Friday, March 22, 2019

Lateral hires with tenure or on tenure-track, 2018-19

These are non-clinical appointments that will take effect in 2019 (except where noted); I will move the list to the front at various intervals as new additions come in.   (Recent additions are in bold.)  Last year's list is here.  Feel free to e-mail me with news of additions to this list.


*Mehrsa Baradaran (banking law, bankruptcy) from the University of Georgia to the University of California, Irvine.


*Valena E. Beety (criminal law & procedure) from West Virginia University to Arizona State University.


*Matt Blaze (computer and network security) from the University of Pennsylvania Department of Computer & Information Sciences to Georgetown University (joint appointment in Law and Computer Science).


*Michael Cahill (criminal law) from Rutgers University back to Brooklyn Law School (to become Dean).


*Danielle Citron (privacy, civil rights, freedom of expression, Internet law) from the University of Maryland to Boston University.


*G. Marcus Cole (bankruptcy, law & economics) from Stanford University to the University of Notre Dame (to become Dean).


*Danielle Conway (public procurement law, entrepreneurship, intellectual property) from the University of Maine (where she is Dean) to Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law (to become Dean).


*Justin Driver (constitutional law) from the University of Chicago to Yale University.


*Jonah Gelbach (law & economics, civil procedure, empirical legal studies) from the University of Pennsylvania to the University of California, Berkeley.


*D. Wendy Greene (employment law, race & law, constitutional law) from Cumberland Law/Samford University to Drexel University.


*Vinay Harpalani (race & law, education law, constitutional law) from Savannah Law School to the University of New Mexico (untenured lateral).


*Kate Levine (criminal law and procedure) from St. John's University to Cardozo Law School (untenured lateral).


*Myrisha Lewis (health law, bioethics, family law) from Howard University to the College of William & Mary (untenured lateral).


*M. Elizabeth Magill (administrative law, constitutional law) from Stanford University to the University of Virginia (to become Provost).


*Ralf Michaels (comparative law, conflicts of law) from Duke University to the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and Private International Law (Hamburg).


*Daniel Morales (immigration law) from DePaul University to the University of Houston.


*Rachel Moran (education law, civil rights, race & the law) from the University of California, Los Angeles to the University of California, Irvine.


Continue reading

March 22, 2019 in Faculty News | Permalink

George Mason donor-contract disclosure case will be heard by the Virginia Supreme Court (Michael Simkovic)

The advocacy group UnKoch my campus, which seeks to promote academic freedom and integrity by limiting donor control over university research, has sued George Mason University to try to force disclosure of donor contracts with the the Charles Koch Foundation and other conservative billionaire-backed foundations and re-granting organizations. 

George Mason is a public university.  A limited number of George Mason's donor contracts have already been disclosed.  Some of these contracts gave donors an inappropriate degree of influence which critics say may have politicized research. 

A law clinic unofficially affiliated with George Mason University actively harassed climate scientists because of their research on global warming.  The clinic was led by a George Mason adjunct, staffed by George Mason students who received academic credit through a law-school-approved externship program, funded by donor groups similar to those supporting the law school, and named after George Mason, but was not officially part of the law school or under the control of its dean. 

The ultimate identity of many donors to George Mason and embedded think tanks and foundations on campus remains shrouded in mystery because of the use of re-granting organizations and donor-advised funds, but there are links to a group of prominent and politically powerful conservative billionaire families.

George Mason University won the disclosure case at the circuit court level, but the case is now heading to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The case could have important implications for many universities who have received substantial donations from donors with strong ideological views. Public universities could be especially vulnerable to disclosure lawsuits.  

UnKoch my Campus and the AAUP have developed kits to help universities ethically accept donations without impinging on academic freedom and academic integrity.  Some prominent conservative donors to law schools and universities, such as the Olin Foundation, have excellent reputations for respecting academic freedom. 

According to Conservative Transparency's data (see also here, here, and here), leading university and college recipients of donations from conservative groups include:

Of the leading 5 academic recipients from conservative donors, only George Mason is a public university.  Leading public university recipients include University of Oklahoma, Michigan State, the University of Virginia School of Law, and the University of Arkansas.

I am not aware of any database that tracks donations from ideologically left-wing groups.   If readers know of such a database, please direct me to it and I will update this post to include a list of leading recipients from liberal groups.   

Some critics worry that UnKoch myCampus's tactics at times might go too far and could make colleges and universities reluctant to accept funding that supports rigorous, unbiased, and non-ideological research which happens to be funded by conservative groups.

