Story here; excerpts with some comments:
In the budget offices of the right, the loss of Olin, though long anticipated, is bringing a stab of anxiety, as total annual giving of up to $20 million disappears from think tanks, journals and academic aeries....
Mr. Piereson [longtime director of the Olin Foundation] says that one Olin secret is plain to see: its interest in abstract ideas, removed from day-to-day politics....As a result, Mr. Piereson is spending his last months in office promoting a route to political influence - intellectual armament - as unlikely as it has been effective. "The ideas have to be tended to," Mr. Piereson said. "Only after that can you tend to the policies."
The only redeeming aspect of the Olin Foundation's history is that, at least with law schools, they gave the money and stayed away. That meant the liberals like Ian Ayres (Yale) and Gillian Hadfield (USC) could feed at the trough, even if the conservatives outnumbered them.
Mr. Piereson said he had few specific expectations when he helped a little-known political theorist, Allan Bloom, create the democracy center in Chicago. But after a few years of high-brow seminars, Mr. Bloom wrote "The Closing of the American Mind," which topped best-seller lists in 1987 and inspired the continuing assault on campus liberalism.
I had forgotten that Olin had helped fund that silly book, with its comical misreadings of almost every major thinker in the history of moral and political thought. One of the ironies is that Bloom had not written the book with a popular audience in mind: it was his idea of scholarship. I recall buying it shortly after it came out--and before it became a coffee-table phenomenon--because I was, at the time, trying to size up the Straussian reading of Nietzsche. I was astonished to learn that Bloom had not intended the book for a popular audience; that was the only excuse I could think of for the low level of scholarship and argument. Of course, at that time, I still did not realize the appallingly low intellectual level of most of what was produced by the Straussian cult.
The foundation's staff was similarly surprised when a $25,000 grant to an obscure social scientist, Charles Murray, helped revolutionize the welfare debate. Conservatives had long attacked poor people as abusing welfare programs. Mr. Murray's 1984 book, "Losing Ground," attacked the programs as abusing the poor by diverting them from work and marriage. By equating cutting with caring, Mr. Murray helped conservatives lay claim to the mantle of compassion as they pushed tough new welfare laws.
Was the Olin Foundation concerned, one wonders, that Mr. Murray's book was demolished by those actually concerned with evidence? Of course not: because it was never really about the "ideas" or their merits.
Much of Olin's giving has centered on law schools, reflecting Mr. Piereson's belief that they disproportionately shape public life. A $20,000 grant in 1982 helped law students organize a conference, and one of the most influential legal groups of the 20th century emerged, the Federalist Society.
The society now has chapters at almost every law school, and a swarm of alumni in the Bush administration dedicated to what the group calls limited government and judicial restraint. "It's not clear whether we would have existed without Olin's support," said Eugene Meyer, the society's president.
Even more influential has been Olin's support of the law and economics movement, which has transformed legal thinking. Its supporters say that economic tools, like cost-benefit analysis, bring rationality to the law, while critics warn that the focus on economics can cheat notions like fairness that defy quantification.
Only journalists could write that economic analysis brings "rationality" to the law. (On some of the oddities--dare I say "irrationalities"?--of economic analysis, see here and here.) It is probably worth noting, though, that the impact of economic analysis of law outside the legal academy has been negligible. The only area of law in the real world it has altered is antitrust. In torts--its other main target--it has had almost no impact on what courts do. This reminds me of a study Deborah Merritt (Ohio State) did a number of years ago in which she found that the articles most cited by legal scholars--articles in Critical Race Theory and law-and-economics--were cited at most once, and most often not at all, by the courts.
Olin has spent $68 million on law and economics programs, including those at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Chicago. "I saw it as a way into the law schools - I probably shouldn't confess that," Mr. Piereson said. "Economic analysis tends to have conservatizing effects."
The foundation has had its disappointments. Olin spent more than $500,000 each at Duke and the University of Pennsylvania for programs in law and economics that it discontinued, saying they had failed to have a sufficient impact.
That they gave any money to Duke for law and economics strongly suggests that the Olin Foundation had little idea what it was doing, that it was more beguiled by the institutional aura than by any awareness of the kind of scholarly work being done at the institution. It is not just that Duke has been the weakest of the top law schools for a long time--that is no news to anyone--but that it has been especially weak, of all the top law schools, in economic analysis of law.
And not every donation has gone toward erudition. A $5,000 grant helped the journalist David Brock write his 1993 book, "The Real Anita Hill," in which he elaborated on his incendiary charges that impugned the character of Ms. Hill, the critic of Justice Clarence Thomas. Breaking with the right, Mr. Brock later apologized.
This, too, is a giveaway as to the Foundations' actual commitment to the intellectual arena.
Comparing [the various conservative foundations] with an equal number of liberal foundations, including Ford and MacArthur, Mr. Piereson found that the right spent $100 million a year to the left's $1.2 billion. "You don't have to have a lot of money to drive the intellectual debate," Mr. Piereson said.
Especially when your "ideas," such as they are, help the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful.
As for ideas, Mr. Piereson has a new one. He is hoping to start an initiative to counter liberal influence in academia. Liberal academics "don't like American capitalism, American culture, and they don't like American history - they see it as a history of oppression," he said. "There are some people who are prepared to spend large sums of money to address this problem."
Perhaps they could hire Brown Shirts to solve the "problem"?
A faculty member at George Washington writes that Frederick Lawrence (constitutional law) at Boston University has been appointed the new Dean of the law school at George Washington University. I'll post a link to a press release when one is available.
UPDATE: The GW press release is here.
It's been a pleasure and privilege to have had the opportunity to work with many of you during your time in the Law School. I'm sure I speak for all my colleagues in wishing you much professional success and personal happiness in the years ahead.
New data (finally) here. This update was long overdue!I hope to get some more, updated material on the law school rankings site during the summer. And I hope to expand the listing of schools by student LSAT scores over the summer as well.
Bear in mind that numerical credentials have increased dramatically the last few years--partly due to U.S. News pressures, but mainly due to increases in the applicant pool. Today's UT class was the Penn class of five years ago.
UPDATE: Correspondence with readers makes it clear I should clarify the last remark: UT's class now has LSAT scores at the 75th percentile and median like Penn's class roughly five years ago. It is still my impression, as it was five years ago (when I was considering moving to Penn), that the top end of our class is at least as strong, and probably stronger, since we don't suffer from the tight clustering of competitive schools in the Northeast corridor. Roughly 10% of last year's UT class, for example, had LSAT scores above 170--about the same number of students with those credentials enrolled at places like Penn and Northwestern. Of course, because of differences in class size, that statistic doesn't show up in any of the measures used in the ranking linked above. (LSAT scores are also crude measures, but that's a different story.)
A law professor elsewhere wrote:
A gaming system perhaps growing in popularity is to offer lower LSAT students a seat in a “part time” class. One way of doing this is to admit lower LSAT students into evening programs, then allowing them to transfer into the day the following year. Another way is to have the student take one less class in the first year, which they make up in the summer of the first year, and then enter the second year on track with everyone else. Students given this offer are told that this is because they are “at risk” (in many cases a laughable claim given the student’s statistics), and that the reduced load will help them adjust and succeed.
I suspect that “part time” programs (evening or day variety) are the new mechanism of choice for schools interested in massaging their LSAT scores. The only way to expose this practice is to fold all part time numbers into the overall measure. It is a huge loophole that (based upon anecdotal evidence) more and more schools appear to be utilizing.
Note that Fordham, that does rather well in this study, also has a large part-time class (much larger, as a percentage of total enrollment, than Georgetown's, as was pointed out to me by a reader).
