Friday, March 4, 2011
In January, the ABA's Section on Legal Education Standards Review Committee Subcommittee on Academic Freedom and Status of Position issued a new draft of accreditation standards as they relate to security of position. In particular, the subcommittee proposes eliminating the (at times ambiguous) current requirement that law schools provide tenure or comparable job security to deans, clinicians, and library directors - and indeed, all law faculty (except, of course, the lowly legal writing teacher.) Interestingly, the subcommittee concludes that elminating the mandate won't have any effect - because the AALS bylaw 6-6(d) requires that schools comply with AAUP requirements of tenure.
On its face, everyone loses equally in this regime. But a betting man would conclude that the real victims are likely to be library directors and clinicians who have successfully leveraged ABA job security language into improved status within law schools. (Legal writing faculty have been notably less successful in this quest.)
Nonetheless, on paper at least, these changes put everyone's tenure at risk. And this ubiquity has consequences: it helps unify opposition to the new provisions.
On Tuesday, the Georgetown Law faculty pushed back against those in the ABA seeking to water down faculty job security. As part of its resolution, the faculty unanimously approved the following language:
The Georgetown University Law Center faculty vigorously opposes these proposed changes, on the grounds that they would: (1) Undermine the quality of legal education; (2) Undermine academic freedom in the legal academy; (3) Undermine faculty governance in the legal academy; and (4) Undermine the movement, long endorsed by Georgetown, to bring clinical law professors, legal writing professors, and library directors into full membership in the academy....The faculty endorses and adopts the official comments filed in opposition to the proposed changes by AALS, AAUP, SALT, CLEA (Clinical Legal Education Association), and an informal group of past AALS presidents. The faculty urges the dean to take all possible steps to resist the proposed changes and to urge other law schools to do so as well.
In my view, the most notable aspect was #4 - the explicit nod to skills faculty. It appears that the Georgetown faculty is taking a leadership position on this issue consistent with the institution's overall commitment to clinical education.
Download the whole resolution here and look for a similar resolution at a faculty meeting near you.
Update: Paul Caron has extensive coverage of these issues here.