April 26, 2013

"Brooklyn Law School to Permit Dismissal of Tenured Faculty for Lack of Collegiality or Poor Student Evaluations."

"I’m sure that there’s a Brooklyn-specific backstory to this, but it has to be read against the background of plummeting applications, especially to lower-tier-but-expensive schools like Brooklyn. Making it easier to get rid of faculty may be essential to their survival, enough so that they’re willing to take the inevitable hit in terms of recruiting."

Says Instapundit. What part of that hurts the Brooklynites the most? I'm guessing "lower-tier." Brooklyn comes in at #80 on the U.S. News ranking. I think people at that level would like you to consider them "second tier."

I suspect the new definition of "Adequate Cause" for termination of tenured faculty is a gesture of some kind, intended to show students that their opinion really matters but highly unlikely to lead anyone losing his job. Maybe it creates some pressure on faculty not to be toxic. I doubt it. The really toxic people tend to be delusional. Put some pressure on that person citing the "Adequate Cause" provision and watch what happens. Maybe you could do it well enough that the person will relocate or retire, but it might get bizarre. If toxicity is encapsulated, do you lance it?

(Note: I was a visiting professor at Brooklyn Law School in Fall 2007 and Spring 2008, but I have no idea whether this rule relates to any specific person who might be poisoning the experience there or whether it's a fairly empty gesture.)


bagoh20 said...

The free market will clean house if you let it, but some organizations are just hoarders enabled by government, alumni, and others. It's not loving to let hoarders hoard.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Faculty portraits should be taken against a background of plummeting applications.

madAsHell said...

"Lack of Collegiality"??.....Rejection by the Mean Girls Club??

Are they not smart enough to see that tenure was created to defeat the Mean Girls Club??

Marshal said...

Setting up student evaluations as a factor seems likely to result in grade inflation.

Dr Weevil said...

If "really toxic people tend to be delusional", perhaps you should ask - no, wait, perhaps someone else should ask "whether this rule relates to any specific person who might be" or might have been in the past 6-8 years "poisoning the experience there".

(That's a joke, by the way. Though I have known a professor at a flagship state university whose colleagues at his previous school still mention him frequently as "that asshole" 20+ years after he was rejected for tenure and moved on. Of course, they'd had to put up with him for more than one year.)

Matthew Sablan said...

"Lack of Collegiality" sounds like another tool to keep people from saying things the rest of the faculty don't want to hear.

St. George said...

About time.

As an adult, many of the professors I've encountered socially are some of the most ignorant and arrogant people I've ever met.

A lot of it has to come from having no fear of correction in their grip on lifetime job security. They hire people who share their political beliefs, thus creating a self-reinforcing belief bubble.

Ann Althouse said...

"Setting up student evaluations as a factor seems likely to result in grade inflation."

Well, there's a curve requirement. But one can be at the high end of what's permitted.

If the rule change is a sop to the students, the students might respond by trying to get a teacher fired, writing especially nasty reviews.

The evaluations are anonymous, so some students might feel free to be quite unfair.

Even when students think they are being fair, their view is unavoidably subjective and expressed at the very point when they are trying to put the material together for an exam (on which their entire semester grade will hinge).

bagoh20 said...

This is the problem with the whole idea of credentialing. The important thing is the credential (the paper). If given a choice between being better educated by tougher teachers, but risking not getting the credential, nearly everyone will take the easier path to the credential. So easy teachers will be retained, and tough ones run out.

All training or education of any kind should require proving skill and ability in blind testing at the end as the sole way of getting the credential. Everything else is a participation trophy.

St. George said...

Ah, a piece at NRO about non-doctors like Biden's wife calling themselves doctors.

“The average Ph.D. thesis,” swiped the newspaper columnist J. Frank Dobie, “is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another.”

The grand march of pomposity.

Jd. St. George

edutcher said...

I would like to see a "Lack of Collegiality" on the part of Republicans, particularly in the US Senate, but tenure is sacred.

When the walls of the Ivory Tower start to crumble, you may actually see the odd conservative finally allowed in.

TosaGuy said...

Jd. St. George

You beat me to posting that article!

TosaGuy, M.A.

bagoh20 said...

In fact, I think all credentials should be obtainable via testing. There should be credentials organizations that develop and conduct elaborate but very applicable testing to award anything from welding certificates to Law licenses to Ph.D.s.