March 22, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic | Permalink

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Tucker Carlson and I discuss the benefits of Higher Education and Student Loans (Michael Simkovic)

Last night I was invited to appear on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News.  For the last two nights, Mr. Carlson has been inveighing against higher education and federal student loans.  Mr. Carlson has been promoting a private-student-lender supported plan to tax higher education institutions that accept federal student loans. Similar plans to tax educational institutions were previously backed by both Senator Hillary Clinton and President Trump, with the support of several Wall Street connected think tanks.[1]   

Mr. Carlson and I spoke via a remote uplink from a Fox News affiliate in Los Angeles (Fox News’ headquarters is in midtown Manhattan, near Rockefeller Plaza).  The video appears here or here.  (There was a bit of a delay in the audio relay, so we sometimes speak at the same time).

Although my time was severely limited, and Mr. Carlson frequently spoke over me, I did manage to make a few key points:



  • The increase in earnings and employment is largely caused by the education.
    • (see also here, here and here for a review of the extensive empirical literature, including identical twin studies, instrumental variables studies, field experiments, quasi-experimental designs, OLS regression studies, fixed effects studies, and basically studies using every technique of causal inference know to professional labor economists)
    • We are about as sure that education increases earnings as we can be sure of anything in social science—the evidence is solid



  • With symmetrical risk sharing (of both upside and downside) universities would be paid more by the government for providing education, not less.


  • If the government invested more in education, the economy would grow faster and we would have more innovation, less unemployment, and a lower debt to GDP ratio.



  • Federal student loans generally perform well. Federal student loan 3-year cohort default rates are only around 6 to 7 percent at 4-year-and-above non-profit and public institutions.  These default figures include students who start at such institutions but do not complete their degrees.  Recovery rates on defaulted loans are close to 80 percent.  (Defaults and problematic practices tend to be concentrated at for-profit universities, which Republicans have recently moved to deregulate). 


  • Education boosts net worth in the long run, even after accounting for debt. People who are more highly educated not only have higher incomes, they also have higher savings rates and higher net worth. Among households headed by someone age 40 or older, those with professional degrees have median net-worth of $700,000 compared to only $100,000 for those with a high school diploma.  More highly educated heads of household also have significantly less debt relative to their assets.



  • University administrators are not overpaid.
    • There’s a market for executive talent in which universities must compete.
    • Many private industries pay managers more than universities and have a higher concentration of managers than universities
    • Universities pay their top executive leaders less than private sector companies pay senior executives (at the top, around $5 million at universities versus around $150 million at publicly traded corporations). Pay is lower for top executives in academe even after accounting for institution size
    • For example, Fox News, with only around $2.7 billion in revenue, recently paid its chief executive $21 million dollars in total compensation.  NYU, the largest private, non-religiously affiliated university in the United States recently paid its president $1.5 million.  NYU has $10 billion in operating revenue. Scaled by revenue, NYU pays its chief executive only 2 percent as much as Fox News pays its chief executive (i.e., Fox News pays its chief executive 50 times as much per dollar of revenue as NYU pays its chief executive).
    • NYU's business--which includes hospitals, biomedical research, and scientific and engineering labs--is far more complicated and far more socially valuable than Fox News' entertainment business.  Fox News has never saved anyone's life. NYU Medical Centers and other university based medical facilities have. Fox News has never trained anyone to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.  NYU and other universities have.


For more information, see:

  1. Michael Simkovic, The Knowledge Tax, 82 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1981 (2015).
  2. Michael Simkovic, Risk-Based Student Loans, 70 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 527 (2013).
  3. Frank McIntyre & Michael Simkovic, Timing Law School, 14 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 258–300 (2017).
  4. Michael Simkovic & Frank McIntyre, The Economic Value of a Law Degree, 43 J. Legal Stud. 249–289 (2014).
  5. Michael Simkovic & Frank McIntyre, Populist Outrage, Reckless Empirics: A Review of Failing Law Schools, 108 Nw. U.L. Rev. Online 176–280 (2014).
  6. Michael Simkovic, A Value-Added Perspective on Higher Education, U.C. Irvine L. Rev. (2016).


With the benefit of more time, I could have pointed out a few more things and corrected some more inaccuracies, described in greater detail below:


Continue reading

March 20, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Television | Permalink

Monday, March 18, 2019

Entry-level hiring report for 2019


Professor Lawsky (Northwestern) is now collecting information.

March 18, 2019 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News | Permalink

Thursday, March 14, 2019

At Yale, the Federalist Society loses friends and alienates people (Michael Simkovic)

Yale’s Federalist Society provided a platform on campus to an anti-gay group which has been identified by mainstream media organizations and the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group because—unlike some religious groups that have misgivings about the theological acceptability of homosexual acts—this group has advocated for criminal prosecution of homosexuals by secular authorities at least as recently as 2013 (see here, here, and here). 

