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Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Reply to Anonymous Commenter Number 3,497

A commenter at Prof. Campos's blog, echoing other comments there but with a slightly more civil tone, asks:

"We haven't seen much in the way of follow-up from any of the law professor bloggers who wrote about Lawprof on their own blogs. Leiter, Kerr, Althouse, Horwitz, etc. They all thought it was very interesting that Lawprof was anonymous. They all thought he was very wrong to suggest some of the things he did about law professors. They never really had anything to say about student outcomes or debt. And none of them have said anything for a while. The blog continues to attract more and more people to the conversation, but not law professors, who seem to want to stay out. Do you have some insight into this? Are law professors aware of this blog? Are they reading it?"  One writer, who identifies himself as a law professor but (like virtually everyone on that site) blogs anonymously, answers: "Unfortunately, LawProf's decision (which I understand) to not monitor the comments allows the commentary to go completely off track sometimes as it did today."  And another writes: "To be honest, I don't really blame law profs for not wanting to post to the comments section of this particular blog. It's an important discussion, and I wish more were part of it, but the vermin/nazi/scum/ponzi schemer comments aren't constructive."  As if offering evidence, another commenter helpfully chimes in immediately after that one: "Please...just stfu complaining about what is and Isn't constructive. . . . If a bunch of law students with $200 grand in debt want to call the people responsible vermin, or other colorful language,....well, I see it as a perfectly reasonable response. Now take your own advice and kindly go do something constructive."  

I can't speak for anyone else, but here's my answer, below the fold, along with the reason I'm posting here rather than on Campos's blog.  

"Someone asked above whether various people, including myself, continue to read this blog and why we haven't said anything more about it.  I can only speak for myself, but the question was fairly put, and I thought it deserved a response.

I do continue to read the blog, and even, obviously, the comments section.  I have attempted to provide comments once or twice, both times to disagree with something Prof. Campos said.  Neither of them seems to have made it onto the blog.  [Make that two or three times, now.  I tried to post this comment twice yesterday on Campos's blog, under two different log-ins in case I had simply done it wrong.  Neither made it onto the comments section.  I have no idea why.]  

If I recall correctly, I did say a few things on my blog at the time about student outcomes, but not about student debt.  I mentioned at the time that I was discussing issues concerning the legal economy and legal education with my Legal Profession students; I did discuss outcomes and debt, along with other issues, with my students, and they continue to be discussed from time to time in class.  I have meant to put up a follow-up post about this, because I thought my students had some interesting things to say, and I still hope to.

Obviously the comments section here does not seem terribly hospitable to law professor interventions, but 1) that's hardly true of everyone here, and 2) it's not my blog, so I don't feel entitled to say too much about that.  It seems to me that a couple of law professors have commented here, although I don't think they should do so anonymously.  (I understand that they've explained why they post anonymously, and I am in some sympathy with the untenured or contract faculty who have made this decision, although I always posted under my own name before tenure and I think it's less dangerous than they seem to assume.  Even if there were some risk associated with it, I still believe that people who make a living having and expressing opinions ought to be willing to do so under their own name.  That goes especially for any tenured professors who post here anonymously.  But that's ultimately up to them.)  But I have my own blog anyway, so if I'm inclined to say more I would be more likely to say it there.  That's especially true because it's easier for me to monitor and respond to comments on my own blog than to have to keep checking the comments here if I feel the need to reply to responses.

I posted on these issues well before this blog came along and I'm sure I will continue to do so.  But, for better or worse, I only do so occasionally, and I'm sure that will continue to be the case.  I'm currently teaching, promoting one book and working on two others, working on articles, and so on; so I'm not blogging much at all right now, and when I do it tends to be related to the things I'm working on.  I'm sure I will continue to post occasional pieces on the legal economy, the job market, legal education, and student unhappiness.  I continue to think that some of the people I mentioned earlier, including Profs. Tamanaha and Henderson, write some of the best things on these issues, and I certainly read them and encourage you to do the same; as someone mentioned above, the Legal Innovation Blog is also worth reading.  As I have written before, this blog has hardly cornered the market on these issues, and with respect I continue to find those other writers more instructive and informed.  

If I have any hesitation to write about these issues right now, it has to do with a certain sense of tension regarding comments.  Unlike some of my colleagues on the blog, I prefer to allow anonymous commenters.  But I prefer to maintain some civility on my blog.  I'm sort of keen to not have every other word in the comments involve masturbation, mental or otherwise, if for no other reason than that my mother reads my blog.  (I should add in fairness that, on my last post on these issues, after things had calmed down there were a number of very constructive comments, including many comments that were civil but still very critical about legal education.  I encourage people to read that comment thread.)  That means I can either allow anonymous comments and then spend a good deal of time monitoring and policing the comments; or I can simply block comments, in which case I get accused elsewhere of being a fascist and a coward and, absurdly, of violating people's First Amendment rights.  Still, it's my choice, and I don't doubt that I will continue to put up periodic posts on issues in legal education, albeit on my own schedule.  Of course, I can only speak for myself.

One last thing is worth noting.  Just because the other bloggers haven't mentioned Prof. Campos's blog recently doesn't mean they're indifferent to these issues.  Blogging is one way to respond, but it's not the only way; there's also local action.  My school has been in the midst of a five-year review of our policies and programs, and I have certainly worked behind the scenes to make several recommendations that respond in different ways to the expressed needs and unhappiness of students.  (Nor was I the only colleague to do so.)  One reason I discussed these matters with my Legal Profession students was to help serve as a conduit between students and the administration, so I can communicate some of the conclusions and needs they've suggested to me.  It's worth remembering that not everything that's being done happens online.  These are local reforms, to be sure, not global reforms, but they have their purpose too.  Prof. Campos's blog has attracted a number of people saying things to the effect of, talk is cheap; we need action now.  I'm therefore slightly surprised that his commenters have not done more inquiring into what he is doing himself by way of working with his faculty colleagues and administrators to propose meaningful changes at his own institution rather than just writing on a blog.  The commenters are right: talk can be useful, but it can also be cheap and even self-serving.  (I should note in fairness that some commenters have written to express their impatience with Prof. Campos and wonder when he'll get around to suggesting actual reforms.  But they were quickly shouted down by other commenters, who effectively questioned the temerity of anyone who would dare ask such a question.)  I would have thought that at least some of the commenters there would, by now, have gotten around to asking Prof. Campos what concrete actions he has taken at his own institution besides talking about it in class.  I don't want to start a fight, but surely the time has long since come for his readers to ask those questions.  In any event, I would remind commenters there that the professors whose absence they note, aside from being busy with other things, have for all we know been busy acting instead of just indulging in blog posts.  

Apologies for the long comment [I concluded in my comment--which, again, and like the others, never managed to appear on Campos's blog.]  I thought the question deserved a reasonably thoughtful and complete answer.

For the reasons I discuss above, I've left the comments to this post closed.  

Posted by Paul Horwitz on September 8, 2011 at 06:44 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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