January 15, 2021
IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW: PROFESSOR KILBORN WAS NOT SUSPENDED BECAUSE OF THE EXAM QUESTION
Last month, we noted UIC John Marshall Dean Darby Dickerson's suggestion "that law schools should be 'transformed' into 'anti-racist institutions' [as distinct from being non-racist ones that comply with equal opportunity laws]," observing that it "would portend a massive violation of the academic freedom of all faculty (for example)." Alas, this proved more prophetic than we realized.
Professor Jason Kilborn gave a civil procedure exam last month involving an employment discrimination hypothetical, in which one worker used racist and sexist epithets. As the petition denouncing Professor Kilborn reports:
The question at-issue contained a racial pejorative summarized as follows: “‘n____’and ‘b____’ (profane expressions for African Americans and women).” The fact pattern involved an employment discrimination case where the call of the question was whether or not the information found was work product.
Just to be clear: the exam neither used nor mentioned the actual offending words, just the first letters of those words followed by the underline, as quoted above. Professor Kilborn has actually used variations on this hypothetical, with the n- and b-words (as above), for a decade without any incident!
December 07, 2020
...or there would be reasons to be quite worried about some parts of the recent missives from current AALS President Darby Dickerson (who is also Dean at UIC John Marshall Law School). In the past, I have commended to the attention of readers some of Dean Dickerson's advice, so these recent statements come as a surprise to me.
To be clear: there is much that Dean Dickerson says that is sensible and decent, and it's shocking to learn, e.g., that some doctrinal faculty do not treat their clinical or legal writing colleagues with appropriate respect and courtesy. So, too, greater job security is a good in any line of work, academic or otherwise; no doubt so many academic or "doctrinal" faculty enjoy it only because the ABA mandates it.
But to refer to the existence of different jobs and positions, with different qualifications and expectations, as a "caste" system is just a rhetorical trick, harnessing the pejorative connotation of "caste" to raise doubts about a system of differing qualifications, expectations and authority. Is it a "caste" system that in a hospital the doctors have different professional status, differential educationl and professional attainments, and different responsibilities and authority than nurse's aides? Is it a "caste" system that PhDs in chemistry with tenure have different responsibilities and authority than the post-docs or research technicians in their labs? Unlike real caste systems, a chnage in status is possible with a change in education, experience, and accomplishments. The only real question is whether the differing qualifications, responsibilities and authority are justified, not whether they are a "caste." But there is not even the pretense of a substantive analysis and critique of the division of labor and responsibility in Dean Dickerson's letter. (Surely it is not mysterious, for example, why clinical and doctrinal faculty should have more responsibility and control over the school and its curriculum than, e.g., adjuncts or staff who are not lawyers?)
(I'll just note, as an aside, that the idea at the conclusion of Dean Dickerson's letter that law schools should be "transformed" into "anti-racist institutions" [as distinct from being non-racist ones that comply with equal opportunity laws] would portend a massive violation of the academic freedom of all faculty (for example)-- just as transforming law schools into "anti-communist" or "anti-capitalist" institutions would. Law schools exist to train lawyers and produce knowledge about the law, not to promote extraneous social goals, even meritorious ones.)
October 15, 2020
Without a "meat market" around which schools and candidates coordinate their behavior, the timing is quite various this year. Some schools are still scheduling initial interviews, while other schools hosted call-backs as early as September. Some schools have even started extending offers. This is going to make things more challenging all around; I hope hiring schools will give candidates at least one month to consider an offer. By the same token, candidates should be timely in letting schools know if they are no longer interested in being considered because they have other offers in hand.
September 09, 2020
As part of the very enjoyable discussion on "The Legal Academy," Orin Kerr (Berkeley) asked me about how a school can hire strong scholarly faculty. I made a variety of observations related to this topic. A school must constitute a good hiring committee, meaning one with faculty who are engaged in scholarship and have good judgment about scholarship. Schools like Florida State and San Diego (two examples I gave) have, historically, done very strong rookie hiring (better than their peers), in part because Deans have invested serious faculty with good judgment with a decisive role in hiring at those schools. While "objective" metrics (like citations or place of publication) can be useful proxies, there is, as I said, "no substitute for reading" (as long as those reading satisfy the prior desiderata!).
Finally, there's the question of how to use recommendations from faculty elsewhere (no committee can read everything, so recommendations are often used to figure out which candidates deserve further scrutiny). Everyone who has done hiring has their own list of reliable and unreliable references, and everyone of course gives different weight to references based on their opinion of the recommender (if they have one). I gave the example of a recommendation from a professor at San Diego (an expert I respected in the candidate's area) that ultimately led to Texas hiring someone when I was chairing appointments there. I also gave the example of the Yale recommender who "never met a candidate he didn't love": such recommendations are useless, of course. I remarked that my own approach was not to credit or give weight to references from faculty I wouldn't hire, i.e., those I don't respect on the intellectual merits.
August 31, 2020
June 02, 2020
Amicus brief from law professors in support of Shmuel Leshem in his tenure dispute with Southern California
March 21, 2020
March 18, 2020
March 14, 2020
March 09, 2020
This is an open thread for law faculty to post about what their schools are doing: e.g., cancelling classes, "remote" teaching or exams, cancelling conferences, prohibiting faculty work-related travel etc. Feel free to link to public resources/statements by your schools. Submit your comment only once, they are moderated, and may take awhile to appear.