Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Update on ScamProf

ScamProf is the failed academic who has done almost no scholarly work in the last decade, teaches the same courses and seminars year in and year out, and spends his time trying to attract public attention, sometimes under his own name, this time anonymously.  These are important facts about ScamProf, since he is indeed scamming his students and his state, and his initial posts were tantamount to a confession that he's not doing his job.   His colleagues, in any case, now know who he is, and are quite understandably angry, since the reckless genearlizations are naturally read as commentary on them.  After we called him out Monday, ScamProf pulled back a bit, and switched gears and stopped projecting his own failures on to all his professional colleagues and started actually writing about the economics of legal education (though without noting that it is paralleled across the boards in higher education, and apparently unaware of the large literature on that topic--but at least it was an improvement).   Given his track record, I expect it won't last.  When his identity comes out, there will be additional ironies that will warrant comment. 

ADDENDUM:   A colleague from Penn writes:

I don't know who this jerk is, but I appreciate you calling him out.   I clicked through to his posts and felt the urge to throw something.   I bust my butt preparing for class and educating myself deeply in my  fields (and, indeed, refuse to teach any class in which I don't consider myself highly qualified), and students clearly understand and  appreciate those efforts, but this kind of recklessly expressed  cynicism can undermine an enormous amount of good work in the creation  of a cooperative and engaged learning environment.  It's the  functional equivalent of writing about how every man on the planet regularly violates the terms of his intimate relationships and pushing  out that message with the aim of making even the happiest partners and  spouses suddenly experience doubt.   What a jerk.

This captures rather well why ScamProf is so offensive to those who actually do their jobs.

ANOTHER:  A colleague at Maryland writes:  "Scamprof is easily explained by the well known proverb that 'a thief thinks everyone steals.'  Don’t let up on him."   By the way, several readers tell me that ScamProf moderates comments, and will not approve those that are too critical.

AND ANOTHER (August 20 9 pm):  As predicted, ScamProf's brief foray into substance ended (Larry Ribstein [Illinois] has some useful comments on his attempt at substance here), and he returned to his true métier, the fact-free smear.   But he's also finally outed himself (as Blog Emperor Caron notes) as Paul Campos at the University of Colorado, where he has taught for 20 years, despite many efforts to leave (he couldn't get better offers, unsurprisingly).  You can see his conributions to "practical" scholarship here.  Richard Neumann's absurd over-estimation of the "cost" of a law review article (which Campos, being a hack, repeats uncritically) would still be a cause for outrage if most law professors produced the kind of junk Campos does.   Indeed, the spectacle of a guy with one year of practice experience--who produced sophomoric drivel like Jurismania (which, thankfully, has disappeared down a black hole of obscurity) and then spent years writing op-eds for a Colorado newspaper, and is now an expert on obesity--lecturing the legal academy about the importance of "practical" scholarship would be farcical, were this not his latest publicity stunt in a long line of malicious behavior.  

For Paul Campos is, of course, most notorious in the legal academy for going on the O'Reilly Factor--yes,the O'Reilly Factor--to call for Ward Churchill to be fired for his offensive political opinions (long before any allegations of academic misconduct arose).  And this wasn't an anomaly:  he also called for Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee) to be sanctioned by his university for his offensive political opinions.   Fortunately for Professor Campos, his contempt for the First Amendment rights of state university professors do not constitute binding precedents on the courts, and I am confident his university won't sanction him for his irresponsible speech.  They should, however, launch an investigation into whether he is performing his duties, since his blog is tantamount to an admission of dereliction of duties and his 'scholarly' record is prima facie evidence of failure to do his job as a professor at a major research university.

But back to the fact-free smear.  Among the gems:  (1) denying that he's met me, when we've met more than once; (2) attacking me for running law and philosophy blogs and rankings (despite my cyber-hobbies, I've produced more scholarship in the last five years than he's produced in twenty); (3) stating, falsely, that "law school costs have increased exponentially, even as the job prospects of law school graduates have declined" (law school tuition, like all higher education tuition, has increased exponentially for thirty years, and during most of that time the legal job market was strong; tuition increases have slowed considerably since the downturn in the job market that began with the Great Recession in 2008); (4) stating, falsely, that I've never held a job for which a law degree is required; and so on.  And then, of course, there's the pitiful anti-intellectualism, worthy of Rick Perry's approach to higher education, but there's no need to belabor that for this audience.  Given that Professor Campos's "scholarship" would not survive his Rick Perry approach to scholarship, perhaps it's time for him to resign?

I understand that Paul Campos, our ScamProf, is feeling desperate, given the hole he's dug for himself.  His colleagues are furious, he was already an embarrassment to his institution, and now he's added fuel to the fire by openly insulting his colleagues.  But whereas the facts about Campos that I've adduced (he disputes none of them, for obvious reasons) are highly relevant to understanding why he would lie, exaggerate and engage in reckless generalizations about his professional colleagues, the facts and non-facts he adduces about me are just irrelevant ad hominems.

It is unfortunate that some victims of the recession think, falsely, that ScamProf Campos is doing something courageous on their behalf.  He's not, he's just doing what he always does, trying to surf the wave of the latest fad and attract attention to himself.  For years, I've pressed for better job placementdata and cautioned students about the reality of the recent job market and relying on the data in US News.   There's no dispute about the importance of that.  There's no dispute that some law schools have misled prospective students; some are now being sued, and we will see what facts come to light.  There's no dispute that some faculty, in all disciplines, abuse the privilege of tenure--Campos is a prime example.   None of this warrants the absurdly offensive description of American legal education as a "scam."  The American legal system is one of the best in the world--did that happen despite American legal education?  The leading law firms continue to recruit at the leading law schools, the ones that produce all the scholarship ScamProf Campos derides.   Are they simply benighted?   Law professors, at least the good ones (like most of Campos's colleagues at Colorado that I know), teach substantive doctrine in many areas of law as well as analytical and dialectical skills that lawyers need.  (My teaching evaluations, by the way, are a matter of public record, will ScamProf Campos share his?)   There's been debates for years about the relative balance of doctrinal, theoretical, and clinical teaching in legal education, and those will no doubt continue, independent of ScamProf Campos.

I suppose we should be grateful that in the dog days of summer the blogosphere has the distraction of a showboat charlatan like ScamProf Campos.   The University of Colorado has a very good faculty, and a distinguished history, and they certainly do not deserve this embarrassment.   Hopefully by after Labor Day, this sorry display will all be ancient history.   I intend to say no more about it.

MORE FEEDBACK:  From a colleague at UCLA:   "Kudos for beating the crap out of the jerk."  From a colleague at a school in the New York area:  "Thanks for your straightforward remarks against the Campos blog.  From the perspective of this junior person who is just starting up, one of the most disheartening parts about the blog was the indiscriminate trashing of legal scholarship."  From the Dean of a leading law school (not Chicago or Texas):  "[G]reat Campos posts. He deserves all the pilloring he gets. Heaven help the deeply unhappy, anxious students who cling to him as a hero."  Indeed.

AUGUST 25 UPDATE:  For those who would like to know what an ad hominem argument actually is.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2011/08/update-on-scamprof.html

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