November 20, 2013
More on the dental school analogy...
...from the WSJ law blog, including an interesting little quiz.
UPDATE: A colleague elsewhere writes, regarding some of the earlier quotes about dental schools in the WSJ item:
Of course, none of the quotes were:
“Dentals schools are just trying to steal money from their students”
“Dental professors are useless and lack any relevance in the real world”
“Dental professors don’t teach students how to be dentists”
A marked difference from today [in the case of law schools].
I guess dental schools back then lacked charlatans and opportunists to fan the flames of misplaced resentment. (This professor asked not to be identified since, as he put it, "ordinarily I don't mind commenting publicly, but this is one area where I'd prefer not--I don't need the hassle from the haters," adding that the "squelching of dissent is remarkable," which is no doubt true (vide yesterday's post about on-line harassment). After years of on-line harassment, I, fortunately, am indifferent to it!
November 19, 2013
Anonymity and cyber-harassment
(Link now fixed.)
UDPATE: This is worth quoting in particular:
[T]he various anonymous comments about me have no purpose other than to harass and no content other than racially and sexually demeaning language. And the reason they’re anonymous is obvious. The commenters want to make racist, sexist, and sexually harassing comments without having to suffer the consequences of engaging in such speech in real life. Such speech contributes literally nothing to discourse. And to briefly retread ground I covered in my first post, it’s worth noting that each thread I’ve referenced above started out as a thread at least nominally about my scholarship and my ideas, but quickly shifted to comments about my identity.
The claim that anonymity inherently promotes First Amendment values thus makes little sense in a world of race- and gender-based online harassment. To be clear, I have no problem with anonymity per se — indeed, I agree with the Supreme Court’s statement in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission that “[a]nonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” When people write anonymously, but do so in a way that contributes to discourse, it seems to me that the choice to withhold one’s name is up to the individual. Indeed, anonymity might empower some marginalized speakers to engage in discourse who would otherwise remain silent.
But when anonymity facilitates harassing and abusive speech directed at marginalized identity groups, society has a strong First Amendment interest in regulating anonymity. Harassing and abusive speech results in a net loss to the marketplace of ideas. Online racial and gender harassment silences the speech of many women and people of color, diminishing the diversity of perspectives represented in online discourse and impoverishing the “free trade in ideas” within “the competition of the market” that Justice Holmes first discussed in his famous dissent in Abrams v. United States. If we really care about the marketplace of ideas, we should care about eliminating online racial and gender harassment.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mary Anne Franks (Miami) has explored similar issues, including in "Sexual Harassment 2.0," 71 Maryland Law Review 655 (2012) ("In order to address multiple-setting harassment, a third-party liability regime similar to that of traditional sexual harassment law should be introduced into non-traditional contexts. In the particular case of online harassment, liability should attach to website operators. This regime will create an incentive for website operators to adopt preemptive, self-regulatory measures against online sexual harassment, much as employers have done in the offline setting") and in "Unwilling Avatars: Idealism and Discrimination in Cyberspace," 20 Colum. J. Gender & L. 224 (2011):
Cyber harassment affects women disproportionately, both in terms of frequency and in terms of impact. Moreover, there is a particularly poignant irony in the nonconsensual sexualized embodiment of women in cyberspace. As will be discussed in more detail below, cyberspace can present particularly compelling opportunities for women because they feel the constraints of physical vulnerability, especially sexual vulnerability, more acutely than men. In that case, the extent to which this physical vulnerability is re-imposed upon them--principally by men--in cyberspace is truly disheartening. If cyberspace harassment makes many women feel less safe online than they do in real life, and more exposed and vulnerable to sexual aggression both on and offline, this under- mines the idealistic promise of cyberspace in a significant way. The volume and viciousness of cyber-attacks-- especially sexualized attacks--on women by men suggests that cyberspace cannot be thought of as a place where, on balance, women and men can participate equally. Rather, it is a place where existing gender inequalities are amplified and entrenched.
November 18, 2013
The Dental School Analogy
Dean Gershon (Mississippi) calls our attention to the mid-80s crisis in dental education, in which some of the schools that closed were at major private research universities. (For more on dental school closings, see also this article.) Dean Gershon writes:
What is interesting is that among the universities choosing to shut down their dental programs were prestigious schools like Georgetown and Emory. My understanding is that those universities determined that their dental schools no longer attracted the types of students they wanted to have at their institutions. Like law schools, the greatest decline in dental school applications occurred at the top end of standardized scores and undergraduate GPA’s. Emory and Georgetown were concerned that the students in their dental schools would not reflect the high credentials of students in their other programs, so they decided that it was better to close the doors, than to allow the dental school to “dumb down” the university.
The assumption seems to be that it will most likely be fourth-tier schools that will close, if law schools close. Based on what happened to dental schools in an almost identical atmosphere, I am not sure that assumption is correct.
A few thoughts on these striking observations. First, I am inclined to think that the most vulnerable schools are free-standing ones of relatively recent vintage, and those also happen to be overwhelmingly 4th-tier--but their "4th tier" status is not the primary explanation of their vulnerability, but rather one that just exacerbates their vulnerability to enrollment (and thus revenue) declines. Second, there were some five dozen dental schools in the United States when schools began closing; I do not know where Georgetown's and Emory's were in the dental school hierarchy at the time, but that would probably be relevant to thinking about the import of the analogy. Third, law schools, like medical schools, tend to have cross-disciplinary impact, in a way that dental schools (and veterinary schools) did not and do not (as best I can tell). For a research university to close a law school is to lose an academic unit that, in all likelihood, interacts with political science, economics, philosophy, history, and/or medicine. The number of leading research universities (excluding those with a STEM focus) without a law school is miniscule: Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Brown. Rightly or wrongly (mostly the former, but not always!), research universities have come to see a law school as a major part of their academic identity. (UC Irvine spent years trying to get a law school, and during the same time period, UC Riverside and UC San Diego were also exploring options to start one.)
It is striking that many (indeed, most) of the leading dental schools that remain are located at state research universities (far more so than with law, probably for the reasons noted already). But this also suggests something which I expect in the case of law: we will not see any state flagships closing their law schools (though many will no doubt contract a bit or a lot, depending on local economic conditions).
More on the decline in LSAT takers and law school finances...
November 14, 2013
Big reduction in sticker price tuition at Ohio Northern
Another sign of the times.
ADDENDUM: And another approach: freezing tuition at St. Thomas in Minnesota.
November 13, 2013
Autoadmit Redux: Cyber-misogyny and racism...
...are (alas) alive and well. (This catalogue of abuse even features as one of the perpetrators one of the notorious Campos trolls.)
November 10, 2013
A new poll: the ten best faculties in constitutional law and theory
We last did this four years ago, so here's a new one, listing 21 faculties that might have some claim on being in the "top ten" (no doubt I omitted some faculties better than some of those listed, but we're aiming only for a "top ten" list as the outcome). Please don't participate unless you know something about the area! No school names are used, just lists of faculty writing in the area (broadly construed to include, e.g., civil rights and voting rights, federal courts, but not, e.g., administrative law by itself). A faculty name marked with an * indicates that faculty member is only part-time at the institution.
I'm afraid I can't add (or remove) names once the poll has started. If there are grievous omissions, let me know, and I'll note that when the final results are available.
ADDENDUM: As usual, I ask that no one link to the poll; if there is a link, the school(s) likely to be favored will be removed from the final results.
ERROR OF OMISSION: The faculty list including Chafetz, Dorf, Shiffrin et al. should also really have included Aziz Rana, John Blume, Laura Underkuffler and Sherry Colb--sorry about that error! Fortunately, it appears to have been the only significant one.
AND MORE: I am embarrassed to have carelessly confused the spelling of the last name of my terrific junior colleague Nicholas Stephanopoulos with that of the terrific Oxford legal philosopher Nicos Stavropoulos! In addition, Curtis Bradley could clearly be added to the list that includes Adler, Benjamin, Powell, Youn get al., as could Jack Knight, cross-appointed to law from political science.
AND AGAIN: The faculty list with Blasi, Bobbitt, Greenawalt, Greene et al. should have included Ariela Dubler as well!
November 09, 2013
Michigan's Undergraduate Career Services Center compiles a useful list of testimonials by students happy to have gone to law school......and who went to a wide variety of law schools. Good to have a little reality-check on the insane cyber-ranting by individuals, many of whom are no doubt victims of circumstances and genuinely aggrieved, but who seem tragically confused about the causes of their suffering.
November 08, 2013
What an "Ad Hominem" Argument Is and Isn't
MOVING TO FRONT FROM AUGUST 25, 2011 (NO PARTICULAR REASON, EXCEPT CONFUSIONS ABOUT 'AD HOMINEM' STILL ABOUND IN CYERSPACE, AND THIS POST WAS POPULAR AT THE TIME)
We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming for a brief detour into a subject that is occasionally addressed in the philosophy blogosphere, and is standard fare in "informal logic" or "critical reasoning" classes: namely, the ad hominem argument, what it is, and why it is fallacious with repect to the truth of what someone says, but not necessarily with respect to whether they are reliable or whether one is justified in believing them. There was not a single fallacious ad hominem in my post last week, and while the fact that the random know-nothings that populate cyberspace didn't understand that, it was slightly more surprising that one or two law professors made the same mistake. So perhaps this can be an educational moment. (Those who already know what an actual ad hominem fallacy is can move on!)
"Paul Campos is scamming his school and his students" is an insulting statement, but it is not a fallacious ad hominem. Insults are not fallacious: they may be warranted or not, fair or not, but they do not, per se, involve the ad hominem fallacy. In its pure form, the ad hominem fallacy is the fallacy of arguing from a fact about the speaker to the falsity of what the speaker says. Consider:
Smith claims that heat will flow spontaneously from a cold object to a hot object.
But Smith is a notorious philanderer and drunk.
Therefore, it is false that heat will flow spontaneously from a cold object to a hot object.
In fact, what Smith said is false (he is denying one aspect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics), but the fact that he has bad personal traits does not show it to be false: the bad personal traits in question are irrelevant to the truth or falsity of whether or not heat will flow spontaneously from a cold object to a hot object.
In this case, the bad personal traits in question (sexual infidelity and alcohol abuse) are also irrelevant to whether Smith is a reliable source of information about thermodynamics: one can be knowledgeable about basic physics, and be a cheat and a drunk as well. Contrast that, however, with the following non-fallacious argument:
Smith claims that heat will not flow spontaneously from a cold object to a hot object.
But Smith says he knows this because it came to him in a dream.
Therefore, one is not justified in believing that heat will not flow spontaneously from a cold object to a hot object based on Smith's assertion.
In this example, what Smith said is, as it happens, true (it is now a correct statement of one aspect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics), but a personal fact about the speaker--namely, that the proposition came to the speaker in a dream--is a reason for not believing him, for not treating him as a reliable source of information about thermodynamics. Why? Because dreams are not reliable sources of knowledge about the laws of nature. So here we argue from a fact about the speaker--namely, that his putative knowledge came to him in a dream--not to the falsity of what he says, but to his reliability, to whether we are justified in believing him.
One final case to consider, which involves appeal to a fact about the speaker, but is also not fallacious:
Smith tells his classmate (falsely) that heat will flow spontaneously from a cold object to a hot object.
Smith is a malicious person, who will do anything to get an advantage over his classmates.
Here a fact about the speaker--his malice and willingness to "do anything" for personal advantage--is offered to explain his false statement, but it also arguably implicates his epistemic reliability as well: someone motivated mainly by malice and personal gain is probably not a reliable source of information about any subject that implicates his personal advantage and/or might satisfy his malice. But notice that this last argument presupposes the falsity of the statement in question (it is obviously false, to anyone knowledge about thermodynamics) rather than purporting to establish the falsity: it only explains the making of the false statement.
Back, now, to Campos the Scammer.
Campos initially made a variety of obviously false generalizations about law professors (e.g., that they are scamming their students, that they are lazy, that they don't really invest much time in class preparation, that they do not produce useful or intellectually serious scholarship, and so on--after being called out, he back-pedalled and began adding qualifiers, but it is the initial false generalizations to which I was responding). That Campos himself is scamming his students, is lazy, doesn't invest much time in teaching, does not produce scholarship any longer--let alone useful or even good scholarship--is relevant to explaining his propensity to libel his colleagues who do their jobs. (So, too, his history of making outrageous claims to attract media attention is relevant to explaining this libel, and also bears on his general epistemic reliability as a source of information about law professors.) This was the point made pithily by my colleague from Maryland, who summed up Campos the Scammer by saying, "A thief thinks everyone steals." This does not establish that it is false that everyone steals; but if it is false that everyone steals, it explains why someone, namely the thief, would nonetheless claim it is true. It also bears on the epistemic reliability of the "thief": since the thief projects his failings on to others, he is not a reliable source of information about the behavior of others insofar as they deviate from his norm. This appeals to facts about the speaker, but is not a fallacious ad hominem.
