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Buffett’s Timeless Investing Principles

 

WB MOAFWarren Buffett distills investment success into three words—margin of safety—and tells investors to take one of two approaches: either focus on value or buy an index fund. Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” has been steadfastly giving such sage advice for decades, through calm and choppy markets alike.

In fact, twenty years ago I hosted Warren and Charlie Munger, his Berkshire Hathaway partner, for a two-day conference at Cardozo Law School that launched an international best seller, The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America. At the time, Warren’s investing style was unfashionable. Critics increasingly said he’d lost touch, misunderstanding the budding “new economy” and its “game-changing” technology.  Buffett foresaw exceedingly high stock prices—and soon proved correct.

After recently stumbling on the transcript from that gathering, I published an annotated version, The Buffett Essays Symposium: Annotated 20th Anniversary Transcript.  It’s packed with timeless gems for every investor—then and now, in ups or downs—including these three pivotal propositions. Read More

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Nine to Five and the Development of Pregnancy Discrimination Law

Nine to Five is a terrific book that vividly highlights the continuing contestation over sex discrimination—both over what sex discrimination is and over how prohibitions on sex discrimination should operate.  The book’s unique structure—a collection of columns discussing then-recent events but written for a legally-aware and intellectually-curious audience—gives Nine to Five an immediacy of writing, a depth of scholarship, and an important perspective on the development of legal and social norms over time.

The book contains illuminating discussions of many discrete topics—sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, sex harassment, pay inequities, among others—and I could easily see myself engaging with Joanna’s discussion of any of them.  But, for largely personal reasons, I am drawn to another significant area Joanna treats extensively—pregnancy discrimination. Read More

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the Medium and the Message

Saturday, June 11, 2016

9:18 AM

After perfecting the concise, online column over a period of years, Joanna Grossman has invented a new book format in the legal world with Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace.   Grossman provided engaging, tightly written and informative columns to Findlaw’s Writ and Justia’s Verdict on a range of gender-related cases and legal events as they occurred. With primarily case-based discussions explaining the relevance of seemingly technical doctrinal distinctions to larger equity problems, Grossman’s columns addressed the immediate case as it came down, quickly situating it in a larger framework while distilling its importance into an easily digestible format.

 

Writing any of these columns requires a speed and focus anyone would admire; writing 350 of them must have become an intellectual discipline and practice of its own over the last fifteen years. But one of the challenges of timely writing, and probably the reason so few legal scholars sustain it over this impressive length of time, is that it seems to disappear quickly, swallowed by the next news event grabbing reader attention. If a writer has a point of view, which Grossman does, no single column can feel like it has made the convincing case for that point of view. Each column suggests an addition to the argument, but each is incremental. When writing each, it must have been challenging to accept that the contribution could add to the overall case only incrementally. So by taking 57 of her columns and publishing them in this format, Grossman has done more than cataloged them for our convenience. Instead, she’s done something substantively more interesting: she’s made the case for her point of view with circumstantial evidence in such numbers that the pattern becomes hard to dispute. That’s a big payoff for fifteen years of labor! The book is not about any one column or one argument. Instead, the book makes a convincing case that law has been somewhat helpful, but really not exceptionally helpful, in advancing sex equality in the workplace. Each column is fresh and present to its case and its moment, written in the direct wake of a decision or event, which a more bloodless retrospective analysis of the cases and events would likely not replicate. But this book provides the benefit of a retrospective by cumulating data points for a larger picture. Journal entries over fifteen years, recorded in their moment, give us a trustworthy living perspective on how the risks and significance of a decision were perceived in the moment, inviting us to decide whether over time and in the light of persistent inequity the risks (excessive litigation, for example) were overstated.

 

For example, at one point Grossman discusses a potential technical morass required for a successful retaliation claim, resting on whether an employee’s belief that a serious incident would give rise to a solid discrimination claim was accurate. I couldn’t help thinking how conventional, and reasonable, that employee’s belief is culturally, even if incorrect legally. That incorrect belief that legal claims are readily available and easily brought to bear is a perfect expression of the gap between conventional views of strong employee rights and actual legal barriers to realizing those rights.   Put together, the cases and incidents discussed in this book show a persistent pre-occupation by courts and in the culture with fear that legal rights of employees will unreasonably burden employers, a pre-occupation that makes courts quick to place procedural hurdles in the way of claimants. There’s nothing new in that observation, of course, but the accumulation of rich and present discussions of 57 disappointing responses to inequity drives the observation home in a particular way. Despite Grossman’s wit and entertaining writing style, the book is sobering.

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Nine to Five: A Mini-Treatise on Gender Discrimination at Work

 

Introduction

Joanna Grossman’s Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace, a collection of timely and lively essays from her online columns on Justia’s Verdict and Findlaw’s Writ, tracks legal and social developments affecting women over the course of fifteen years. Grossman’s reach in this mini-treatise is broad and deep. She covers topics ranging from legal protections for men coaching women athletes, sexual harassment in the television writers’ room, and baffling court opinions holding that lactation is not “pregnancy-related” to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s (in)famous “binders of women.” Grossman also makes recommendations for addressing such stubborn problems as pregnancy discrimination and the wage gap. But, for my money, the structure of the book is particularly illuminating, as it highlights a major failing in courts’ analysis of sex discrimination. Read More

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Women and Work: Ask the Other Questions Too

The persistence of gender inequality at work makes it a continuing necessity that we analyze and strategize for change. It is also an area where it might seem that law might most make a difference. Yet law has fallen short, reminding us of the power of inequality to domesticate and subdue even the most radical efforts, and the strength cultural and structural barriers.

Joanna Grossman’s new book Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace powerfully focuses on these dilemmas. Composed of her columns over a 15 year period written for Justia’s Verdict and Findlaw’s Writ, this unique collection of 57 or 350 columns includes a rich array of insights and questions about gender and work. The way in which this material is presented is powerful: a series of intellectual zingers.

Organized around four key themes (what is sex discrimination; sexual harassment; pregnancy and motherhood; pay equity and the glass ceiling), the book does not purport to cover everything, but it does present the opportunity to consider a range of issues, as well as trigger other subjects and questions. It is supremely accessible, a volume that could be read by anyone. Its witty, crisp writing (and wonderful cartoons), keen intellectual insights and questions that prick one’s curiosity and challenge stock answers, make the book a natural for students, in courses on gender discrimination, gender theory, and employment discrimination.

If I were to use the volume to teach students, I would be tempted to tease out several further themes in approaching the issue of the persistence of gender inequality at work.

The focus of the book is unabashedly on women. I would “ask the other question.” Or questions. Using Mari Matsuda’s long ago insight, this means that whenever you look at a pattern or problem, and think that you have identified the core of it, you should ask if anything else might be going on that you haven’t noticed. If you think police brutality is about race, ask also about gender; if you think the transgender bathroom controversy is about gender identity, ask about gender; if you think the pay gap is about gender, ask about race. So, when we look at the workplace, and ask whether all workers are treated equally on the basis of sex, the data and statistics, as well as the qualitative accounts, many of which are presented in Grossman’s book, tell us that women are not treated equally in a host of ways. Indeed, in the last section of the book she summarizes her prior segments and details the particularly deep ways that core issues of pay and types of jobs as well as job advancement are persistently unequal.

What other questions should we ask in the face of these patterns? First, we should ask, is it the same for all women? This is the intersectionality question, the reminder that if we do not ask about race, we obscure the differentiation of women’s inequalities and reinforce the troubled and persistent critique that gender inequality analysis is solely a white women’s game. Race is present as a thread in the book, most explicitly in the last section of the book, particularly chapter 52. In addition to thinking about gender and race as separate categories of workplace inequality, intersectionality challenges that separation as potentially masking the realities of inequalities by adopting an implicit norm that makes gender raceless (white) and race genderless (male).

Asking the other question about women and race will lead us also to ask the other question about class, to explore how gender inequality plays out differently for low income and middle or high income women. Some of those themes implicitly appear in Grossman’s chapters particularly on light duty work, as many of those cases involve lower or low-middle income women in traditionally male blue collar jobs. The constraints of such jobs, whether traditionally male or female, are very different ones from the challenges of professional women in areas such as law.

We might also ask the other question about men. Where are men in this pattern of inequality; are we correct in assuming that all men benefit from this pattern, from the patriarchal dividend? Are men subordinated? And what is the role of men in challenging gender inequality? If we pursue the man question, we also must echo the questions we have raised about women: do all men have the same position in this pattern?

Certainly men are present in Grossman’s book not only as perpetrators of discrimination, but also as its victims. The book begins with the sex discrimination claim of a man, albeit one that does not evoke much sympathy (ladies night at a bar). Men are present in every segment. These provide opportunities to raise the other question, this series of questions about men and work. For example, the Hibbs case, brought by a man to validate his ability to use the federal leave statute discussed in the book provides one such opportunity among many to consider stereotypes about men as carers, limits on men, and the subordination of men. Discussion of racial harassment as compared to sexual harassment in the book provides another opportunity, reminding us of the ability of race to trump gender privilege. Asking about men brings in as well as the insights of masculinities studies. It enables us to consider men’s role in ending discrimination, a subject raised in the volume as well, when a man voices concerns over discrimination against women. One prominent effort to encourage male advocacy is that of the UN’s He4She campaign.

Grossman also provides the opportunity to consider variability among men by presenting chapters on discrimination suffered by gay men and several chapters on transgender discrimination. The transgender chapters both involve male-to-female transgendered persons, suggesting that it is this particular configuration that triggers the strongest discriminatory response. These patterns among men also encourage us to return to ask the other question, once again, about women. What about discrimination against lesbian women, or transgender female-to-male persons?

And perhaps the best opportunity to raise the man question is at the end of the book, when she reflects on her own life as the mother of two sons, and her question of how to raise a son. There are so many layers to that question, as it begs us again to ask other questions that matter that might affect the answer: What race is your son? What is his sexual orientation?

Asking the other question(s) embedded in this volume provides a fuller, richer picture of the complexity and dynamic of inequality, so that it can be called out, and remedied, in ways that do not have the unintended result of reinscribing some other inequality. A recent reminder of this comes outside of the area of workplace inequality, in the handling of a rape case. The Stanford swimmer Brock Turner who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman was convicted of felony rape, but then given an extremely light sentence of 6 months plus 3 years’ probation. The passionate letter of his victim protesting this outcome, coupled with the outrageous letter of the swimmer blaming his actions on campus culture, and the letter of his father minimizing his son’s conduct, ignited a firestorm that has generated an effort to remove the sentencing judge from office. All of this seems right: to find a way to sanction the continued inadequacy of the legal response to sexual response particularly when the perpetrator is an elite athlete at an elite university. Yet more analysis is required; ask the other question. In a nuanced and carefully worded opinion piece, Paul Butler raises the possibility that the message of such a successful removal might be to encourage judges to err on the harsh side of sentencing. That outcome, he points out, given the disproportionate presence of youth and adult men of color in every phase of the juvenile and adult criminal justice system, would disproportionately fall on them, reinforcing the already strong biases of the system against them. Other commentators have mused about the attention to this case in comparison to the relative lack of attention to the Holtzclaw case, which involved an Oklahoma City police officer who used his power to prey on women with criminal records and coerce them into sex. This was a case that was excruciatingly difficult to bring to justice, although he was ultimately convicted in 2015 of 18 of 36 charges. The difference in attention between the Turner case and the Holtzclaw case suggests a comparison between the victims: multiple Black women in one, a single presumed white victim in the other.

As we search for solutions and press for change in all areas of inequality, teaching our students well requires that we encourage them to ask these other questions. This wonderful volume provides us with a starting place to raise those inquiries.

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Nine to Five Book Symposium

grossman-book-nine-to-five-lawnews

Concurring Opinions is delighted to introduce Professor Joanna Grossman, and the participants in our online symposium on Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace (Cambridge University Press 2016).

  Grossman’s important book is an accessible, witty, and opinionated guide to the jurisprudence of sex discrimination that explores laws and policies regulating sex, sexuality, and gender identity in the American workplace. By bringing together almost 60 columns that Grossman has written over the past 15 years for online sites, the book documents the law’s approach to various issues of sex discrimination, including, sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and pay equity. Although each essay was written to address a specific case or legal development (sometimes court cases provide the basis for the column, while other columns start with cultural developments, such as David Letterman’s acknowledgement of his intra-office sexual relationships – “Late–Night Affairs with David Letterman”), Grossman has organized the essays around 4 distinct themes, and has provided introductory and connecting analyses, so the book provides a coherent and cogent approach to sex discrimination. In fact, I am considering assigning it to my feminist legal theory students next semester!   The essays crisply note both the victories and defeats along the road to gender equality. Through the cumulative volume of these columns, we – somewhat painfully — see the obstacles to working women’s equality.

