November 15, 2018

Berkeley Law to drop the "Boalt Hall" name

A sensible explanation from Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

November 15, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 02, 2018

A Dark Winter at the University of Wisconsin (Michael Simkovic)

After crippling teachers unions in Wisconsin, the Republican controlled state government moved to slash education budgets and reduce educators' autonomy, both in K-12 education and in higher education.   Many experienced teachers have left the state or left education all together.  Student performance deteriorated.

Prominent professors have complained about changes to tenure standards which they say constitute the elimination of tenure or its substitution with "fake tenure."  A new law essentially forced the university to relinquish any semblance of academic standards with respect to approval of outside speakers.  It also subjects students, faculty, and administrators to potentially harsh discipline for disagreeing with political leaders or powerful donors. 

Massive budget cuts triggered efforts to eliminate academic programs, mainly in social sciences and the humanities.  Some programs have been given a stay of execution only through professors taking on such heavy teaching loads that academic research will grind to a halt.

Faculty are increasingly leaving for greener pastures, and the state--already suffering economically--risks continuing losses of educated professionals and the tax revenue and economic benefits they bring.

Wisconsin could be the canary in the coal mine as the politics of hostility to education go national.  As recent federal tax legislation shows, not even well-endowed private universities are immune from political pressure.

On the other hand, there is evidence of a political backlash in Wisconsin as voters increasingly support local property tax increases to fund investments in educaiton.  Political hostility to education may be limited to the extent that even voters focused on (largely trumped up) "cultural" issues will eventually reject disinvestment policies that damage the economy.


UPDATE Nov 4, 2018: Jason Yackee (Wisconsin) responded by email to the post above.  Professor Yackee views things in Wisconsin as better than they seem, at least on the Madison campus.  Yackee also argues that there was overcapacity in parts of the University of Wisconsin system and that budget cuts on some campuses serving smaller communities (or perhaps closures) make sense.  I have posted Profesor Yackee's email below, with his permission.  My skeptical reaction appears below Yackee's letter.

Continue reading

November 2, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Weblogs | Permalink

October 31, 2018

89-year-old prisoner murdered upon transfer to a new prison

There are many threats to the "rule of law" these days, but notorious prisoners being murdered while in state custody should feature among the threats law professors are taking seriously.

October 31, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 29, 2018

Michigan State College of Law to actually become part of Michigan State University

October 24, 2018

More on the allegations against Yale's Jed Rubenfeld

A more detailed account from Slate.  This passage sums up the accounts pretty well:

These students, alumni, and faculty all had slightly different reads on exactly how out of line Rubenfeld’s alleged behavior was (and some faculty members had no firsthand knowledge of it at all). Some described Rubenfeld as flirtatious and line-crossing; others called his behavior harassment. The picture we got from these conversations is not one of straightforward abuse but rather a fraught and uncomfortable situation full of insinuation and pushed boundaries that can make learning difficult and has the potential to push women out of the pipeline for the most prestigious and competitive areas of the law. This type of behavior, which is frequently dismissed as “borderline” or “creepy” and not worth making a formal fuss over, can have very real consequences.

If the allegations about this pattern of conduct are confirmed, then Yale would be within rights to fire him after an appropriate process.  This wouldn't be the first time Yale Law has ousted a faculty member over allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

(A sidenote:  the article does wildly overstate how important Supreme Court clerkships are.  The one thing they do guarantee are huge signing bonuses (on the order of 300K these days) from the top law firms!)


October 24, 2018 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 23, 2018

University of Illinois law professor Jay Kesan found to have violated Univeristy's Code of Conduct, but not to have violated sexual harassment rules

Details of the case, which dates from 2015, are here.  A colleague at Illinois asked me to share a statement issued by the law faculty protesting the insufficient sanctions imposed in this case: Download JOINT STATEMENT OF LAW PROFESSORS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

I've never before seen such a damning statement issued by law professors about a colleague's misconduct.


October 23, 2018 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

$25 million gift to Stanford Law School...

October 16, 2018

Valparaiso's Law School a step closer to moving to Middle Tennessee State University


Both  universities have now formally approved the transfer. State higher education officials in Tennessee must now approve it.

UPDATE:  The Tenn. Higher Education Commission has rejected the plan.

October 16, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

October 07, 2018

Financial Times: White House Considered Blanket Ban on Student Visas for Chinese Nationals, partly with goal of hurting Universities (Michael Simkovic)

From the Financial Times:

"White House hawks earlier this year encouraged President Donald Trump to stop providing student visas to Chinese nationals, but the proposal was shelved over concerns about its economic and diplomatic impact. . . . 

Stephen Miller, a White House aide who has been pivotal in developing the administration’s hardline immigration policies, pushed the president and other officials to make it impossible for Chinese citizens to study in the US, according to four people familiar with internal discussions. . . .

While the debate was largely focused on spying, Mr. Miller argued his plan would also hurt elite universities whose staff and students have been highly critical of Mr Trump, according to the three people with knowledge of the debate.

The issue came to a head in an Oval Office meeting in the spring during which Mr Miller squared off with administration opponents, including Terry Branstad, the former Iowa governor who is US ambassador to China.

According to the four people familiar with the discussions, ahead of the Oval Office meeting Mr Branstad argued that Mr Miller’s plan would take a much bigger toll on smaller colleges, including in Iowa, than on wealthy Ivy League universities. US embassy officials in Beijing also made a broader economic argument that most American states enjoy service-sector trade surpluses with China, in part because of spending by Chinese students.

Mr Branstad succeeded in convincing the president that Mr Miller’s proposal was too draconian, according to one person familiar with the White House showdown. At one point, Mr Trump looked at his ambassador and quipped: “Not everyone can go to Harvard or Princeton, right Terry?”

One person familiar with the debate said Mr Miller’s opponents were worried the president might return to the issue, particularly as he takes an increasingly tough line on China over everything from trade to cyber security.  

Continue reading

October 7, 2018 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Of Academic Interest, Science, Weblogs | Permalink

October 03, 2018

Letter from law professors opposed to the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

The letter and details about how to sign here.

ADDENDUM:  I provide this for those interested.  I don't feel I should sign since I was already opposed to Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Court, for reasons one can gather here.  He holds some reactionary moral and political views that will inevitably influence some of his decisions:  that's enough for me to be opposed.   I think the allegations against him add reasons to oppose the nomination, but I feel less strongly that his belligerent performance before the Senate does.  (I would think the best evidence of "judicial temperament" is the temperament on display while judging--which he has done for a dozen years--not that on display while defending oneself from serious, public allegations.)  But some readers will no doubt feel differently, and perhaps there are even some for whom the performance in the Senate hearing changed their prior view about the merits.

October 3, 2018 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink