Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Entitled to be Sure

When you live in the land of the entitled there are little signs here and there of priviledged lives. One of the obvious ones is the faculty lounge. If your school is fortunate enough to have the funding, you probably find coffee, fruit, and a vaiety of pastries and breads in the lounge each morning. By afternoon is is gone replaced by banana peels, apple cores, muffin wrappers, spilled coffee, dirty cups, and the like. The trash can is 10 feet away but the assumption, I suppose. is that someone else deals with the trash.

Is leaving your trash around the worst of academic sins? Hardly. There are many more that actually make shareholders (students, taxpayers and donors) worse off than necessary. On the other hand, is there any better indication of a sense of entitlement and the likely consequences of that sense in other areas of one's life than leaving trash for a secretary or someone else to clean up?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Opps, You did it Again!

Dear Jeff:

I see you have posted another of my letters in strict violation of the New York Times Rule. If you had read my blog, you would understand the need for the rule especially among those of us who value our personal integrity – obviously something of little importance to you. But I challenge you. Who do you find more trustworthy: Someone who does not write anything down in order to maintain his or her flexibility or someone who does write it down because the truth is the same no matter who the listener is? I rest my case!!

Since you have violated the rule and posted my letters – something I trust you will not repeat – I must clarify something for your paltry band of readers and others who mistakenly find their way to your blog.

I mention this because I promised Hugo to clarify. In my letter I indicated that Hugo is “vice president in charge of international programs. He is, in truth, “senior vice president of in charge of international programs.” He was terribly hurt by your omission and I promised to publicly apologize.

I am happy to apologize in light of the exciting summer program he is setting up in Rome. It is beyond splendid and something that would appeal to moneylaw types.

The program is open to as many students who choose to sign up and tuition is quite low – it just covers the cost of the program (important to you, I know). Hugo and I (Caroline and Marvelle will accompany us) will offer the course in Rome. That is, the four of us will go to Rome. The students will actually stay in the United States. What could be more student sensitive? We will lecture from Rome -- twice a week each -- using a video feed. In addition, will "take" them on several guided tours and even invite them to our meals. They will have intimate contact with Rome, Romans, and Italian law without all the messiness of actually going to Rome. Instead, Hugo and I will do the heavy lifting.



Friday, January 26, 2007

Ghost Article

Dear Jeff:

I noticed that you have posted my letter to you on your pathetic blog and I fear your misguided effort is designed to ridicule me and my colleagues. I am sincerely amazed and fear for your well-being.

You seem to have the impression that the worth of a law professor is determined by what he or she does. In fact, the true worth of a law professor is determined by what he or she is. Law school hiring committees know this. Take for instance your own which, with minor exception, interviewed only candidates from elite schools.

Nevertheless, even if I accepted your view that doing is more important than being, we (my similarly credentialed colleagues and I ) do so much more. Just this morning in the faculty lounge I was able to set my colleagues straight about the quality of one of the candidates the faculty had mistakenly given a very positive vote. Luckily my dean seems to understand that is best to listen to those of us who are connected and not to the vast majority of the faculty.

And then this afternoon I did some important consulting with Hugo Valencia, vice president in charge of intenational programs. Yes, it was over tennis and drinks and, yes, Caroline and Marvelle, our wives, joined us, but many important and productive things were said. I should have invited one of the assistant professors to transcript our discussion. No doubt it was worthy of publication thus I will list it as a “ghost publication” on my resume.

Time to rest. Don’t you agree.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Letters: Tough Day

I got this letter from a privileged law prof friend:

Dear Jeff:

Another crazy day. It was nearly 10:30 before I finished the Times and my latte. Class was at 11 and there was no way I could make it, what with the headache I may get later, so I call in and told my secretary to read my notes to the group.

By the time I got done with all of that it was time for my massage. Then lunch. In this job it's one thing after another but I did have time to drop by School to get my mail and visit with some colleagues. We got caught up in a discussion about the best hotel to stay in during International Law Conference in Paris this spring.

I finally left school at 3. Whew, what a day! I barely made it to the gym for my racketball game with Phil.

Next thing I know it's 5 and time to unwind with a glass of wine.

I tried to take some "personal time" later but Caroline wanted to see a movie so off we went.

Maybe tomorrow I can kick back a bit.

By the way, you can check out my new blog PrivilegeLaw.

Best, Chadsworth

Friday, January 19, 2007

Privilege and Product Development

One of the advantages of being privileged is rarely being wrong. This plays out in law schools with respect to the “products” law professors offer or sell to students and others. The “products” are actually “programs” including student run publications, LLMs, certificate programs, centers, institutes, foreign programs, and probably some things I do know exist.

Car makers with massive market studies make mistakes with respect to their product lines. So do clothes designers, pharmaceutical manufactures and restaurants. I guess they should hire law professors who, with practically no market analysis, get it right every time. Of course there is another interpretation. In conventional markets, demanders and suppliers occupy different sides of the market. Law faculties tend to occupy both sides of the market – they supply the programs that they demand and are lucky enough to pay for what they demand with the money of others.

Consequently, my objections are not to the products per se but to the lack of care taken in establishing them and, far, far more importantly, the virtually impossibility of discontinuing them.

Let me give an example or two of how this plays out. One is about the life of a program. The other is about the difficulty of reexamination. At Florida we have a summer teaching program in France. It is also far from our worst (or best) program and I use it here as an example. The director (who goes every year) takes another professor and 20 or so students who respond to what seems to me to be a massive advertising campaign. The program was approved at a summer faculty meeting over ten years ago with 17 people in attendance. (Our faculty numbered over 50 at the time.)When a lack of a quorum was mentioned, the dean replied that everyone knew about the meeting and could have come if they cared. The meeting likely had been selected so supporters would outnumber detractors. They did, but barely. Years later the program still exists and, ironically, the current director was one of the principal detractors. The costs and benefits of the program and the quality of the program have never been seriously examined. The enrollment remains low and there are many other similar programs offered by other schools that our students could attend. In effect, it was established and continues to exist on a whim and it can hardly be something that elevates the School in any ranking or offers an opportunity to students that they could not get elsewhere.

On the inertia problem. A few years ago a former dean appointed a committee to review all of our programs and to make recommendations on whether any should be discontinued. Among those appointed to the program were some faculty with the most to lose if any serious changes were make and some faculty of the Making Nice, Knowing Better, Doing Nothing ilk. (I should add that instances in which others might think in terms of recusal are looked upon as opportunities on my faculty and I would guess many others as well.) The committee worked and argued and worked and argued some more. That dean moved on and was replaced. The new dean wanted no part the controversy that is invariably necessary to bring about change. He distanced himself from “program review” and turned a deaf ear to complaints that the directors – within in his administration -- of the programs under scrutiny had not reported their costs. (A charge he later conceded was true but the administrators remained.)

After two years, a report was written. The faculty voted not to consider it but to allow it to serve as something for the Dean to keep in mind. To say that the report was tame is an understatement. No programs were to be discontinued. There was a mild suggestion that one program should be increasing transferred over private funding. Years have passed and nothing became of it. In fact, in 25 years, as far as I know not one program of any kind had been eliminated or, for that matter, come close to it with the possibly exception of a “Summer School in Poland Program.” Again, I doubt we are different form other schools.

Once a program is established, people become attached it and are deeply vested. Efforts to examine a program are taken personally. Any attempt to overcome the resistance to examination is met with the charges of “uncollegiality.” “Owners” avoid evaluation of others for fear their will be the next to come under scrutiny.

This is what happens when the merits of what the privileged do are assessed by the similarly privileged.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Class Bias UP! and a Request

People interested in class bias in all its forms will find an article in the December 2006 the Atlantic Monthly interesting. The article, "Ordinary People" by Clive Crook (sorry, I would provide a link but you would still have to pay), is an overview of the documentary series that started with "7 Up!" in 1964. That film was an examination of the lives of 14 seven year old children. Every seven years the process as been repeated with the focus on the same group of "children" who are now 49 years old -- thus "49 Up!" is now out

Two points in particular struck home. First, much of the seven year olds' futures have been determined by the class that they were born into. Second, it is not at all clear that class determines happiness. The author suggests that a capacity to experience happiness may not be class based.

