Friday, August 5, 2005
Back at the old digs, we defined "Sextonism" as follows:
[A]fter former NYU Law School Dean John Sexton (now President of NYU), [Sextonsim] is a disease familiar to law faculty, in which a good school suddenly lapses in to uncontrolled and utterly laughable hyperbole in describing its faculty and accomplishments to its professional peers. The NYU alumni magazine, which was sent to all law faculty nationwide, was so plagued by Sextonism that a Stanford professor memorably dubbed it "law porn."
At the time, we offered the following example of an outbreak of Sextonism:
Alas, another fine school appears to be stricken now: UCLA (whose new Dean, Michael Schill, has just moved from NYU--a fact which may simply be coincidental). A brochure has just arrived in faculty mailboxes nationwide announcing UCLA's "new faculty" hires--a good set of hires, as I've noted on two different occasions (here and here)--yet the brochure then spoils this fine accomplishment by placing it under the banner of the following laugh-out-loud proclamation:
"UCLA School of Law is emerging as the strongest law faculty in the United States."
What? What about Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Columbia, NYU? Not close. What about Michigan, Virginia, Texas, Penn, Berkeley, Georgetown? Perhaps competitive in some ways, in other ways clearly not....
By a reliable measure of faculty quality UCLA ranked 14th before these appointments, and by an unreliable measure, it ranked 16th (in "reputation" among academics). The new appointments are, indeed, good ones, and together with recent losses at Cornell, Northwestern, and USC give UCLA a realistic shot at the top ten.
But "the strongest law faculty in the United States"! Yikes, that is embarrassing.
In the interest of purging the legal academy of Sextonism, I invite readers to nominate schools for outbreaks of Sextonism, and I will post one example each week on Fridays, until we have cleansed the legal academy of preposterous hyperbole. Send your nominations to me and be sure to include links and/or other documentation. Editorial comments are also welcome, and unless contributors specify otherwise, I will credit the nominators.