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June 19, 2009

DePaul Provost Ousts Law Dean Without Consulting Faculty, Plans to Appoint an Outsider as Interim Dean

DePaul University Provost Helmut Epp yesterday sent the following e-mail to the faculty:

I write today to inform you that there will be a change in leadership at the College of Law effective immediately. At my recommendation, the president and I have removed Glen Weissenberger as dean and hired a new interim dean who will be announced soon.

I can assure you that this decision, which is being made in the best interests of our students and the College of Law, was made only after long and careful thought and consideration.  I respect all you have accomplished under Glen's leadership.  However, the working relationship between the dean and the administration had deteriorated to the point where it had become difficult to accomplish the college's work, hence my recommendation to the president for this action....

We have selected a highly qualified and respected member of the legal community to serve as interim dean, ensure a smooth transition and continue the momentum you have given to the college. I look forward to making an announcement about the candidate in the very near future.

By all accounts, Dean Weissenberger was successful and popular with his faculty (he had been reappinted to a second five-year term in 2007).  In response to Provost Epp's e-mail, and to an outpouring of support from the faculty, Professor Weissenberger wrote to faculty and staff of the Law School this morning:

I want to assure you that I was not terminated for any wrong doing of any kind.  My termination was based specifically on a letter I sent to the ABA supplementing information which the ABA already received.  I was told by the ABA that I had a duty to submit this information immediately because the Accreditation Committee is meeting next week.  I gave notice to the University that I would be filing the separate letter.  I am attaching a copy of the letter, because it is part of the record in our ABA accreditation process.

The ABA documents are here:  Download DePaul ABA.  It's a lengthy set of materials, but I believe the following is an accurate summary:  the College of Law at DePaul was entitled to 75% of its tuition revenues under an ABA-enforced agreement between the College and the University Administration; the University has repeatedly breached this agreement.  Professor Weissenberger challenged the University's failure to honor the agreement.  Now he's been fired.

I suppose it is worth noting that Provost Epps was part of the Administration during the Finkelstein tenure scandal, when the Administration of DePaul also did not discharge itself admirably.

I will post more information as it becomes available.  Signed comments from members of the DePaul community, or others with knowledge, are welcome.  THE COMMENTS MUST INCLUDE A FULL NAME AND VALID E-MAIL ADDRESS, or they won't appear.  Please post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 19, 2009 in Faculty News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More on Political Muscle Used to "Fix" Admissions to U of Illinois

A series of revealing articles here.  If these investigations catch on elsewhere, this could be quite an eye-opener for the public.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 19, 2009 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

June 18, 2009

Hiring Chairs for 2009-10 Can Identify Themselves...


Posted by Brian Leiter on June 18, 2009 in Professional Advice | Permalink | TrackBack

June 17, 2009

More Thoughts on Philosophers Influential in Legal Scholarship

Responding toour earlier survey, David Luban (Georgetown) writes with some interesting observations:

Your poll of the most influential philosophers on law faculties was interesting, in part because it raises questions about what kind of influence we are thinking of and which faculties. 

As for the former question:  given the extraordinary number of law professors who think of themselves as utilitarians or classical liberals, Mill must IN FACT be the most influential even among law profs who have never read a word of Mill - provided we count indirect influence.  And surely we should, because otherwise it's hard to see how Kant could have wound up as #1.  How many law profs actually read Kant or have beaten their brains out over the transcendental deduction?  The influence must be indirect:  law profs think of Kant as the source of non-utilitarian thinking about rights.  Ergo, Kant is influential.  This sort of influence will not show up in citation counts.  Conversely, some philosophers will show up in citation counts merely as a footnote to a sound bite.  For example, a quick Lexis search on "wittgenstein w/10 language game or language-game" gets 125 hits.  Most appear simply to be isolated uses of the phrase, without any sign that the author is actually a Wittgensteinian in any robust sense.  So too, "adam smith w/10 invisible hand" gets 445 hits.

As for the latter question, about which faculties:  I found myself placing Aristotle and Aquinas high on the list because there must be a lot of Catholic law schools where the Thomistic influence lingers even if recent decades have seen their faculties become far more secular.
Thoughts from other readers?  Please post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 17, 2009 in Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Illinois State Senator Chris Lauzen, Brazen Hypocrite of the Day (NOW UPDATED with Senator Lauzen's Reply to the Tribune Article)

MOVING TO FRONT FROM JUNE 5:  Senator Lauzen replies, below.

====original JUNE 5 item========

This story airs the dirty little secret of the pressures under which state law schools operate all the time:  state legislators, who of course vote on university budgets, make special pleas to admit friends, relatives, and constituents.  Mostly they weigh in on behalf of weak candidates.  The subtext of these "recommendations" and "phone calls" is always clear:  your legislative agenda items will fare better with me if you admit so-and-so.   The story linked above recounts one such exchange at the University of Illinois a few years back:

An e-mail dispatched by the former law dean at the University of Illinois is less than enthusiastic about a state senator’s recommendation for the admission of one applicant.

"She won't hurt us terribly, but she certainly won't help us," Dean Heidi Hurd wrote in reference to the applicant, in an e-mail to Chancellor Richard Herman. "She will almost certainly be denied admission if the process unfolds as we predict. But she can probably do the work. If you tell me we need to do this one, we will. We'll remember it though!"

"Please admit," Herman replied. "I understand no harm."

The Chicago Tribune obtained Hurd’s e-mail and hundreds others under a Freedom of Information Act request that showed “an ongoing power struggle between educators who want to protect the integrity of the state's most prestigious public university and administrators who also feel compelled to appease powerful lawmakers.” The article notes that lawmakers making requests on behalf of constituents oversee educational budgets, creating pressure to acquiesce.

Herman said not everyone who is recommended by clout-heavy officials wins admission to the university.

No surprises here, and Hurd's posture was the totally normal one.  Deans know the pressure that university administrators are under from unscrupulous legislators, but when they try to be accomodating they also expect solicitude on the issues their unit confronts.

But here's the kicker that makes this story special:  the State Senator, Chris Lauzen, who was using his political muscle to get some connected mediocrity admitted, is quoted as follows when confronted with his (no doubt typical) unethical stunt:

He said the upsetting part of the e-mail exchange was the tone of Hurd’s e-mail. "If it were me, I'd fire her, maybe for insolence," Lauzen said. "If she doesn't believe the person is qualified, she should say no. Instead, she asks for a quid pro quo. Where are her ethics?"

"Pot calling the kettle black" would really understate the appalling moral hypocrisy of this man.  

UPDATE (June 17):   Senator Lauzen graciously called me to take issue with the Tribune story and to explain his actions.  I invited him to send me a written statement, which I said I would publish.  He kindly agreed.  What follows is Senator Lauzen's response:


            For those who believe that all of their fellow citizens who serve in public office are selfish, undisciplined crooks, there is certainly nothing that I can write to correct the Tribune’s unjust attacks upon my record of constituent service.  There is a wise expression, “Don’t dare to argue with a newspaper that buys ink by the barrel.”


            However, for others who can discern that some of us enter public service to help others, I will make my brief case.  There were three factual errors in your report which set up an inaccurate inference that somehow I tried to politically muscle an unqualified candidate through the admission process past more qualified applicants.  That assertion is simply false.


            First, I called asking for information, not admission.  In both my personal and professional experience, I have seen applicants enter the admission and financial aid processes with incomplete applications.  In 1974, I was waitlisted for admission at the Harvard Business School after a professor upon whom I relied failed to submit a promised recommendation letter.  One of the most frequent reasons for failure in scholarship applications is incomplete data.  As an effective advocate for parent and student constituents, it is consistent to request information from any state bureaucracy, including a university, as I do when I am called to help with the Illinois Department of Revenue, Human Services, Corrections, Transportation, Employment Security, Children and Family Services, etc.


            The laziest thing, when constituents call for help, is to do nothing.  That has not been my consistent habit over 17 years of public service.


Second, I did not call the University of Illinois lobbyists; to this day, I don’t even know who those people are.  Instead, I called the U. of I. legislative liaison who is the proper channel for a member of the General Assembly to reach out for information.  Perhaps the reporter and editor can paint my actions to be more sordid if they have me inaccurately approaching the publicly-despised “lobbyists” rather than the appropriate legislative liaison.


Finally, the reporter and editors did not report the whole truth about the context of the exchange between two administrators whom I hardly even know, and much less can take responsibility for the content of their email communications, deeper thoughts, and feelings.  I spoke to neither.  However, I continue to believe that , if former Law School Dean Heidi Hurd felt that any candidate was unqualified to do the work or to be admitted, the only ethical answer if she felt pressured to do what she thought was wrong was simply to say “No”, not “We will remember it though!”