We should not care how you get the knowledge and skills, where you got it, how long it took or how much you paid to get it. You either have the ability to do the work or you don't.

Bill Gates should be able to walk in and get a degree in programming, and business and not fashion, but he could very well have just the opposite and we would have to accept it.

m stone said...

So easy teachers will be retained, and tough ones run out.

That's been my observation as an adjunct for many years.

The non-club players are sometimes "mobbed": shunned or their lives made miserable. Not unusual in academic settings.

rehajm said...

The really toxic people tend to be delusional

Amazing to me an organization can become so dysfunctional it grants tenure to the 'toxic'.

Mitchell the Bat said...

One of life's simple pleasures is being in a roomful of doctors constantly addressing each other as "doctor."

great Unknown said...

Lack of collegiality = expressing conservative opinions.

LarsPorsena said...

great Unknown said...

Lack of collegiality = expressing conservative opinions.

4/26/13, 9:15 AM


Matthew Sablan said...

I still remember being at a dinner with a bunch of people my age talking about getting their master's degrees while working part time. Then, one of the people's dad's asked me what I did, and I told him. He said: "No, what are you studying."

"I graduated a few years ago."

"That fast?"

"Yeah; with a bachelor's in history and English."

"No, no. Your master's degree."

"I'm not; I'd rather be earning job experience and positioning myself for a leadership role than going deeper into debt." The look on the old man's face (and some of the other 20-somethings) was priceless, even if it made the rest of the evening awkward.

MadisonMan said...

As an adult, many of the professors I've encountered socially are some of the most ignorant and arrogant people I've ever met.

Anyone can be arrogant.

Professors are ignorant because they know everything about their particular corner of the Universe, and sometimes very little about anything else. Think of it as a Delta function. Sure, the integral of it is 1, but the breadth of knowledge (width) is vanishingly small.

Matthew Sablan said...

Which relates to everyone calling each other doctor.

St. George said...


I'm sorry but commenting here is limited to those with PhDs, JDs, MBAs, or something like that.

What are your letters, please?

Have we met?


MadisonMan said...

Then, one of the people's dad's asked me

You, an English major!

I thank you for this morning's chuckle.

Bruce Hayden said...

My experience with faculty in law school was a bit ambiguous. The problem was that there were some who the longer they were tenured, the more that they knew that they could get away with. The problem really is that the profs had more rights than did the students, because the latter could be fired, and not the former, and the former knew how to bend all the rules, esp. being trained supposedly as lawyers.

Take an example - experienced contracts prof. states that the students shouldn't mention UCC on final. To be thorough, since it was relevant, some mentioned it along with Restatement law, but more as an afterthought. He refused to grade those answers, effectively threatening the students with failure of this mandated class. BUT, he offered a work out, that he would substitute a paper for that question. Of course, papers in a 1L core class were not normally allowed, but since it was a remedy, it was somehow ok. So, when the students protested, they were asked if he had provided a viable way out of failing the class. They had been, most or all had availed themselves of it, and that was it. They had their grades, and there was nothing that the dean could really do. But, in the end, prof wins, students lose, and he is free to devise a new torment for the next year. Found out from a good friend on the faculty years later that he spent time and effort devising new ways of tormenting his 1Ls every year.

Point there is that the faculty just thought that it was a cute idiosyncrasy, while the students thought that it was vile, the sorts of torments that he would devise. They were just happy that he was willing, with all his seniority to teach that 1L class.

Sure student evaluations are highly subjective. But by second term of 1L, I, and most of my classmates, were reading them religiously. Some profs were really good teachers, and some were really bad, but probably did great research (unless they were Lesbians, Black, Latino, etc., and didn't have to be good at either). Upper division classes of the best profs would have waiting lists, and those of the worst ones would have a handful of students.

Point is that the basic purpose of a law school is to teach aspiring lawyers to be such. Much of the research coming out of law schools is pretty much bunk anymore. And, so, there should be some feedback as to how well they profs do in satisfying that goal. I think that it is unfair to the students to not get rid of the profs who fail at their core job, and one of the best metrics, I think, of achieving that is student evaluations. And, remember that the evaluations are averages, and most likely compared to the evaluations of the other profs, so there is some automatic norming going on.

