Thursday, April 11, 2024

Florida's Slide in the Rankings: Collateral Damage of the Rankings Obsession

 UF Law slide from 21 to 28 in the US News Law School Rankings. Twenty-eight is not so bad and it, at least, avoids the dreaded 30. (I don't mean to imply these rankings mean anything except to some University Presidents and law school deans on the make.)

So why the slip? It's actually pretty simple. US News began factoring in bar passage rate on which UF Law has historically done miserably given the caliber of students admitted. (Schools with nominally less capable students put UF to shame.)  The reasons UF underachieves is likely due to a number or reasons: a very high curve, students taking many hours of non graded courses often in tangential subjects, very few required bar courses and so on. 

Since passage has been a problem for decades, why wasn't it address before? That too has an easy answer. The ranking obsession of the Laura Rosenbury administration  and, I think, her chief benefactor Provost Glover,  did not deem it a pressing matter. Why? Because when only  rankings count and not whether graduating students can pass a bar exam, why worry about it. 

Don't get me wrong. I do not know if there is a correlation between passing the bar and succeeding as an attorney. I do know passing the bar is definitely correlated with being permitted to practice law and, there can be no "success" if you can't get through the door. 

So, UF is left with the collateral damage caused by a Dean who put self promotion ahead of duty to the students. In fact, I am told that that policy actually exasperated the bar passage issue. When confronted with "splitter students" -- those with high LSAT and not comparable GPAs, the policy was to give the nod to the high LSAT students.  Yes, those would be the very bright ones who are likely over confident and lack the work ethic to pass the bar. Seems like a dumb policy but not when you realized that UF thought it did better in the rankings with this policy -- that is, until bar passage counted.

Of course, there is no accountability. Rosenbury is off to Barnard where she continues a policy that personally served her interests at Florida of limiting free speech. If this does not ring a bell, check it out in the Times. Presumably, that policy is also because it pleases those who are higher up.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Class Bias and the Deanship of Laura Rosenbury


 Laura Rosenbury became the Dean of UF law after a failed search in which the central administration was pushing of all people, Alex Acosta. Why she was selected in the second search no one knew. Her faculty interviews were fine but not unusual. Now as everyone knows, she will be the President of Barnard. Quite a step up I would say and a little mysterious since she has had no experience with undergrads, has only a law degree, and writes for non referreed journals. 

Still, when she was hired the Law School was pretty much a wreck and, therefore, the Provost must have seen in her a grittiness that would lead to risk taking and major changes. He was right. The improvements she made cannot be underestimated. When she was hired the Law School was  an outlaw operation. It ignored University policy on most things and that was corrected. It had so-called centers  in specific areas of law that made no sense in terms of UF's mission and were out of compliance with what it meant to be a center according to University regulations. Most were abolished. 

When she arrived students wanting to be associated with a journal by writing on had to write on a different topic for each journal. It made no sense to put then through this torture. That changed. The primary law review advisor, a non scholar, had a vise like grip on the job. He was replaced by a scholar and some practices that I never quite understood were ended. 

The LLM in Tax was a sleepy little segment of the law school. It was highly ranked because there were so few LLMs in tax and had at times some big names in the area. When she arrived the applicant pool was poor, few people were regarded as nationally know tax scholars, and there was talk of disbanding it all together. One way or another (there is a whole story on this) the program came under intense scrutiny, Changes were made.

For the first time in 10 years committee assignment began to make sense. This too is a long story but I will cut it short by saying the former dean seemed to have a single objective -- to keep being dean. Consequently, committee assignments appeared to be driven by political considerations.

I am positive there are more things she accomplished and I cannot say what role any of these factors entered into her "promotion" to Barnard. Also these changes did not require an infusion of funds from the central administration.

So was there a down side? She was known to lose her temper sometimes and at others break out in tears when things did not go her  way. She vetoed faculty candidates, so I have been told, that did not attend the "right" schools.  I have heard of but was not witness to instances of abusive behavior toward staff -- only those beneath her, if course. As far as those above her he was the ultimate yes person. As an example, when here only a short time she was introduced to a group as young a vivacious, This was a big deal to her an she even wrote about it. But within a few years she was carrying out DeSantis' orders and labelling the new hand picked right wing President the "embodiment of   academic freedom."  Ambition breeds hypocrisy.

Her biggest public claim to fame came by raising the Law School ranking from the mid 40s in the USNews rankings to the high 20s. This is where class bias and ambition over all come in.  The large part of raising the ranking was to raise the average LSAT scores of the entering class in two steps. First, she lowered the size of the class. This does not mean she rejected unqualified candidates. Plenty of qualified candidates were rejected. "Qualified" took on a new definition. It was not longer qualified to successfully complete law school and become a productive attorney. No, qualified became who would make Laura Rosenbury look good. 

The second step, was to enter the market for high LSATs and GPAs. I mean literally buying students with high scores by paying them thousands of dollars in tuition waivers and stipends. I asked many of them why they chose Florida and the consistent answer was "it made me the best deal." 

What does this have to do with class bias? I know of no studies that do not show a positive correlation between socioeconomic class and standardize tests scores like the LSAT. I do not know you how GPA correlates with socioeconomic class but I suspect it is also positive.

 Where does the money come that is used to subsidize students who already have advantages over the less affluent. Quite honestly, I do not know. Clearly the Provost presented her with something like a blank check. But that does not really account for the source of the funding.  Maybe some comes from law students and others stuck with paying tuition and taking out loans to do so. Some from grants from alums and some from taxpayers. If it all comes from wealthy alums that is one thing although it still seems crazy to subsidize those who least need it. I doubt Rosenbury gave a damn where it came from. If any comes from taxpayers, no matter how laundered by the State or the University, then it becomes a redistribution from those in lower socioeconomic classes  to the relative well off. In short, as all elitists, Laura Rosenbury used those less well off to promote herself and, in some measure, catch the eye of Barnard. The elites always figure out a way to engage in a reverse Robin Hood scheme.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Ben Sasse and Paper Tigers in Academia

 This quote caught my eye in the Gainesville Sun today. It is about, Ben Sasse,  the likely new president of UF, and faculty opposition: "I think many of my colleagues feel that his  academic credentials are not where we would have wanted them to be."

