Friday, September 30, 2005
The Sextonism Watch goes back to the source, as it were, with this week's nomination from a professor who asked not to be named. From the NYU Law School's announcement of its new capital campaign, the nominator singled out two remarks:
"The funds will be used to increase the size of the faculty by continuing to recruit and support the leading legal scholars in the nation and the world"
Once again, that old definite article pushes this into the realm of ludicrous hyperbole: could one not say what is true, namely, that the school tries to hire leading legal scholars, sometimes even succeeding in hiring the leading scholars in certain areas (e.g., the recruitment of Joseph Weiler from Harvard)? The second quote singled out by the nominator:
"We have offered an unequalled education in U.S. law in conjunction with an unmatched exposure to international legal systems"
An unequalled education in U.S. law? What exactly does NYU think is going on at every other top law school? Even putting aside NYU's rather bad reputation for the quality of teaching (such reputations are, of course, always hard to assess), isn't it rather clear that one gets a better education in law and economics, for example, at Chicago, Harvard or Yale? A better education in constitutional law at Yale or Texas? A better education in social scientific approaches to law at Berkeley, Michigan, or Cornell? There are probably just two areas where NYU genuinely offers "unequalled" educational opportunities for students, namely, international law and tax.
To be fair, it should be noted that NYU has been on much better public behavior under Dean Revesz than it ever was under John Sexton, for whom these watches are, of course, named. And these statements come, of course, from the announcement of a capital campaign, where it is necessary to excite donors through puffery. If this kind of ludicrous hyperbole started turning up, again, in materials prepared for academics or students, one might worry that the Sextonism bug really was no longer dormant in Greenwich Village.