Many Yale students predictably responded by losing respect for both the Federalist Society and for the students who invited the alleged hate group to campus.

Although most Christians—especially young and highly educated Christians—favor greater acceptance of gays, a leader of the Federalist Society claimed that by inviting the anti-gay group he was simply “attempting to be a Christian at Yale Law School.”

The numerous Christian groups that are active at Yale did not band together to invite to campus a group that has advocated criminal prosecution of homosexuals.  That decision was the sole prerogative of the Federalist Society or some of its members. 

The leader of the local Federalist Society’s account of events appears here.

He acknowledges that he is viscerally angry at his classmates, but praises the Yale faculty for supporting free speech.

The entire unfortunate turn of events could have been avoided if the Federalist Society vetted its speakers more carefully and favored substance over shock value.  There are plenty of other highly capable lawyers who can argue effectively for religious freedom in situations that challenge progressive views of gay rights, and who are not associated with any actual or suspected hate groups.

If the Federalist Society leader had allowed himself to cool off before publishing his essay, he might have considered that the best way to demonstrate “Christian love” and “forgiveness”—as he claims to want to do—might not be to refer to those who disagree with him about controversial social issues as "over-the-top" "enemies" organized in "an alphabet soup of identity groups" which "attacked" him with "snarky, vitriolic . . . progressive" words because they are neither "adults" nor "serious thinkers" "even by Yale standards."   

I can empathize with the Federalist Society leader’s aversion to the harshness of internet trolls these days. 

But he should not suggest that those who disapprove of or could be hurt by his actions include only gays, women, racial and religious minorities, and liberals.

Why are leaders of the Federalist Society mischaracterizing Christianity as monolithically hostile to gays and other minority groups?  Intent is always perilous to guess.  However, given Republican donors' history of nationally coordinating provocation campaigns that are executed through local campus chapters, conservative groups may be attempting to incite conflict between Christians and other progressive and moderate groups.  Many Christians and progressive, moderate and conservative groups favor family-friendly economic policies and lower taxes on churches and religious schools, including non-profit universities.  While such policies provide economic benefits to society as a whole, they are often opposed by political donors who fear that they could be funded through higher taxes on the very wealthy

Accusing universities of being anti-Christian is a conservative political tactic that dates back to the book that launched the McCarthyist and FBI informant William F. Buckley's career.

Whether or not conflict is being intentionally provoked here, a more constructive approach for all concerned would be to focus on building solidarity across ideological lines rather than engaging in such polarizing conflict on social issues.

March 14, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic | Permalink

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

HeinOnline and co-authored articles

Dru Stevenson (South Texas) writes:

I've enjoyed your recent blog posts about the law school rankings. As far as I can tell, HeinOnline counts two-author articles as an article for each coauthor, which means that when faculty at the same school coauthor an article, citations to that article count once for each author, and twice for the institution, no?  In other words, for lower-ranked law schools that are concerned about their scholarly rankings, co-authored publications from their own faculty count double.  When USNews starts using HeinOnline citation counts, it will reward  institutions where a lot of professors co-author articles.  I'm not sure this would be a bad thing - coauthorship is much more common in some other academic disciplines, and I think the legal academy might benefit from more collaboration and scholarly mentoring relationships.  But it also is susceptible to gaming, of course.  Any thoughts on this?

Does anyone know if this is how Hein searches will work?  And thoughts on Professor Stevenson's question also welcome.  Signed comments will be strongly preferred, thanks.

March 13, 2019 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The roller coaster

Blog Emperor Caron unwisely hypes his school's favorable overall ranking in the charade.  This is unwise because it legitimates the nonsense number (i.e., the overall rank), which will likely come back to bite Pepperdine in another year (much as they got bitten rather unfairly last year).   With resources, any school can move up in the rankings by shrinking their student body (especially the 1L class) and holding everything else constant.   As I've noted before, almost every change, for better or worse, in the overall ranking has nothing to do with reality:  it reflects moves to game the rankings either by the school doing better, or by one's immediate competitors for those schools that do worse.  

The Blog Emperor also usefully produces the "peer [academic] reputation" scores for the most recent law school rankings.   These scores typically track the overall ranking in recent years, with small deviations.  This year's amusing small deviation is for Yale, which comes in at 4.8, behind Harvard and Stanford at 4.9.  Yale is still #1 in the overall ranking, while Harvard is #3, behind Stanford at #2--the way it's been for a number of years now. This result is entirely a function of one-and-only one factor (which doesn't print):  spending per capita.  Harvard is rich but large, with economies of scale for which it is penalized in the ranking formula; Yale and Stanford are rich, but very small. Hence the results.



March 12, 2019 in Rankings | Permalink

White House proposes to spend approximately nothing on early childhood education to minimize taxes for top 0.1 percent (Michael Simkovic)

NPR reports that the Trump administration has proposed a meager one-time increase in funding for childcare / early career eduction equal to approximately 0.0045 percent of GDP ($1 billion out of $22 trillion estimated 2020 GDP) or about 0.001 percent of household networth.  Total federal spending would increase to $5.4 billion, or 0.0225 percent of GDP. 

In contrast, Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed to spend approximately $70 billion per year on childcare and early childhood education--13 times as much as President Trump.  Warren's plan would be financed with approximately one third of the revenue generated by an annual ultra-high net-worth wealth tax of 2 percent on personal fortunes above $50 million, and 3 percent above $1 billion.  It would therefore cost 99.9 percent of households nothing in increased tax burdens.

The White House explained that its less generous proposal was motivated by a desire to avoid spending "unsustainable amounts of taxpayer dollars" and instead come up with a plan that would be (politically) "viable."  

Continue reading

March 12, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Monday, March 11, 2019

In Memoriam: Robert S. Summers (1933-2019)

Alas, there are a lot of passings of notable figures in the legal academy the last couple of days:   Robert Summers, emeritus at Cornell where he spent four decades, who was well-known for his work on commercial law and legal theory, has also died.  The Cornell memorial notice is here.

(Thanks to Brian Bix for the pointer.)

March 11, 2019 in Memorial Notices | Permalink

In Memoriam: William C. Powers, Jr. (1946-2019)

I was shocked to learn of the passing of Bill Powers, former Dean of the Law School and President of the University of Texas at Austin, as well as a leading authority on tort law.   I was fortunate to be his colleague and to serve on the faculty at Texas when he was Dean; he was a brilliant and shrewd leader, with excellent academic values and judgment, and great people and political skills.  He improved both the Law School and the University.  He was also a popular and beloved teacher.   The UT Austin memorial notice is here.

March 11, 2019 in Memorial Notices | Permalink

Sunday, March 10, 2019

QJE: Investments in education continue to provide economic benefits two and half centuries later (Michael Simkovic)

A recent article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (the leading journal in economics) finds evidence that early investments in education in the 1600s through mid 1700s continued to provide economic benefits in the form of persistently higher eduction levels and 10% higher wages and centuries later.  

The study examined the economic performance of communities based on their proximity to Jesuit missions established and subsequently closed hundreds of years ago.  The Jesuits emphasized literacy and job training.  The missions were established in locations that were not particularly desirable in terms of population density, soil fertility, climate, or access to transportation and trade, because Franciscans who arrived earlier claimed the best locations for their missions.  The Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish Empire in 1767, at which point Jesuit missions shut down.

The closer communities were to Jesuit mission, the higher subsequent education levels and earnings, and the quicker communities adopted new technologies.  These benefits persisted for centuries.  The benefits are similar across national boundaries and do not appear to be due to institutional or legal differences.

Proximity to Franciscan missions, which emphasized healthcare and anti-poverty efforts rather than education, did not provide similar benefits.

Felipe Valencia Caicedo; The Mission: Human Capital Transmission, Economic Persistence, and Culture in South America, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 134, Issue 1, 1 February 2019, Pages 507–556,

This article examines the long-term consequences of a historical human capital intervention. The Jesuit order founded religious missions in 1609 among the Guaraní, in modern-day Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Before their expulsion in 1767, missionaries instructed indigenous inhabitants in reading, writing, and various crafts. Using archival records, as well as data at the individual and municipal level, I show that in areas of former Jesuit presence—within the Guaraní area—educational attainment was higher and remains so (by 10%–15%) 250 years later. These educational differences have also translated into incomes that are 10% higher today. The identification of the positive effect of the Guaraní Jesuit missions emerges after comparing them with abandoned Jesuit missions and neighboring Franciscan Guaraní missions. The enduring effects observed are consistent with transmission mechanisms of structural transformation, occupational specialization, and technology adoption in agriculture.

The Washington Post has provided a good summary.

March 10, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Religion, Science | Permalink

In Memoriam: Stephen J. Ellmann (1951-2019)

I was very sorry to learn of the passing of Professor Ellmann, a longtime member of the New York Law School faculty, and a leader in clinical legal education and an expert on the law of human rights and South Africa in particular.  There is a lovely tribute from the NYLS Dean here and an obituary here.  I had never met Professor Ellmann, but had corresponded with him over the years, and we had an instructive debate (instructive for me certainly) about experiential education here.

(Thanks to Robert Condlin for the pointer.)

March 10, 2019 in Memorial Notices | Permalink

Friday, March 8, 2019

How Big Tobacco’s star advocate became an education expert for the New York Times and Forbes (Michael Simkovic)

Richard Vedder, a leading opponent of excise taxes on cigarettes, takes a dim view of most of higher education.  Vedder depicts colleges and universities as overpriced, wasteful, and deserving budget cuts.  Vedder argues that academic freedom and research impede teaching marketable skills. 

The reality is that public investments in higher education more than pay for themselves.  More spending is linked to more innovation and better labor market outcomes. Educational quality and access have improved over time.  The economy would likely grow faster if governments invested more in education.  More people would find jobs, they would earn more money, and governments’ long-term fiscal position would likely improve.

Vedder would be easy to dismiss if not for his backing from industries that spend heavily on advertising and lobbying—like tobacco, for-profit education, and private student lending.[1]  Vedder has become a regular contributor to the New York Times, Forbes, and other publications with wide circulation, and frequently testifies before Congress. 

Despite his general antipathy to education, Vedder forcefully defends for-profit education.  Vedder likes that for-profit institutions have little interest in “promoting research, saving the earth [or] achieving progressive objectives.”  Perhaps harried adjuncts are less likely than tenured research faculty to assess whether taxing cigarettes saves lives.

Public health spillovers aside, for-profit education is typically not great for students or taxpayers. 

For-profit institutions spend far more of their revenue on sales and marketing and far less on instruction.  For-profits account for a disproportionate share of federal student loan defaults and federal subsidies.  Although for-profits typically serve weaker students, after accounting for student characteristics, for profits typically provide less value for the money than non-profit and public competitors.  For-profits are the only type of educational institution which have been shown to increase tuition after gaining access to federal student loans, without increasing quality.  Many for-profits have been linked to consumer fraud.

Continue reading

March 8, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Thursday, March 7, 2019

“Risk Sharing” is a Covert Tax on Higher Education (take 2) (Michael Simkovic)

Inside Higher Education reports that along with an executive order that would politicize federal funding for higher education and scientific research, President Trump may soon unveil a "risk sharing" plan to tax higher education institutions that accept federal student loans.  As I noted previously, when Senator (and former Democratic Presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton proposed a similar plan, such proposals are little more than a covert way of raising taxes on educational institutions and pressuring colleges into pushing students into borrowing using higher cost private student loans.

We do not expect home builders or auto-manufacturers to pay when home buyers or car buyers default on their loans--even government backed mortgages--and there is no good reason to impose similar penalties on colleges and universities, especially given how much of the financial benefit of education flows to the federal government as higher tax revenues and lower disability and unemployment benefits costs rather than as student loan repayments.

Under symmetric risk sharing, including upside as well as downside, the federal government would be paying universities more, not less.

March 7, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

$50 million gift to George Mason Law to endow 13 faculty chairs

Wow! And double wow!

March 7, 2019 in Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

Attention Bob Morse: this is quite important in using Hein for a scholarly impact study (UPDATED--SEE BELOW, IMPORTANT!)

The point is due to Robert Anderson (Pepperdine):  "[T]o the extent that interdisciplinary work has an impact in law, it will be cited in law reviews and therefore captured in the ranking. Some of the papers most often cited in law reviews were published in economics or finance journals (Jensen and Meckling, Coase). The key here is ensuring that Hein and US News take into account citations TO interdisciplinary work FROM law reviews, not just citations TO law reviews FROM law reviews as it appears they might do. That would be too narrow. Sisk currently captures these interdisciplinary citations FROM law reviews, and it is important for Hein to do the same. The same applies to books."

It's not yet clear how they will utilize the Hein database.  When I search my own name in the law library journal, I get a much higher count than I do with Westlaw, because Hein actually has a much larger number of foreign law journals than Westlaw.  And I find citations to scholarship that did not appear in law journals as well, including books.  But maybe that isn't how it's going to be done?

UPDATE:  Kevin Gerson, Director of the Law Library at UCLA, writes with extremely helpful (but also alarming) information:

I’ve been reading with interest your posts and thoughts on the new US News scholarly impact ranking (along with all of your other posts). From the information we have available so far, I think it’s pretty clear how US News will make use of the Hein database. Two years ago, with Hein’s help, I set up UCLA Law faculty author profile pages within HeinOnline. In order to create those pages, Hein sent me an information request by way of an Excel spreadsheet that included about a dozen informational columns to be filled out. The columns included such things as Known Name Variations, Affiliation Website Link, and Author E-mail Address. The tell is that when US News made their information request of law schools in mid-February, they sent a nearly identical information request by way of the same Excel spreadsheet that also included a Known Name Variations column. What this means is that US News is having Hein create the very same author profile pages that I (and others) had created for their schools. Those author pages include: (1) journal article citations to the author’s articles that are contained in Hein but only if those citations are made by other articles also contained in Hein and only if those citing articles use a recognized citation abbreviation, such as the Bluebook; and (2) case citations to the author’s articles that are contained in Hein but only if those citations are made by cases available in HeinOnline or Fastcase. Citations to books will not be included. Nor will citations to journals not contained in Hein. By using this method, US News has designed a purely automated way to calculate “impact.”

