April 14, 2011
An embarrassing violation of academic freedom at UC Hastings
Though it appears the Dean and the faculty wanted to do the right thing. One hopes Professor Bisharat will organize more conferences on this theme.
April 13, 2011
The Aim of Higher Education: Education...or Prestige?
The focus of this article is college admissions, but it surely describes perfectly what has happened in law schools over the past 20 years:
For colleges, the cycle is a relentless drive for status, prestige, and revenue, in which the metrics are unequivocal: Applications must increase, test scores must rise, acceptance rates must fall, and enough full payers must attend to finance the institution's goals and aspirations....
Meanwhile, the nation's demographics amply demonstrate that few institutions can post gains across each of those metrics, certainly not without leaving out most low-income and minority students, and not without directing attention away from the nation's dire need for greater degree attainment.
College and university leaders—trustees, presidents, chief academic officers—have the unenviable responsibility of ensuring their institutions' continued financial viability while pursuing increasingly ambitious academic missions. In this pursuit, their strong turn to the competitive marketplace is understandable. But it is also clear that more is happening here. There is an insatiable appetite for prestige and status that accompanies the drive for revenues. What we see now is that marketplace competition has escalated to the point at which it threatens to become the mission rather than to serve the mission. And for what gain?
An institution can achieve short-term market advantage through aggressive marketing, but in due time competitors will match and then surpass that edge. The escalating competition raises institutional costs, invariably resulting in higher tuition and a greater need to admit students whose families can pay full price.
While some institutions can handle the added expense, there are broader costs that no college can handle alone. As numerous scholars have documented, zealous pursuit of institutional interest has come at the expense of social goals and the public trust. Moreover, there is a loss of educational values, a loss that we cannot afford. One effect of our pursuit of rankings and prestige has been to change how students view college. No longer seen as the crucial capstone of an educational journey, a degree is now regarded as a ticket to economic advantage. Students and institutions alike, it seems, are branding themselves in pursuit of positioning.
Solum from Illinois to Georgetown
Larry Solum at the University of Illinois--who has published widely in constitutional law and theory, civil procedure, and legal and political philosophy (and who, of course, is author of the well-known Legal Theory Blog)--has accepted a senior offer from the law school at Georgetown University.
April 11, 2011
Should racial and ethnic diversity be added as a factor to the U.S. News rankings?
It sounds like Bob Morse's answer is 'no' , and for fairly sound reasons (though some of the reasons apply as well to some of the existing criteria in the U.S. News 'stew'). One can understand, of course, why those concerned about the racial and ethnic diversity of the legal profession would be pushing such a proposal: since U.S. News rankings are the tail that wags the law school dog, if 'diversity' were incorporated, law schools would do something (dramatic) about it.
The Non-Story about the Case Western Dean Search
Various readers have flagged this item from (the usually excellent) IHE about a web site criticizing Dean candidate Brad Smith, a far right legal scholar at Capital University's law school. It seems to me a non-story for reasons suggested by the comments of Case's Jonathan Adler, quoted in the IHE story: the web site has no identified author, and so as far as anyone knows, this could be a single student or alum, or someone not connected to Case at all. There has been no controversy at the faculty level regarding the political views of the candidates at all. An anonymous third-year student thinks the school is ill-served by someone with Smith's political views. Is that really enough for a controversy?
Since much of the blogging academic right loves to wallow in self-pity, they have been comparing this non-event to L'Affaire Chemerinsky (the one important story I think this blog ever broke!), even though the differences are obvious: Smith has not been offered the job of Dean, let alone accepted it, let alone had the offer rescinded because of his politics. Dean candidates can be criticized, including for their politics, since their job is essentially political. As I said at the time of the Irvine fiasco, when the same self-pity spectacle broke out among delicate right-wingers:
Of course everyone knows that politics figure in decisions about administrative appointments, since the position is often more political, than academic, in character. If, in fact, Professor Chemerinsky was not going to be able to effectively interact with the Southern California legal community because of his public profile, that would have been a pertinent consideration. But after nine months, no one had thought that was an issue: he was offered the job, negotiated about its terms for a couple of weeks, and then signed a contract. Within one week, naked political power was exercised to oust him. Any university that is so vulnerable to partisan political muscle is a university in bad shape.
So far, Professor Smith has been attacked on an anonymous web site for being a political reactionary and apologist for the plutocracy, which he appears to be. That's compatible with him being a fine Dean. I'm sure the folks at Case will sort it out.
UPDATE: Professor Smith sent me a good-humored e-mail to say that, while he disagreed with my characterization of his political views, he agreed with my bottom line: “I don't think there is any real controversy, and I agree with you that the Case Western faculty will sort it out.” I thank Professor Smith for the judicious comments, which demonstrate that he is a person of decanal (rather than blogging!) temperament.
As I've remarked in the past, terms like "liberal" or "conservative," "left" or "right," operate like indexicals like "I" and "this": you have to know who the speaker is to know what they refer to!
April 9, 2011
Why does "Faculty Lounge" list more faculty moves than have appeared here?
Their list is here. Two main reasons: (1) I have only posted news about senior hires of academic faculty with tenure, whereas the FL list casts the net much more widely; and (2) I can only post what I hear about from either the hiring school or the candidate. Given the FL list, I think we're going to post somewhat less here about faculty moves going forward, except perhaps when it's particularly notable (such as McChesney going from Northwestern to Miami).
ADDENDUM: FL has also posted a meaningless item on the rookie market, based on woefully incomplete information. We've had four Chicago grads on the teaching market this year who have or had tenure-track offers from Chicago, Cornell, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Emory, Washington & Lee, and Montana, among other places, but apparently none of them have reported! (Three others have Fellowship or VAP offers as well, though that doesn't appear to be part of the data being collected.)
April 8, 2011
Wisconsin's Judicial Election
Rick Hasen (UC Irvine) has had useful coverage of the issues.
UPDATE: Professor Hasen has some fun.
April 7, 2011
UCSD - Cal Western Merger Suspended
The University of California San Diego and California Western School of Law, who have previously discussed a meger, put those suspended those plans yesterday. Leaders from the two schools pointed to California's budget problems as the reason for this move.
Tulane Professor Being Vetted for 5th Circuit
According to this report, Stephen Griffin - a senior faculty member at Tulane Law School - is currently being vetter for a position on the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Griffin was not among the four candidates forwarded by Senator Mary Landrieu to the President last November. Griffin served as interim dean at Tulane from 2009-10.
"The Circumstances of Civility"
This is a slightly revised version of the short paper I gave as part of the "philosophy panel" at the NEH conference on "Civility and American Democracy" at Washington State University last month. The abstract:
The paper tries to identify the circumstances in which civility in discourse is both necessary and obligatory. I assume that, pre-theoretically, everyone can agree that “civility” is paramount for discourse in the classroom setting. Teachers should be civil to students, and students to their teachers. By elucidating why civility seems obligatory in this context, I try to specify the circumstances of civility, which, in brief, obtain when epistemic values and motives dominate in discourse. I then describe a political context, "Dystopia," in which the circumstances of civility do not obtain, and so civility is not obligatory, but might still be advisable.