August 28, 2014

Gaming the U.S.News.com COLLEGE rankings

The case of Northeastern.  To get a sense of how nuts this is, note that at #49 in the USNews.com list, Northeastern ranks ahead of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington in Seattle, both among the top 20 research universities in the United States by normal measures of academic excellence (academic reputation, research funding, membership in National Academies, citations, etc.).

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 28, 2014 in Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

August 27, 2014

Salaita v. University of Illinois: the Constitutional Issues

Here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 27, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 24, 2014

"University of Illinois repeals the First Amendent for its faculty"

More thoughts on the Illinois/Salaita fiasco.  A number of law professors have been outspoken and informative on this issue--Michael Dorf (Cornell), Katherine Franke (Columbia), and Kevin Heller (London), among others--but more need to make their voices heard, especially those of us in Illinois.  This is a travesty, that bodes ill for all our colleagues at state universities around the country.  I hope my esteemed colleagues at the University of Illinois College of Law will speak up.   Many of my friends in the humanities at Illinois worry that the Admin only takes seriously the professional schools and the "STEM" faculties.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 24, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 22, 2014

It's official: Chancellor of the University of Illinois understands neither the First Amendment nor academic freedom

A lawsuit now seems inevitable.  This isn't going to make Illinois Law's Dean search any easier either.  The Board of Trustees has also spoken out in support of the Chancellor's illegal action.  Even in Texas (where, as many readers know, I taught for 13 years), it's been a long time since the Board has done something this inimical to the integrity of the university. 

UPDATE:  The statement by the Board is below the fold for those who are interested:

August 22, 2014

Earlier today, you received a thoughtful statement from Chancellor Phyllis Wise regarding the university’s decision not to recommend Prof. Steven Salaita for a tenured faculty position on the Urbana-Champaign campus.  

In her statement, Chancellor Wise reaffirmed her commitment to academic freedom and to fostering an environment that encourages diverging opinions, robust debate and challenging conventional norms. Those principles have been at the heart of the university’s mission for nearly 150 years, and have fueled its rise as a world leader in education and innovation.

But, as she noted, our excellence is also rooted in another guiding principle that is just as fundamental. Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views.

We agree, and write today to add our collective and unwavering support of Chancellor Wise and her philosophy of academic freedom and free speech tempered in respect for human rights – these are the same core values which have guided this institution since its founding.

In the end, the University of Illinois will never be measured simply by the number of world-changing engineers, thoughtful philosophers or great artists we produce. We also have a responsibility to develop productive citizens of our democracy. As a nation, we are only as strong as the next generation of participants in the public sphere. The University of Illinois must shape men and women who will contribute as citizens in a diverse and multi-cultural democracy. To succeed in this mission, we must constantly reinforce our expectation of a university community that values civility as much as scholarship.

Disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice is not an acceptable form of civil argument if we wish to ensure that students, faculty and staff are comfortable in a place of scholarship and education. If we educate a generation of students to believe otherwise, we will have jeopardized the very system that so many have made such great sacrifices to defend. There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university.

Chancellor Wise is an outstanding administrator, leader and teacher. Her academic career has been built on her commitment to promoting academic freedom and creating a welcoming environment for students and faculty alike. We stand with her today and will be with her tomorrow as she devotes her considerable talent and energy to serving our students, our faculty and staff, and our society.

We look forward to working closely with Chancellor Wise and all of you to ensure that our university is recognized both for its commitment to academic freedom and as a national model of leading-edge scholarship framed in respect and courtesy.

Sincerely,
Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Robert A. Easter, President

Hannah Cave, Trustee

Ricardo Estrada, Trustee

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee

Lucas N. Frye, Trustee

Karen Hasara, Trustee

Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee

Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee

Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee

Edward L. McMillan, Trustee

James D. Montgomery, Trustee

Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee

 

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 22, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 20, 2014

When the FAR goes live shortly...

...it will once again include the feature that permits one to search by law school attended (a feature that mysteriously disappeared last year).  Judy Areen, the new Executive Director of AALS, tells me they have a first-ever Chief Information Officer that fixed this.  Thanks to Judy and the AALS!

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 20, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 18, 2014

Legal externships, circa 1940

An amusing story, of special interest to Chicago folks.

(Thanks to Dean Rowan for the pointer.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 18, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 16, 2014

Letter from law professors to Chancellor Wise at Illinois re: Salaita case

A good letter.  Signatories include Katherine Franke (Columbia), Michael Dorf (Cornell), Steven Shiffrin (Cornell) and many others.