As I observed initially, to hold a shadow bargaining chip over her supervisor’s head, perhaps for future promotion or benefit, is the very Webster’s definition of insolent, i.e. “insultingly contemptuous in speech or conduct”.  Again, if the applicant is not sufficiently qualified for a spot, simply say “No”, reject, and we all move on.  But I asked a completely different question, “Is there anything else the candidate needs to provide to complete the application?”


In the end, this student applied and was uncomplicatedly accepted to another fine Big Ten university law school, did a wonderful job academically, and is now very productively employed in her profession.  In this specific case, the Tribune makes much ado over nothing.


Compared to the dismal failure of the Tribune’s Ethics Reform crusade, which I certainly supported, featuring my call for one student seems “small potatoes” in objective comparison.  I realize that the financially bankrupt Tribune is in a desperate struggle to sell more newspapers and more ads, that media bias is infamous, and that their latest conceit is that they are the “watchdogs in the corridors of power”; however, in this instance, neither their facts nor inference were reliably accurate.  Who will eventually monitor these self-appointed monitors?


In 17 years of public service I have never taken one inappropriate cent from the taxpayers; have come from a successful business background where my clients paid me 700% what my constituents pay me; have no family members directly or indirectly employed in any government agency at any level; have passed reform legislation, against most adds, that actually cut pay for politicians this year and eliminated automatic future raises . . . . What more might you want?


Senator Chris Lauzen

25th District

I thank Senator Lauzen for this thorough response, which speaks to a number of the issues raised.  I still imagine that university officials might interpret even an informational inquiry about a candidate as something more, and I think it would be better for distinguished state universities, whether in Illinois or elsewhere, if elected representatives explained to their constituents that to avoid even an appearance of improriety, they can not contact universities regarding cases for admission, even for informational purposes.

ADDENDUM:  One reader thought I was agreeing with Senator Lauzen's allegation of 'insolence' against Dean Hurd.  I do not.  There was nothing remotely insolent about her e-mail, and it would have been to Senator Lauzen's credit to disavow, rather than reaffirm, that point. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 17, 2009 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

June 16, 2009

Kennedy to Return to Harvard Law from Brown

David Kennedy (international law), who moved less than three years ago to Brown University to become Vice-President for International Affairs, will rejoin the faculty of Harvard Law School this fall.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 16, 2009 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

June 15, 2009

Dan Filler's List of Lateral Moves for 2009

Updated here.  Some of those on his list appeared here, but others did not.  A couple that have appeared here (Thomas Merrill from Yale back to Columbia, Ronald Mann from Columbia back to Texas) do not appear on Filler's list, perhaps because they won't happen until 2010, I'm not sure.  Anyway, submit comments over there to complete the list.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 15, 2009 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

June 14, 2009

Using the AALS Process & "Meat Market" for a Lateral Move?

A reader, a tenured professor, writes:

What is your opinion on a midlevel, tenured faculty at a 3rd tier law school registering for the “Meat Market” in an effort to lateral to another school?  I have received mixed opinions from friends and colleagues (and my wife) and am debating the pros and cons – among others, the possible appearance of desperation and having your colleagues and dean find out your desire to leave, versus greater exposure and making it easier for law schools to interview you. I read recently Paul Secunda’s “Tales of a Law Professor Lateral Nothing” where he seems to suggest that the benefits outweigh the harms. But I would greatly appreciate your advice on this matter.

I'm not sure what I think--the candidate is probably in the best position to assess the local costs (i.e., how colleague and Deans will react etc.).  It is certainly the easiest way to communicate very widely one's openness to a new position.  What do readers think?  Comments are open; post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.  Signed comments strongly preferred; at a minimum, you must include your actual e-mail address (which will not appear).

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 14, 2009 in Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 12, 2009

Congratulations to the Members of the JD and LLM Class of 2009 at the University of Chicago Law School...

...who graduated today.  It's been a pleasure and privilege to have had the opportunity to work with some of you during your time in the Law School:  teaching and learning from such outstanding students has been one of the two real highlights of my first year here!   I'm sure I speak for all my colleagues in wishing you much professional success and personal happiness in the years ahead. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 12, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack

June 11, 2009

"Why Evolutionary Biology is (so far) Irrelevant to Legal Regulation"

This long-gestating paper with philosopher of biology Michael Weisberg (Penn) is now on-line at the Law & Philosophy site, and will appear in a print edition of that journal later this year.

Posted by Brian Leiter on June 11, 2009 in Jurisprudence | Permalink | TrackBack