April 1, 2016

"Mason Receives $30 Million in Gifts, Renames School of Law After Justice Antonin Scalia."

That's the headline in the school's press release. Interesting use of the comma splice. An occasion to reflect upon the old saying Correlation is not causation.

But it must be fair to say that the $30 million caused the name change. It couldn't have been the sole cause, and who can know what weight it added to the side of the scale that held genuine respect for the late Justice and belief in the desirability of attaching this label to all the students and alumni and faculty and staff of the school? The man is very recently dead and he is associated with strongly stated opinions on many of the most controversial issues of our day, so it's not like the time Yeshiva University took the name Benjamin Cardozo for its law school. Cardozo had been dead for nearly 4 decades when that name was chosen, and Cardozo even in his time was not viewed as controversially political.

If $30 million gets George Mason to adopt the name Antonin Scalia, I wonder what amounts of money would cause other schools to adopt other names. George Mason was already considered conservative, but Scalia amplifies the brand and adds quite a bit more edge. What if lovers of Harry Blackmun had wanted to get George Mason to put his name on their school? Would $30 million have been enough or would it take more?

My school has long been associated with the left end of the political spectrum, but we like money too. It's hard to imagine situations where offers are made that go against the grain of the law school's own idea of its brand, but what if someone were to offer us $30 million to name the school The William H. Rehnquist School of Law? Why would anyone do that? Just to lean on us? Would we resist? Up the amount. If not $30 million, what about $90 million? It's not absurd to imagine the offer. Chief Justice Rehnquist was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I'm sure that geographical association would play a role in our deliberations.

Who put up that money for the George Mason name change? $20 million came from an anonymous donor who worked through the Federalist Society, someone who was "a personal friend of the late Justice Scalia and his family." The other $10 million came from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The William H. Rehnquist School of Law at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Nice ring?

Oh, I see how easy it would be to rewrite this post as an April Fool's Day announcement, but I'm sick of April Fool's Day.


Amadeus 48 said...

I think business schools have been open to this gambit for quite a while--Kellogg School at Northwestern, Booth School at Chicago, Wharton School at Penn, Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth, Stern School at NYU--but those names come from donors, as Althouse has noted.
I suppose the closest analogy to the Scalia Law School would be the Wilson School of Government at Princeton and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Do you think that either the Wilson or Kennedy names detract from the prestige of these institutions?
The Scalia School of Law could bespeak similar commitment to excellence in the analysis and application of legal texts. Scalia made his reputation as a law professor and on the DC Circuit as the scourge of administrative agencies that had gone beyond their legislative mandates. This is not a bad tradition to continue at George Mason, being in the Virginia suburbs of Panem--oops! sorry!--Washington, DC. They have a great free-market-oriented economics department at GMU.

Michael K said...

USC School of Medicine got $300 million from Bill Keck a few years ago. That set a pretty high standard.

mccullough said...

Too many law schools and too many law students still.

Adamsunderground said...

When a woman is tired of April Fools, she is tired of life; for there is in fools all that life will afford.

David said...

Rehnquist? How about . . .

The Shirley Jackson Abrahamson School of Law at University of Wisconsin.

I think it would really choke people up.

Goody said...

$100 million got Northwestern to re-name itself the Pritzker School of Law.

Meade said...

"The Shirley Jackson Abrahamson School of Law at University of Wisconsin."

Be careful what you ask for...

Danno said...

Blogger Meade said...Koch Brothers! I HATE the Koch Brothers! (April fools.)

I think it said Charles Koch. I didn't think they were Siamese twins. Although the rapid lefties attribute everything bad to the Koch brothers.

sean said...

Isn't it about time for Rehnquist to start being invoked longingly by liberals, as they explain that Rehnquist was the kind of of principled and moderate conservative they used to respect, unlike the current generation of over-the-top, unprincipled, openly racist, extremist conservatives?

Mary Beth said...

a personal friend of the late Justice Scalia and his family

I want this to be Justice Ginsburg, but I don't know that she's got that kind of cash to throw around. It would be funny and would set an example for those who think you can't be friends with people who don't have exactly the same opinions you do.

Danno said...

The worst April Fool's prank, and I saw this yesterday on March 31, was a Yahoo announcement that said all Trader Joe's stores would be closing. It was explained and retracted pretty quickly.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Right-leaning public figures are "controversial" and "divisive." Left-leaning public figures are "revered" and "respected" and even "widely-admired."

Try it out. Jimmy Carter? He wasn't too popular for a while, yeah? Not very popular on the Right (as President) to this day. How often do you see him described as "controversial?" Bill Clinton? Pretty divisive figure, no? I guess not--everyone must love him and think well of him since he's never described in those terms. GWBush? Come on, too easy.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Anyway Scalia's controversial, he's a divisive figure, and it's bad that GMU Law has taken on his name. The move is tainted by money, too, so it's exta yucky.
It's fine to dance on the man's grave, to tweet about how great it is that he's dead, and to argue that putting his name--the name of an influential Supreme Court Justice--on a school of law is improper and downright gauche. We get it.

PDM said...

I think what is so shocking to our hostess is that an academic institution, any academic institution, would have the audacity not simply to name itself on the basis of contributed funds, but to name itself after a conservative cause. That is unthinkable in modern academia, even among thoughtful academics, like Ann. She thinks students of that law school will be prejudged or stigmatized, for having associated themselves with such a conservative icon. Almost like Liberty University. This must be a joke, she says. April Fools. A school for fools.

Ann's entrenchment in her world in Madison blinds her to some realities of the working world. Many law firms, even law firms with a mix of dems and repubs, will have no problem recruiting those brave men and women who pick a university unafraid of associating itself with Antonin Scalia. Some law firms may be more willing to recruit those kids than the ones who choose schools which (to take an old example) refuse to allow military JAG recruiters to set foot on their campuses. And some of those law firms' clients will prefer to see the name "Antonin Scalia" on the biographical pages of those firms' websites. Law professors at 99% of the nation's law schools would deny this, because it threatens their worldview. Yet it is true.

The rest of the world isn't always what it seems to those inside academia.

MadisonMan said...

I want this to be Justice Ginsburg

Oh, I like that. It would be awesome.

How much money did the Chazens lob at the UW to purge Elvehjem? Only $20M, but that was 10 years ago, I'm sure the naming price has gone up.

boycat said...

The Wrench needs some love.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

List of Places Named After Robert Byrd

That's one-time Ku Klux Klan member Robert Byrd for those of you keeping score. Oh, but he was a Dem & a Lefty, right.

[xpost from other thread]

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

I suppose the closest analogy to the Scalia Law School would be the Wilson School of Government at Princeton and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Do you think that either the Wilson or Kennedy names detract from the prestige of these institutions?


That is kind of a toughie. I have a pretty low opinion of both the schools and the namees. Does the Kennedy school detract from St Jack's legend? Or does St Jack detract from my opinion of the school.

I can't decide.

A pox on Wilson, Kennedy and their schools

John Henry

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

re GMU:

In another thread several people claimed that G. Mason was conservative or right wing.

I do not know specifically about the law school but the economics department has always been run as a specifically liberal (classical liberal) institution. Several prominent liberal Nobelists have come from there.

My impression of the entire school is that it leans liberal. Whether or not it is as flamingly liberal as the econ dept, I am not sure.

It is not conservative or right wing to the best of my knowledge.

John Henry

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

There's probably a list on the internet, somewhere, of things named after people that had to be un-named for some after-discovered disgrace or another.

MadisonMan said...

things named after people that had to be un-named for some after-discovered disgrace or another.

The Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year award comes to mind.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...


Here in Puerto Rico we have an Orlando Cepeda baseball stadium named after convicted drug smuggler Orlando Cepda.

Still has his name.

The SF Giants have a statue of him in their stadium.

So if you are a great athlete you can get away with a lot.

NYC also has an airport that is still named after John Kennedy.

John Henry

HoodlumDoodlum said...

It is not conservative or right wing to the best of my knowledge.

John Henry

That's fair...their Econ Dept. is vocally free-market, though, and most people interpret that as right wing. You and I might argue that one doesn't mean the other, but most people think in relative terms and so consider GMU right-leaning.

Rick said...

HoodlumDoodlum said...
That's fair...their Econ Dept. is vocally free-market, though

The most well known Economists are, but others take positions indistinguishable from Paul Krugman. In fact the Mason Econ Department is quite diverse. The fact that so much of academia (mis)perceives Mason's balance as conservative shows how far left they are, and also how successfully they have purged opposing opinion from the academy.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

It's interesting that the gift was for scholarships not endowed professorships. The students can't complain, because, scholarships. As far as correlation and causation, this seems a pretty straightforward statement:

"In recognition of this historic gift, the Board of Visitors has approved the renaming of the school to The Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University."

You could read between the lines that the $20 million from the anonymous donor was not enough and had to be sweetened with the $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation.

