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Brian Leiter Trying To Out Juan Non-Volokh:

Prof. Leiter criticizes Juan's criticism of one of Leiter's posts, and proceeds to say:

So who is Juan Non-Volokh? I intend to find out and to post that information here in due course. I welcome your help ... and I promise to keep my sources secret!

I will let you folks be the judges of whether this is good behavior on Prof. Leiter's part. In my view, the nicer thing to do is to respect people's preference for anonymity, at least unless there are some unusual circumstances (more than just disagreement with their views) that are absent here.

UPDATE: Brian Leiter says here that he won't publicly identify Juan, though in this update to his original post he says that "perhaps" he won't do it. If the first of these two is indeed the conclusion to which he has come, then I'm happy to hear it.

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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?

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Clarification About an Earlier Message From Brian Leiter to Me:

A comment in the Brian Leiter/anonymity thread referred to "Brian Leiter contacting Eugene Volokh as an 'anonymous law prof' to attack a law student who outdid his law school rankings."

This turns out to be not entirely accurate. Prof. Leiter e-mailed me and asked me to post a comment pointing out the inaccuracy, but I thought it was worth noting as a separate post.

The original e-mail from Prof. Leiter to me, which I quoted and attributed to "another lawprof," was not strictly speaking anonymous: He certainly signed the message to me. The message pointed out various posts at xoxohth, and argued that the operators of the site deserved to be blamed for not removing those posts. It then said that if I wanted to publicly shame the xoxohth operator — a decision on which Prof. Leiter expressed some ambivalence, since he wasn't sure whether it was better to shame the operator, or to avoid calling more attention to what Prof. Leiter thought was a bad site — I shouldn't refer to Prof. Leiter in the process.

I found myself disagreeing with Prof. Leiter's criticism of the xoxohth operator, sent Prof. Leiter my explanation, invited him to go public with his criticisms, so that his and my views would provide an interesting contrast, but said that "[i]f you prefer, I could post your message with my response, and just label you as an anonymous lawprof." He agreed to that latter approach, and that led to the post that I link to in the preceding paragraph.

So Prof. Leiter did not precisely contact me "as an 'anonymous law prof' to attack a law student . . . ." Rather, he contacted me nonanonymously (or onymously, reader BillB points out) with a criticism of the law student, and suggested that if I did criticize the student, I should do so without referring to him (Prof. Leiter).

UPDATE: Prof. Leiter points out that, at the time he e-mailed me, he didn't yet know the site was run by a law student. I'm not sure how much of a difference this makes, but I'm happy to note it for the record.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Clarification About an Earlier Message From Brian Leiter to Me:
  2. Brian Leiter's View of the Tenure Process:
  3. Brian Leiter Trying To Out Juan Non-Volokh:
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