plus, I am willing to bet the people in the bottom 20% never pull their share of the load and the to top 20% are consistently the work horses.
In both cases -- demands on administrative time and student contact hours -- I'll bet the happiest law schools are those where both curves approach 45 degrees.