...who are among the top ten authors on SSRN for most downloads-per-paper in the last 12 months (even ranking ahead of some moderately well-known law professors!). Those in the market for new law teachers: keep an eye on these two!
UPDATE: And also in the top 60 is another outstanding UT law student, Seth Belzley. Congrats to him also!
Noted jury researcher Valerie Hans (Criminal Justice and Psychology, University of Delaware) has accepted a senior offer from Cornell Law School, which has established a strong presence as a leading center for empirical studies of the legal system.
New York University School of Law has voted out an offer to Roderick Hills, Jr. (constitutional law, local government law) at the University of Michigan Law School. In the public law area, NYU has recently lost Daryl Levinson to Harvard, and two other NYU faculty have offers from Harvard and Yale, respectively: Richard Pildes and Noah Feldman. Hills, meanwhile, is the leading public law specialist on the Michigan Law faculty, which has lost a number of faculty to the two leading New York law schools in recent years (Pildes and Deborah Malamud moved from Michigan to NYU; Debra Livingston, Merritt Fox, and Michael Heller left Michigan for Columbia). Another young Michigan public law theorist, Richard Primus, has been visiting recently at both Columbia and NYU.
Robert Thompson (Law, Vanderbilt), editor of Corporate Practice Commentator, kindly gave me permission to upload the announcement of the top 10 articles in corporate and securities law for 2004: Download top_10_corporate_and_securities_articles_of_2004_3.doc
Corporate Practice Commentator has conducted these surveys every year since 1994. Based on current faculty affiliations, here is how the law schools rank in terms of total number of articles by faculty members selected as among the "top ten" of the year (schools were awarded 1.0 for a sole-authored article, .5 for co-authored articles, and .33 for articles with three authors). Faculty authors are listed in parentheses.
1. Harvard University (16.16) (Bebchuk, Coates, Ferrell, Hanson, Kraakman, Roe, Shavell, Subramanian)
2. Columbia University (16.0) (Coffee, Fox, Gilson, Gordon, Milhaupt, Schizer)
3. Stanford University (11.50) (Alexander, Bankman, Daines, Gilson, Grundfest, Klausner)
4. New York University (9.83) (Allen, Arlen, Choi, Kahan)
5. Georgetown University (8.50) (Bratton, Gulati, Langevoort)
6. University of Texas, Austin (8.00) (Black, Hu, Mann)
7. Vanderbilt University (7.50) (Blair, Thomas, Thompson)
8. University of California, Los Angeles (5.50) (Bainbridge, Stout)
8. University of Pennsylvania (5.50) (Rock, Skeel)
10. University of Virginia (4.50) (Kitch, Mahoney, Triantis)
10. Yale University (4.50) (Ayres, Hansmann, Macey, Romano)
The only surprising omission from this list is the University of Chicago Law School.
Other faculty authors with at least two articles selected sicne 1994 (even though their schools didn't make the top ten) include Eric Talley (USC, visiting next year at Boalt), Jill Fisch (Fordham), Hillary Sale (Iowa), and Lawrence Mitchell (George Washington).
UPDATE: Gordon Smith (Law, Wisconsin) comments on some difficulties with the methodology by which Corporate Practice Commentator chooses the "top ten" articles here.
Harvard University has made offers to Martha Nussbaum (moral and political philosophy, ancient philosophy) and Cass Sunstein (constitutional, administrative, and environmental law), both on the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School (and each jointly appointed to other units at Chicago). Nussbaum's appointment at Harvard would be in at least Law and Classics; Sunstein's at least in Law. Their departure would obviously be a major blow to the University of Chicago Law School.
UPDATE: As various readers informed me, Harvard Law School has also had an offer outstanding for quite awhile to David Weisbach (tax) at Chicago. In addition, Chicago's Adrian Vermeule (constitutional law) has been visiting at Harvard, and is under consideration there for permanent appointment. Whether any of these folks actually go to Harvard remains, of course, to be seen.
Stanford Law School has hired Norman Spaulding (legal ethics and legal profession) from the law school at the University of California, Berkeley. Stanford's press release is here.
The letter is here. Deans of all the major law schools signed, with the exceptions, it appears, of Stanford's Larry Kramer, Chicago's Saul Levmore, and Northwestern's David van Zandt. (Does anyone know why?) Also absent from the list of signatories are the Deans at conservative religious law schools like Pepperdine, Regent and Ave Maria. Shame on them!
UPDATE: Other readers point out that there are no signatures from the Deans at Georgetown (Alex Aleinikoff) and George Mason (Daniel Polsby). Bear in mind, of course, that some of these omissions (both those mentioned in the Update and the original posting) may have been accidental, a result of bad timing, and not a decision by the Deans in question not to support the statement.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A young legal scholar writes: "I don't know about Alenikoff, but Larry Kramer's book is all about curbing the judiciary through funding and impeachment threats - he could hardly sign a letter protesting the same." I had thought it was primarily about mob violence as a tool of constitutional interpretation, but perhaps this is right.
The American Philosophical Society, the nation's oldest learned society (though not as well-known, perhaps, as the American Academy of Arts & Sciences or the National Academy of Sciences), has announced the election of new members.
Philosophers elected are Stanley Cavell (emeritus, Harvard), Allan Gibbard (Michigan), and Richard Rorty (emeritus, Stanford).
Scholars well-known to philosophers also elected this year include Peter Galison (History of Science, Harvard) and Amy Gutmann (President of Penn).
Other philosophers elected to the APS from prior years include Nancy Cartwright (LSE & UC San Diego), Saul Kripke (CUNY & emeritus, Princeton), Hilary Putnam (emeritus, Harvard), and Onora O'Neill (Cambridge).
Only one legal scholar was elected this year: Larry Kramer (now Dean at Stanford). (Given the excruciatingly critical reviews of his book that have appeared just about everywhere, the timing here seems a bit odd.) Other law professors elected to the APS from prior years include Kathleen Sullivan (Stanford, and former Dean), Randall Kennedy (Harvard), Kent Greenawalt (Columbia), Barbara Black (Columbia), Gerhard Casper (Stanford), and Guido Calabresi (emeritus, Yale & federal judge).
Anita Bernstein (torts, products liability, feminist legal theory), currently the Sam Nunn Professor of Law at Emory University, has also accepted appointment as Wallace Stevens Professor of Law at New York Law School. She will be splitting her time between the schools the next two years, though NYLS is hoping to recruit her full-time at the end of that period.
Stanford University has made a senior offer to the distinguished political philosopher Joshua Cohen at MIT, which would have him jointly appointed in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science and in the Law School (which has, historically, been a rather philosophy-unfriendly place, so this is a striking development). In addition, the Philosophy Department at Stanford has offered a long-term (ten-year) part-time appointment to Brian Skyrms (decision and game theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics and epistemology) at the University of California at Irvine who, among his many other accomplishments and distinctions, is one of only two philosophers elected to the National Academy of Sciences (the other is Patrick Suppes, now emeritus at Stanford).
I'm on the run, but here, briefly, are the results:
Newly elected philosophers are Robert Fogelin (emeritus, Dartmouth), Gilbert Harman (Princeton), Charles Larmore (Chicago), Keith Lehrer (emeritus [though still teaching], Arizona), and Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame). In addition, philosopher Rebecca Goldstein (Trinity College) was elected in recognition of her literary works.
Newly elected legal scholars are Jack Balkin (Yale), Elena Kagan (Dean of Harvard Law School), Duncan Kennedy (Harvard), Sylvia Law (NYU), and Catharine MacKinnon (Michigan). This was clearly the year for "the left" (in some suitably loose sense) at the American Academy! For good measure, among the practitioners elected was Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
UPDATE: Of local interest, Allan MacDonald (Physics) at UT Austin was elected, as was Eric Nestler from the UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas (there is no medical school at the Austin campus).