The children are all British and some may argue that the lessons from the series do not translate to the U.S. The author says that is not the case and anyone paying attention will certainly agree.
This all leads to the question of how working class people make it into higher education. At some point I believe it is a product of luck. For me luck struck in the beginning of my senior year at the University of Florida. I had just been through the advising process which amounted to someone signing a form. Advisor selection was random. A couple of weeks later, I was sitting in a class when the advisor I had came and knocked on the door and asked to speak to me. I was freaked out.

He told me that the School had an NDEA Fellowship that I could have if I agree to stay in School, work on a Ph.D, and express an interest in teaching. This meant getting paid to go to school. The whole thing was agree to in about 15 minutes. "Are you kidding," was my principal response since no one in my family had finished college or even knew such things as Fellowships existed. I had applied for nothing and it was only because this advisor took note of my grades and kept me in mind that one thing led to another.

People who have experienced this know how hard it is to explain to your parents what a Fellowship is and to explain to your grandmother (in my case) that working on a doctorate did not mean you would be able to prescribe medicine for her aches and pains.

So, that's my story of the twist that changed my life from that found among the kids in "7 Up." I'd like to know yours. If you are a working class academic, what was the turning point? Just comment below. Thanks

Monday, January 15, 2007

More on Race and Class

A couple of my recent posts have drawn some modest commentary leading to this effort to extend the discussion with respect to one of them. The following is part of a comment on my post, Race, Class and Diversity.

"To me, it seems risky for anyone outside of the "top 10," because I suspect that even if a non-top 10 law school candidate were extended an offer to join a law school faculty, the barriers to getting tenure and eventually being promoted to full professor would be very high, if not insurmountable. That person would never be part of the ivy "clique"; the person would never measure up to the others on the faculty. It's just like everything else in life...kinship and friendship."
The author, an African American attorney, first noted that most of his African American colleagues who had jumped from practice to teaching had graduated from elite schools. He or she ended the comment with what I have produced here.

Part of the reason I am responding in a post is that the comment was “anonymous” and I am not sure the assumption made is correct.

My impression is that things shift dramatically once non elite candidates enter law teaching. Suppose landing a teaching position at a law school is comparable to a 20 foot pole vault for a non elite candidate. For the suitably credentialed person it is more like a 10 foot pole vault. (In other words, it is still not easy.) When it comes to tenure, though, the difference is more along the lines of a 12 foot pole vault for non elites as opposed to a 10 foot pole vault for the privileged. In other words, I would not allow the slight disadvantage to discourage the comment writer from giving law teaching a go.

I think the reasons for the shift are as follows.

1. Credentials are not nearly as important at tenure time. By then the halo effect has worn off and there is performance to go on. This is not to say the credentials are unimportant. They will affect the content of the name-dropping footnote, the people to whom you can sent drafts, possible reviewers, and the ranking of the reviews accepting articles. Still, performance matters.
2. Unless you really irritate a number of people, law professors do not like to admit to mistakes. Tenure denials are rare and mainly reserved for the disliked, the incorrect, real screw-ups, and the seriously underachieving.
3. The non elite candidate is not going get a job at a “fast track” school. The standards and the competition are, thus, not likely to be overwhelming.
4. This goes back to performance but non elites will be surprised at how often the elites are unable to live up to expectations.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Being Important

One of the interesting aspects experiencing socioeconomic displacement is that you are more sensitive to the rules that the important people observe. Here are some:

1. Grading deadlines are not critical. The students can wait when you are important.
2. Distribute your resume to your class if you cannot come. The message is clear. When you have time you will drop by.
3. Have an affair with a secretary. What's the big deal when you are a big deal?
4. Secretary does not have your work done on time although it was given to him at 3 and it was not due until 2? Call the dean and have him fired. After all you are a "professor" and the secretaries are so. . . well, inept.
5. Limits on travel expenses apply to others.
6.Need to take off three weeks in the middle of the semester to teach a course in England? By all means. Everyone understands when you are important.
7. No time to write a new exam? Just use last year's. Make sure it is machine graded.
8. Students need to see you? Have them talk to "your secretary" (who you share with ten others) and make an appointment someday in the distant future.
9. University rules on letterhead comformity? Forget it!
10. Office color not quite right? Demand that it be repainted. You need your color and you deserve it.
11. Teaching 30 students a year? That is way too many. Scedule an appointment with the dean and remind him or her of the demands on your time.
12. Didn't get your book order in by the deadline? What are deadlines when you are important?
13. Pontificate on the quality of the work you have not read. You are an authority on just about everything, right!!
14. Assure a visiting professor that he will get a permanent offer. Why not? You are a leader!

