In the midst of last week's discussion by Randy Barnett (Georgetown) and Einer Elhauge (Harvard) of why there are so many visiting professors, an anonymous law professor posted the following hands-down winner for cattiest comment of the month. Remarking on another commenter who said,
And [Harvard professors will] tell you that only with the uptick in lateral hires (starting slowly under Clark, and increasing dramatically under Kagan) has HLS returned to a position of being able safely to say that its faculty comprises superstars of academia across the board.
Our anonymous professor writes:
Well, they can say that safely, but they can't say that accurately. Person for person, the Harvard faculty is still pretty weak. It's not as bad as it was 5-10 years ago, when it was sort of an open joke. But it's only maybe in the top 5 on a person-for-person basis. Better quality faculties would include Yale, NYU, Chicago, & Stanford. Plus, a bunch of Harvard's recent hires have been mediocre.
That's part of the irony with Elhauge's blogging about the new Harvard entry-level standards: Harvard has hired a bunch of people that are not very good, and that are very likely to prove themselves duds. So sure, Harvard will hire like that for a while. It will be the new big thing, and the Harvard faculty will feel very good about it. But eventually they'll see it's not working for them, and in another 10 years they'll pick a different approach.
I guess I'd nominate a particular NYU professor as the likely author of this rather nasty comment, especially since NYU is so obviously the "odd man out" in a list of faculties notable for their person-for-person or per capita strength. Nothing like anonymity to bring out the charm!
ADDENDUM: One of my esteemed NYU colleagues protests that the evidence adduced does not warrant the inference about the culprit, so I hereby withdraw it. I should note that I had in mind one other, non-publishable, piece of evidence for thinking a particular NYU professor had posted it, but that too probably underdetermines the conclusion drawn. So let us leave the catty remark standing on its own, with its author the sole possessor of his or her motives--and with my apologies for any unintended offense taken by colleagues at NYU.