As for, naming the University of Wisconsin Law School, these seem more likely candidates than Rehnquist:

Robert M. La Follette Sr. Law School
Shirley S. Abrahamson Law School

Better propose La Follette as a blocking measure.

Virgil Hilts said...

I believe it was 25 or 30 years ago that a corrupt business man in Nebraska -- as part of his plea deal -- agreed to donate a hefty sum of money to the UNL College of Business to fund some sort of chair/scholarship in business ethics. So UNL, of course, named the chair/scholarship after the corrupt businessman (I think they later changed it).

wholelottasplainin' said...

Walter Williams is " the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University..."

Williams is a conservative. Used to host for Rush.

NYT obit "Mr. Olin was...a tireless promoter of free enterprise and the capitalist system, and in their behalf he founded in 1953 the John M. Olin Foundation, which provided support for the economic, political and philosophical principles on which he believed American capitalism rested.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Rick said...The fact that so much of academia (mis)perceives Mason's balance as conservative shows how far left they are, and also how successfully they have purged opposing opinion from the academy.

I agree; now convince Professor Althouse.

Rick said...

HoodlumDoodlum said...
now convince Professor Althouse.

No need to.

Professor Althouse:
George Mason was already considered conservative,

Note the voice, she didn't say she considered it conservative only that academic circles do. If she agreed she would have stated it in her own voice, those part of the narrative would have stated it as fact.

holdfast said...

It would be nice if they could get Ruth Bader-Ginsburg to attend the re-naming ceremony and say a few words about her friend.

I have no doubt that when RBG passes on she'll get a school or something named after her, and that's fine too. I hope that school extracts a healthy whack of cash from from prominent lefties.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

Although he hosts for Limbaugh I don't think Walter Williams considers himself conservative.

Having read several of his books and other stuff over the years, I don't either.

I am pretty sure that, if asked, Williams would identify as liberal.

From his Wikipedia entry:

Born March 31, 1936 (age 80)[1]
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Nationality American
Institution George Mason University (1980–present)
Temple University
Los Angeles City College (1972–1974)
California State University, Los Angeles (1969–1970)
Grove City College
Field Economics, Education, Politics, Free Market, Race relations, Liberty
School or tradition
Libertarian economics
Alma mater California State University, Los Angeles
(B.A.) 1965
UCLA (M.A.) 1967
UCLA (Ph.D.) 1972
Walter Edward Williams (born March 31, 1936) is an American economist, commentator, and academic. He is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist and author known for his conservative, classical liberal and libertarian views.[2] His writings frequently appear on Townhall.com, WND, Jewish World Review, and hundreds of newspapers throughout the United States.


John Henry

madAsHell said...

Years ago, a family put the name of their deceased father on the UofWashington track-n-field facility. Ten or so years later, the administration removed the sign. The family asked for their money back, but I don't recall how it was resolved.

mikee said...

Being "viewed" negatively (by whom?) as "politically controversial" (whose politics? whose controversy?) is a form of the heckler's veto which should be recognized as an invalid argument in the public sphere.

wholelottasplainin' said...

@ PuertoRicoSpaceport.com: Did you miss the "conservative" in Williams' bio? Or "libertarian economics"?

Perhaps the term "classical liberal" confused you. That's someone for free-markets and limited government. Classic liberalism overlaps with conservatism and libertarianism, but they are poles apart from Big-government, nanny-state American liberalism.

Anyone who actually reads Walter Williams knows he's as pro-liberty and anti-big-government as they get. On Limbaugh's show, for example, he used to chide African-Americans who complained about their plight in America, saying that they are all better off here than if they stayed in Africa.

For evidence, check out his blog:


He's no American liberal.

Sam P said...

George Mason University is a pretty new school* and its endowment is tiny. How small? Wikipedia's article says $70.02 million (2014), I'm not sure where they got that number. The George Mason University Foundation said $215.8 million (2013). So a $30 million donation could be as much as 40% of the existing endowment, but even nearly 15% would be large amount. It is the largest gift in GMU history.

* Originally, GMU's main campus was a commuter campus of the University of Virginia, it became an independent university in 1972.

MikeR said...

David Koch has a lovely portrait in the lobby of Johns Hopkins Cancer Research Bldg. II, near where I work. Hopkins is awesomely liberal in every conceivable way, but a cancer research building is a nice thing.

Meade said...

I was joshing about hating the Koch brothers. Truth is I love the Koch brothers.

James Pawlak said...

A better name would be: "Loyalty To The Constitution Scalia School Of Law".