Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Statistician and data visualization expert Hans Rosling recently took the media to task for misleading readers and viewers using unrepresentative anecdotes and ignoring contradictory data.
Rosling says "You can't trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world. You have to be educated and then research basic facts."
While journalists often depict the developing world as full of "wars, conflicts, chaos" Rosling says "That is wrong. [The press] is completely wrong.. . . You can chose to only show my shoe, which is very ugly, but that is only a small part of me. . . . News outlets only care about a small part but [they] call it the world."
Rosling complains that the slow but steady march of progress is not considered news.
Rosling is famous for his data visualizations, especially this video briefly illustrating 200 years of global progress toward health and prosperity. It's optimism for the data-driven set (and is a big hit in my business law classes).
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
MOVING TO FRONT (ORIGINALLY POSTED FROM OCT. 3 2011, WITH MINOR REVISIONS), SINCE IT IS TIMELY AGAIN
I've occasionally commented in the past about particular schools that clearly had artificially low overall ranks in U.S. News, and readers e-mail me periodically asking about various schools in this regard. Since the overall rank in U.S. News is a meaningless nonsense number, permit me to make one very general comment: it seems to me that all the law schools dumped into what U.S. News calls the "second" tier--indeed, all the law schools ranked ordinally beyond the top 25 or 30 based on irrelevant and trivial differences-- are unfairly ranked and represented. This isn't because all these schools have as good faculties or as successful graduates as schools ranked higher--though many of them, in fact, do--but because the metric which puts them into these lower ranks is a self-reinforcing one, and one that assumes, falsely and perniciously, that the mission of all law schools is the same. Some missions, to be sure, are the same at some generic level: e.g., pretty much all law schools look to train lawyers and produce legal scholarship. U.S. News has no meaningful measure of the latter, so that part of the shared mission isn't even part of the exercise. The only "measures" of the former are the fictional employment statistics that schools self-report and bar exam results. The latter may be only slightly more probative, except that the way U.S. News incorporates them into the ranking penalizes schools in states with relatively easy bar exams. So with respect to the way in which the missions of law schools are the same, U.S. News employs no pertinent measures.
But schools differ quite a bit in how they discharge the two generic missions, namely, producing scholarship and training lawyers. Some schools focus much of their scholasrhip on the needs of the local or state bar. Some schools produce lots of DAs, and not many "big firm" lawyers. Some schools emphasize skills training and state law. Some schools emphasize theory and national and transnational legal issues. Some schools value only interdisciplinary scholarship. And so on. U.S. News conveys no information at all about how well or poorly different schools discharge these functions. But by ordinally ranking some 150 schools based on incompetently done surveys, irrelevant differences and fictional data, and dumping the remainder into a "second tier", U.S. News conveys no actual information, it simply rewards fraud in data reporting and gratuitously insults hard-working legal educators and scholars and their students and graduates.
Significant actions! There are a couple of dozen (maybe more) law schools right now that might run afoul of the 75% bar passage rate requirement. My guess is the main effect of this change will be that these schools will focus more and more on bar prep rather than other aspects of legal education.
CLARIFICATION: A useful correspondence with Prof. William Gallagher (Golden Gate) made me realize that my reference to "other aspects of legal education" was ambiguous. I was not thinking in particular of, say, interdisciplinary courses (though those would be affected by a shift in focus), but primarily the traditional doctrinal courses, where it seems to me there’s still a big difference between teaching them with an eye to the bar versus teaching them to explore policy, argument, underlying principle etc. The pressure to do less of the latter may be substantial at some schools in the wake of this change. That may help some graduates pass the bar, which is good, but it may also deprive them and others of other useful learning experiences.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Berkeley law grads, apparently having learned nothing about due process during their legal education, call for ex-Dean Choudhry to be fired from his tenured faculty position
This is really disgraceful for a bunch of alleged adults and lawyers, to call for the firing of a tenured faculty member based on a university investigation and a complaint, the latter of which is obviously not an adequate basis on which to base any conclusions. I agree that the university investigation should have been sufficient to remove him from his role as the Dean, but the demand that he be fired from Berkeley "in any capacity" is shocking. (The letter states: "As long as Choudhry remains at Boalt or the University of California in any capacity, we cannot in good conscience contribute financially to Berkeley Law or to the University." Ordinarily, everyone would recognize the inappropriateness of alumni making financial threats unless tenured faculty are fired.)
As a law professor in the UC system wrote to me:
Keep in mind we do not know what actually happened. The Title IX proceeding gives the respondent no procedural rights. He is not allowed to examine witnesses or to hear their testimony. Sujit's admission is to violating a policy that did not require a finding that he knew or should have known his conduct was offensive. The process and findings are confidential because the process is intended to err on the side of the complainant, and to permit quick remediation of the situation.
Was there an offense adequate for the revocation of tenure? Perhaps, but right now, we have no idea, and the Berkeley law graduates should be embarrassed by their contempt for process and fairness.
ANOTHER: And now the Chancellor of the UC System, a politician not an academic, has ordered Berkeley to begin proceedings that could lead to dismissal of the former Dean from his tenured faculty position. At least there will be a process of some kind.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
...but since the only data in circulation is the "overall rank"--the "nonsense number"--I'll just link to last year's post, which is as relevant to this year's "results" as it was last year. When we get some of the underlying data next week, I may have more to say.
Via Twitter (this is about 1:30 pm CST)--a formal announcement is expected later today.
UPDATE: This news clip includes an interview with the victim of the sexual harassment.
ANOTHER: This announcement has gone out to faculty and staff at Berkeley:
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has accepted the resignation of Sujit Choudhry, as dean of the university’s School of Law, effective immediately.
Under the University of California’s tenure policy, Choudhry remains a member of the school’s faculty at present.
Chancellor Dirks and Provost Steele said:
"We believe the dean’s resignation is an outcome in the best interests of Berkeley Law and the university as a whole. At the same time we are under no illusion that a resignation could or even should bring this matter and broader, related issues to a close. It is clear, as we heard during our meeting with law school faculty this morning, that the initial decision not to remove the dean from his position is the subject of legitimate criticism.
We can and must do better as a campus administration. We must move in the direction of stronger sanctions, and in doing this we want and need the broad input of the campus community.
We are sharply focused on this issue and committed to ensuring a supportive and safe environment for every single person on this campus. We will act quickly to generate action that will produce lasting change in our culture and practices.
Tomorrow we will be reaching out to faculty leaders for their help in quickly putting all of these commitments into motion.
The statement that "Choudhry remains a member of the school's faculty at present" (emphasis added) is a bit ominous. While the finding of a violation of the sexual harassment policy seems warranted, and should have been sufficient to have removed him from the Deanship, is the Administration implying that this might constitute a firing offense from a tenured position?
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
I'm going to start adding untenured laterals--i.e., those moving from one tenure-track position to another at a different school--to my list. The reason I had excluded them in the past was a carry-over from the academic philosophy context: junior laterals rarely matter for prospective PhD students. But the audience for the laterals list in law is largely faculty, rather than prospective students, so I might as well include them too. Please feel free to e-mail me about such moves.