When you searched for yourself in the HeinOnline Law Journal library, you were conducting a different search than the one used to create author pages. You were thus able to pull up references to books not contained in Hein. Try instead searching in the Law Journal Library (under the advanced search) for yourself using the Author/Creator field. The results you see there, along with the citation counts, are what form the basis of your Hein faculty author page, and that is what will be used for the US News metric, IMO. The only unknown is how US News will combine that impact metric with a “productivity” metric during the same period.

If Mr. Gersen is correct about what U.S. News is planning on doing, then their impact study will be garbage, since law review citations to work in other law reviews is only a small part of the landscape of scholarship and impact, as Professor Anderson noted.  Yes it is more work to search names, as Sisk and colleagues too, but it is far more complete and meaningful then what appears to be in the offing.

March 7, 2019 in Rankings | Permalink

Saturday, March 2, 2019

President Trump uses scuffle at Berkeley as pretext to pressure universities into promoting views he endorses (Michael Simkovic)

A recruiter for a far-right group that maintains a "Professor Watchlist" was recently punched in the face while using slogans about "hate crime hoaxes" to recruit (or perhaps to intentionally provoke an incident) at the University of California Berkeley. 

The FBI and Department of Education have both found that serious (at times deadly) hate crimes against racial, ethnic and religious minorities on campus have increased since President Trump took office and a group of conservative billionaires began funding efforts to depict universities as hostile to racially charged "free speech."

The New York Times has reported that neither the recruiter for the conservative organization nor the alleged perpetrator are students or employees of the University of California. 

In spite of the minimal connection to the University--which responded professionally, condemned the attack, and worked with the police to arrest a suspect--President Trump and other conservative activists have expressed intent to use the incident as a pretext to threaten universities with cuts to federal funding unless universities do more to promote conservative views on campus.

Details here.  Previous coverage here, here, and here.

UPDATE 3/4/2019: An advocacy group that works to protect academic freedom from efforts to politicize universities has prepared an online form to help those who wish to email their Senators to ask them to block President Trump's Executive Order.

UPDATE 3/6/2019: The AAUP opposes the executive order and has prepared an open letter that interested parties can sign here.

UPDATE 3/7/2019: The President of the University of Chicago, Robert Zimmmer, the former dean of Yale law school, Robert Post, and Professors Geoffrey R. Stone, Catherine J. Ross, and Noah Feldman have all spoken out against the proposed executive order.  Teri Kanefield has published an interesting analysis of the proposal at CNN, linking it to Global Warming Denial and White Supremacy. 

A Washington Post Editorial warns that the proposal violates conservative values, undermines conservatives' credibility and, if enacted, would create a bureaucracy that could be turned against religious institutions when Democrats retake the White House. And editorial in the conservative Washington Examiner makes a similar point about the relationship between academic freedom and religious freedom from government interference.

FIRE, a conservative advocacy organization which defends controversial speakers, is waiting for more details before expressing an official view on the proposal. However, individuals affiliated with FIRE have endorsed it.

Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, writing in Forbes, is strongly in favor of the proposal, arguing that federal funding for scientific research through the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation should be subjected to ideological litmus tests as a form of "quality control." AEI does not explain the connection between the quality of university research teams working on better treatments for cancer or technologies to keep U.S. military personnel and civilians safe and the extent to which undergraduate student groups on campus choose to provide a platform for Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter's views on sex.  Nor does he express any of conservatives' usual skepticism of top down government control.

In an essay defending Trump's proposed executive order in Inside Higher Education, Hess misunderstands a survey by FIRE of "self-censorship" by students on campus, which found that 54% of students say they sometimes pause before speaking every thought that occurs to them.  The leading reasons students "self-censor," according to the survey, are because they believe they might be wrong and are concerned about their peers judging them.  Students were not concerned about any formal sanction from the university for deviating from an approved ideology, but rather were worried that if they appeared foolish in public, they might lose social status with their peers.  Some students also point to tact, empathy, and basic norms of decency as reasons to choose their words wisely. The same survey found that "Almost all students (92%) agree that it is important to be part of a campus community where they are exposed to the ideas and opinions of other students" and that "(87%) feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions in their college classrooms."  This is not strong evidence of problems on campus.  Hess also incongruously cites the AAUP, which (as noted above and below) unequivocally opposes federal regulation such as Trump's proposed executive order that would strip universities of autonomy.

Adam Kissel, formerly at the Koch Foundation, FIRE, and the  the Department of Education, is only slightly less enthusiastic in his support for Trump's proposed executive order.  Writing in the National Review, Kissel argues that although in an ideal world the federal government would spend nothing funding scientific research, conservatives would be justified politicizing federal research funding as retaliation for liberal efforts to deny federal research funding to principal investigators who engage in sexual harassment, inadequate due process for those accused of sexual harassment on campus, overly burdensome internal review boards that are established to ensure that scientific research does not unethically harm human test subjects, and campus speech codes meant to prevent harassment and emotional abuse.  Kissel argues that conservative control of universities should be enforced through courts rather than an administrative agency to ensure that conservative advocacy groups continue to have influence even if Democrats take control of the White House.

Continue reading

March 2, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Religion, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Thursday, February 28, 2019

How to compare the GRE and the LSAT?

With more than three dozen law schools now accepting the GRE for admissions purposes, this question is no doubt on the agenda at many schools across the nation.   Nearly four times as many students take the GRE each year as take the LSAT.   Are these two pools of students comparable in terms of academic achievements and intellectual ability?   I would guess the GRE group is, on average, stronger.  Remember the pool of GRE-takers includes those aspiring to PhDs in philosophy, economics, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, linguistics, and mathematics.  The GRE includes both verbal and quantitative sections; one suspects that the average LSAT-taker is not going to do as well on the latter as the average student aspiring for a PhD in any STEM field.  From what little I know, I would guess the GRE verbal section is the better predictor of law school performance than the quantitative section, and that a 98th percentile GRE verbal score is better than a 98th percentile LSAT score.

But I may be completely wrong!

As it happens, the Educational Testing Service has offered a conversion tool here.   The tool seems to confirm that ETS views the GRE as a bit harder than the LSAT (and it clearly gives more weight to the verbal score than the quantitative, although that matters too).   I'd be glad to hear from readers with more knowledge about these questions; please e-mail me, and I'll do a follow-up post in a week or two depending on what I learn.

February 28, 2019 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The latest plan to make federal student loans less appealing: cut repayment period from 25 years to 10, draft employers as debt collectors (Michael Simkovic)

Private student lenders have been trying for at least a decade to stifle competition from public student lending programs.  Their advocates have come up with a myriad of reasons to raise the price of federal loan programs, reduce their availability, and make terms less generous, even though these public loan programs are profitable for the federal government and provide massive positive externalities to the economy. 

The latest salvo in this decades long struggle comes from Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn).   

Senator Alexander proposes to force federal student loan borrowers to repay their loans in 10 years instead of the 25 years that are currently permitted under extended and graduated repayment plans.  Senator Alexander refers to this as "simplification." 

People typically finish their educations in their 20s.  Highly educated people live longer than their less educated peers, are healthier, and usually keep working until their late 60s or early 70s.

Professional degree holder's earnings do not peak until their 50s. It makes little sense to excessively burden them with loan payments in their early years when earnings are typically lower and many other expenses may be higher.

The benefits of education, in the form of higher wages per hour and increased work hours, are typically spread over decades. Financing degrees so that the positive cash flows match the negative cash flows (i.e., loan repayments are made over the course of a career to correspond to earnings premiums) enables students to invest in higher quality degrees with a higher total payoff over the long run, but that might take longer to produce high earnings.  Consider the case of medical students who will work low paid residencies, internships and fellowships prior to securing highly paid work, or law students who will work clerkships prior to pursuing more lucrative work.

In the name of "accountability", Alexander would deny institutions access to federal student loans if their students take too long to repay their loans.  This risks encouraging short termism and underinvestment in education, selective admission of wealthy students with less need to borrow, and could pressure institutions to steer some students toward private loans.  

The federal government should be expanding funding for education until the marginal benefit--including not only student loan repayments, but higher wages, higher employment rates, higher tax revenues, and more innovation and economic growth--drops to equal marginal cost.  We are far from that point, and searching for ways to reduce public funding for education is likely to be counter-productive.

Alexander would also garnish borrowers wages automatically, making their employers responsible for deducting student loan payments from their paychecks.  

Usually garnishment is only used for debtors in default after other collection efforts fail.

I teach bankruptcy and creditors rights.  Employers do not like dealing with wage garnishment, so much so that federal and state laws are needed to prevent employers from summarily terminating employees whose wages have been garnished (there are exceptions permitting termination if the number of garnishments reaches a certain threshold, sometimes only two).