I've deleted the name of the person quoted because that quote is representative of  law professors speak. They say things that mean nothing or, put differently, allow for total deniability while at the same time stirring the pot ever so gently.  It's the reason I was always an outsider in the Ivory Tower. 

 The statement, and that of law professors' generally, reminds of a something John Cage said, "I have nothing to say and I am saying it."

For example, note the speaker only "thinks" this could be the case. This leaves room to say, if asked to defend the statement, "It's only what I thought or the impression I had. I could be wrong."And then there is the word "many." What is "many?" Is it 12? Could be. Is it a majority? Maybe, maybe not. 

 This reminds me of what I call faculty trolling. For example, say you think someone up for tenure does not deserve it but you are too much of a wuss to say it. You go office to office and say, "I have heard that some people are concerned about Joe's (the candidate) scholarship." Not you, of course, unless the person you are talking to says someone like "Yes, I too was wondering about this." If that is the response, the troller has has hit pay dirt and gets a movement started without ever actually taking a position. If the answer is "I have not heard anything about that." The troller moves on to the next office.

And could someone tell me what "where we would have wanted them to be" means. How about, "are not satisfactory" What on earth does "where we would have wanted them to be" actually say. "We would have/" Would have what? In a different universe? On Mars?

But wait. In the same passage the writer does use the word "we" which includes "I." So it could say "I wish his credentials were better." The problem is nearly everyone wishes everything were better. I  wish my car got better mileage but what it gets is fine. I wish my dinner was better last night but it was fine. Wishing for better or wanting better is saying nothing. 

So what would my quote have been of the Sun had asked me? "I can't speak for everyone but his academic credentials make him unfit. In addition, he is obviously the product of a rigged search that was guaranteed to produce a candidate to the liking of our right wing, mean spirited Governor."

Monday, May 02, 2022

No Heroes at UF: The DeSantification of a University

 I cannot help but think of Joseph  Welch and his historic face off with Joseph McCarthy when he finally said, in effect, ENOUGH, "Have you no sense of decency." The answer was obvious, Joseph McCarthy had no such thing.

Nor does the despicable, demagogue  Ron DeSantis who will do anything to appeal to the worst values in people. Rather then lead people to embrace the moral high ground,  he encourages people to wallow in the mud of racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. Rather than ask people to be better he asks them to be worse, much worse.

And among his staunchest enforcers is the University of Florida particularly President Fuchs, Provost Glover, and Law School Dean Laura Rosenbury. With respect to the latter especially, one would expect some sense of decency, or at least the courage to resist what is clearly a case of moral lawlessness.  But no, in the Desantification of the University of Florida, rather then stand up against a bully, as did Joseph Welch, these so-called leaders cowered and when ask to jump simply asked "how high." Any one of them could have been a hero in the world of higher education if they had simply said I will resign before I follow the orders of a maniac.

So, at the height of the covid crisis faculty were allowed to teach remotely but only after weeks of in person teaching.  In the next year, while other schools required masks -- a small price to pay perhaps to save a few lives -- UF did not require masks.  Fuchs, Glover, and Rosenbury were just trying to keep Florida's McCarthy happy. And then, when professors were asked to testify as experts witnesses,  they all folded again and decided it would displease their master if a word were uttered to upset his seemingly fascist agenda. 

When the Desantis' bizarre choice for Surgeon General appears to have needed a little extra dough, he was appointed to UF Med School. Not sure if the opening was announced ahead of time or whether a search took place. But who cares when it is to please the Governor. What was Fuchs' response? Once again he simply said "how high."

And remember, this cowadise occurred in the context of administrators who all had a guarantee of life time employment. In fact, even their professional aspirations might have been enhanced if they stood up against a demagogue. In short, some show of courage would have been easy but, then again, there are no heroes at UF. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

NO, You Cannot be a Law Professor


About once a year a student comes to my office to ask about becoming a law professor. I have to tell him or her there is virtually no chance and that may be overly optimistic. The reason, of course, is that they are not attending one of a tiny handful  of -- mainly expensive private -- law schools that produce what people who went to those schools, and are in charge of hiring,  regard as good enough to be law professors. This always seemed odd to me since some of the smartest people I know went to mid level law schools and some of the dumbest and most narrowly educated  (including some law professors) went to the fancy schools.

Even if they apply to be a law professor they will be quickly vetoed -- without so much as a second look -- by someone who did go to one of those law schools. Strange isn't it. The privileged attend the fancy schools, get all puffed up about it but they actually do not think they are very good teachers. How do we know this? Because rarely, if ever, do they think they have been effective enough in class to elevate even the smartest student to be a potential law professor. They must be lousy teachers since they cannot even explain to others what they claimed to have learned in law school themselves.

So what is up with this. It's either about rankings or some delusional notion that you have to have gone to a fancy school to be an effective teacher and researcher. I've said enough in other blogs about how law schools will sacrifice everything to advance in the rankings. It is the least ethical conduct I have seen in legal education. And, I do not know whether going to a fancy school is correlated with good teaching and research. I once attempted an empirical study of this but could not find enough people who went to non fancy schools to make the study valid.

So what's is it really about? It's about status  and preserving status-- anyway you can. Think about it. You've spend a few hundred thousand to attend a fancy school and you are a law professor. (And you are sure to remind the students of your days at Harvard or Yale,)  Then someone is hired who did not go to a fancy school and is running circles around you both teaching-wise and research-wise. What does that mean about you? It may mean that you are not so hot after all since some poor schlub from the University of Florida is kicking your elitist ass.

So don't feel bad. It's just a way elitists ensure that the caste system is perpetuated. It has nothing to do with your merit and, most definitely, nothing to do with theirs.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Something is Wrong at UF LAW


The latest Bar exam results show that about 1 of 5 UF law grads fail the bar exam. Maybe that is not so bad but something is amiss.

First, remember that these students are hand picked because of their high LSAT scores and GPAs in order to raise the school's ranking. And it has worked. When last reported the School was ranking 21st.

But there is more. The school, in order to raise its ranking by also increasing bar passage, has an army of people working to make sure students prepare for the bar by pre testing and attending help sessions. But there is more. Students who are in jeopardy of failing are activity encouraged not to take the exam. Yes, if they fail he passing percentage will decline and the ranking might suffer so they are, in effect, urged to put their own goals aside because perusing them might reflect badly on the School,  the elitist, rankings-obsessed dean, the University, and even Desantis yes man, Fuchs. 

At this point in this little exercise I suppose I am supposed to say what I think is the problem. Frankly, I do not know. The smartest admitted class in the State, educated at a School ranked leaps and bounds above any other in the State, with extreme hand-holding when it comes to bar prep, and with a relentlessly elitist hiring policy still does so poorly. Actually, maybe I did just say what is wrong. You've got to wonder what is going on in the classroom. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

I Was Following the Fuhrer's Orders

 Just heard on the radio that Scott Strickland, UF athletic director (salary in excess of $1 million a year), announced no LSU like restrictions for admission to the Swamp.  In fact, no mask requirements as far as I can tell.  It's just going to be a total Covid-fest. I guess if you are in the hospital and on a ventilator you are invited too if you can find the right outlets to hook up to.  This follows along with Ken (No Spine) Fuchs' (million dollar salary too) refusal to buck Fuhrer Deathsantis and require masks while on UF campus much less so vaccinations like many other universities. 

On the other hand, there are several school boards in Florida that have decided that life is more important than pleasing the Fuhrer. Their salaries are on the range of $40-50K per year. They risk everything to save the lives of children. 

You have got to wonder, seriously, why some people have the courage to do the right thing even though it may hurt them individually in the long run. And others just follow orders. The distinction is everywhere. Take UF Law's elitist dean. She cuts off no less than 200 hard working, highly qualified, law school applicants because they might cause the US News  rankings to go down. Yes, you hear it correctly. It is not because they are not up to doing the work!  Oh,  and when hiring, if you did not go to a top ranked Ivy League School, so I have heard,  do not apply for a job. She will axe you with the same level of concern you might  apply  when  rejecting a rotten tomato in the produce section, I guess she would regard Deathsantis and Ted Cruz as highly qualified faculty if only their politics were more acceptable.

What is the common factor in all three cases -- Strickland, Fuchs, the law dean? They are just following orders, right. And that makes it OK? Not in my book. 

 You gotta wonder if there are any orders they would not follow. As for Strickland and Fuchs, they are clearly willing to carry out the orders of the Fuhrer when it comes to risking lives. The Law Dean, I think not. She just jeopardizes the careers of hard working students and the fortunes of their families and their families' families. 

I wish I could identify what the difference is between poorly paid school board members and highly paid, tenured school administrators. Was it their parenting? Is the blind ambition?   Is it because they always pleased those who could advance them personally that that got them where they are now? Hopefully, their cowardice will come back and bite all three of them in the ass. But I doubt it. There is always a market or toadies ("a person who behaves obsequiously to someone important."  


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Structural Nepotism: On the Reluctance of Law Schools to Include Social Class Origins among their Faculty Diversity Goals

Excerpt for Ken Oldfield's,   "Structural Nepotism: On the Reluctance of Law Schools to Include Social Class Origins among their Faculty Diversity Goals"

VII. Confess’n the Blues 

Jeffrey Harrison was someone who saw beyond the cultural and social boundaries of his time. In 1992, nineteen years before Mertz et al. conducted their research, he published “Confess’n the Blues: Some Thoughts on Class Bias in Law School Hiring.”88 Harrison was a professor of law at the University of Florida College of Law when his paper appeared in a symposium issue of 86. Id. 87. Id. at 237, 238; see also Eric J. Segall & Adam Feldman, The Elite Teaching the Elite: Who Gets Hired by the Top Law Schools, 68 J. Legal Educ. 614 (2019). 88. Jeffrey L. Harrison, Confess'n the Blues: Some Thoughts on Class Bias in Law School Hiring, 42 J. Legal Educ. 119 (1992). 252 Journal of Legal Education the Journal of Legal Education. The theme of the law review edition was diversity.89 Harrison’s informal writing style illustrates how sometimes a work such as his can expose an issue or issues in a way data rarely can. Once these writings gain a wider audience, they can prompt reformers and their allies to rectify the problem that concerned the author or authors. Unfortunately, Harrison’s folksy piece never found the reception it deserved, given the issue bothering him. Perhaps there is good reason for this oversight. First, he directed a sharp pen at those colleagues he held responsible for the problem he thought deserving of a remedy. Second, he was contradicting the nation’s bootstraps folklore, the idea that the United States is a land where those born of the poorest of circumstances can be anything they choose if only they will work hard enough.