And it's only the third day of the semester. There are so many more ways to be important.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Race and Class

Did you ever notice that MoneyLaw and Classbias contributors do not have much to say about race? A person without similar concerns is Walter Benn Michaels, author of The Trouble with Diversity: How we Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. Here is the Amazon description:

If there’s one thing Americans agree on, it’s the value of diversity. Our corporations vie for slots in the Diversity Top 50, our universities brag about minority recruiting, and every month is Somebody’s History Month. But in this provocative new book, Walter Benn Michaels argues that our enthusiastic celebration of “difference” masks our neglect of America’s vast and growing economic divide. Affirmative action in schools has not made them more open, it’s just guaranteed that the rich kids come in the appropriate colors. Diversity training in the workplace has not raised anybody’s salary (except maybe the diversity trainers’) but it has guaranteed that when your job is outsourced, your culture will be treated with respect.
With lacerating prose and exhilarating wit, Michaels takes on the many manifestations of our devotion to diversity, from companies apologizing for slavery, to a college president explaining why there aren’t more women math professors, to the codes of conduct in the new “humane corporations.” Looking at the books we read, the TV shows we watch, and the lawsuits we bring, Michaels shows that diversity has become everyone’s sacred cow precisely because it offers a false vision of social justice, one that conveniently costs us nothing. The Trouble with Diversity urges us to start thinking about real justice, about equality instead of diversity. Attacking both the right and the left, it will be the most controversial political book of the year.
What is unique about the Micheals’ book is that he regards himself as writing from the point of view of the political left. He reinforces what many have known for years: The connection between race and especially gender and leftist values is very tenuous.

About the time I became aware of the Michaels' book, I received an email from a faculty candidate who was not having much luck finding a job:

“I recently read your . . . J. Legal. Educ. article addressing class bias in law school hiring. . . . Your comments regarding black candidates (p. 122) really hit home, as I am a black candidate who recently entered the teaching market. I come from a rigorously working class background with "nonelitist credentials." In fact, I am the first person in my family to attend college (my father did not even finish high school!).”

The excerpt to which the candidate refers is below
Initially, I thought that most law professors simply could not understand the value of recruiting those who are economically and socially disadvantaged because their own background was so "impoverished." Now I believe that there is a desire (perhaps unconscious) to exclude candidates from less privileged classes. When I observed efforts to recruit minority candidates, I began to realize what was really going on. As most members of law faculty recruiting committees go through the AALS resum├ęs, the "plum" they are looking for is the minority candidate with a string of degrees and a high ranking from an elite law school. Hiring a high-ranking black candidate from Texas Southern Law School or North Carolina Central is a stretch many are unwilling to make. Clearly, a privileged education clinches a position for a black candidate, whereas nonelitist credentials are only sometimes offset by being black. Thus, even in the seemingly honorable effort to obtain some diversity, the aim, as much as possible, is to recruit minority candidates who have been more or less "styled" by seven years at Harvard or Stanford or Pennsylvania. In short, the class bias is so overpoweringly important that it actually undermines ongoing efforts to create faculty diversity through minority hiring. (42 JLEGED 119)
Several years have passed since I wrote that but I cannot say that anything has changed. The same elitist leanings that exclude less privileged whites seem to apply to African Americans as well. When it comes down to it, the elitists who control legal education have little interest in actual contact with the world outside their own. White and African American candidates who attended elite schools; can drop the right names; have educated parents; are able to discuss the best restaurants in L.A., New York or Boston; and who can pass a political litmus test will he hired over an African American candidate who cannot check off everything on this list. In seeking diversity the search is on for what seems to be the least diverse candidates possible.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Untenureds: Hurting, Helping, and Developing a Sense of Entitlement

This is not a “walked 5 miles through the driving snow” story although it may seem that it is.