There's a serious risk that Alexander's wage garnishment proposal would burden employers enough that they would be more reluctant to hire workers with federal student loans than comparably well-educated and well qualified workers who are debt free or have private loans.

Alexander's proposal is supported by a conservative think tank, Third Way, which has close ties to private lenders.  (Like New America, Third Way describes itself as center left, but those familiar with its policy advocacy and funding sources maintain that it is in fact conservative).

Senator Alexander has previously worked to advance the interests of private student lenders over those of students, opposing a bill that would have enabled borrowers to refinance private student loans by borrowing from less expensive public lending programs.

February 26, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

Monday, February 25, 2019

More on's proposed scholarly impact rankings

It appears concerns about which faculty would count for impact purpose have been heard:  as the Blog Emperor notes will still ask schools to list all tenure-stream faculty, but will also ask for their primary role to be identified (e.g., "doctrinal" or "clinical" or "legal research and writing"). has not yet decided what to do with this information, but I have some advice:  study the scholarly impact only of the academic or "doctrinal" faculty.  If other categories are included this will have the effect of leading schools to exclude them from the tenure track, given that, typically, they are not expected to produce scholarship as much as the doctrinal faculty.

February 25, 2019 in Rankings | Permalink

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A fascinating history of conservative activism on college campuses (Michael Simkovic)

A fascinating, albeit intemperate and sensationalist, perspective on the history of conservative activism on college campuses is available here.  

The essay discusses strategies such as top-down national campaigns funded by wealthy donors, programming crafted by national organizations staffed by well compensated and experienced political operatives with ties to the Republican party, and executed on particular campuses by (sometimes less than fully autonomous) local campus chapters with substantial assistance from national organizations.  Many of the campaigns featured subtle exploitation of racial anxieties, appeals to anger, and intentional efforts to upset political opponents so that their reactions can be recorded and used for propaganda purposes.

As previously reported, and confirmed by numerous press stories and leaked documents (see e.g., here and here) many of these strategies continue to be used on campus by many of the same or similar conservative organizations today.  

Unfortunately, the essay counter-productively uses militant language to encourage students to "combat" these "threats."  Physical violence is both morally wrong and strategically ineffective: it only affirms conservative activists' narrative of victimization. Indeed, a conservative activist group recently scored a major public relations victory after a campus recruiter from a national organization tabling at Berkeley was struck in the face by a passerby who may have been offended by the organization's racially charged slogans about "hate crime hoaxes."  This particular conservative group has been accused by rival conservatives of allegedly condoning racism and sexual assault, and criticized for maintaining a McCarthyist Professor Watchlist.

Continue reading

February 23, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Friday, February 22, 2019

Michelle Wilde Anderson (Stanford) and David Pozen (Columbia) win ALI Early Career Scholars Medal (Michael Simkovic)

A great honor.  The announcement appears below:

Continue reading

February 22, 2019 in Faculty News, Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic | Permalink

Thursday, February 21, 2019

France punishes tax evasion 100 times more harshly than the U.S. (Michael Simkovic)

A French court recently ordered Swiss Bank UBS to pay a penalty of 4.5 billion Euros (equal to about $5.1 billion U.S. Dollars) for allegedly facilitating tax evasion.  The U.S. fined UBS only $780 million for similar charges in 2009 (the equivalent of $890 million in today's dollars).

To put this into context, France's GDP is about 13.4 percent of U.S. GDP, and France has proportionately fewer ultra-high net worth individuals (only 6.5 percent as many billionaires, who on average are less wealthy than billionaires in the U.S.).  Thus, scaled by number of billionaires, France fined UBS more than 100 times as much as the U.S. fined UBS for facilitating tax evasion (scaled by GDP, nearly 50 times as much). 

The U.S. fined Credit Suisse around $2.5 billion in 2014, which makes France's UBS penalty still proportionately around 33 times harsher than the recent U.S.-Credit Suisse settlement.

France, Italy, Spain, the UK, Sweden,Greece, Ireland, Bulgaria, Israel, Jordan and the Netherlands are facing popular protests over regressive tax policies that protestors say excessively favor the rich over the middle and working class.  Protests in France were set off by repeal of wealth taxes and other regressive tax policies, social spending cuts, and loosening labor protections.  

UPDATE 2/25: This article was corrected to reflect that fact that the U.S. fined UBS $780 million in 2009, not $78 million as was reported in the Financial Times story linked above.  Additional context about a Credit Suisse settlement was provided.  Thanks to Pierre-Hugues Verdier (UVA) for pointing out the error.


February 21, 2019 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Jurisprudence, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink