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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Interdisciplinarity and Campus Design

There are at least a handful of law schools that are exceptions to what I will write below, but one of the major problems facing legal scholars (or any scholars) that want to be interdisciplinary is the simple physical isolation of their offices.  Common problems that prevent interdisciplinary research have been noted before--such as discipline-specific hiring, publishing, and tenuring.  

Another problem that deserves attention is that law schools (like other academic departments) tend to be physically distant from scholars in other parts of the university doing other work.  This is even more dramatic for law schools, because they tend to have their own buildings, not just a floor in the same building as scholars affiliated with other departments.  We know from economic geographers that physical proximity leads to more informational spillovers.  It is quite hard for law professors to learn from and work with people who they have to make quite an effort to see on a regular basis.  Law schools can hire those with degrees from other disciplines, but as these faculty are more and more physically distant from their former discipline they are more and more intellectually distant from those disciplines as well. If you want interdisciplinary work, you need interaction; if you want interaction, you need proximity.

Posted by David Fontana on June 23, 2016 at 08:35 AM | Permalink


Independent of physical proximity, it is also possible to be intellectually isolated from the broader campus environment regardless of location. At my school, the law school is somehow seen as "different" (with a negative connotation in this case), and so collaboration opportunities are further limited.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 23, 2016 11:11:47 AM

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