The university press release is here. She comes to Pittsburgh from Florida State University, which had recruited her away just a few years ago from a tenured post at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
A faculty member at Washington University just wrote to confirm that Kent Syverud, the very successful outgoing Dean of Vanderbilt's law school, has accepted the Deanship at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. More details later today. Kudos to Wash U on having secured a very talented administrator and academic leader.
UPDATE: Wash U's press release is here. Syverud starts January 1, 2006 at Wash U.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Syverud is moving from a solidly top 20 law school to one that aspires, and ought to be able, to achieve that status. One big advantage will be that Washington University is such a significantly stronger research university than Vanderbilt--though still one that, oddly, underperforms its great wealth (Wash U is significantly wealthier, on a per capita basis, than places like Cornell and Brown, for example). (The undergraduate program ranks well, but the graduate programs generally do not.) The standout unit at the university is clearly the Medical School, which is by every pertinent measure one of the handful of top medical faculties in the United States and the world. As typically happens, outstanding strengths in medicine have spillover effects in the biological sciences, where Wash U again ranks in the top 10, and always the top 20, in essentially all the various sub-fields of biology. Outside biology, the hard sciences are relatively weak (almost none are in the top 20 nationally); and in the humanities and social sciences, only a handful of departments rank in the top 20 or higher nationally (e.g., Anthropology, German, Political Science). (Philosophy, which disappeared from the top 50 for awhile, has now been rejuvenated with fresh talent [it ranked 36th in 2004], and is poised, with additional hires, to move towards the top 20.) One of Joel Seligman’s astute moves during his Deanship—or, I should say, one of his astute moves visible to an outsider—was to bring Lee Epstein, one of the stars of Political Science at Wash U and one of the nation's preeminent political scientists studying the courts, on to the law faculty, and help establish an intellectual niche for the Law School as a leading center of empirical studies of the legal system, with not only Epstein, but also Pauline Kim, Margo Schlanger, and others. Seligman had a few notable lateral recruitments during his tenure—e.g., John Haley (Japanese law) from Washington/Seattle, Schlanger and her husband Samuel Bagenstos (leading authority on disability law) from Harvard—as well as some strong junior hiring, but overall, he didn’t accomplish as much on the faculty recruitment front as Syverud did during his tenure at Vanderbilt. If Syverud can duplicate his Vanderbilt success in St. Louis, Wash U could easily be one of the up-and-comers among top law schools in the next decade.
Utilizing the data that Larry Solum has compiled for two years on where newly hired law teachers earned their first degree (here and here), I've compiled a list of all schools that sent at least three graduates in to law teaching during this time period. Next to the name of each school appears the number of graduates who took tenure-track jobs in the last two years; and following that number is the number of students in a typical class (rounded to the nearest 50) based on the 2000 ABA Guide to U.S. Law Schools. (Some schools have shrunk their class sizes since, but the 2000 Guide is probably more indicative of class size for those currently entering law teaching, since most of them earned their law degrees 3-8 years ago.) Where there were ties in total number of graduates in teaching, I used class size to break the tie, ranking the smaller school higher. Because the numbers that enter law teaching are so small, and because the sample size here (just two years), is also small, it's hard to know whether per capita measures would be informative, or just confusing. (The reality of hiring, too, is that it helps to have a lot of graduates of your school in law teaching: institutional loyalty and all that.) Yet surely it is relevant when comparing, e.g., Harvard and Yale, that Harvard is two-and-a-half-times the size of Yale, yet Yale places almost as many graduates in teaching as Harvard. So the figures on student body size in parentheses permit modestly useful comparisons for schools with roughly similar numbers of graduates in law teaching during this time period. (Remember: because the totals for most schools are small, another year's data could change the results significantly.)
The results are not significantly different from the results of earlier data I compiled. Note, however, that Solum's data, and my aggregation of it here, do not control for quality of the school at which graduates are hired, or for the number of graduates who earned other degrees from other institutions prior to securing a post in law teaching. (This is important, e.g., in the case of Kansas, perhaps the most surprising performer on the list.)
1. Harvard University (51) (550)
2. Yale University (41) (200)
3. Stanford University (15) (200)
4. Columbia University (15) (350)
5. University of Chicago (13) (200)
6. New York University (10) (450)
7. University of California, Berkeley (9) (250)
8. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (9) (350)
8. University of Virginia (9) (350)
10. University of Pennsylvania (7) (250)
11. Georgetown University (7) (600)
12. University of Texas, Austin (6) (450)
13. University of California, Los Angeles (5) (250)
14. University of Kansas (4) (150)
15. Duke University (4) (200)
16. Howard University (3) (100)
17. Cornell University (3) (200)
17. Northwestern University (3) (200)
UPDATE: Law professor Chris Drahozal from the University of Kansas writes:
I'm happy that Kansas is finally getting some positive recognition (after our fall to 100 in U.S. News!). I do take some issue with the following remark from your post, however, which I think is a little unfair to KU: "Note, however, that Solum's data, and my aggregation of it here, do not control for quality of the school at which graduates are hired, or for the number of graduates who earned other degrees from other institutions prior to securing a post in law teaching. (This is important, e.g., in the case of Kansas, perhaps the most surprising performer on the list.)"
Our four alums who entered teaching the past two years have gotten jobs at Cornell, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Akron - a better group of schools than the Duke alums are teaching at, for example. And only one of the four has a degree from somewhere other than Kansas (one other has an MBA from Kansas as well). [Ed.-one grad earned an SJD at Yale, and is now at Cornell.] As I'm sure you know teaching at a state school, we get some really good students who don't want to pay out-of-state or private school tuition. As a result, our top graduates are really good, and, as this data suggests, competive with law graduates from anywhere. We just don't have as many students like that as some other schools do.
Of course, the same is presumably true at the University of Georgia and the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa and so on, yet these schools didn't perform as well as Kansas in the last two years. While I wouldn't suggest that students now head off to Kansas in order to enter law teaching, it's clear that they're doing something right in Lawrence to help their students fare well in this most competitive of job markets. (And the U.S. News ranking of the school is obviously silly, needless to say.)
Fred Tung, a specialist in both domestic and international corporate law and securities regulation, bankruptcy, and commercial law, at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles has accepted a tenured offer from the law school at Emory University, where he will start in the fall.
Details here; an excerpt (footnotes omitted):
In a recent talk at York University in Toronto, Canada,..in the course of arguing that Israeli authorities no longer torture Palestinians, [Alan] Dershowitz claimed he had a long conversation with the Israeli human rights organization, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in which PCATI not only conceded that there was no longer any torture for them to investigate, but that they refused to change their name because it helped them attract media attention....
First, I visited PCATI's website (www.stoptorture.org.il) and immediately found its July 2003 report containing 48 affidavits testifying to the continued use of torture against Palestinians by Israeli authorities. More than three years after Professor Dershowitz claims torture had stopped, PCATI reported: “Each month, the ill-treatment reaching the level of torture as defined in international law is inflicted in dozens of cases, and possibly more. In other words – torture in Israel has once more become routine.” And after Professor Dershowitz claims PCATI conceded torture had ended, PCATI was still reporting that “Instances of torture, abuse, prisoners held incommunicado and excessive violence against [Palestinian] detainees continue to grow in both numbers and severity”, while “interrogators and perpetrators of torture, their commanders and superiors enjoy impunity.”
