Dancing in the Stacks: Could a Law School Be Like This?
This is adapted from an earlier post on Moneylaw and is my swan song Concurring Opinions post. Thanks for having me. I have enjoyed the discussions. After complaining for a month about law schools, law faculties and administrators, here is my idea of a great law school. You might score your own school to see where it stands.
1. Hiring is designed to create an intellectual and philosophical balance so faculty can debate and hone their ideas about important issues. (At many schools, intellectual diversity is threatening.)
2. In hiring, performance, diversity, and energy are valued over credentials.(Most schools place high value on credentials even though they are as reliable as cubic zirconium as an indicator of value.)
3. Discussion can be had about everything – class, race, sexuality, the Middle East – without the discussion becoming personal, or people pouting, or stomping out of the room. (At most schools these matters are taboo because of faint hearts, fears of being labeled, and wanting to avoid complex issues.)
4. There is real collegiality as opposed to facial collegiality. (At many schools the appearance of being “nice” is sufficient and can be used to mask a great deal of self-dealing, free riding, externality production, and closed-door mischief.)
5. The administration and faculty announce and internalize goals and stress accountability. (At some schools, the administration takes whatever happens and spins it in order to claim success.)
6. There is an on-going effort to match the efforts – courses offered, degrees offered, foreign and domestic programs — of the school with the needs and expectations stakeholders. (At other schools, there is no on-going assessment if someone’s turf would be disturbed.)
7. The faculty abide by the real NYT rule: Don’t do anything you would not want reported on in the NYT. (Many faculty, including some on my faculty, go by the “other” NYT rule: Don’t put anything in writing that you would not want reported in the Times.)
8. The ideal curriculum is planned and professors make sure it is offered even if it means extra effort. (At some schools, teachers are asked what they are “willing” to teach and when and that is what is offered.)
9. The dean has principals and principles. He or she considers the best interests of students and shareholders and does not comprise with self-interested faculty to achieve those ends. (At some law schools, deaning means displeasing the fewest number of faculty.) (Remember the old saying “It’s not a revolution if you ask permission.” How about, “It’s not deaning if you ask permission.”)
10. There is a sense movement, excitement, intellectual ferment, and even some dancing Monday – Friday throughout faculty offices. (Some schools have gone to a Tues – Thurs schedule, faculty are elsewhere, or suffer from the institutional Valium effect.)