October 31, 2011
Medical School Deans Lash Out at US News
The Chronicle reports on a panel of med school deans speaking out against US News rankings. If nothing else, we learn that the folks at US News are able to "sleep reasonably well at night" because they tell readers not to "pay too much attention to these rankings" and they believe prospective med school students are using the rankings "responsibly."
Whatever that means.
October 30, 2011
To participate or not in the U.S. News reputational surveys?
A colleague at UCLA writes:
A timely topic on which you and your blog readership may have an interest in commenting and hearing views: If one believes that the US News rankings are foolish in construction and pernicious in effect, what is the ethically appropriate way to respond to a request from US News to participate in their survey of reputation among faculty? Ignore it? Respond as requested? Respond in a way designed to counteract (to whatever limited extent possible) the defects in the rest of the system?
My own view is that the survey of academic opinion, even though it is carelessly done, is still one of the only parts of the whole exercise that is connected at all to any academic reality and value--so I say, participate! But what do readers think? Comments with a full name and valid e-mail address will be strongly preferred.
October 28, 2011
Cities Where Associate Salaries Go the Farthest
The top five: Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston.
October 27, 2011
Law Dean Searches
It's that time of year again. My annual ist list of law school dean searches is now posted (and ready for updates) at the Faculty Lounge here.
October 25, 2011
Why do almost all American law schools weigh research/scholarly potential so heavily in hiring faculty?
Every PhD student in philosophy knows that in applying for jobs, one has to tailor one's self-presentation a bit differently for research universities as opposed to "teaching" institutions, i.e., those schools that primarily emphasize undergraduate teaching. Leading research universities will, famously (or infamously), hire and tenure brilliant scholars who are mediocre teachers, while liberal arts colleges place a premium on teaching ability and commitment, though giving some weight, of course, to scholarship. And then there are the legions of other institutions of higher education that are neither research universities nor liberal arts colleges, but which tend to be more like the latter when it comes to hiring and tenure standards.
Over the last generation, U.S. law schools have, by contrast, become completely homogenous in their faculty hiring: just about every law school now looks for evidence of "scholarly potential" in making its hiring decisions, and this often crowds out all other considerations (though, of course, every schools gives some weight to teaching competence). Rookie candidates are now expected to have at least one publication, a "research agenda," and perhaps another work-in-progress as well. Most "meat market" interviews are dominated by a discussion of research. The centerpiece of any campus visit is the "job talk," a presentation of one's research followed by a Q&A session. Most of an Appointments Commitee's time is given over to the reading and evaluation of writing by faculty candidates. There appears to be no room anymore for the "liberal arts college" model of law school, where the emphasis is on teaching ability not scholarly productivity. One of the few outliers to this trend I am familiar with, Baylor in Texas, seems in recent years to have moved closer to the dominant model for faculty hiring. And one need only look at the untenured faculty at just about any law school in the country to see that "scholarly chops" were front-and-center in the hiring process.
So why did this happen? Is it because law schools hire most new teachers from a relatively small handful of elite law schools? That, I think, is just part of the phenomenon that needs to be explained, rather than constituting an independent explanation. Is it because law schoosl are more like graduate schools than undergraduate institutions? That doesn't seem a plausible explanation for a variety of reasons: all law schools, even the most elite, primarily train lawyers not legal scholars, unlike graduate schools; and although law is a post-graduate degree in the U.S., it is really more like a second undergraduate degree, given that there is no prescribed course of study everyone is presumed to have had before being eligible to study law. So something else must be at work in the increasing homogenization of law faculty hiring over the past generation.
I can think of two complementary explanations:
1. Over the long haul, the academic reputation of an institution depends on the reputation of its faculty, and the faculty's reputation is overwhelmingly a scholarly reputation, which is the one thing about which other academics and scholars can have some reasonably reliable knowledge (who really knows how good the teaching is at another law school?). Thus, an institution, to improve its academic reputation, must improve the scholarly quality of its faculty. And, in the wake of the interdisciplinary turn in legal education over the past thirty years, the scholarly quality of its faculty is primarly a function of the academic reputation of faculty scholarship.
2. Twenty years of U.S. News rankings, in which all law schools are evaluated by the same metrics (including academic reputation, which accounts for 25% of the final score), enforces the trend noted in #1. Schools that might have been content to be the best law school in their region, graduating the bench and bar of the state or locality, suddenly find themselves subject to a powerful, external incentive to conform to the standards prevalent at Yale and Chicago and Michigan.
What do readers think? Are there other factors at work? Are these good or bad developments? Signed comments--full name and valid e-mail address--will be very strongly preferred.
October 24, 2011
CHE on the Lawsuits Against Law Schools and Other Critics of Job Placement Data
Here. (Subscription-access only, alas.)
October 21, 2011
UMass Law Dean Resigns Suddenly
Robert Ward, dean of the UMass School of Law - the former dean of unaccredited Southern New England School of Law who oversaw its acquisition by UMass Dartmouth - resigned yesterday, effective today. His stated reason was that his two hour commute was taking a toll on his health and family. At the same time, however, he disclosed that he had used his state credit card for personal expenses and (once told of this) had reimbursed the state.
October 20, 2011
And yet more on misleading employment stats from law schools
Professor Tamanaha again--though he doesn't mention that these "misleading" numbers are the numbers that NALP asks for. The more interesting question he raises is whether some schools are not trying too hard to find out whether graduates are employed, let alone what they're earning.
Campos the Scammer, Redux: Now Exploiting the Dead!
I've been dutifully ignoring our showboat charlatan from August, but readers keep calling to my attention that others have apparently been watching, and have done some good jobs on him: here (from a practitioner) and here (from a law professor; best line: "I think there's something deeply wrong with using cheap tricks to get attention [as Paul Campos does], especially when the author then repeatedly and vaguely disclaims those cheap tricks, while still employing them, leaving a residue of disgust over everything he touches"). As the last post makes clear, Campos is still busy back-pedalling and is apparently getting so desperate to rationalize his display that he's been reduced to telling stories about former students who committed suicide (but not for any reasons connected to law school!). Quite unbelievable. And made worse by this. Wow.