These reports didn’t exactly corroborate Professor Dershowitz’s story so, next, I contacted PCATI to confirm his allegation. “Dershowitz’s claim that he had long conversations with PCATI and that we reported that there is no longer any torture in Israel,” I was told by PCATI’s Orah Maggen, “is totally false. We never met with him or spoke with him directly. I did meet him at the Knesset [Israel’s parliament] when he spoke at the Law and Constitution Committee [but] I, and representatives of other human rights NGOs challenged most of what he said about torture, the role of human rights NGOs and other issues.”
When I reported PCATI's denial to Professor Dershowitz, he replied: “During my conversation at the Knesset I asked the representative of the committee [Orah Maggen] why they kept their name, despite their acknowledgement that torture was no longer a significant issue? She responded – I remember clear as day – as follows: 'You have no idea how difficult it is to get attention to any human rights issues in this country. Maintaining our organizational name, with the word torture, is essential to getting needed attention.' I had an extensive argument with her about that tactic, focusing especially on the international implications and the misleading nature of the name outside of the country. I am certain she remembers the conversation because it was quite heated. It also took place in front of numerous witnesses.”
When I emailed PCATI Dershowitz's “clear as day” recollection, Ms. Maggen replied that it is true that there was a heated exchange with others present, but “All other statements made by Professor Dershowitz are blatantly false and utterly preposterous… Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI acknowledged, claimed or in any way stated that torture is no longer a significant issue. On the contrary, it is our claim that the systematic and large-scale torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees and prisoners continues to this day.” She further stated that, “Neither I nor any other representative of PCATI ever stated that we kept our name to ‘get attention’ for any reason whatsoever. Considering the fact that torture is still widespread and that PCATI has its hands full struggling against the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian detainees (and others) by Israeli authorities, the claim regarding statements we supposedly made about our organization's name is totally absurd.” Finally, she concluded that Dershowitz's claim was “shocking in its audacity.”
The basic story is here, and Orin Kerr (Law, George Washington) recounts other facts surrounding the recent incident at NYU here; and this site prints a letter from the student who asked the question in which he explains, rather plausibly, the grounds for his intentionally, but hardly gratuitously, rude question.
UPDATE: Professor Kerr's posting has actually elicited a couple of interesting comments: for example, here and here. (Be forewarned, however, that the pathetically dumb Clayton Cramer is, alas, all over the comments section here.)
ANOTHER UPDATE: Timothy Sandfeur has interesting comments here.
AND ANOTHER: An NYU faculty member confirms that this is Dean Revesz's letter (and thanks also to NYU students who forwarded it). The key part, commenting on the student question, is this:
First, during the student question-and-answer session, one student posed an extraordinarily rude, immature, and inappropriate question. Such a show of incivility to any individual invited to be a guest of the Law School, let alone to a Supreme Court Justice, has no place in our intellectual community. It is insulting not only to our guest but also to the law school community as a whole, and impedes the robust debate that events such as these are designed to promote. Questions can be asked--and should be asked--that are challenging, critical, and demanding. But part of becoming a professional and an adult is learning to ask these questions, even of those we disagree with strongly on certain issues, in a serious and mature way that does not involve offensive and insulting language.
Deans are, of course, in impossible situations in cases like this, since they have institutional duties that must override their moral and political judgment and opinions. Still, it strikes me as unfortunate to have made this an issue of "maturity," when it is plainly not. (This reminds me, in an odd way, of the furor after 9/11 when Susan Sontag pointed out, of course correctly, that of the many things one might say about the hijackers, calling them "cowards" made the least sense.) The question was clearly very rude, but asking it did not reflect "immaturity," rather the opposite: namely, a maturity of conviction and purpose sufficient to empower the student to dramatically violate expected norms in a room full of his peers and teachers in order to make a political statement. One may have different views about the appropriateness of such a political statement in this context, but it does not reflect poorly on the maturity of the student. (If the student had asked the rude question gratuitously, or simply for titillation, then the charge of immaturity would make sense; but he obviously did not.)
On a more minor point, I am struck by the suggestion that "a show of incivility to any individual invited to be a guest of the Law School, let alone to a Supreme Court Justice, has no place in our intellectual community." Why special status for Supreme Court Justices? They are obviously political appointees, chosen for their ideology and expectations about their behavior on the Court, not for their skill or competence or moral rectitude. Why is incivility, for purposes of making a political statement, especially inapposite in this case as against any other guest of the Law School? Curious.
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts in support of the student from Clayton Littlejohn here. And there are also notable comments from "Steven" at the same site:
I think the format in which he was speaking plays a big part in the reaction he has been getting. The President and, I imagine, Justice Scalia, appear in only tightly controlled affairs where their points are stressed and the views of anyone else are suppressed. There are tight screens for both the questions and questioners. So, both Eric or any critic can not expect the time or space to say completely what they would like, as Eric did in his long letter, to make his point "politely."
Given what's at stake, not just the bigotry, but the murders and thievery going on in Iraq, the intimidating attacks on the poor domestically, and the general lawlessness perpetrated by this adminitration, we all have cause to emulate Eric.
With the issues that face us in mind, put these questions to them. There is a point to civility in that reasonable people who desire a resolution to conflicts require it. However, I am persuaded Justice Scalia, among others, believes morality is more important, and civility for them is a useful ruse.
AND YET ONE MORE: Stephen Bainbridge (Law, UCLA), in comments here, confuses, I think, the value of an independent judiciary (i.e., a judiciary whose decisions are independent of coercion from the other branches of government) with the fact that judges--especially appellate judges, and most especially Supreme Court Justices--are called on to make political and moral judgments with great frequency, and are increasingly appointed on the basis of expectations about the judgments they will make in that regard. One may think, as I and many others do, that an independent judiciary is crucial to the values we associate with the "rule of law," and also believe that appellate judges are political actors in significant ways. That they are political actors makes it unsurprising that they attract protests like that of the NYU student; that a judiciary independent of the other political branches is important to the rule of law makes it alarming when members of the legislative and executive branches threaten to coerce judges to do their bidding.
Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley has made two tenured appointments: David Sklansky (criminal procedure, evidence) from UCLA and Leti Volpp (immigration law, law & culture, Asian-Americans and the law) from American University.
In addition, Boalt has made tenured offers to a couple, Gillian Lester, who is a well-known expert in employment law, at UCLA and Eric Talley, who many consider to be one of the very top scholars in the country in his age cohort in corporate law and law & economics, at the University of Southern California; they will be visiting professors at Boalt next year. (Earlier this year, Boalt lost Stephen Choi, in corporate law and law & economics, to New York University.) A number of top schools, including Texas, were in the "hunt" for this scholarly couple this past year! (A propos our earlier discussion of "look-see" visits, it is interesting to note that this is the second case I know of this year where top lateral prospects receive permanent offers, and then elect to visit to "look-see" the school, as it were, rather than the other way around.)
More details on some of the preceding, as well as information on a junior hire, is here.
UPDATE: And a third case of the reverse "look-see": Cynthia Estlund (employment law) at Columbia Law School has a permanent offer from New York University, and will visit before deciding.
Michael Gerhardt (constitutional law) at the College of William & Mary has accepted a senior offer from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, turning down, in the process, an offer from the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities.
Here. Only one law professor won support for his work this year: M. Gregg Bloche (Georgetown). (My sense is that not many law faculty apply for this support.) Philosophers whose work is being recognized and supported are Eckart Forster (Johns Hopkins) and Gerald Postema (North Carolina). (Having written in support of Professor Postema's application, let me add, on a personal note, that I am particularly pleased to see that his excellent work won support.)
Of local interest, UT Austin historian Alison Frazier also won a Guggenheim this year.
The University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco has made two major senior hires: Geoffrey Hazard, Jr., the nation's leading authority on legal ethics, is moving full-time now to Hastings from the University of Pennsylvania, where he had taught since retiring from Yale in 1994; and Joan Williams, a major figure in feminist legal theory, is moving to Hastings from American University in Washington, D.C.
A student, whose name I'm witholding, writes:
With the new U.S. News rankings and most law school decisions for this cycle out, I would like to let you know about my experience with the application process and the way even elite law schools are manipulating the admissions process in order to increase their ratings.
I am a top candidate. I attended [a top liberal arts college in the Northeast], where my GPA was 3.82, and scored 178 on the LSAT. I have been accepted at NYU, Stanford, and Harvard; did not apply to Columbia; and am still waiting on a decision from Yale. Outside the U.S. News top 5, the situation changes dramatically. I have been accepted by Duke, Virginia, and Boalt, but been placed on glorified waitlists at Georgetown, Penn, Michigan, and Chicago. While the waitlists have different names, they all have one thing in common: I am expected to take positive action in order to remain in consideration. If I do not, my application will be rejected. ( Chicago claims that their form of positive action - writing extra essays - is "optional", but given the circumstances I do not find their claims credible.)
At just one or two schools, I would chalk it up to chance, but at this point it is clearly a pattern. The only explanation is that Georgetown, Penn, Michigan, and Chicago are trying to artificially inflate their U.S. News rankings by rejecting top candidates who are likely to turn them down for a more prestigious school. I feel as though my application fees have been stolen.
'Tis suspicious--also ridiculous, since the acceptance rate is a mere 2.5% of the overall score in U.S. News.
UPDATE: More stories coming in. A professor of political science in the Northeast writes:
I don't know much about law school admission practices, but I know quite a lot about undergraduate practices, and there's a lot of "gaming" going on. It's not so much a matter of trying to lower the acceptance rate as it is to increase the yield rates [which are a factor in the US News undergraduate rankings]. My son was considering applying to Tufts (from which he will be graduating) but we were worried because the valedictorian of his school was wait-listed the previous year and she was much stronger than my son. My wife, who works in admissions, made an inquiry of a former colleague who then worked at Tufts, and he told us that this was a U.S News decision, that they were quite sure that the young woman wouldn't accept their offer (they were right). So they encouraged my son to apply, which he did. There are numerous institutions that play this game, and so it's entirely possible that law schools play it as well.
Aaron Dossett, a JD/MBA candidate at Indiana University, Bloomington, writes:
I applied to law schools two years ago, and had an interesting experience with a wait list. All of the schools that wait listed me required me to take some form of positive action, usually just faxing a form, to get on the wait list. I was happy with the offer I got from IU, so I decided not to go on any waitlists. One school, top 30 US News, contacted me several weeks after the deadline to accept a spot on the waiting list. The school informed me that even though the deadline had passed, I should contact them if I was still interested (I was not). I joked with my friends that I got a "constructive acceptance," but I'm sure it was a rejection for US News reporting purposes.
Another current law applicant writes:
I may be able to add a similar puzzle to that students' story. I applied to too many schools. Because I have a high LSAT combined with a mediocre GPA but good work experience, I didn't know where I'd fall. I've been accepted at Northwestern, Fordham, et al. I've still got some answers pending that may factor into the decision. I've been rejected by your 'horns and Stanford. The puzzle is that I've been waitlisted by UVA, Georgetown, Washington & Lee and George Mason. I can see the first two, but as a group I would assume, while they are all fine schools, that they do not compete for students with the same credentials. Maybe I just have weird numbers, and of course this admissions game is a strange cat. (Maybe it's a residency thing.) However, I would assume that a maybe from W&L would be a no at UVA, and a maybe from UVA would be a yes from W&L.
And so it goes in the wonderful world of US News-driven law school admissions practices.
Here. The first two members are Ethan Lieb, who will be starting at Hastings in the fall, and Dan Markel, who will be starting teaching at Florida State.
William Sage, a JD/MD at Columbia Law School, who is widely considered the leading health law scholar of his generation in the academy, has a permanent offer from the University of Texas at Austin, and will be a visiting professor at the Law School during 2005-06. In the past this strategy has worked well for us (in recent years, Jane Cohen from Boston University and Larry Sager from New York University both made the permanent move after visiting), and we are hopeful that Professor Sage will join our other recent recruits to the faculty.
Samuel Issacharoff, a leading authority on voting rights and civil procedure at Columbia Law School, has accepted the senior offer from New York University. This marks the first time since roughly the late 1980s that there has been any lateral movement between the two New York schools, and the first time (ever, to my knowledge) that NYU has dislodged a senior faculty member from Columbia. That's a big coup for NYU, which has suffered a number of significant losses in the last couple of years. (NYU students will also be pleased to know that Issacharoff (who was my colleague here in the 1990s) is also a very popular and successful teacher.)
That list is here (free registration required). (I posted on the institutional list here.) The list is updated each month. Here are the 25 most-downloaded authors in the last 12 months, with institutional affiliation and primary area of publication in parentheses. (You can click on other categories to re-rank by, e.g., downloads per paper, all-time downloads, and so on.) As noted previously, SSRN is more heavily used by scholars in a few fields (corporate, law & economics, intellectual property), though perhaps the spectacle of a competition will increase usage in other fields!
1. Lucian Bebchuk (Harvard: corporate, law & econ)
2. Mark Lemley (Stanford: intellectual property, law & econ)
3. Bernard Black (Texas: corporate, law & econ)
4. Stephen Bainbridge (UCLA: corporate)
5. Francesco Parisi (George Mason: law & econ, comparative)
6. Cass Sunstein (Chicago: constitutional, administrative, environmental, behavioral law & econ)
7. William Landes (Chicago: law & econ)
8. John Coffee (Columbia: corporate, procedure)
9. Gregory Sidak (AEI: telecommunications, Cyberlaw)
10. Orin Kerr (George Washington: criminal)
11. Larry Solum (San Diego, moving to Illinois: intellectual property, jurisprudence, procedure)
12. Ronald Gilson (Stanford/Columbia: corporate, law & econ)
13. Jesse Fried (Berkeley: corporate, law & econ)
14. Eric Posner (Chicago: law & econ)
15. Reinier Kraakman (Harvard: corporate, law & econ)
16. William Bratton (Georgetown: corporate)
16. Allen Ferrell (Harvard: corporate)
18. Lynn Stout (UCLA: corporate)
19. Brian Leiter (Texas: jurisprudence)
20. Timothy Wu (Virginia: intellectual property)
21. Roberta Romano (Yale: corporate)
22. Klaus Hopt (Max Planck Institute: corporate)
23. Daniel Solove (George Washington: Cyberlaw, privacy law)
24. Margaret Blair (Vanderbilt: corporate, law & econ)
25. Patrick Ryan (Colorado/Louvain: Cyberlaw, torts, procedure, comparative)
Word is that SSRN has a way of detecting those who download themselves, but so far, they aren't publishing the list of cheaters! Ah, human vanity!
Harvard Law School has made an offer to Daryl Levinson (constitutional law) at New York University, as part of Harvard's general plan to expand the faculty. (Harvard also has had an offer out for awhile to NYU's Richard Pildes [constitutional law, voting rights].) NYU's Noah Feldman (constitutional law, Islamic law) has an offer from Yale currently, and is also visiting now at Harvard. Other youngish "public law" scholars on Harvard's radar screen include Rick Hills (Michigan), Adrian Vermeule (Chicago), and Ernest Young (Texas).
An assistant professor of law (not a UT grad) writes:
Your advice about the entry-level hiring process helped me at that stage of my career, and now I am interested in your advice in positioning oneself for a lateral move. (In my case, from a fourth-tier school to -- with luck -- a second-tier one.) I am finishing my first year in teaching and hope to move after my second or third.