I can see why law profs nation wide are unhappy with this, because it would mean that they would be more accountable for their actions. Tenure would no longer completely protect them from the results of their actions, esp. when it damaged the education of their students. Little different from public school teachers disliking being rated through the standardized testing of their students.

ricpic said...

Brooklyn College and CCNY were high tier until the great change. But it would be too UGLY to think of the great change, its consequences that is. So let's not think of it. Let's not be UGLY. Rule #1.

David said...

You will rarely go wrong by assuming that stuff like this is an empty gesture.

David said...

Without exception my professors in law school were good or great. Only one was really a jerk, and he was nevertheless a good teacher. Most of them were engaging individuals who were quite interested in students.

This was a long time ago where there were many fewer law schools, law students and law professors. As the absolute numbers increase, the assholity potential increases. I realize now how remarkably fortunate my experience was.

Paddy O said...

The school I'm adjuncting doesn't have tenure at all. They have contracts. 1-year, 3-year, 5-year contracts, which are renewable.

These essentially match the assistant, associate, full professor rankings, though not exactly.

The 3 and 5 year contracts are always renewed. Always. How does an adjunct get a job at said university. Wait for someone to retire or go elsewhere.

De Facto tenure is no different than actual tenure. People with secure positions team together to make sure nobody is threatened. Which makes the education system a two tiered model between very little job security (and low pay, no benefits) of adjuncts and the absolute job security of regular faculty.

There's no equality of the masses in terms of jobs. It's a very strict aristocracy. Bow peasants, if you want some crumbs off the table. Grovel students, if you want to join the ranks.

Well, that's not the only way. Be really engaging and creatively insightful and you'll get noticed too. But that's a much more difficult path for many. Much easier to deploy mad (or sad) networking skills.

~Dr. Paddy, PhD

Richard Dolan said...

Tenure is a remnant of guild-based models of enterprise organization, and the few of those still around are doing badly. They all assume that the guild can control the producer side of the supply-demand equation. That was possible once upon a time, but that fairy tale has long since come to an unhappy end. What's remarkable is not that guild-based models are vanishing, but that any of them are still around.

Strelnikov said...

I assume that "lack of collegiality" will be interpreted to be any attitude not approved by Obama and the Left in general.

whoresoftheinternet said...

lol. Where are all the usual lefty faggots going apeshit as they usually do when someone threatens the hallowed sacrosanct area of tenure, an institution lefty murderers and liars to have sinecures that they can rant evil and nonsense from for decades whilst indoctrinating minds to vote leftist?

Wait, this is going to be used to fire those vanishingly few professors who dare question left-wing dogma and get the local black/queer/womyn's groups to en masse join the classes and bombard said professor with bad student evaluations and bitch about rudeness? All is well then, nothing to see here!

Yet more proof that leftists are nothing more than evil hypocritical liars. Enjoy the decline, hypocrites!

Peter said...

"The problem really is that the profs had more rights than did the students, because the latter could be fired, and not the former..."

Sounds like good training for the world of employment: sometimes the boss is right even when the boss is wrong.

campy said...

perhaps someone else should ask "whether this rule relates to any specific person

I see what you did there.

Robert Cook said...


First time I've seen that word turned into a verb.

Matthew Sablan said...

"First time I've seen that word turned into a verb."

-- And it is a practice that must be killed. With fire. Death to verbing.

... wait.

Paddy O said...


Verbing weirds languages.

Robert Cook said...

Matthew, even at this late date, I feel a prickle of annoyance whenever I hear the word "impact" "verbed."

It impacts me badly.

(Though I acknowledge in your clever declaration at the end that many words used as verbs in English are the result of "verbing," but we accept it--or don't notice it--because we're used to it.)

TMink said...

I was so impressed when my grad school did not rehire a teacher that got poor reviews. They listened and acted in the interest of the students.


KJE said...

JD in practice here; I genuinely think most full-time law profs ought to be given a 1 year sabbatical after about 10 years of teaching. And required to take clients and cases in the areas in which they lecture.

I knew some brilliant law profs.

I don't think some of them could find a courtroom if I lead them there.

And, yes, I do recognize that not all lawyering requires courtroom appearances, but I think part of the solution is to get them to make on-record appearances.

This practice couldn't make law school...worse.

MadisonMan said...

Verbing murders me.

Baron Zemo said...

Ann Althouse is to Brooklyn Law School as Nicky Minaj is to American Idol.

It just took longer because law students are stupid.