 Harrison began his piece by recounting a conversation he had had with a colleague about faculty hiring. He wrote, I telephoned an old friend the other day at another law school. “What’s up?” I asked. “Faculty retreat,” he replied. “Sorry to hear it. Any topic, or just a weekend of touchyfeely?” “Serious business,” he said. “The theme is ‘Recruiting for Diversity.’ One session on race, one on gender.” “What about class—you know, poor and working-class candidates?” “Are you kidding?” he responded. “Too important.”90 

Believing class origins should be weighed as a diversity criterion, Harrison said when he interviewed someone applying for a position in his program, he looked for signs the person likely grew up working class.91 (Apparently he did not feel comfortable asking for this information directly.) Harrison said he regarded a candidate’s class background as a worthwhile concern because faculty of humble origins can bring novel perspectives to the study and teaching of law.92 During his formal and informal interactions with every applicant, he looked for social class markers. He listed a few examples, such as 89. Mertz et al., supra note 78 (did not cite Confess'n the Blues: Some Thoughts on Class Bias in Law School Hiring in their study). 90. Harrison, supra note 88, at 119. 91. Id. at 120. 92. Id. Structural Nepotism 253 whether the person had a crooked or discolored tooth,93 had been an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant,94 wondered out loud whether a relative is entitled to food stamps95 and if a nephew might be paroled soon.96 If he detected any signs the person had likely overcome long odds to earn a law degree, he considered this evidence the applicant had the qualities necessary to become a successful academic.97

 Harrison saw his thinking as synonymous with that of his colleagues, only upside down.98 He interpreted a candidate having grown up disadvantaged as evincing merit, while the others were relying on traditional indicators, such as a high GPA from a top law school or a clerkship.99 Drawing on his then fourteen years of teaching law, he argued that his colleagues favored the standard determinants of what it means to be qualified as nothing more than an excuse for hiring the people Mertz et al. depicted as coming from “educated and privileged backgrounds.”100 Harrison characterized the other faculty’s reasoning as little more than an “instance of self-referential wishful thinking,”101 or just another case of like hiring like.102 Harrison believed his approach mirrored that of his colleagues in the sense he and the others were playing the odds, only he was betting on a different set of odds. In his mind, he was willing to wager that his approach would yield a hire who could bring some long-underrepresented thinking to the profession. Harrison, like Bowen, Kurzweil, and Tobin, preferred to put a thumb, or a thumb and a half, on the scale in favor of what he called “blue-collar diversity.”103 

Harrison was not done. He went on to suggest why law schools, and so many people in the United States for that matter, are leery about questioning the effects of social class inequalities on various aspects of life. This reticence discourages most law school professors from weighing socioeconomic origins in faculty hiring. Harrison said this same hesitancy helps explain why workingclass people generally fail to see “themselves as victims of any sort.”104 They tend not to envision how “the opportunity deck” has been stacked against 93. Id. at 121. 94. Id. 95. Id. at 123. 96. Id. 97. Id. at 122. 98. Id. 99. Id. 100. Mertz et al., supra note 78, at 7. 101. Harrison, supra note 88, at 122 (citing Derrick Bell, Application of the "Tipping Point" Principle to Law Faculty Hiring Policies, 10 Nova L.J. 319 (1986)). 102. Schmidt, supra note 8, at 64; Michels, supra note 2, at 245. 103. Harrison, supra note 88, at 122. 104. Id. at 124. 254 Journal of Legal Education them.105 Instead, the American dream misleads them to believe they are fully responsible for their station in life. They are never urged to examine critically how structural classism, although he did not call it that, influences their mobility chances, versus those who inherit considerable sums of Bourdieu’s three elements of wealth. He reasoned that people born working class think if they exert enough effort, they will make it to the top or, if nothing else, get there by winning big money in the state lottery.106 Unlike other disadvantaged groups, working-class people have not established “consciousness-raising groups.”107 Failing to question the consequences of inherited advantages, versus inherited disadvantages, working-class people assume, according to Harrison, that without enough labor, they will not get a high-status job, or maybe become a law professor (if they even know about this possibility to begin with).108 Meanwhile, today’s law faculty “wallow in the benefits of [these] . . . misconception[s] and most know that it is in their interest to leave well enough alone.”109 This willingness to “leave well enough alone” is another example of Bachrach and Baratz’s second face of power: preventing an item from being considered.110

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Legal Scholarship, Citations, and the Rankings Obsession


I have not thought much about legal scholarship lately but a few months ago my elitist and ratings-obsessed former dean send out a memo to the faculty promoting the idea of writing things that will be cited. The reason -- think about it. It is in the air that USNews rankings may soon use citations as one of the measures in determining rankings.

This brought to mind an empirical work my coauthor, Amy Mashburn, and I did a couple of years ago. Citations were correlated at statistically significant levels with the ranking of the school from which you graduated, the ranking of the school at which you teach, and the ranking of the law review where your article was published.  Why is this? Likely because law students making publication decisions know they do not know much about law and rely on institutional authority. In fact, it is a common practice when a manuscript arrives to check where the author has published before and their citations. 

This means that citations have almost nothing to do with the quality of the work. Yet, in the rankings-obsessed world of my former dean, (who I am told also vetoes any entry level candidate who does not come from a ivy league school) quality is irrelevant. 

But maybe it does not matter that quality is all but irrelevant because law professors rarely engage in scholarship. By that I mean actually trying to discover something that advances our understand of anything. Instead they write OP-ED pieces or legal briefs that are devoted to one side of the story. That is what they were trained to do in law school.

But the whole citation based on where you went to school or are teaching gets worse -- much worse. When Mashburn and I did our study we examined what a citation really meant. Did it mean that the cite work was thought provoking, engaging, controversial, or whatever. No. Citations were almost always just for some fact the cited work cited mentioned whether or not the cited work was also just citing another work that had cited another work, none of which had actually done any legitimate research. In other words, rarely did one law professor give a hoot about what another one said. 

