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July 7, 2009

Li-ann Thio, NYU's Anti-Gay Bigot and Visiting Professor

Several readers have now sent links to this story about a Singapore professor who will be teaching human rights law at NYU this fall, who is captured on video arguing at length against the decriminilization of homosexuality (the links to the video can be found in the story linked above).  The most striking thing about the video is its embarrassingly low intellectual level--she mostly just regurgitates Lord Devlin's side of the Hart/Devlin debate, which Hart won, both intellectually and as a matter of English law.   There isn't even the pretense of a response to the obvious Hartian and Millian objections to her Devlinesque position.   Now perhaps Professor Thio isn't as dumb as this performance suggests, and perhaps she has done good work in other areas--there are plenty of anti-gay bigots in the academy who have done important scholarly work (John Finnis is an outstanding example).   Still, this is all a bit embarrassing for NYU.  One imagines she will not receive a warm welcome in Greenwich Village this fall.

UPDATE:  A colleague elsewhere writes:

In addition to your observations about the purely analytical deficiencies of Professor Thio's performance before Parliament, I think that this video helps to point out the deficiencies in the human spirit that she brings to the debate.  The qualities of compassion, enlightenment, and living within the truth (to borrow Vaclav Havel's phrase) that a person exhibits in making an argument about human behavior -- or, conversely, the qualities of condemnation, bitter small-mindedness and unconcern for the humanity of others -- are sometimes as important as the purely analytical forces that one can marshall.  This particular debate, which depends so much upon the basic, threshold question of recognizing the humanity of another, is one of those instances.

This is well-said, though I suppose we must concede that elite law schools have never been able to pretend that they weigh empathy or human decency as important factors in hiring decisions, but they do at least pretend to care about analytical smarts.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 7, 2009 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

July 6, 2009

DePaul Interim Dean, Asked by Some Faculty to Resign, Declines

Details here.  I would be interested to see the letter from the faculty to Judge Wolfson.  One wonders what Judge Wolfson knew before stepping into this morass and also whether he appreciates the profound damage Provost Epp has done to the DePaul College of Law.  His letter suggests he does not.

UPDATE:  A colleague elsewhere has forwarded to me the letter sent by 20 DePaul faculty to Judge Wolfson:

We, the  faculty whose names appear below, are writing to urge you to resign your appointment as interim dean of the College of Law. Our request is not directed at you personally. Most of the faculty has not had the privilege of meeting you. Those who have met you speak positively of you. We are all aware of your sterling reputation as a judge.  More than that, we all appreciate that you have found yourself in a situation that is significantly more difficult than you anticipated, and that is not of your making.
Nevertheless, we feel it is our duty to point out that the method by which you were appointed was illegitimate under the ABA standards for law schools and violated DePaul’s longstanding tradition of shared governance, because it deprived the law faculty of any participation in the selection of our interim dean.

The University administration has an ABA-mandated duty to consult with faculty, and it did not do so. As set forth in ABA Accreditation Standards 106(7), 206(d), and Interpretation 206-1, the faculty must have “substantial participation” in the selection of a dean, interim dean, or acting dean.   The “good cause” exception mentioned in Interpretation 206-1 applies only to the additional requirement that no appointment be made “over the stated objection of a substantial majority of the faculty.”  The requirement of initial faculty participation is absolute.  Although the “substantial participation” requirement may be subject to interpretation, it surely cannot be satisfied by no participation at all.

We realize you may not have been fully briefed on the ABA standards when you accepted the position. We feel duty-bound, however, to make you aware of them now, and of the widespread dismay at the University’s disregard of both the ABA standards and longstanding law school practices, though all this news has probably reached you already.
Like most law faculties, we have historically had some consultative role in the selection of our deans, whether full, interim, or acting. By depriving us of any such role, and ignoring our judgment and voice, the University is sending a wholly uncalled-for message that the faculty is not deserving of its respect or regard. This message harms our reputation, the school’s standing, the value of our students’ degrees, and our ability to recruit promising students and faculty. It will also harm our ability to attract outstanding applicants for our next dean search.
We know that you are a person of conscience and integrity. We also know that, as a judge, you appreciate the critical importance of proper governance and adherence to established and required procedures.  We therefore urge you to resign and allow us to pursue our mandated and customary practices in consulting on the appointment of the interim dean of the law school in advance of that appointment.

This is well-put; I was unaware of the ABA requirements, which do seem clear.  If Judge Wolfson really is "a person of conscience and integrity" (as the letter generously assumes), then his course of action should be clear.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 6, 2009 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

Journalists Are Hopeless, Part 293

Look at how the ABA Journal misrepresents the letter from Illinois law faculty about political muscle being used to secure admission for students to the university:  "Law Profs on Clout-Influenced Admissions:  Everybody Does It."   That is obviously designed to leave readers with the impression that the Illinois faculty argue that it is OK to admit sub-par students in response to political pressure.  But the letter says nothing of the kind!  (Note that the author of the article may not have written the misleading headline.)  The faculty letter says, among other things, that:  (1) the widespread use of political pressure on university admissions decisions raises a question about newsworthiness in this case; (2) it would be good if all admissions decisions were on the academic merits, and not influenced by non-academic criteria (but they aren't, and they probably can't be); and (3) the university has to be responsive to those who fund the university.  This last point surely bears emphasizing:  if Chancellor Herman simply "blew off" every legislator seeking "special consideration" for an admissions candidate, the price would not be paid by Chancellor Herman, but by students at the university who would bear the brunt of budget cutbacks.  Elected officials should be called to task for using their power over the pursestrings to secure "favors" for friends and constituents, but until the political culture changes, university officials are in an impossible position:  they are supposed to protect the educational interests of students at the university, but to do so, they can not antagonize powerful politicans.  If the Chicago Tribune stories have the effect of changing the political culture with respect to university admissions, that would be great; but the villains in this piece are those exercising their power to extract special favors, not those who are trying to protect the interests of the university and its educational mission.

UPDATE:  OK, I take it back:  journalists aren't hopeless at all when compared to the bottomfeeders of the blogosphere who post comments at the Volokh blog.  Apparently professors aren't supposed to make arguments, let alone long ones!  The nerve of some people, I guess.   But it's indicative of why there's a PR problem for the university here given the low level of the ratiocination skills of members of the nominally educated public.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 6, 2009 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

July 5, 2009

An Open Letter to the Chicago Tribune from University of Illinois Law Faculty

Here.  It's quite damning, and rightly so.  The Chicago Tribune journalists should apologize--and, better yet, run a story excorciating the real villains, the corrupt politicans using their leverage over the university to secure favors for friends and constituents.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 5, 2009 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

July 3, 2009

More Fun with SSRN Downloads

Here, covering schools ranked by US News in the low 20s to 100.  Since it's the boring dog days of summer, and Inspired by Professor Crawford, here's how the US News "top 15" ranks according to gross SSRN downloads.  The next column reports the number of authors listed on SSRN, excluding those who had no downloads in the last year.  Per capita is the total downloads in the last year divided by the number of authors.   The last two columns are self-explanatory.  I have not corrected for prospective moves (Sunstein is in government service [but on leave from Harvard], Black & Litvak are going from Texas to Northwestern, Fried is going from Berkeley to Harvard, Triantis is still listed with UVA, though he is now full-time at Harvard, etc.).



Total Downloads

# of Authors

Per Capita Downloads (rank by per capita downloads)

Top 3 Authors (Downloads)

% of Total Due to Top 3


Harvard Law School



699 (2nd)

L. Bebchuk (23, 416), C. Sunstein (12, 413), V. Wadhwa (9,050)



University of Chicago Law School



749 (1st)

B. Leiter (8,823), E. Posner (8,126), D. Evans (4,935)



Columbia Law School



455 (5th)

J. Coffee (5,631), R. Gilson (4,751), T. Wu (4,468)



New York University School of Law



287 (12th)

M. Kahan (3,558), S. Choi (3,327), S. Chesterman (3,193)



Yale Law School



375 (8th)

D. Kahan (3,910), J. Balkin (3,467), R. Romano (3,377)



University of Pennsylvania Law School



468 (4th)

D. Skeel (4,872), P. Robinson (3,288), E. Rock (2,788)



University of California, Los Angeles School of Law



426 (6th)

S. Bainbridge (8,468), L. Stout (2,746), K. Raustiala (2,348)



University of California, Berkeley School of Law



366 (9th)

J. Fried (4,084), P. Menell (3,821), J. Yoo (2,382)



Stanford Law School



316 (10th)

M. Lemley (10,152), R. Gilson (4,751), A. Sykes (1,464)



Georgetown University Law Center



310 (11th)

W. Bratton (3,236), A. Levitin (2,225), P. Schrag (2,101)



University of Texas School of Law



488 (3rd)

B. Black (13,597), H. Hu (3,507), K. Litvak (1,634)



Duke University Law School



402 (7th)

S. Schwarcz (10,685), M. Gulati (2,843), R. Michaels (1, 120)



University of Michigan Law School



276 (13th)

R. Avi-Yonah (3,494), J. Hines (2,265), A. Pritchard (1,456)



Northwestern University School of Law



242 (15th)

A.  D’Amato (1,666), S. Calabresi (1,221), J. McGinnis (1,147)



Cornell Law School



248 (14th)

T. Eisenberg (2,309), B. Frischmann (1,644), J. Rachlinski (1, 364)



University of Virginia School of Law



174 (16th)

C. Sprigman (1,396), P. Mahoney (962), G. Triantis (958)


Posted by Brian Leiter on July 3, 2009 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

July 2, 2009

Rutgers Legal Historian Mark Weiner Chosen as Chancellor's Distinguished Scholar for 2009-10

The Rutgers-Newark press release is here.  Mark is one of the most creative and interesting legal historians around, and the honor is richly deserved.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 2, 2009 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

July 1, 2009

Henderson on Salary Distributions for the Class of 2008

Here.  Informative, as always.

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 1, 2009 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack