Robert Anderson

Associate Professor Pepperdine University School of Law

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« Generational wealth shifting and the unnecessary Whittier law school story | Main | Professor Brian Leiter's response to my posts on the Whittier Law School closure »

04/24/2017

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" . . . the contemporary relevence of a VCR."

Well put. Is that an original turn of phrase?

Doesn't matter, I'm stealing it anyway. Sue me.

I came here after reading Leiter's diatribe. I can't comment there, so I will comment here.

I think Leiter is entirely correct in identifying that people need money and that they like their jobs, and that we should be sensitive to that. He is also obviously correct that data is missing.

Other than that, I find his post protectionist and actively harmful.
First, you can't blame someone who is your colleague for lack of collegiality by calling them a blowhard.
Second, politeness aside, the point still stands that it was necessary to downsize the school and in the choice between shutting down the school entirely and showing the door to some well-to-do professors, it is legitimate to consider both options. Yes, this should be done with sensitivity, but one must also consider the terrible loss to hundreds of students and staff members.
As professors I'd like to think we have greater obligation than seeing our next paycheck. We are part of a community that has been very generous to us, and I would like to think that we have some corresponding duties.
Thirdly, "we don't know everything" is not, and never should be, a barrier to discussion (which ideally recognizes its epistemic limitations). This seems trivially correct, but in case it isn't, consider what it would mean for our ability to discuss things like the attack in Syria, NAFTA, Obamacare, and any other social policy.

I don't want to weigh in here anymore than I already have on the intemperate nature of some of the interventions on this issue, but I do want to quarrel politely with Robert's characterization of me as a "tenure absolutist."

True, I do have tenure, I do defend tenure, I do belong to the AAUP and I support their advocacy of shared governance, academic freedom and tenure. I do think Whittier has (arguably as we don't know everything) breached the AAUP Statement on how one is obligated to deal with potential shutdown of an academic unit.

Having said that, California is a state that is unlike most other states - we allow non-law students to try to enter the bar (via mentoring) and we allow non-ABA accredited law schools to train future lawyers. In other words, we do not have a tenure-mandate for entry into the profession. I think that is a good thing and I have said that many times in the great law school debate. I think this open system with multiple access points to the bar is a fact that is (politely?) ignored by many critics of legal education.

Can you succeed in California if you do not go to an ABA accredited school? It is hard but it is possible (I have only anecdotal evidence but it is persuasive.) It turns out that most aspiring lawyers prefer to go to an ABA- accredited law school. Thus, it is unfortunate if we are going to lose such a school. Ironically it probably helps my personal situation but I take no comfort from that fact.

We need to be moving in the other direction with greater affordable access to law school for our very diverse and large California population. I am concerned that a kind of cartel-like pressure may have been the thumb on the scales here where an arbitrary bar passage level combined with political (DOE, ABA, AALS?) intervention led to this troubling outcome.

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