Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Law School Titanic

Almost 100 years ago the Titanic went down in about three hours. If you cut through the details it was about hubris, greed, disorganization, carelessness and uncertainty. The Titanic "administrators" consistently ignored warnings of icebergs and sped at nearly top speed through the ice fields of the North Atlantic. No doubt that decision was made by those in charge in part because there was tremendous emphasis on being on time. The externalities of hubris and a focus on a singular goal was the lives of hundreds.

Are there signs you are aboard the law school Titanic? Of course. Here are a few:

1. On an ordinary school day you are called by an administrator calls and asks if you are holding class that day. You ask why and the answer is "Because so many others have canceled class."

2. Your dean sends out regular emails congratulating people for their accomplishments. Accomplishments include include being contacted by a newspaper but not being cited by a court or another scholar.

3. You have an externship program under which you charge students for credit hours but do not teach them and, as far as you know, no one else does either.

4. You approve a battery of courses about "Feelings." Not the song, that would be better.

5. Every peer evaluation of the teaching of every untenured faculty is extremely positive.

6. You fudge, lie or massage employment data.

7. Being a "good father" or a "good mother" or a friend or a spouse become relevant in tenuring and hiring decisions.

8. Procedure is created to achieve the desired ends of a few.

9. Warnings of trouble go unheeded until they become incidents worthy of investigation.
10. As the ship sinks (employment rates decline) you take aboard more passengers who are even less likely to know how to swim.

11. When things get nasty, the captain and his crew have a private lifeboat.

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