The basics are sufficiently clear. I should publish, do as well as possible in the classroom, and be a good colleague. What is unclear for me is the publicity aspect. Is the AALS market the way to go, again? Or is it better to try to get one's name out to others in the profession in a less systematic way? Are faculty workshops a good way to audition for a full-scale interview?
I've opened comments, and invite law faculty (no anonymous postings) to offer advice. I will try to weigh in when I have a chance, but I'm sure others have lots of good insight in to this issue.
UPDATE: A colleague elsewhere writes: "Interesting that no one has responded to your very interesting post -- I suppose that anyone who is trying to move up doesn't want to seem over-eager or desparate, while those looking for laterals don't want to have every gunner flooding their inbox with e-mails. I'll bet you would get tons of responses if you allowed anonymous comments." Since then, Professor Brown has kindly posted an informative response, but I will, per my colleague's suggestion, permit anonymous postings here. I will, however, delete or edit anonymous postings more vigorously if they aren't on point. I'm also moving this to the front.
Rebecca Tushnet (intellectual property) at New York University School of Law has accepted an offer from the law school at Georgetown University, where she has been visiting. Her father, the distinguished constitutional law scholar Mark Tushnet, has been a long-time member of the Georgetown faculty, though has recently visited at Harvard Law School.
There are the obvious injustices, from the standpoint of academic merit (i.e., actual faculty and student quality), in the overall rankings: numerous schools are ranked too low (Chicago at 6th, Berkeley at 11th, Texas at 15th, USC at 18th, Illinois at 26th, Emory at 32nd, Hastings at 39th, George Mason at 41st, Florida State at 56th, San Diego at 63rd, Chicago-Kent at 65th are just a few that catch my eye right away); numerous others--benefitting from the criteria that usually favor small, private schools--are ranked more highly than they deserve on the academic merits (Northwestern at 10th and Duke at 11th are two obvious ones at the high end).
In any case, grousing like this is old news, and is no doubt going on nonstop at faculty lounges around the country right now. Students trying to make sense of the information (and misinformation) provided by US News should review the methodology and its weaknesses in order to get the most out of the data provided.
What I'm particularly struck by is the "echo chamber" effect noted in my earlier posting: namely, that the academic reputation rank of at least the top schools is basically gravitating towards the typical overall US News rank of the school--a rank that is, itself, based in large part on that reputation! (The lawyer/judge reputation rank fluctuates meaninglessly year in and year out, mostly because the response rate is so poor: only 27% this year filled out the surveys!)
To check my sense that this is what's now happening, I looked at the reputation score of the top 15 schools in 2002, the reputation score in 2005, and then the overall US News rank of the school in the intervening period. The pattern, alas, is unmistakable.
In 2002, for example, Columbia's reputation rank was tied at 4-5. In the four intervening overall rankings, Columbia was always 4th. Lo and behold, in the year 2005, Columbia's academic reputation is now 4th, by itself (no tie).
In 2002, Chicago was tied at 4th in academic reputation; after four intervening years of an overall ranking of 6th, Chicago's academic reputation slipped to 5th.
In 2002, NYU's academic reputation rank was tied at 8-9 (with Virginia). In the four intervening years, NYU's overall rank was always 5th. By 2005, NYU's academic reputation rank had moved up to a new cluster, 6-8 (tied with Berkeley and Michigan).
In 2002, Duke's academic reputation was tied at 10-11 (with Penn), this coming on the heels of several years when Duke, overall, was ranked in the top ten. (Penn meanwhile had been ranked outside the top ten for a couple of years at this point.) From 2002-2005, Duke's overall rank was 10th only once, 12th twice, and 11th once. By 2005, Duke's academic reputation had slipped to the 11-13 cluster (tied with Cornell and Georgetown, and now behind Penn).
In 2002, Texas had an academic reputation tied at 12-15 (with Cornell, Georgetown, and Northwestern); in the four intervening overall rankings Texas was always ranked 15th. Lo and behold, in the year 2005, UT's academic reputation rank is now 15th, behind Cornell, Georgetown, and Northwestern.
The pattern is the same across the top 15 (with only one partial exception--Georgetown): schools consistently ranked higher (overall) than their academic reputation score saw their academic reputation score improve by 2005; schools consistently ranked lower (overall) than their academic reputation score saw their academic reputation score decline by 2005.
The problem here is that most of these changes are unrelated to anything other than the overall U.S. News ranking. Duke's faculty in 2005 is clearly stronger than its faculty in 2002, yet its reputation score declined (of course, it was too high in 2002); the reverse was true at NYU, yet its reputation score improved even as faculty left. Texas recruited leading senior faculty from Stanford, NYU, and Michigan (and improved the student body), and saw its academic reputation score decline in the same period.
The moral is clear: to improve your academic reputation according to U.S. News improve your U.S. News ranking! Improving your faculty or your student body doesn't matter.
If any law professor wants to see if this echo chamber effect extends more widely, please feel free to compile the data and send it to me.
For the first time since 2001, U.S. News surveyed senior faculty on graduate program quality in several major areas of the humanities and the social sciences (not philosophy, though for that purpose we, of course, have more reliable data). This provides an opportunity to look at how a cluster of very loosely competitive research universities fared during this period. For reasons of immediate interest, I chose to look at research universities competitive with Texas, though I've thrown in two schools clearly stronger than the others in the cluster (UCLA and Chicago) and one weaker than the others in the cluster (Virginia) as a check on the reliability of the results.
Note that some of the schools in this sample are even stronger in the hard sciences and mathematics than in the social sciences and humanities (for example, Illinois, Texas, Washington and UC San Diego), while others are quite a bit weaker in those fields than in the social sciences and humanities (for example, Brown, Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia)
Nonetheless, strength in the humanities and social sciences is likely the information most relevant to law students, who, as graduate students, can take courses in cognate fields at the university. (I didn't include here some schools with very good law schools--such as Georgetown, Southern California, and Vanderbilt--since their graduate departments in other fields simply aren't even close to being competitive, except in unusual cases, with the universities studied here.)
We calculated three scores for each university: the net gain or loss in rank across the seven disciplines evaluated (English, Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology); the average rank of departments at each university in these seven fields; and the median rank. In some cases where rankings did not extend beyond the top 25 or so, it was necessary to estimate a rank, and so the figure of 30th was used (in some cases that is an advantage for the school, in other cases a slight disadvantage). In only one case, did we estimate a gain for a department for which the figure of 30th was assigned: namely, Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, which has made a series of high profile appointments to boost the standing of the department, which ranked far lower than 30th in the last National Research Council study.
The research universities most improved during this four-year period are: New York University (plus 12); University of California at San Diego (plus 8); and University of Texas at Austin (plus 9). No real surprises there: each of these schools is in economically vibrant areas, attractive places to live, and each of these schools has been aggressive in the market for established faculty talent.
The research universities that lost the most ground during this four-year period are: Johns Hopkins University (minus 13); Northwestern University (minus 25); University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (minus 24); and University of Washington at Seattle (minus 19). The only surprise on that list, for me at least, was Northwestern. I suspect it is simply a fluke of the time period evaluated, or the particular programs in question. Minnesota and Washington, on the other hand, have had well-publicized troubles, mostly financial, and so the results in those cases are less surprising. Johns Hopkins, meanwhile, is fighting a problematic urban location.
Among the universities studied, the ten with the highest average rank for departments in the humanities and social sciences were University of California, Los Angeles (9th), University of Chicago (10th), University of Wisconsin at Madison (12th), Cornell University (13th), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (16th), University of Pennsylvania (17th), Duke University (18th), New York University (18th), University of Texas, Austin (18th), and University of California, San Diego (20th). Those with the lowest average rank were Brown University and Johns Hopkins University (each 23rd), University of Virginia (26th), and University of Washington, Seattle (27th).