At the mid level schools at which I have taught, life for untenured faculty has changed. At my first teaching job, I taught the summer before my first fall -- a first preparation crammed into a 7 week course. Like others, the course load thereafter was the same as that for my senior colleagues. At tenure time, we had no input into who the referees were for our scholarship. They were all national figures and I was surprised they would take the time. When the class visitation issue came up, the visits were announced the same day or not announced at all. Why would they be?

These days at my school and others, I assume, it is quite different. Untenureds receive summer research grants starting with the summer before beginning teaching and extending through the tenure decision. Reduced teaching loads in the first year are the norm. The candidates are involved in selecting referees for their scholarship. The scheduling of class visits is done to make sure the candidates can be at their best. (Not that anyone actually writes a negative class visit letter even though their private comments may suggest there are problems.) Faculty, many of whom are not successful writers, are constantly providing advice, often conflicting, about whom to try to please, how to get a good placement, topics, etc. Or, they babble on about their own work, name drop or otherwise try to impress. There are scholarship mentors and “friend” mentors. Next there will be mentors for the mentors and an Associate Dean for Mentoring.

Sounds pretty good right?

I am not sure. I preferred the old way. The new “supportive,” “sensitive,” “caring” approach seems nerve racking. There is so much attention focused on the untenureds, I do not see how they survive without mega doses of Valium. The assistance has an unsettling ritualistic quality about it. It seems so much more intense than when I went through the “less sensitive” process (where I was told to work hard and everything would be fine) although the standards are exactly the same. Everything written will be published and favorable reviews are readily supplied. The production about class visitation suggests that somehow it is not just another day in front of the class.

The new “sensitive” process also strikes me as undermining. We, and every other law school, hire relatively confident and competent fully developed adults. Often they are married with children or have other support systems and come from successful careers. Immediately, like overly protective parents, we “tell” them that they are dependent, need our help, and face a huge challenge. By making life “easier” we communicate that the job is overwhelming when it is not and that we have little confidence in them. What the pretenure period reminds me of is a kind of velvet glove hazing like that which first year students seem to want to experience even though those days are long gone.

Finally, there is another dangerous lesson this may teach. It is only human for untenureds to develop expectations. If their every need(or non need) is anticipated and satisfied, what kind of faculty do they become? Will they accept it if a dean asks them to teach in an area where the School is short on coverage that year? Will they be willing to meet with students even when it is not convenient? Will they simply become part of the Matrix in which they deserve all they get and more regardless of what they do? Most have a sense of entitlement when they arrive and the new sensitively reinforces it.

I honestly feel sorry for today’s untenureds and would not trade places. My hope is that they can ignore the messages and laugh, forgive, and become productive (no matter how much we tell them it is unlikely).

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Over the last few weeks, I have polled readers on three issues. Only a handful of readers responded so who knows what the “truth” is. Still, for those interested, here are the results.

Issue 1

Is there a market for easy tenure review letters?
Thirty-two people responded. Twenty-one answered “yes.” Three answered “no.” The rest had no opinion or checked a box that was not responsive. I found the result surprising. I thought law professors would answer defensively and claim that tenure and review processes were “clean.” They did not. What do you make of a profession that has no front end evaluation of scholarship, no back end evaluation, and hands out life time annuities to mostly already privileged people.

Issue 2

Do you use multiple choice questions on law school final exams?

Thirty people responded. Thirteen use no multiple choice. Twelve use them for less than half of the total grade, four for less than half, and one person for the entire final. These numbers may overstate the number of multiple choice users because I was really only interested in whether people used machine gradable multiple choice. The text of the post made that clear but the actual poll question may not have.

Some commentators defended their use of multiple choice saying there are different “learning styles.” That my be true but the only learning style it makes sense, to me at least, to test is that which is most closely related to reasoning through complex situations. I am not convinced that machine gradable multiple choice question do that.

Issue 3

This question was more complicated. It was an assessment law school health. Only 23 people responded and there is no guarantee that 23 different law schools are represented. Ten ranked their law schools as, well, pretty awful places. Another 4 placed their law schools just a notch up from awful. You would have to look at the post to get a flavor of what “awful” means.

What does any of this mean? The low numbers are disappointing. Let's hope they are not representative.