What this means is that professors at less than top 20 schools should probably be devoting more time to teaching and less to writing. It also means, when and if USNews starts counting citations, the ranking will not change. But, don't be surprised if raises and promotions for  law professors become dependent on number of citations. 

As an aside, Malcolm Gladwell, in his series of podcasts now has 2 devoted to the rankings. He notes that in the 70s when there was a battle between Time, Newsweek, and US News which US News was losing badly, the whole ranking thing that new rules higher education was a marking gimmick. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Excerpt from "In the Company of Thieves": Cutting In Line for Faculty Appointments


Cutting in Line

You might think that law professors are sticklers for following the rules. In fact, the opposite is true. They do not regard rules, and especially University Regulations as applying to them. I have seen this applied to tenure standards and the composition of committees. I’d have to say in fairness to  law professors, it is clear that Universities ignore their own rules and even state law when it suits them.

There are many example, but one that stands out is hiring spouses. Under state and federal law as well as university regulation when a position is open it must be publicly advertised. This is in part to make sure there is no favoritism and so that people of all genders and races have a chance to apply.

The usual hiring season takes place in the fall and winter. So it was with some surprise that Dean Bob came to the faculty with a candidate for an environmental law position in the Spring. He said the University President wanted us to hire her. She  had not gone through the usual recruitment process, we did not need a teacher in the area, and we had not given public notice of the availability of a position. The faculty resisted so to some extent and the Dean explained that the medical school wanted to hire her husband and part of the deal was that we hire his wife. When asked what the consequences were if we did not hire her his answer was “catastrophic.” The faculty voted to make an offer although no one knew what catastrophic meant. She accepted the offer, basically saying to other would be applicants "Get the fuck out of my way? Don't you know who I sleep with?" and  with the understanding most or all of her salary would be paid by the central administration and the med school. In effect, a job for her was part of the salary of the hot shot med school hire. No way around this. 

After she was hired, in order to “comply” with State, federal and university regulations, a public notice of the job was issued. Twenty people applied. What they did  not know is that the School had violated the law and already hired someone for the job opening they were just hearing about. I raised the issue with several people in an effort to determine who had made the decision to violate the law and the response was dead silence. Law schools are experts at the "coverup." But this story has an even less happy ending. Within two years the hot shot med school hired decided he hated it at the med school and  the school was left with someone who would not have been hired teaching in an area that was already covered. The last I heard she had moved to who knows where with her husband but was still on the faculty teaching remotely or occasionally. 

When the rules are bent to allow spouses to cut in line one question that comes up is what to do if the couple splits up. Actually there is answer to that – you do nothing. So, in many instances, the spouse cuts in line through some unlawful act of the university or law school, is hired and then stays even though the rationale for hiring him or her has long since disappeared. Remember that the trailing spouse’s job was a form of income the person who was sought after. Evidently, that income is retained even who the sought after person is divorced, quits, or dies.

            Often when the spouse is hired he or she is in a different department. This raises the question of what happens of one spouse gets tenure and the other one does not. If one department really wants to retain the performing spouse, then the standards have be lowered for the other one.

            Maybe the most unusual spouse issue I have seen involved a professor who was hired on the merits.  His wife was hired to take the position as a legal writing instructor which is lower paying job with no promise of eventual tenure. The wife and husband desperately wanted for the wife to be elevated to a regular faculty position. She wrote articles and applied through the normal process. The husband was a decent teacher and good scholar but a bit of a jerk so there was not going to be a free pass.  After going through the process and being interviewed, she was not made an offer. It is entirely possibly that the collective hope was that if she were rejected maybe the husband would leave. The problem was his jerkiness was pretty widely known and he was not likely to be recruited. Personally, I liked him because, in his own way, he too was an outsider and spoke truths no one wanted to hear.

            It is an understatement to say they were bitter. It was a great example of the sense of entitlement of people who graduate from elite schools have. She was very upset about being a lowly writing instruction although their combined income was quite high. For some reason and  am not sure why, their bitterness became aimed at each other. Their divorce would make most messy divorces seem amicable. She eventually did get a regular teaching position at a 
low ranking school.

            Remember those articles she wrote while hoping for a job at her ex husbands school?

Well shortly after the breakup he began listing them as having been “ghost written” or ghost co-authored by himself. In short, he was now claimed that they had dishonestly represented as her work he had done as her work. The raised a bit of an ethical question. Were they both lying or just him when he claimed to have written he article with her name on them. Always wishing to make a bad situation worse, the battle between exes took to the internet when he sent an email with the subject “ungrateful bitches.” That pretty much put an end to any chance he had to move up through the law school ranks. In fact, when this all happened it was rumored that he had a visiting offer from Harvard. That was withdrawn.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Excerpt from In The Company of Thieves: Conferences and Vacation: Confercationing



    Confercationing is  when law professors claim to be going to a conference on the law school’s dime but are really on a one to 5 day vacation. The biggest on of these for law professors takes place in early January when the Association of American Legal Schools  meet. Not as big but easily a bigger boondoggle is the Southeastern Association of Law Teachers Conference which conveniently takes place in the summer in a family friendly location. Palm Beach is a favorite destination as is Orlando. Since Universities pay for transportation, meals, and lodging for faculty, the only cost to the vacationer and his or her family is transportation for the partner and kids and their meals. Pretty good deal for a week in Florida. I will say this about this meeting. There is very little hypocrisy. No one attending pretends to be doing anything other than vacationing on the school's dime. 

