The protests are not really continuing since they have nothing to do with the protests about a year and a half ago when the memos were first released. Those were by graduating 3Ls. This is by an organization determined to disrupt campuses across the US. To that end, the day after they set up shop in front of the law school they interrupted my Con Law class with Prof. Yoo.
I'm certain most of my classmates are very respectful of his right to teach here, while disagreeing with his politics. Similarly, those of us in the class were pissed off as hell that our time was taken from us. It's unfortunate that the Daily Cal is such a crappy paper that it did not cover the class interruption and the citation of the protesters [by the police].
Matthew Spitzer, Dean of the law school at the University of Southern California since 2000, will step down at the end of this academic year. Six years is an above average term of service in the onerous world of law deaning, though not quite the remarkable twenty years of his precedessor as Dean, Scott Bice. USC will be the only one of the top law schools engaged in a Dean search as things stand now, though it's still early in the academic year.
Among Dean Spitzer's achievements visible to outsiders was a significant improvement in the academic credentials of entering students and the recruitment to the faculty of Elizabeth Garrett (legislation, administrative law) from the University of Chicago and her husband Andrei Marmor (legal philosophy) from Israel.
No doubt one of the great mysteries of our time is what the Administration of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan thinks it is accomplishing by publishing these preposterous rankings year in and year out. Is it their goal to convince people that US News is rocket science? (By comparison, it is.) To embarrass schools like Harvard and UVA and Georgetown and Texas which generally fare better in the Cooley rankings than in US News or scholarly rankings? (One year, my school, Texas had the misfortune to be #1 in the Cooley rankings. Someone from the public affairs office at the university wondered whether we should publicize that fact; our response: don't mention it! It's a disgrace to be #1 in a ranking that typically fails to have Chicago in the top 25!)
Cooley ranks law schools essentially by aggregating 32 different bits of data the ABA collects. Since many of the criteria (number of students, number of faculty, etc.) favor size over anything remotely relevant to legal education, big schools like those noted above (as well as Cooley itself) fare meaninglessly well.
What makes this spectacle so peculiar is that neither law faculty nor students pay any attention to this exercise. So what is the point? It is really quite mysterious.
Well-known enemy of academic freedom and pathological liar David Horowitz (for details and documentation of this man's history of malfeasance, go here and keep scrolling down) has produced a new study purporting to show that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 8 to 1 at leading law schools. Some observations:
1. Given Mr. Horowitz's partisan dishonesty about almost all topics he touches, one should hesitate before crediting his results. This is not to say the 8:1 figure is surprising; indeed, one might think it surprising the ratio isn't even more skewed, given the fringe lunatics and anti-intellectuals who now run the Republican Party in the U.S.
2. Let us assume the results are credible: what do they mean? Note, first, that only slightly more than half of the 1,021 faculty at the 10 schools surveyed were registered at all. There is no reason to think that those not registered have similar political loyalties, since one likely explanation for not registering is that one finds the available alternatives either too conservative or too liberal. I am not a registered Democrat, though I have voted for Democrats, as well as Libertarians, and others. Many of my friends and colleagues who are far more conservative than I am are not registered Republicans, either because they are libertarians or because they find the current Republican party unrecognizable from the one they joined in the era of Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javitts. In short, the results may understate or overstate how "liberal" the legal academy is: we simply don't know. (Of course, given that the current Democratic Party is to the right of Richard Nixon on most issues of domestic economic and social policy, one might think the results establish how conservative the legal academy has become.)
3. In addition to being generally dishonest, Mr. Horowitz is also, happily, stupid. If you scrutinize his results, you will see he reports the University of Chicago--which has about 35 full-time faculty--as having 55 Democrats and 8 Republicans. What this means, of course, is that Horowitz and his co-author must have also counted clinical faculty, part-time faculty, adjuncts, etc. (despite claiming not to have done so). Since most, not all, clinical faculty work in public interest fields that attract Democrats, including them in the pool will, of course, change the results quite dramatically.
For more on the fundamental silliness of these studies, see my earlier remarks here.
A graduate of Cornell Law School now practicing with a leading law firm in New York City writes:
I was reading the Law School Reports blog (which is great, by the way), and I saw that you mentioned that NYU did not provide a better education in social scientific approaches to law than Cornell. I graduated from Cornell last spring. To be honest, I don't think Cornell provides any education in social scientific approaches to law at all. The only time I was exposed to Cornell's social scientific knowledgebase was during a brief presentation to admitted students in the spring prior to matriculation. I understand that Cornell's faculty may have a strong interest in this approach to law but I do not think that this translates--in any way--to an education in this approach for Cornell students. Cornell Law courses simply do not contain any social science content whatsoever.
I ran this question by a number of graduates and no one in their three years at Cornell had any expose to the social scientific approach in class. In fact, they were uniformly shocked that we had a reputation for providing such an education to students. And one of these students was a research assistant to Professor Eisenburg so, presumably, he would have had some familiarity with this element of the curriculum if it existed. I am not saying that I didn't like Cornell or was provided with an inferior education there but, trust me, there is no social science in the curriculum.
It is surprising that a school whose scholarly profile in law and the social sciences is clearly so strong would not have that profile reflected more clearly in the curriculum. I wonder whether other Cornell faculty, students, or alumni have different perspectives?
UPDATE: A Cornell faculty member writes:
Brian, to say I was surprised by the post from our alum understates--that is, assuming I understood the thrust of his (or her) post. My immediate reaction was that this semester--literally, right now--my colleagues teach various courses that directly (and quite literally) involve social science (broadly defined) and, indeed, empirical methodologies. Additional curricular offerings are scheduled for future semesters. Such courses have been taught in varying levels every year that I have been on this faculty. Insofar as our faculty is especially noted for this scholarly strength it naturally follows that our course offerings express this dimension. Moreover, in every course I teach I always make a point to draw on and reference the relevant social science evidence and scholarship where appropriate to inform class discussion. Finally, what I describe are simply my quick reactions to the post. I'm pretty sure there's more at CLS, especially after one broadens the construction of "social science" to encompass more than the hard-core empirical. If our alum was suggesting that CLS' entire curriculum is not oriented around a social scientific perspective, however, he (or she) is certainly correct. After all, empiricism is merely a scholarly tool and one perspective, it is not a "religion" or "philosophy" that would fundamentally shape the presentation of any standard law school course, at least here anyway.
Adrian Vermeule (constitutional law, legislation, statutory interpretation) at the University of Chicago has accepted the offer from Harvard Law School.
Harvard's dramatic expansion of its faculty in the last couple of years has led it on an aggressive raid of highly regarded younger legal scholars at a variety of schools, in addition to Vermeule: most recently, Jody Freeman (environmental law) from UCLA; Jack Goldsmith (international law) from Virginia; Daryl Levinson (constitutional law and theory) from NYU; and John Manning (administrative law) from Columbia. Of special interest, given the myth of the left-leaning academy, is that three of these appointments (Vermeule, Goldsmith, and Manning) are of scholars generally considered to be conservative.