Law Schools in the News:
The New York Observer has an interesting article on competition between NYU and Columbia for hiring top law profs. Meanwhile, the controversy at Yale Law School over the Yale Law Journal's decision not to rescind an offer to publish an article co-authored by an individual who used a racial slur in an outline when he was a first-year Harvard Law student has hit the New York Times. Both stories via the WSJ Law Blog.
RHD (mail):
The kerfuffle about Camara sounds like the Larry Summers dust-up writ small. Camara's offense was trifling -- he used offensive racial shorthand in class notes and then posted them on the web (before taking them down when someone noticed). Since this is another instance of an academic sacred cow being tweaked, it was predictable that the response would by and has remained over-the-top and ridiculous. Camara has apologized at least as abjectly as Summers did, and with the same equally predictable non-effect on his critics. As with Summers, given the trifling nature of the offense, the academic stalwarts at Yale insist that no penalty less than complete extermination of the offender will suffice. Bien sur, he should never be allowed to publish anything on any topic in a journal bearing the Yale name. Deans must convoke special sessions, meeting must be held, injured feelings assuaged, demonstrations arranged -- all so that the offender who committed the ONE OFFENSE that CAN NEVER BE FORGIVEN can be denounced as the retrograde fascist (probably Bush and Cheney loving) irredeemable RACIST PIG that he clearly is based only on the class notes that got the whole thing going. Lost in all the noise is the fact that the comments by those all worked up about Camara's notes are far more insulting to the supposedly victimized group than anything Camara wrote -- his notes are endlessly "hurtful," it's all part of a plot to bring back Jim Crow, etc., etc. Who are these academics, professors, deans, law students kidding (hint: themselves)? Does anyone really think that black students at Harvard and Yale Law Schools are that fragile (hint: if so, what happens when a rap by NWA is played -- oh, right, I forgot, that's a good use of the "N" word)? Where have they been for the last 50 years (hint: in some university after having lost all contact with the world outside)? Does anything like this happen when Jesse Jackson (yes, the reverend of Hymietown fame), comes a calling (hint: to ask the question is to join forces with retrograde fascist (probably Bush and Cheney loving) irredeemable RACIST PIGS who are EVERYWHERE)?

It's all just further proof, if any were needed, that the elite law schools are so far off the deep lefty end that all perspective has been lost, making them as nutty a place as anything down Alice's rabbit hole.
3.8.2006 1:17pm
Tennessean (mail):
For what it is worth, RHD, the Yale entity/entities involved decided not to rescind either the invitation to publish or the invitation to speak. Divine what you will regarding the state of "the elite law schools" from that.
3.8.2006 1:56pm
SouthernLawyer (mail):
RHD seems to ignore that Mr. Camara was still invited to the symposium and his article will still be published. Students voiced their concerns in a closed door meeting, BLSA voiced its concern, but the Journal and YLS administration stood fast. Hardly an example of an elite law school being "far off the deep lefty end."
3.8.2006 2:14pm
I think it's more an example of an elite law school taking the "deep lefty end" very seriously.
3.8.2006 2:50pm
I think it's more an example of an elite law school taking the "deep lefty end" current tuition paying/future alumni donating clientele very seriously.

Or has even listening to student concerns become verboten...sheesh!
3.8.2006 3:05pm
Jarhead315 (mail):
What I don't get is why he used the term at all. The guy is so obviously test-score smart (graduated HLS at 19) that one would think he would know that such a term wasn't likely to be well-received. Or, he could be one of those social morons (those of you who have law degrees will recognize the type)that knows everything about the law and nothing about life.

I almost feel bad for him. It's a hell of a black mark to have at 21 years old.
3.8.2006 4:23pm
The real lesson is, don't share your class notes.
3.8.2006 4:28pm
RHD (mail):
Don't drink the kool-aid quite so fast. There is and never has been any "there there" in the Camara story. That Yale didn't pull his article on an unrelated corporate topic from some journal, and that it didn't cancel his invitation to the symposium, is an irrelevant detail that I understood when I wrote my comment. To focus on that detail is to miss the only interesting fact about the story -- that there is nothing Camara will ever do to get beyond it, the "it" here being a trifle. Three of you think that there was something significant about students "voicing their concerns." Very nice -- and what "concerns" might those be? That 19 year old Filipino/Hawaiian graduates of HLS should never, ever use offensive shorthand in class notes because if they do, why, disaster awaits? That the thought crime of the century might go unpunished? That the rampant racism at Yale and Harvard Law Schools -- it is rampant, isn't it? -- has to be confronted and faced down? Boy, now that's a burning "concern." The Dean should have at least two closed door -- and by the way, why closed door? -- sessions on that one. And for the irony-challenged, let's not forget that this wonderful display of "concern" and closed door meetings, demonstrations, hurt feelings, and the like is playing out on the campus of the Yale Taliban Man -- the catch that we just can't let Harvard steal away this time, and most recently the toast of the NY Times. If that doesn't define the blindness of the deep lefty end of things, the complete loss of perspective, and the hard left nuttiness that is the defining characteristic of politics in the academy, well, it's hard to imagine what would. All of this shows -- indeed I can't see how it is even debatable -- that the elite campuses today lack the only form of diversity that matters. It was that way when I was a student at Yale many years ago, and nothing much has changed.
3.8.2006 4:35pm
SouthernLawyer (mail):
I think the fact that the session was closed door speaks to the school's seriousness about addressing a meaningful concern (I just can't agree that Mr. Camara's casual use of the "N" word, coupled with his careless-we have to assume it was careless-distribution of a document containing the word, qualifies as merely "trifling.") without the hoopla of the MSM covering the event. No chance for professors or students to shine in front of the camera. Instead, address the problem, make corrections where appropriate, and move on.
3.8.2006 7:27pm
JLR (mail):
I posted this "Part II of Comment" in a different thread (viz., Professor Zywicki's post on Steven M. Teles's "rich get richer" (i.e., endogenous production of academic quality) theory of the academic labor market. ( [link here] ) However, the thread is focusing on the submission and review of articles submitted to law journals vis-a-vis procedures used for social science, physical science, and medical science journals. (And that discussion by the way is very interesting -- in Part I of my original comment [and subsequently in the comment thread] I provided context as to submission and peer review policies at medical journals.)

However, I had posted a Part II of my comment that provided the proposition that student quality is also in part endogenously produced. This Part II however has gotten lost in the sauce of the comment thread. As a result I am reposting it here, as I am hoping that a post about, inter alia, NYU Law attracting Jeremy Waldron and others from Columbia Law will provide a better forum for discussion of these issues.

I am really hoping that someone will provide some constructive, helpful feedback on the issues that I adumbrate in the post. Thanks.

Part II:
I think Steven M. Teles's theory that the "best scholars end up at the best schools" [link here] also connotes the following theory:

"The best students end up at the best schools."

This "rich get richer" phenomenon turns out to be a vicious cycle in my opinion.

For undergraduate education, at least 200 schools will all have top students -- but it seems that there are only maybe 25-50 national universities, and 25-50 liberal arts colleges, that will have (to use a term from Grutter) a "critical mass" of "best students." The rest of the schools will have a small number of top students that were attracted by merit full-tuition scholarships, geographic proximity, or some other calculus that led them to attend, say, the University of North Dakota over Stanford even if they were accepted to (or would have been accepted if they had applied to) Stanford.

For law schools, in my opinion, this phenomenon gets even worse. Stories abound (and how much they apply to each and every individual case is unclear) that if one wishes to work at the upper echelons of legal practice and/or become a law professor, one either (a) can only choose among 20-30 law schools in the country; or (b) must get an LLM after receiving a JD at whatever law school he/she attends.

In law, more than in pretty much any other professional or academic field, the graduate/professional school (in this case "law school") where one graduates from determines (in part or even in whole) the course of one's career.

Even if you got a 4.0 GPA and a 180 on your LSAT, you're better off paying your own way through a Yale Law or a Harvard Law than taking a full-tuition merit scholarship at a Hofstra Law or a Syracuse Law if your goal is to use your law degree to become a law professor and/or work at the most upper echelons of legal practice (become a Supreme Court clerk, work for a top "BigLaw" firm, or acquire whatever brass ring is most desired).

There is no question that one can be a very successful lawyer without being a law professor or doing the "BigLaw" track. But if you go to a Yale Law or a Harvard Law, those two options are still very much available to you without having extra education as an LLM student. If you turn down a Yale Law or a Harvard Law to go to a Hofstra Law or a Syracuse Law, and your ultimate goal is to keep all possible career paths open, my understanding is that all you are doing is either (a) closing off certain career paths, or (b) guaranteeing yourself extra time in school receiving an LLM to open up those career paths -- and that is time which you could have spent elsewhere if you attended a different, higher-ranked law school.

A lot of this is driven by the primacy of the US News and World Report rankings. For whatever reason, some applicants continue to feel better about going to, say, law school #16 instead of law school #24, even though the difference between the two is usually (on US News at least) statistically insignificant, and #24 may actually fit a given applicant better (in any and all relevant dimensions) than #16. Hopefully, enough applicants have learned not to sacrifice everything to go to a certain law school just because it is insignificantly higher in the US News rankings.

This topic about endogenously produced academic quality not only applies to professors. It also applies to students, often forcing certain students to make impossible choices between ensuring financial and living convenience, and making sure that all possible future career avenues are available to them once they graduate law school. In terms of the latter (maximizing options for career paths), it does not appear to be wise for a prospective law student to turn down a Yale Law or a Harvard Law to go to a school that, while financially and culturally may be a better fit, will most likely eliminate any possibility of pursuing certain career paths unless one gets an LLM after receipt of the JD.

3.9.2006 10:17am
hey (mail):
As far as I can tell, this is about a reference that a 17 year old student made on cours notes 4 years ago. If he was in highschool or college it would have been no big deal. However, he was at HLS, and some people are trying to make a federal case out of it 4 years on.

It is disgusting that anyone takes this seriously. The appropriate thing for the Yale Dean to do would be to tell everyone up in arms: "This brilliant young man made a small mistake 4 years ago when he was 17. He very quickly realised his mistake and has learned from it. He is now a fellow at Stanford Law and is several years younger than the typical 1L at Yale. Unless you are willing to have your each and every action and utterance from when you were 17 held against you for the next 10 years, sit down, shut up, and go home!"

That people would attempt to ruin someone's career over such a mistake is reprehensible. That they would do this over the actions of a 17 year old prodigy who is still much younger than the average YLS student is deplorable beyond words. I know it is asking more than too much for reasonableness and respect from the far academic left, but I really would have thought that they would be above this.
3.9.2006 2:49pm
snowball (mail):
Hey, hey: I think you're missing a couple points.

One, Camara's use of the "n" word wasn't "a reference." It appeared multiple times in the outline. This wasn't an innocent slip of the tongue. And, as I understand it (based on press reports) he included a disclaimer on the outline when he posted it stating that it might contain language offensive to some people. In other words, he seems to have been well aware that a good portion of the population would take offense at his use of the "n" word.

Two, and related, Camara hasn't ever given an unqualified apology for his actions. Frankly, given some of his recent statements, I don't think he sincerely believes he did anything wrong (others here at the VC apparently agree). So there's a question whether he's "grown" in the past 4 or 5 years.

Given Camara's extraordinarily young age, I'd be prepared to let bygones be bygones. But the overall circumstances make it perfectly reasonable to question his judgment.

Even if he's a prodigy, law is about more than pure brainpower. It also takes that keen insight into human affairs called judgment. If Camara has a big brain but poor judgment, he shouldn't be in the law. He should solve math puzzles or take up physics or genetics or something.

Of course, all of this is separate from the question whether his symposium article should be published. I think the Law Journal made the right call.
3.11.2006 8:00pm