            Three things characterize these meetings. Since law professors are, by nature, climbers whenever you are talking to someone at these meetings they are always looking over your shoulder to see if there is someone more important in the room they could attempt to smooze with. The second is a contest over who know the best ethic restaurant in town. So people with gather in hyped up groups decided were to go eat. The discussion invariable comes down to who know the hippest place to go that no one else has discovered. Third, at these conferences members of a  panel present papers to groups ranging from 0 to 50.  After the presentation people can ask questions The questions rarely indicate something the questioner wants to know but is for the questioner to impress the rest of the audience with how much they should be reckoned with. It's actually pretty easy to seem impressive because the papers are almost always duds. The papers  drawn from already published articles or recycled from previous talks. The main idea is be able to put on your resume that you presented a paper at such and such a meeting.

            These conferences are pretty much a waste in terms of producing anything for the money spend but there is a even bigger sham than these two main conferences. These are the manufactured conferences, Someone gets the idea to have a conference on British contract law or South American Comparative. The law school provides a grant that could be used for almost anything else that would be more  useful. The conferences always take place in exotic places; not some small retreat where there is little to do but actually confer but in Rio, London, Amsterdam, Geneva, Paris, etc.

Here is an example of one of these manufactured conferences:

International Conference on Latin American Issues

Rio de Janerio

June 10, 2015

Friday June 10

8:30 AM Coffee and Pastries in the Lobby

9:30-10.30 AM Session 1. Evolution of the Peruvian Constitution, Room 23

Co Chairs: Eve St. John, Berta Hurns, Georgio Penata, Julio Peso, J.J. Fields


Coby Claster: Early Peru

Sylvia Macado: Peru After the Early Years

Paco Smith: Peru in the 1930s: Penises

Joan Streeter: Peru and Constitutional Reform

Miquel Mendoza: Consolidation

 Audience comments and questions


10:40 – 11:40  Session 2. Brazilian International Policy, Room 56

 Co Chairs: Zeke Palmer, Ted Crammer, Luigi Longo, Roberto Santos, Carmen Zips


Lonnie Funk: Brazil and Slavery

Festus Johan: Brazil and Argentina: History and Perspectives.

Chester Bores: Brazil and Acai: The Importance of the Smoothy

Constance Vaya: Brazil in 2024

Pepe Vargus: Looking Forward

 Audience Comments


11:40 - 1:00 Lunch: Box Lunches Provided in the Lobby 


[there are also two afternoon sessions, a time for a reception and then dinner at a posh restaurant]



            This looks pretty good, right? Maybe even interesting. But let’s take a closer look. Notice the location. Rio! Who does not want to go to Rio. Since the airfare is the same if you stay one day or two weeks, no one in his right mind would only be going to the conference. So this has convercationing all over it.

            You may also notice the number of co chairs of each session. A Chair is someone who contacts and schedules the panels. Having 5 co chairs is a sure sign of a boondoggle. Each co chair can list on his or her resume that they were a co chair without revealing that they did next to nothing and also justify the law school footing the bill. Perhaps their duties involved making one phone call to ask something else if he or she too could be a co chair.

            Now look at each session. They have 5 speakers. The session is an hour long. Take some time for introductions and then some time for audience questions and the speakers are left with about 40 minutes to present their “papers.” That’s 8 minutes each. So let’s say the airfare is about $1200. Two nights at a Rio hotel is $400 and meals, say, $100 a day. Is an 8 minute talk or listening to other 8 minute talks worth $1700. Put it another way. Each session has a total of 10 people involved and there are 4 sessions for the one day conference. That comes out to 40 people at $1700 each or $108,000 for participants costs only not counting any charge for the rooms and meals. There actually may also be a fee to attend.

            You will notice that there is time for audience participation. What audience? There is actually  no audience other than the people who are participating on other sessions who may or may not show up for anything other than their own 8 minutes, It’s not like a show for the purpose of advancing the understanding of anything by anybody. In fact, I personally have been a panelists when there was no audience at all. But the school still paid for my confercation. Thanks, taxpayers!

Monday, May 03, 2021

Excerpt from In the Company of Thieves: The Senator's Visit


The Senator

[This is an an excerpt from the diary of one of my more elitist colleagues. (Reprinted with Permission) The particulars of the story were generally well know  by every one including me but I will let him tell it in his own words. [I have changed the name of the Senator involved because I cannot guarantee all the facts.]

At Nine couple of weeks ago, I received the following from Dean Bob:


To: Professor Harris

From: Dean Bob

Date: February 7, 2007

Re: Visit of Senator Faceworth

As you are aware [I was not aware] the Law School has invited Senator Jerry Faceworth to guest lecture for two weeks on the subject of Labor Law. I would like to you to serve as his host during this time. I know you have many commitments [actually I don’t] but we need to put our best foot forward given that Senator Faceworth has recently announced his candidacy for President of the United States.

Please advise me of your availability as soon as it is convenient. Senator Faceworth arrives on February 15th.

I responded right away feeling kind of honored. Playing host to an honest to goodness presidential candidate sounded like it would be fun.

So let's  start with Senator Faceworth. First you should know that I read in the Times that in response to some questions about his private life he dared reporters to follow him around. "You will regret it. The boredom will be intolerable."

He arrived by private jet. A squadron of reporters arrived soon thereafter and more were waiting at the hotel when I took him there at about 8 P.M. I gave him my cell number and the phone rang a midnight just as I was dozing off. "Let's have a drink," he said. "I'll be at the service ramp. Be here in 15 minutes" I was and found him, a knit cap pulled low and wrap-around sun glasses. He was very direct about wanting to go to a student "club." I had no idea where to take him but drove him to a part of town with student bars. We parked and went into something called the "Music Store." Average age 21. By now, if you know Senator Faceworth, you know what happened. After 30 minutes he found me. He wanted to go back to his room. "Of course," I said, not realizing that the two coeds - one on each arm - were to accompany him. So, at 1:00 A.M. I left him as he and his new playmates quickly scrambled from the car and darted for the service elevator. This cannot be good. And, he is here for three weeks.
        The next night the same midnight call and it was off to the same bar. This time he emerged with two more pals.  The next day Dean Bob picked up the Senator in the hotel lobby – again was the ever present   swarm of reporters--  and took him to school. My assignment? Go to the service entrance and pick up his two companions from the previous night -- Heather and Misty. They piled in the car and immediately said. "Jeffy, Gar-Gar told us you would take us to breakfast and for tanning." And I did. What could I do? I wore dark glasses but I was a little nervous about the car that seemed to be following.