The ten with the highest median rank are University of Chicago (6th), University of California, Los Angeles (9th), University of Wisconsin, Madison (11th), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (13th), University of Pennsylvania (13th), Cornell University (14th), Duke University (15th), University of California, San Diego (17th), Northwestern University (19th), and University of Texas, Austin (19th). Those with the lowest median rank were the Universities of Virginia and Washington, Seattle (both 30th).
Below is the detailed data, reflecting the change in rank from 2001 to 2005 for each discipline, and also reporting the overall net gain or loss, and the average and median rank.
Brown University: minus 8; avg. rank: 23rd; median rank: 21st
Economics: 21st to 21st
English: 14th to 15th
History: 15th to 15th
Philosophy: 16th to 17th
Political Science: not in top 25 to not in top 25 (est. 30)
Psychology: 30th to 36th
Sociology: not in top 25 to not in top 25 (est. 30)
Cornell University: minus 3; avg. rank: 13th; median rank: 14th
Economics: 17th to 17th
English: 6th to 6th
History: 10th to 11th
Philosophy: 9th to 12th
Political Science: 20th to 18th
Psychology: 15th to 16th
Sociology: 14th to 14th
Duke University: plus 2; avg. rank: 18th; median rank: 15th
Economics: 21st to 21st
English: 15th to 12th
History: 15th to 15th
Philosophy: 30th to 29th
Political Science: 8th to 8th
Psychology: 24th to 28th
Sociology: 16th to 14th
Johns Hopkins University: minus 13; avg. rank: 23rd; median rank: 22nd
Economics: 24th to 24th
English: 8th to 8th
History: 10th to 9th
Philosophy: 31st to 44th
Political Science: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30th)
Psychology: 24th to 22nd
Sociology: 19th to 22nd
New York University: plus 12; avg. rank: 18th; median rank: 22nd
Economics: 19th to 15th
English: 25th to 23rd
History: 24th to 22nd
Philosophy: 1st to 1st
Political Science: not in top 25 (est. 28th) to 18th
Psychology: 30th to 36th
Sociology: 22nd to 22nd
Northwestern University: minus 25; avg. rank: 21st; median rank: 19th
Economics: 8th to 8th
English: 18th to 19th
History: 15th to 17th
Philosophy: 37th to 51st
Political Science: 20th to 21st
Psychology: 17th to 22nd
Sociology: 9th to 11th
University of California, Los Angeles: minus 2; avg. rank: 9th; median rank: 9th
Economics: 11th to 11th
English: 11th to 10th
History: 9th to 9th
Philosophy: 8th to 9th
Political Science: 8th to 10th
Psychology: 6th to 5th
Sociology: 7th to 8th
University of California, San Diego: plus 8; avg. rank: 20th; median rank: 17th
Economics: 17th to 10th
English: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30)
History: not in the top 25 to not in the to 25 (est. 30)
Philosophy: 17th to 17th
Political Science: 7th to 7th
Psychology: 17th to 16th
Sociology: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30)
University of Chicago: plus 2; avg. rank: 10th; median rank: 6th
Economics: 2nd to 1st
English: 5th to 6th
History: 5th to 4th
Philosophy: 17th to 17th
Political Science: 8th to 8th
Psychology: 30th to 28th
Sociology: 3rd to 4th
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign: minus 7; avg. rank: 22nd; median rank: 22nd
Economics: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30)
English: 18th to 19th
History: 22nd to 22nd
Philosophy: 49th to 54th
Political Science: 23rd to 22nd
Psychology: 3rd to 5th
Sociology: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30)
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities: minus 24; avg. rank: 22nd; median rank: 22nd
Economics: 11th to 15th
English: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30)
History: 19th to 22nd
Philosophy: 31st to 36th
Political Science: 15th to 18th
Psychology: 3rd to 12th
Sociology: 22nd to 22nd
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: minus 3; avg. rank: 16th; median rank: 13th
Economics: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30)
English: 18th to 19th
History: 13th to 13th
Philosophy: 12th to 12th
Political Science: 15th to 13th
Psychology: 17th to 22nd
Sociology: 5th to 4th
University of Pennsylvania: plus 5; avg. rank: 17th; median rank: 13th
Economics: 9th to 9th
English: 10th to 10th
History: 13th to 13th
Philosophy: 26th to 31st
Political Science: not in top 25 to not in top 25 (est. up 10, est. 30)
Psychology: 15th to 16th
Sociology: 11th to 10th
University of Texas, Austin: plus 9; avg. rank: 18th; median rank: 19th
Economics: 21st to 25th
English: 18th to 19th
History: 22nd to 19th
Philosophy: 17th to 11th
Political Science: 23rd to 25th
Psychology: 17th to 12th
Sociology: 16th to 14th
University of Virginia: minus 4; avg. rank: 26th; median rank: 30th
Economics: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30th)
English: 11th to 12th
History: 15th to 19th
Philosophy: 42nd to 34th
Political Science: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30th)
Psychology: 17th to 28th
Sociology: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30th)
University of Washington, Seattle: minus 19; avg. rank: 27th; median rank: 30th
Economics: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30th)
English: 23rd to not in the top 25 (est. 30th)
History: not in the top 25 to not in the top 25 (est. 30th)
Philosophy: 31st to 36th
Political Science: 23rd to 25th
Psychology: 17th to 22nd
Sociology: 16th to 17th
University of Wisconsin, Madison: minus 4; avg. rank: 12th; median rank: 11th
Economics: 10th to 11th
English: 17th to 16th
History: 10th to 11th
Philosophy: 24th to 22nd
Political Science: 11th to 16th
Psychology: 9th to 9th
Sociology: 1st to 1st
The US News law school (and other graduate program) rankings will be officially released tomorrow (and I'll have a few additional comments then on some of the particulars of the results for law and for the humanities and social science programs), but it's worth noting that US News changed the way it calculates the "median" LSAT and GPA which is what it factors in to the overall ranking (the magazine has only printed, this year and prior years, the 25th/75th data). The American Bar Association collects the 25th/75th data from the schools, and, as I've noted before, schools that might fudge with US News are far less likely to fudge with the ABA, since the ABA also plays an accreditation role. This means that when private schools, in particular, report the median to US News, there is simply no way to verify the accuracy of the numbers being reported.
This year, for the first time, US News "calculated" the median, and ignored the self-reported medians. Of course, what they "calculated" wasn't really a median, but simply the mid-point between the verifiable 25th and 75th percentile data. So, to take an example, our fall 2004 median LSAT was 165, but the 25th/75th spread was 162 to 167, meaning that the figure US News employed for ranking purposes was not 165, but 164.5.
My own opinion is that this is a constructive change, from the standpoint of the reliability of the underlying data. It's true, as I've written elsewhere, that there's still a real problem with the accuracy of a lot of the data that goes in to the ranking, but at least in this case they've increased reliability. The median data that goes in to the ranking is no longer manipulable through fraud. (It's still the case that the use of median data advantages smaller schools: e.g., Washington & Lee will have had the same mid-point LSAT as Texas for rankings purposes, though Texas will have recruited at least three times as many students with those credentials.)
On the other hand--and this is how I first heard about this from colleagues elsewhere (and then confirmed it with Bob Morse, the Director of Data Research for the rankings issues at US News)--many are worried that this is going to negatively impact "alternative admissions" programs (affirmative action, preferences for alumni children, and so on), since these programs typically involve admitting students with lower numerical credentials, which is far more likely to affect the 25th percentile scores than the median. That risk is real, though it may require law schools to show a little fortitude in their commitment to their institutional missions, and not cede all their decision-making to US News ranking criteria.
