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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Advice for Dean Chemerinsky, cont'd

A few days ago, I linked to some advice that (former Dean and now) Prof. Dan Rodriguez offered to Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.  Dan had suggested that "[f]aculty members should be encouraged by their visionary new dean to think of themselves as stakeholders, as investors in the preliminary and long-term financial well-being of this law school."  This is, to me, an attractive suggestion.  For me, it matters a lot that I feel invested in (and invited to contribute to) the good of my institution and the flourishing of its mission.  So, in response to Dan's advice, I asked "what this would mean, day to day, and also what 'being a stakeholder' would demand of [faculty]."

In the comments box (which has, unfortunately, become cluttered with robot-spam), Dan provided three answers:  First, "faculty members would participate, without abject begging by the dean, actively in alumni relations activities."  Sounds good.  Second, "involvement in real fundraising[.]"   This also seems like a good idea, with the caveat that with greater faculty involvement in fundraising will (or, at least, should) come greater faculty "say" in the school's investment. planning, and spending decisions.  Are Deans up to sharing these decisions, and are faculty up to helping to make them?  Finally, "faculty members should be attuned, in configuring their academic agenda, particularly with respect to scholarship . . . the application of their work to real-world social, economic, and political problems[.]"  On the one hand, this seems entirely sensible.  There's no reason why scholars -- whose work often has "real-world" applications that go unnoticed or un-understood by outsiders -- cannot find ways to educate the law-school's various constituencies about those applications.  That said, I'm not sure what I think about the suggestion (which, of course, Dan might not have been making) that faculty should design their research projects, or construct their research interests, around the goal of producing such applications.

Posted by Rick Garnett on October 16, 2007 at 09:03 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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Comments

Robot spam! Don't know what that is, but it sounds dreadful.

Rick rightly questions the implication of my rather sloppy expression of what I meant re faculty member's design of research projects. Let me clarify: Faculty members should design their scholarly inquiries around the topics, methodologies, and foci that are appropriate to the positive and normative puzzles that interest them. I think that Rick and I (and others) are "traditionalist" enough to decry scholarship that is tactically oriented in its quest to influence policy or have real world effects. Let scholars do scholarship; I certainly agree with that.

That said, there is a place in the many-roomed mansion of the law school for folks, sometimes a key administrator, sometimes the faculty member him or herself, to think about the implications of a piece of scholarship forissues of interest to non-academic law school constituencies. At USD, we had (and still have) a very fine institute on law & philosophy. It would be unthinkable for me, as dean, to urge these creative, imaginative scholars to do "applied" philosophy (whatever the heck that means) or in any way to design their research to be attentive to what big donors were interested in. However, it would be plenty thinkable for their administrator colleagues in, say, the development and external relations offices, to consider various methods of communicating some of the insights & perspectives of these largely theoretical inquiries to audiences who could or may be in a position to help the law school's profile or endowment or both.

That said, Rick is right to remind us that there a line to maintain between strategic, dean-driven efforts to use faculty scholarship for law school advancement and the purer, non-tactical endeavor of faculty research.

Posted by: Dan Rodriguez | Oct 16, 2007 12:53:45 PM

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