        So you get the drift. The man who said people would be bored if they following him was and absolute hound for college girls. And this went on non stop. Well non stop until some rapidly unfolded events.

The Senator is off to Bimini for the week end and I am sleeping.

Senator Faceworth evidently came back late last night, having taken Monday off. Judging by his sun burn, the trip to Bimini was a success. Now he is followed by a caravan of pink faced reporters. The cocktail party in is honor is this Thursday. He has not thanked me for the selection of single malt scotches in his office. I am beginning to look forward to his departure. I have had way too many Heathers and Jennifers to escort back to their apartments or dorms.

Two more midnight calls from Faceworth and four more Gingers or Kimberlys -- who knows, who cares. Even though I pick him up at the loading dock of the hotel and he has his stocking cap pulled low, it is not always fool proof. Last night at what has become his favorite bar I spotted a pink-faced reporter who I recognized from the caravan of cars that following us each day. He definitely saw Faceworth and then left hurriedly.

Faceworth finally made his break back to Bimini for the weekend. This time he took two Jennifers who were on the same flight to Miami. I took all three to the airport but dropped them at different places. At one point we were almost spotted by reporters and Faceworth hit the floor while the Jennifers giggled and did other unmentionable things.

 I am not cut out for this!! Word has leaked out among the faculty and today someone accused me of "pimping" for Gerard.

You know the routine. A midnight run and two Jennifers each night.
I find it very annoying that on our trips to the clubs the Senator sits in the back seat and rarely speaks to me. On the way back, he is in the back with his pals.
    Faceworth  left Thursday late for Binimi, too early the see the following article in today's Ivyville Sun. First you should know that that there is big photo on Faceworth on the front page leaving his regular bar at 1:00 with two Jennifers, miniskirts and cowboy boots. I am in the photo just barely. The caption: Senator Gerard Faceworth parties with friends and an unidentified law professor.

The article:

"Senator Gerard Faceworth, a visiting professor at the Ivyville Law School, has been photographed with two companions leaving the Campus Buzz, a popular late night gather place for Ivyville singles. Senator Faceworth only recently challenged reporters to follow him around after rumor emerged that he is something of a "womanizer." According the regulars at the Buzz, Senator Faceworth has been in the club several nights, usually escorted by a law professor. The routine is that he arrives soon after midnight and leaves by 1:00 A.M. with one or two college aged women. The hotel management where the Senator is staying declined comment. The identity of his law professor host is currently being examined."

        I am happy to report that Faceworth  called in Monday morning to say that he would be unable to finish his three week teaching assignment here. The Ivyville Sun article about his late night activities -- as surely you know -- has gone national, even international.
        Reporters are everywhere wanting to know the details and trying to identify his mysterious law professor escort. So far no one on the faculty had identified me.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Draft Excerpt for In the Company of Thieves: Grade Appeals to Law Professors


Grade Appeals

To understand my stories is useful to know that law faculties, like most others, are assigned to committees. There are committees assigned to  propose candidates to be hired, committees to approve new courses, committees to review candidates for tenure and promotion. Some committees make long range plans, some study how to increase publications. The one I am on this year is called Academic standards. We typically handle appeals from students when something has been declined by an administrator. For example, a student can take a course at another law school and transfer the credit as long as they got a C. Those who  get a D or lower, which takes more effort than making a B, invariable appeal to Academic Standards to have the grade transferred.

Today the committee met  and had two appeals I had never encountered before. One was from a student who had just finished the first year of school and had received and A in Contract Law. She complained that the A grade, the highest you could get, was unfairly granted. Her story was that in the class she had become friendly with the teacher Ed Freddy, who we all refer to a Mr. Freddy. The friendliness led to lunch which led to dinner (all without the knowledge of Mrs. Freddy) and well you can guess where this is going.

They had falling out somewhere near the end of the semester and their fling was over.  Then the final exam came. In law school in most courses the final exam determines the grade for the entire semester. She took the exam and received her grade which, as I mentioned was an A. Her petition to us was that she only got and A because of the “services” she supplied to Mr. Freddy and that rather be treated like a prostitute she wanted a grade no higher than a B. We tabled this case until our next meeting to give a chance to evaluate her final exam ourselves.

Our second appeal today was equally bizarre. First you have to understand that law schools and other University department hire visitors who teach for a semester or a  year are not on the permanent faculty. Last year we hired Mary McCan to teach for a semester.  She was young, an average teacher, ambitious, frumpy-looking, and  lonely in our small college town.  According to the petition on the last night of finals she when out with a few students including the petitioner and she brought  one of them home with her. They were evidently quite drunk. According to the student, when he got ready to leave she blocked the door. In his words he then “obliged her as a courtesy”. The student got a B in the course and complained he did not deserve a B. In his words he did not know if he had “he’d fucked himself up from a C or down from an A.” He said that neither was acceptable and he wanted us to read his paper to determine if he deserved either and A or a C, which he was willing to accept.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Thieves, Monopoly, Law Professors, and Law Schools

In his classic 1967 article on rent-seeking (which does not actually use the term because it had not been coined at that time) Gordon Tullock explained that the cost of theft was not that one person's property was taken by another. In fact, that transaction in isolation may increase welfare. The social costs were the reactions of those attempting to avoid theft and those refining their skills. Richard Posner extended the analysis when he wrote about the costs of monopoly. Again, it was not that some became richer at the expense of others but that enormous sums were invested in bringing about the redistribution. In neither case do the rent seeking, social-cost-producing efforts create new wealth.