Notice, of course, that Campos the Scammer recognizes the importance of facts about the speaker to questions of epistemic reliability; even when anonymous, he emphasized these facts about himself in his first post:
I am a law professor. I have been one for many years, and hope to remain one for many more. I have had, by the conventional terms in which such things are measured, a successful career in legal academia. I am on the faculty of a tier one law school, and have taught at several others.
This was meant to establish his epistemic reliability, his trustworthiness, as it were, as a source about the "dirty little secrets" (as he put it) of the legal academy. This was not a fallacious argument on his part: if it were true that he really were a "successful" legal academic, that would be relevant to whether he should be believed. The difficulty with this argument, as I pointed out, is that one of its premises is false. But in pointing that out, I am not guilty of a fallacious ad hominem either.
Curiously, Campos the Scammer largely (not entirely) offered fallacious ad hominem arguments in response to me. The fact, for example, that I have a blog about law schools and produce law school rankings along various dimensions is not relevant to whether or not it is true that Campos is a failed academic, or even to whether or not I am a reliable source of information about whether Campos is a failed academic. On the other hand, when Campos the Scammer writes sarcastically,
Nor can anyone blame Professor Leiter for refusing to bring his expertise and experience to bear on such matters as the extent to which law schools actually train students to engage in some aspect of the practice of law, given that he has never held any professional position for which a law degree (let alone bar admission) is a requirement.
he has not made a fallacious argument, since it would be relevant to my reliability as an expert on "the extent to which law schools actually train students to engage in some aspect of the practicde of law" if it were true that I had "never held any professional position for which a law degree (let alone bar admission) is a requirement." The problem with this argument is that the premise--that I have not practiced law and not been admitted to the bar--is false. (Why did Campos the Scammer make this false statement about me? Malice, perhaps, or just laziness.) Of course, it's also an irrelevant argument, since I didn't claim the expertise in question, but that is a separate issue.
Now take a different case. A colleague in Chicago wrote to me:
In one post, you asked a good question: “My teaching evaluations, by the way, are a matter of public record, will ScamProf Campos share his?” Fortunately, Colorado teaching evaluations are publicly available online: https://fcq.colorado.edu/UCBdata.htm. A review of the evaluations from all twenty-one 1L courses last year shows that Colorado Law students give most faculty quite high ratings but regard Campos as one of the least effective professors -- tied for second-last on the “instructor effective” question, and not because he was a hard professor: students estimate doing a below-average amount of work for his class. Particularly relevant to Campos’s claimed role as the law students’ champion, his own 1Ls rated him one of the lowest on treating students with “respect” (tied for second-last) and one of the lowest on “availability” to students (second-last).
I have not verified the claims made about Campos's evaluations relative to his colleagues (but anyone interested may do so), so for the sake of argument, assume the characterization is correct. Is this a fallacious ad hominem? The argument here is a bit opaque, so it may depend on what we take my correspondent to be saying, but here is one possibility.
Campos the Scammer claims to be motivated by concern for students (rather than, say, attracting attention to himself, compensating for his own failings, or maliciously libelling his colleagues).
His teaching evaluations suggest he does not have great concern for his students.
That would not be a fallacious ad hominem: the teaching evaluations are relevant evidence with respect to the motive Campos has claimed, and that motive is relevant to his epistemic reliability (which is why, of course, he has claimed it).
On the other hand, pointing to the fact (if it is a fact) that Campos is not a very effective instructor and does not show much respect for his students (relative to his colleagues) would be a fallacious ad hominem if offered to show that his claims about the rise in law school tuition were false or that he were not a reliable source of information on that subject.
And that concludes our brief foray into the ad hominem fallacy.
UPDATE: Mike Livingston (Rutgers-Camden) writes with another fun example:
1. Brian Leiter says he will not write about Paul Campos again.
2. Brian Leiter writes about Paul Campos again.
3. Therefore, Brian Leiter cannot be relied on to make accurate statements--or at least, like Oscar Wilde, is unable to resist temptation.
Premise 2 is arguably false: I wrote about the ad hominem fallacy, using Campos only for an example! But let's grant that premise #2 is true, then the argument is not fallacious, though it's not very persuasive: one example of this kind seems inadequate to support the general claim about reliability in #3.
November 07, 2013
Trends in LSAT-taker, applications to law schools, and enrollments over 45 years
This is illuminating. Of crucial significance about the recent drop (on all three fronts) is that there are more ABA-approved law schools now than there were just a dozen years ago.
UPDATE: Here's a list of ABA-approved law schools by year of approval--we've seen an increase of roughly 10% in the total number of law schools in just the last dozen years.