Thursday, July 24, 2008
Still more on religiously affiliated schools and institutional pluralism
I really appreciate the recent posts -- by Paul, Jason, and Gordon -- on religiously affiliated law schools and law schools' "missions" generally. (For what it's worth, Paul's experience at the religiously affiliated law school at which he recently visited is -- whaddya know! -- very much like my own experience at Notre Dame Law School.)
A few months ago, Madisonian.net hosted a forum on law schools, and I contributed this post, on "institutional pluralism":
. . . this might not be the forum for thinking-out-loud about what a “Catholic law school” should be, what precisely should be its distinguishing features, etc. In my view, the project of building such a law school — an engaged, open, critical, and distinctively Catholic law school — is not an exercise in nostalgia, reaction, or retrieval. The project is, in my view, a new one.
It’s also, I think, an exciting and worthy one, and I’m inclined to think that it should be regarded as such by the legal academy generally, not just by co-religionists and the like. It is not just “not a bad thing”, it is a good thing, that there be distinctive law schools. Our commitments to diversity need not, and should not, lead us to insist on homogenization at the level of institutions. Quite the contrary — the same commitments that push us to respect and learn from diversity in many academic settings might also push us — and the AALS, and the ABA — to stay our hand from requiring that each institution look and act in precisely the same way.
Garvey fleshes out a number of reasons — reasons that I find persuasive — why we might think that institutional pluralism in the academy is a good thing. It seems to me that we ought not to resist, but instead should welcome, not only law schools that have focused on serving underserved populations, or law schools with a particular strength in a specific subject-matter area (for example, Lewis & Clark in environmental law), or even law schools with a particular animating point-of-view (Law & Economics at George Mason?), but also law schools that are distinctive in being meaningfully animated by a shared — even if contested — religious tradition.
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I am a relatively senior law professor (31 years in teaching) who started reading PrawfsBlawg recently after seeing reference to my colleague Jason Solomon's posts in Leiter's blog. I told Jason earlier this week that I was spending too much time reading the postings and responses, and not enough time trying to finishing an article that I have in progress. In any event, defining a law school's mission is not easy. My career has been at public law schools, including 13 years as the Dean at Ole Miss, Kentucky and Georgia, but I have done ABA site inspections of about 10 schools, both public and private, including a couple with religious affiliations. I have read too many self studies and long range plans, and have tried to push colleagues to state a school's mission. The final law school products in the self-studies, the strategic plans, and the university's long range plans often read like cut and paste jobs from a peer or aspirational school's plan. Still, I believe there is much more diversity in our missions than most of us in the legal education academy appreciate. Public/private, urban/university town, part of a university or free-standing, full-time/part-time, religious/non-sectarian, national/regional/state/local etc. - I am afraid that what is pushing the schools to look alike is not the ABA, but the U.S. News rankings. Let's not make BYU into UCLA or Boston College into Chicago or Campbell into Wake Forest. Readers of PrawfBlag should volunteer for an inspection team. It is a good experience. More later. Dave Shipley
Posted by: David Shipley | Jul 25, 2008 6:45:24 PM
Everyone seems to be overlooking the horrible way that BYU treated Marguerite Driessen. Professor Driessen was awesome and a great professor to have in the law school. Heads should have rolled during the whole fiasco. The Dean effectively pushed out 100% of the black professors at BYU Law.
Posted by: mittoroni | Jul 24, 2008 10:33:58 PM
Rick, Excellent post on institutional diversity. Spot on.
Ann, As noted in my post, I am new to BYU Law, so I can't speak authoritatively to the history of the place, but I was thrilled that in my first year we hired three new women faculty. We expect them to be excellent, and I believe we will hire more women faculty this year. But we have a pool problem that doesn't confront many of our peer schools, namely, all faculty at BYU are expected to live the BYU Honor Code, which includes, among other things, a commitment to refrain from consuming alcohol, coffee, or tea. These and other provisions of the Honor Code plus the fact that we are a Church university in a overwhelmingly Mormon city effectively limit our pool of candidates to active Mormons, and many Mormon women who might make excellent law professors are not in a position to pursue that path at BYU. Some who are on our radar are not ready or willing to move to Utah right now, others have decided to pursue law practice or to raise a family. Of course, some may not want to teach at BYU.
Recognizing that we have a shallow pool of women candidates, the Law School created a VAP for the purpose of providing two prospects the opportunity to stick a toe in the water of law teaching and scholarship. One of those visitors is among the faculty hired this past year. I am proud of BYU for taking steps to address the need for more women faculty, and I expect we will continue to take more steps in the future.
By the way, Kif was away visiting for one year, and she will be back this fall. During her absence, she was made Associate Dean as a punishment for disloyalty. (Just kidding about the punishment part, but she was made Associate Dean near the end of her visit.)
Posted by: Gordon Smith | Jul 24, 2008 8:17:25 PM
According to this:
Kif Augustine-Adams had been visting at Boston College Law School (but will return to BYU as an Assoc Dean) so she was not teaching at BYU for some interval.
Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jul 24, 2008 5:02:08 PM
BYU doesn't have a great history of retaining women faculty, from what I understand. So whether there is actual progress will take some time to discern.
Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jul 24, 2008 4:57:34 PM
Don't forget Kif Augustine-Adams!
Posted by: anon | Jul 24, 2008 4:52:25 PM
It looks like that fact may have suggested a problem to the powers that be at BYU as well.
If you take a look at their law school's homepage, you'll see an announcement of four new--and quite impressively credentialed--faculty hires. Three are women.
Of course, the faculty still looks to be overwhelmingly male. But it is progress.
Posted by: DB | Jul 24, 2008 3:46:31 PM
I like BYU law prof Cheryl Preston a whole lot. Last time I talked to her, I think she said was the only tenured or tenure track woman on the entire BYU law faculty teaching at the law school that semester. To me, that suggests a problem.
Posted by: Ann Bartow | Jul 24, 2008 3:20:40 PM