Still, in the case of Tullock and Posner the social costs were at least about something. There was a "there" there in the form of a chunk of wealth to bicker over. But now we come to law professors and law schools.

Law professor efforts to self-promote have exploded. Included are repeated visits to the Dean asking for one thing or another, resume padding, massive mailings of reprints, posting SSRN download rankings, or, even better, emailing 200 friends asking them to download a recently posted article, churning out small symposia articles because deans often want to see lines on resumes as opposed to substance, playing the law review placement game, and just plain old smoozing ranging from name dropping to butt kissing. Very little of this seems designed to produce new wealth. If fact, think of the actual welfare-producing activities that could be undertaken with the same levels of energy -- smaller classes, more sections of needed courses, possibly even research into areas that are risky in terms of self promotion but could pay off big if something new or insightful were discovered or said. But this is the part that puzzles me. Whether the thief in Tullock's case or monopolist in Posner's, the prize is clear. What is the prize for law professors? Are these social costs expended to acquire rents that really do not exist or are only imagined? What are the rents law professors seek?

Law schools make the professors look like small potatoes when it comes to social costs. Aside from hiring their own graduates to up the employment level, they all employ squads of people whose jobs are to create social costs (of course, most lawyers do the same thing), produce huge glossy magazines that go straight to the trash, weasel around with who is a first year student as opposed to a transfer student or a part time student, select students with an eye to increasing one rating or another, and obsess over which stone is yet unturned in an effort to move up a notch. I don't need to go through the whole list but the point is that there is no production -- nothing socially beneficial happens. That's fine. The same is true of Tullock's thief and Posner's monopolist. But again, and here is the rub. What is the rent the law schools seek? Where is the pie that they are less interested in making bigger than in just assuring they get the biggest slice possible? What is it made of?

At least thieves and monopolists fight over something that exists. And they often internalize the cost of that effort. Law professors and law schools, on the other hand, may be worse. They do not know what the prize actually is; they just know they should want more; and the costs are internalized by others.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Draft Excerpt From "In the Company of Thieves: The Character of Law Professors (most of them anyway).


For most law professors I have known, life is an extended negotiation to advance one’s self interest. They are their own clients. Their constant obsession about where they rank means a complete lack of humility and the use of certain devices. The most common device is to show no weakness. This leads to a number of things. One is to never seen to care very much about something, at least publicly. To show you really want something is to reveal a weakness. For example, when I was chair of the appointments committee, I asked members of the committee who wanted to go to the meat market. This duty is something that is usually coveted by mid or early career professors. No one said he or she wanted to go in the meeting. In a few hours after that, every member of the committee called me privately to say they were “willing to go.”

This leads to the volunteer scam. Law professors never want to demand to do something -- -- they volunteer. When you volunteer it is not like you wanted something but you were willing to help out. Helping out, in this life long negotiation, means you are owed. For example, one of the plums of my teaching career was to be appointed to summer abroad teaching program. One year the person who was set to go could not go at the last minute. I called the person running the program to see if I could go instead. I was informed it would not be necessary because the head of the program had “volunteered” to take on the assignment himself.

Another part of not showing weakness is to try to get others to do work that might expose your own weakness. This means office to office visits and indirection. Let’s say you think someone who has been appointed to chair a committee is an awful choice. You would go office to offices saying something like “what did you think of those committee assignments.” In other words, you throw out the bait and see if anyone bites. Eventually, you might find some people saying they were disappointed and then you roam the halls saying to others “I heard that several people are upset with that committee assignment.” You say "several" even if it is one. Note, you do not say you are upset but that others are. You, of course, just want to be fair.

There are also ways of disagreeing. Suppose Jack at a faculty meeting proposes that teachers have more office hours than currently required. You hate the idea but you do not raise your hand and say so. Instead you say something like “It’s wonderful to be available to students but I have “concerns” about Jack’s proposal or “if gives me pause.” These are ways of saying “that is the dumbest thing I have every heard”

No matter what, you are too busy. You have students, exams to write, phone calls to return, and papers to grade. In reality you may be on Amazon looking for a new toaster or frying pan. You may take a nap. But you never admit to anything other than being overwhelmed with how much work you have.

Being sneaky is important. You do not write down what you could say. If it is written down you have accountability. If you say it, then if it  is passed along you can claim you were misunderstood or taken out of context.

Working the students for high teaching evaluations. You can do this by being funny or radiating your deep concern for their well-being. It does not hurt to bring cookies when their evaluations of you are distributed. One neat ploy a colleague freely admitted was designed to help is evaluations was passing out his own evaluation form before the official. This communicate that you value the opinion of the students and more or less lets them vent if they are inclined to as a way of lowering the chance they will unload on you on the official evaluations.

Information among law faculty is power. If you have it, you can dispense it in the way that best serves your ends. It may be rumor, it maybe something that has very little foundation. Important things are generally bad news about someone else – their article got rejected, they failed an interview at another school, the Provost is angry with the Dean. You can use the information as currency and you spend it to get what you want – usually that is a reaction that advances whatever is in your self interest.

Law professors call what they do “scholarship.” It almost never is. You could count on one had the number of times a law professor actually tries to find the answer to an important question. Instead, consistent with their training they are advocates for their own notions of what should be. Their research skills are limited and the idea of putting anything to an empirical test is frightening to them. You might compare this with seeing a doctor. Usually you tell the doctor the symptoms and he or she tries to match with with a cause, Suppose instead you walked into the doctor and he or she said "you have typhoid fever" and then ignored every thing you said except those things that were consistent with typhoid fever. That's legal scholarship.