Here, in any event, is what Mr. Morse had to say about these changes (and he gave permission to share his comments); I had forwarded to him some e-mails from other legal academics worried about the implications of the change and wondering whether it had been made. Mr. Morse wrote:
[I]t's true that we are using a new way of calculating the midpoint LSAT and GPA score. Our intent wasn't to hurt minorities or change law school admission office behavior or set up new incentives or disincentives. It was to use verifiable ABA required data and to prevent misreporting of the median. All schools were treated the same. We had heard reports that schools were using a different calculation system for the median than then they did for their ABA 25th and 75th. If it become clear that the unintended consequences are highly negative, we will surely reconsider this move.
Mr. Morse subsequently forwarded the following interesting information about the impact of this change:
More factual information to circulate if you want. To us this means in bold [below], that the difference was very very little between calculated midpoint for almost 90% of the schools in terms of LSAT. This also means for the vast % of schools this had virtually no impact on their rankings. I'm not commenting on how this will or will not change behavior. You can cirulate this if you want, too.
There were 178 schools that reported medians for both the LSAT and
undergraduate GPA for fall 2004 entering FT class. Not all of these were ranked schools.
The calculated median [i.e., midpoint] undergraduate GPA was, on average, about .02 less than the reported median.
The calculated LSAT was, on average, .25 less than the reported median.
For the LSAT, 27.5% of the schools had a reported median that was the same as their calculated median. 69.7% had a difference that ranged from -.5 to +.5. 88.8% had a difference that ranged from -1 to +1.
For the undergraduate GPA, 5.1% had the same calculated and reported median. 80.3% had a difference that ranged from -.05 to +.05. 95.5% had a
difference than ranged from -.1 to +.1.
The undergraduate GPA didn't have as many with the same calculated and
reported medians probably due to the larger scale. We also don't know if some schools just reported it to 1 decimal place while other schools reported it to 2. On the LSAT, there were 4 schools that had a difference greater than or equal to 2 LSAT points.
UPDATE: William Henderson (Law, Indiana-Bloomington) makes some good points in response:
Thanks for researching this US News methodology issue.
With all due respect, the new change is not constructive. Your point on fraud is well-taken. For the last several years, my colleague, [name omitted], waged a fierce battle with the director of the ABA Legal Education section to make sure the ABA continued to collect the 50th percentile. His point was simple -- if you don't have this data to root out false numbers reported to US News, then US News will gravitate toward the 25th / 75th percentiles since they have greater assurances that this data is accurate. Since the ABA dropped the median as part of the collection process, [my colleague] has had repeated conversations with Bob Morse asking him to stick to the 50th percentile. Finally the specter of gaming drove Morse to the very outcome [my colleague] predicted. The solution here is simple. The ABA should collect 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile data, and US News should return to is former practice.
Morse's observation that the new averaging technique produced numbers very similar to the reported medians is NOT a basis for relief. Admissions directors, much to their chagrin, are operating under a new set of rules. The 25th and 75th become the key benchmarks, making the whole admissions process even more LSAT-centric than it has been to date. Your comments on "fortitude" are not realistic in light of the complete lack of fortitude the current rankings game has produced. When you have a systemic temptation to err on the side of higher LSATs, you can't count on 180 law schools to stay on the fortitude wagon. As some fall off, others follow. This is a big collective action problem.
By the way, my deep-seated skepticism of the LSAT as the be-all and end-all of the admissions process is informed by empirical research. This article on the LSAT was published in the Texas Law Review last year. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=465381 Your blog is very influential--and most of the time I agree with you. But I think your endorsement of this change in the US News methodology is a mistake.
Various students have been writing recently asking about whether I plan to update the faculty quality rankings, based on the Spring 2003 survey. I had planned to do so, but plans are one thing, and time is another. Right now, I hope to do it in the early fall. The truth is there haven't been that many significant changes in overall faculty quality since the Spring 2003 surveys that students interested in this data should be too concerned. (In fact, no purpose is served by yearly rankings of law schools, since they change at a rather glacial pace; one indication of the unreliability of the US News rankings is that the rank of some schools--such as Emory this year--change dramatically in a single year. Such changes inform us only about the stupidity of the ranking methodology, not about the academic or educational quality of the schools in question.)
On the overall rankings for faculty quality, the top clusters are pretty much the same: Yale dominates; Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford form the next cluster; then Columbia and NYU (though NYU has lost perhaps a bit of ground). Boalt and Virginia have taken some hits since 2003, while Texas and Penn have made some gains, but overall it's still the Boalt/Michigan/Texas/Virginia/Penn cluster. Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, USC, and UCLA are not much changed, though I'd guess that Duke and UCLA would fare a bit better, and Cornell, Northwestern, and USC a bit worse. But I'm fairly confident that it's uncontroversial among knowledgeable insiders that these 17 schools still dominate in faculty quality, with Vanderbilt, as before, on the cusp of the top group.
For the remainder of the top 40, my best (reasonably informed) guess is that a few schools have clearly improved in the interim (Illinois, Emory, Ohio State, William & Mary) and a few schools have weakened (Minnesota in particular, maybe others). (UPDATE: Although Minnesota has taken some significant hits in the last two years [Donald Dripps, David McGowan, etc.], there were more additions than I had recalled, including Peter Huang, Brad Karkkainen, and Kevin Reitz, among others. So it may be more of a wash since 2003 than I had originally thought.)
There would probably be more differences in the various specialty areas that were ranked in 2003. The ones worth flagging for prospective law students would probably be these:
(1) In the broad "Business Law" area, faculty strength at Yale, Texas, and Ohio State is improved, faculty strength at Cornell is weaker.
(2) In "Constitutional Law," Berkeley and Southern California are a bit weaker than in 2003.
(3) In "International and Comparative Law," Harvard, Michigan, and Duke are all improved, while Virginia and Chicago are a bit weaker.
(4) In "Law and Philosophy," Penn and UCLA are improved, and NYU slightly less dominant than in 2003.
UPDATE: Roger Alford (Law, Pepperdine) points out to me that the overall ranking in the new US News is here. Unfortunately, this listing includes none of the underlying data (such as the 25th/75th LSAT and GPA scores of the entering class and the bar passage rates), which is the only information that has some utility for students. The most worrisome aspect of the new US News data (which should be on-line by Friday) is that it is now clear that the academic reputation survey component of the ranking is completely unhinged from any actual change in either faculty or student quality at the law schools in question. (A stunning example: UCLA, which made several significant faculty appointments last year, saw no change in its academic reputation score. Other schools in similar situations even saw their academic reputation scores decline! In general, the pattern is clear: the "peer reputation" scores among academics are basically gravitating towards the typical overall US News rank of the school, i.e., the "reputation" is being determined by the typical US News ranking which, itself, purports to be based in significant part (25%) on reputation. Talk about an echo chamber!) Orin Kerr (Law, George Washington) also comments here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Even my esteemed friend Stephen Bainbridge (Law, UCLA) knows in his heart, of course, that Texas still has a better faculty than UCLA! UCLA was flat in academic reputation despite all their good appointments (ridiculous!), but we actually went down .1! Why? Clearly because we added Bernard Black in corporate law from Stanford and because my colleague Philip Bobbitt was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. No good achievement goes unpunished in US News!
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: More on the U.S. News "echo chamber" here.
...one of our graduates (the first graduate to have been actively involved in the Law and Philosophy Program) who took up in January a position as Lecturer on the law faculty at the University of Wollongong in Australia. He is missed in Austin.