pageok
pageok
pageok
Brian Leiter's View of the Tenure Process:

Prof. Leiter also says something about the tenure process that struck me as quite odd:

Mr. Non-Volokh gives as the reason for anonymity concerns about getting tenure. I confess I wonder about the prudence of that rationale: I would think a tenure process deprived of the information that the candidate had been writing about legal matters for years on a very public website would be invalidated once that information became known.

I only know first-hand the tenure process as it operates at UCLA, but I had thought the UCLA model was representative of the legal academy: Junior faculty -- who, at most law schools, were generally hired with something of a presumption that they would indeed be tenured -- are judged on (1) scholarship, (2) teaching, and (3) service to the university, profession, and community. One's nonscholarly writings, such as columns in a local alternative newspaper, blog posts, and the like might be seen as a form of community service; but they are not a major factor, and if a candidate didn't want them to be considered, they wouldn't be (at least in the absence of unusual misconduct such as plagiarism).

And this makes perfect sense. Evaluating a law review article is evaluating what should generally be a thoughtful, thorough, carefully footnoted work that pays close attention to counterarguments. Even so, ideological prejudice will inevitably color the evaluation; even if we try hard to be objective, we'll naturally think (all else being equal) that articles that come to views with which we agree are better reasoned than those that come to views which we have rejected. But at least we'll see the many pages that carefully engage our preferred arguments, the close discussion of ambiguities in the sources, and the product of many months or years of thinking; and we may therefore often accept the article as meritorious even if we disagree with its bottom line -- which is often only a small part of the article's value.

Evaluating quickly written and necessarily highly incomplete op-eds or blog posts will necessarily prove to be a much more partisan process. Such pieces tell us relatively little about the author's qualities as a scholar, and pose a relatively large risk of ideological bias in the evaluation. Of course some people on the Right are sometimes impressed by some blog posts coming from the Left, and vice versa; yet this will often not be so -- and more often than with scholarly articles -- for reasons that have to do with ideological disagreement rather than any objective failings on the poster's part. Considering such nonscholarly writing is not irrational; one can argue that they do shed some light on the author's qualities of mind. But since the important qualities for a scholar are the ones that he exhibits in his scholarship and teaching, and the tenure process already thoroughly evaluates those qualities, it makes little sense to also focus on material that has much less bearing on the subject, and poses more of a risk of unfair evaluation.

In any event, I am pretty sure that at UCLA people (1) would barely even read a person's blog posts, newspaper columns, op-eds, and the like, (2) if the person asks, would entirely exclude them from the analysis, and (3) certainly wouldn't go back over a tenure case because they had learned that the person had been writing newspaper columns or blog posts on the subject.

Am I mistaken? Do other law schools carefully follow a person's nonscholarly ideological writing in deciding whether to give the person tenure? Does Prof. Leiter's own University of Texas Law School do that?

pageok