As Nine to Five explores numerous provocative and timely issues about the meaning of gender equality, it also raises questions about the role of law in achieving gender equality. Are Title VII and Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act adequate to challenge pervasive gender role stereotypes? While these laws may have succeeded in opening doors to women in the workplace, can they help women deal with sexual harassment (Part II of the book) and pregnancy discrimination and the maternal wall (Part III) and pay equity and the glass ceiling (Part IV)? To consider these and many other issues raised by Grossman’s book, we have invited an all-star cast of thinkers:  Sam Bagenstos, June Carbone, Nancy Dowd, Jennifer Hendricks, Kate Silbaugh, Gillian Thomas, and Verna Williams.

We look forward to this discussion, and please join in with comments!

 

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4 Wishes for Father’s Day

My post on Thursday expressed concerns about the cultural assumption that taking care of young children is a woman’s role. Today, I present a four-part wish list of public policy interventions. With Father’s Day coming up, these proposals seek to recognize dads as able caregivers.

Image from iStock.com/OlgaLebedeva

Image from iStock.com/OlgaLebedeva

1. Mandate dad-inclusive paid parental leave

The United States is notorious for being the only high-income country that doesn’t require employers to provide paid parental leave. Among employers that do offer some form of paid leave to new parents, many provide leave to new mothers (often framed as disability leave) but not to fathers. A report from 2014 estimated that 58 percent of employers offered paid leave to new mothers, but only 14 percent offered it to new fathers. Another study from 2012 reported that only 13 percent of fathers who took parental leave were paid, compared with 21 percent of mothers.

The first item on my wish list is a law requiring paid parental leave and, importantly, the law should grant leave rights to both moms and dads. A handful of states already have such legislation, but we need the whole country covered. Proposals for paid parental leave have already garnered a lot of attention, and that’s great. I think it’s important, however, not to focus too narrowly on this issue. For reasons that I discuss in a forthcoming essay, we also need to address other aspects of our social environment that affect dads as caregivers, including the following wish list items.

2. Require equal access to diaper changing facilities

Cities like Honolulu, Miami, and San Francisco have laws that give men and women a right of equal access to diaper changing facilities. I wish this right existed across the country. In 2014, California’s legislature passed two laws that would have required new and newly renovated buildings to grant men equal access to diaper changing tables by placing changing tables in men’s restrooms or family restrooms. It’s a shame that Governor Brown vetoed the measures. All too often, diaper changing tables are located exclusively in women’s restrooms. This is troubling because of the difficulty it creates for dads who need to change diapers. Moreover, lack of equal access sends the troubling message that only women should be expected to care for young children.

Restrooms have long been sites of regulation because they are so central to health and well-being. OSHA rules, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and state-level Restroom Access Acts all aim to make restrooms accessible. There is also pending litigation about the extent to which federal civil rights laws protect transgender individuals’ ability to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Further regulating restrooms to ensure that men have equal access to diaper changing tables is long overdue.

3. Reframe state-supported “Mommy & Me” classes

When my daughter was a few months old, I began exploring community events for infants and parents. Friends told me how fun it would be to take her to “Mommy and Me” classes. “They’re called Mommy and Me classes, but I’m sure they’d let a dad in too,” one friend tried to reassure me. Mommy and Me classes abound—for example “Mommy and Me Yoga,” “Mommy and Me Music,” and “Mommy and Me Tender Twos.” While these classes may technically be open to fathers, the Mommy and Me moniker sends the message that fathers do not belong. This framing reinforces cultural expectations that caregiving should be left to mothers.

To be clear, these classes are not biological in nature. They are not breastfeeding classes. For example, Huntington Hospital in Pasadena offers a “Mommy and Me” class that it describes as “song time, parachute play, and bubbles with baby.”  All of these activities could surely involve fathers. Some places have begun to offer Daddy and Me classes, but these options are rare and I see no reason why moms and dads need to be segregated for song time and bubble play. Moreover, I’ve found that Daddy and Me Classes take place outside of the usual work schedule—on weeknights and weekends—thus reinforcing the outdated assumption that dads are breadwinners and moms are caregivers.

While we should lobby companies to rename their Mommy and Me classes, public policy also has a role to play. Many, if not most, Mommy and Me classes are offered by government-funded entities such as hospitals and public libraries. As a public policy intervention, the government should condition its funding on the reframing of Mommy and Me classes. Some places have already begun to call their classes “Baby and Me” instead, a name that is much more inclusive of dads and other caregivers. The government should require this change of any state-funded entity that offers a Mommy and Me class.

4. Recast the image of dads in the federal government’s Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative

The federal government runs a public education campaign that encourages fathers to be more engaged with parenting. While this is certainly a laudable goal, the program has set a very low bar, focusing on preventing fathers from being completely absent. As a result, the campaign’s media clips risk reinforcing the belief that dads ought to leave the bulk of hands-on caregiving to women. For my fourth wish list item, I wish the government would revamp its media campaign.

Consider, for example, the first video clip at the bottom of this post. It features three television personalities from the MLB (Major League Baseball) Network.  The men are in their offices, taking a moment out of the day to call their children by phone or videoconference to say hello.  The clip closes with one of the men telling viewers: “Remember: You’re never too far away from your kids to be a dad. Reach out and take a second to check in—because sometimes, the smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child’s life.”

This clip might have the unfortunate effect of reproducing the idea that a model father is, first and foremost, a breadwinner. And being an engaged father simply means picking up the phone to call the kids from work. I wish the federal government would replace videos like this from its campaign with clips that showcase multiple sides of fatherhood, including images of fathers as hands-on caregivers.

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Clay v. United States

192px-Muhammad_Ali_NYWTSIn honor of today’s funeral for Muhammed Ali, I thought I’d post about the Supreme Court’s opinion reversing Ali’s conviction for refusing induction into the draft.  The Court held that the Draft Board’s refusal to grant Ali conscientious objector status as a believer in Islam was not explained and thus must be reversed because at least one of the reasons why that denial could have occurred was invalid. Justice Douglas wrote one of his quirky concurring opinions that discussed the concept of jihad at some length.  Basically, Justice Douglas’s point was that Islam was not pacifist, but that only a “just” war against non-believers was valid under the Qu’ran. Douglas then added a footnote that shows you how much things have changed since 1971:

“The last attempt to use jihad as a significant force was made in 1914 by the Ottoman Sultan; but it failed and the jihad has fallen into disuse.”

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Reflections for Father’s Day

Thank you to everyone at Concurring Opinions for inviting me to guest blog, and thank you to Solangel for her kind introduction. I’m usually a pretty private person, but I’d like to open up a bit in my first blog post by sharing some personal experiences.

iStock.com/OlgaLebedeva

Image from iStock.com/OlgaLebedeva

Two years ago, my life changed forever because I became a dad to the most amazing baby girl, and I had the privilege of taking a year off from teaching to stay at home. I know having children and taking time off from work is not the right choice for everyone. But for me, I can’t think of anything more right. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Taking care of my daughter gives me incomparable joy and a sense of purpose that words cannot fully describe. Since returning to my usual law professor schedule, I relish seeing my little girl after leaving campus each day. She truly is my sunshine.

Against this backdrop of happiness, a sad reality is that my experiences as a father have heightened my awareness of troubling gender norms. I’ve long been cognizant of the cultural assumption that caregiving for young children is a woman’s role. Still, with firsthand experiences as a father, I’ve been struck by how strong this norm is.

With Father’s Day around the corner, I think back to my first Father’s Day dinner as a dad. The restaurant’s kind owner congratulated my husband and me on fatherhood. He gushed over our family. His celebration of us as same-sex parents was a delightful sign of how far we’ve come. Yet, in his next breath, he apologized that the men’s room had no diaper changing table and offered to let us use the women’s room instead, because there was a changing table there. I was disheartened by the reminder that only women are expected to change diapers. Women are saddled with the responsibility, and men who do want to change diapers face barriers. Instances like this may be small and inconsequential on their own, but the pervasiveness of these small occurrences reinforces expectations that men should leave caregiving to women.

To be sure, times are changing. More and more men are embracing childcare responsibilities traditionally associated with women—things like swaddling and singing to a fussy infant to coax her into slumber, preparing meals, cleaning kitchen messes, doing a child’s laundry, and managing older children’s after-school schedules, which might include craft or baking projects, running errands together, accompanying children to sports or dance classes, or helping with homework. The number of stay-at-home dads has grown rapidly. A 2012 study found that fathers comprised 16 percent of all stay-at-home parents. Meanwhile, fathers employed full-time outside the home tend to devote more time to childcare after work compared with fathers from previous generations. Another study found that the number of single father households had increased from less than 300,000 in 1960 to over 2.6 million in 2011. Census data from 2010 also showed that 10 percent of male same-sex couple households were raising children.

Despite these changes, mothers still shoulder a much larger share of childcare responsibilities than fathers, and our cultural environment reinforces this pattern. We are surrounded by a culture that treats childcare as the domain of women. Consider when a man prepares to become a father. He’s all too likely to learn that his employer offers no paternity leave even if it grants leave to new mothers. If the father decides to stay home anyway, he’ll probably search for activities to enjoy with his child, and will encounter numerous classes titled “Mommy and Me” as though fathers do not belong. As he shops for baby supplies, he’ll surely discover countless advertisements that deploy “mothers know best” rhetoric that questions the competency of fathers. These are just a few examples of everyday moments that coalesce, sending the message that men are not suited for—or are not expected to perform—caregiving.

These cultural dynamics are bad for men, bad for women, and bad for children. Fathers who are primary caregivers too often report feelings of isolation and stigma, feelings of being hyper-scrutinized for their parenting skills, and practical difficulties such as the lack of access to changing tables. Cultural expectations about caregiving are also bad for women because they place disproportionately heavy pressure on mothers. This is especially harmful to women who wish their male partners would contribute more to childcare, so that they could focus more energy on their careers. The current cultural environment is also bad for children. In some families, it might make sense for the mother to do most of the caregiving. But for many if not most other families—especially families with single dads or gay dads—it’s in children’s best interest for fathers to be engaged caregivers.

What can we do to address this conflation of caregiving with motherhood? Lobbying the private sector is one strategy. For example, I signed an online petition asking Amazon to rename its “Amazon Mom” service to be more inclusive of fathers. The service, which specializes in delivering products to caregivers of young children, has always technically been open to fathers, but the name “Amazon Mom” implied that caregiving is and should be the domain of mothers. I’m happy to report that Amazon has since renamed its service “Amazon Family.” Small victories like this can add up.

In my view, the government can—and should—also play a role in fostering a cultural environment that does not equate caregiving with women. In my next blog post, I’ll offer my wish list of public policy interventions aimed at supporting dads as caregivers.

[Update 6/27: click here and here for the next two posts in this series.]

This blog post is adapted from my forthcoming law review essay entitled “Shaping Expectations about Dads as Caregivers: Toward an Ecological Approach.”

Social Media for Scholars

For about a year now, Nic Terry and I have been hosting “The Week in Health Law” podcast. (We did miss a few weeks–so we’re actually more like “This 8.3 Days in Health Law”–but we’re pretty reliable!) We interview law professors, social scientists, and other experts, mainly from the US, though with some international presence. We recently convened a “meta-podcast” with 3 past show guests (and the editor of Pharmalot, an influential pharma industry blog) on the importance of social media presence for engaged academics. Our show notes also link to some good guides from other scholars. Like the “No Jargon” podcast of the Scholars Strategy Network, we try to bring informed commentary on complex ideas (like agency guidance on wellness programs) to a broad audience. We’ve received positive feedback from around the world, and I’m often surprised by the range of people who are tuning in (from hospital administrators to bar leaders to general counsel).

I just wanted to add one cautionary note to the emerging commentary on engaged scholarship and social media. I often see participation in blogs, podcasts, or Twitter framed in corporate or neoliberal discourse–the need to “build a brand,” “increase citations,” “leverage a network,” and so on. Even I engage in that in the podcast when I discuss altmetrics. But at its core, the scholarly identity is a very different one than the metricized self of performance optimization. Our best conversations feature a critical distance from the topics at hand and even from the ever more voluminous research apparatus around them. They highlight, rather than gloss over, inevitable conflicts of values that emerge once once tries to apply banalities like the “triple aim” in specific settings. There is a deep interest in an empirical research, and a sober awareness of its limits. (Our discussion with Scott Burris on policies like bike helmet laws is one very good example of this.)

The best moments of the podcast (contrasted with the impoverished neoliberal discourse often used to justify participation in engaged scholarship) highlight two very different meanings of “professionalism” now at work in our culture. The professionalized scholar is often a cite-generator and grant-grubber, more concerned with the external indicia of achievement than the intrinsic value of research they are meant to merely validate or support. But if we consider the academy as a profession, we realize the extraordinary importance of its partial autonomy from both market and state. It exists to create a space for research and conversations that are impossible to monetize immediately (or maybe ever), and which have not been specifically approved by political institutions.

As the state increasingly becomes a cat’s paw of market forces, and market forces themselves are engineered by a shrinking and short-sighted financial elite, preserving the residual autonomy of professions is more important than ever. I hope that future discussions of engaged scholarship focus more on its potential to advance solidarity among those committed to an independent academy–not one keen on ever-preciser rankings of its members, or defensive about proving its value in economic terms that are themselves of questionable utility.