ADDENDUM:  There's clearly only one defensible side to take on this case if you support academic freedom, tenure and freedom of speech, so it is somewhat depressing that some law professors (not those who signed the above letter, obviously) can't tell night from day.  None of Salaita's tweets incited violence or were racist; many were vulgar, but, you know what, that's tough shit:  he's allowed to be vulgar under the First Amendment.  (He's allowed to be a racist too, by the way--Illinois has had real ones on the faculty in the past.))  Many were tasteless and incendiary, though none are as ugly as the racist sentiments emanating from some prominent Israelis.  If they were, we wouldn't be hearing about this case, I'm sure.  For that's not what this case is about:  it's not about vulugar tweets, or stupid tweets, or tweets wishing misfortune befall his enemies, it's about the third rail of American public life, Israel.  He has been punished for expressing politically verboten views about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians, and doing so not with restraint or caution, but unapologetically and with vulgarity.  And punishing him for that is both unconstitutional and a breach of his contractual rights.  One can recognize that without taking any position on whether Salaita is a "brilliant" scholar (as one petition asserted, which I did not sign for that reason--I have no reason to believe he is or isn't, and it is also wholly irrelevant), or whether his views about Israel are correct or defensible, or whether you'd want to invite him to dinner.  He went through the regular channels for tenured appointment at Illinois, received and accepted an offer from the university, and reasonably relied on that when he moved to Illinois to begin his job.  This case is as clear as they come.

MORE:  There is a copy of the correspondence between Illinois and Salaita here.  You will note that the offer letter says the appoitnment is "subject to approval by the Board of Trustees."  It says nothing about the appointment being subject to unilateral revocation by the Chancellor, which is what happened here.  But that aside, as many department chairs have pointed out to the Chancellor (I've seen some of the letters), this will make the appointments process for all departments going forward incredibly difficult, since what was previously taken to be a pro forma part of the process has proven not to be.

ANOTHER:  Michael Dorf (Cornell) replies to some of the criticisms of his original analysis.  Having spoken with some contracts scholars, there's no doubt that Dorf is right about the promissory estoppel point.  The other rationalization for this violation of Salaita's contractual and constitutional rights in circulation is that his tweets might make his students uncomfortable or might indicate that he would treat students with contrary views unfairly.  Both claims are speculative, and I find it hard to believe anyone takes the first seriously:  do you really forfeit your right to be terminated for cause, and your First Amendment rights, if some of your students might be "uncomfortable"?   If a professor mistreats his students in reality, then the university has an obligation to sanction such conduct and, in an extreme case, initiate the process leading to termination.  The University could even initiate a process for firing Salaita on the grounds that his tweets constitute cause; they should not prevail on that ground, but at least that procedure would be far more defensible than unilateral revocation by the Chancellor, a condition nowhere mentioned in the formal offer letter.

BREAKING NEWS:  The great German writer Heinrich Heine apparently just tweeted this:

My wishes are: a humble cottage with a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, the freshest milk and butter, flowers before my window, and a few fine trees before my door; and if God wants to make my happiness complete, he will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees.  Before death I shall, moved in my heart, forgive them all the wrong they did me in their lifetime.  One must, it is true, forgive one's enemies-- but not before they have been hanged.

Word is Chancellor Wise will not be putting his tenured appointment before the Board of Trustees either.  (Political theorist Corey Robin [Brooklyn/CUNY] has a few more quotes in this vein.)

THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED should peruse Salaita's twitter account (he is a prolific tweeter, to put it mildly).  The primary theme of the first 100 or so items is that 300 children in Gaza have been killed, and there can never be a justification for killing children, regardless of race, nationality, ethnicity etc..  I didn't even come across any vulgarity!  No doubt the various right-wing bloggers cherry-picked the most incendiary and tasteless stuff, but I would describe the sample I just looked at as more sentimental ("think of the children!") than incendiary.  (There's more on the "controversial" tweets here--the context is telling.)

ANOTHER:  Prof. Michael Rothberg, Chair of English at Illinois, has another good letter on this issue.  It's increasingly clear that the whole discussion has been warped by misrepresentation of Salaita's tweets, first by right-wing hacks like William Jacobson, the clinical professor at Cornell who is an embarrassment to that university, and then by Cary Nelson.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 16, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 15, 2014

Diane Ravitch has some good questions for Larry Tribe

One hopes he will answer them.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 15, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 14, 2014

Another "alliance" between a free-standing law school and a university...

Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Western Michigan University.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 14, 2014 in Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

August 13, 2014

Sensible analysis of the legal issues in the Salaita case at Illinois...

...by Michael Dorf (Cornell). 

(Thanks to Stephen Diamond for the pointer.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 13, 2014 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink