Evidence Now Clear That Barack Obama Was Not Widely Vetted for a Tenured Offer at Chicago.--

This post updates my post yesterday, reporting that the University of Chicago Law Faculty never voted a tenure offer to Barack Obama. I have now further nailed down the story.

I have now spoken or corresponded with 7 members of the University of Chicago law faculty, including several of the most powerful members of the faculty in the 1998-2003 period. For each year in that period, I believe that I have spoken to at least one from the following group of people who would know if Barack Obama had been vetted for an appointment with immediate tenure: appointments chair, appointments committee member, or dean. I have been purposely inclusive in this list to avoid identifying my sources.

None of the 7 Chicago law faculty I interviewed or corresponded with were consulted about an Obama tenured offer, none of them remember any discussion of hiring Obama with immediate tenure, and some of them couldn’t believe that anyone would even attempt such a move, since it would have been a “nonstarter.” If Obama had been vetted by the faculty before he was approached about an offer with immediate tenure, every member of the apppointments committee that year would be likely to remember it. I suspect that the group least likely to believe the story that the Chicago faculty was consulted and favored a tenured offer to Barack Obama is the University of Chicago Law School faculty.

I should say that two very prominent members of the faculty emailed me to express their doubt that a tenured offer had ever been vetted with the faculty. Both are campaign donors to Obama. My own supposition is that they supported my reporting because they did not want the academic public to get the wrong idea about Chicago’s tenure standards. One prominent faculty member wrote me that he had not been consulted by Dan Fischel about a tenured offer for Obama, “nor does [Dan] recall the whole thing with any certainty.”

Dan was a law school classmate of mine and a great dean at Chicago, and he is one of the most brilliant and influential law and economics scholars ever. I think his memory just failed him this time (as it sometimes does for many of us).

Many non-academic readers of this blog may not have understood why this was such an implausible story in the first place. In any event, now I’ve talked to enough Chicago faculty that this story can be safely put to bed.