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AHA on Salaita

[ 16 ] September 2, 2014 |

The American Historical Association writes a strongly worded letter to the University of Illinois in protest of firing Stephen Salaita:

If allowed to stand, your administration’s punitive treatment of Steven Salaita will chill the intellectual atmosphere at the University of Illinois. Even tenured professors will fear for their job security, persuaded that their institution lacks respect for the principles of academic freedom. The unhappy consequences for the untenured will be even more pronounced. A regimen of defensive self-censorship will settle like a cloud over faculty lectures and classroom discussions. Faculty will be inclined to seek positions elsewhere. This, surely, is not the future you wish for your historically great institution.

While we have thus far dwelt at length on the justification that you gave ex post facto for the rescinding of Professor Salaita’s offer, we find the procedural irregularities entailed in that decision equally troubling. On this score, too, the facts of the case have emerged more clearly since August 1. The recruitment of Professor Salaita was carried out with scrupulous care and adherence to prescribed procedure. The American Indian Studies Program chose him as their preferred candidate after a national search; every subsequent level of the University administration below the Chancellor endorsed that choice. His scholarship passed muster with your trusted colleagues. Especially important, in light of your remarks of August 22, he has a record of teaching successfully at Virginia Tech, and by all indications, students of every stripe felt welcome in his classroom. Finally, your University provided him with a standard written job offer of the type that routinely guarantees appointments at Illinois. By depriving him of that appointment, you do him a personal injustice. You also disrupt your own system of internal university governance, sowing distrust by ignoring its counsel. And, at the national and international levels, you risk saddling your institution with a reputation for arbitrary administrative practices. Certainly the American Historical Association would have concerns about our members applying for positions at Illinois.

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English Rape Culture

[ 52 ] September 2, 2014 |

This is certainly horrifying:

Lucy’s account of her experience is emblematic of what investigators say happened during a 16-year reign of terror and impunity in this poor northern English town of 257,000, where at least 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were groomed for sexual exploitation while the authorities looked the other way. One girl told investigators that gang rape was part of growing up in her neighborhood.

Between 1997 and 2013, despite numerous reports of sexual abuse, only one case, involving three teenage girls, was prosecuted, and five men were sent to jail, according to an official report into the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham published last week.

[...]

But the report also outlined how those victims and parents who did ask for help were mostly let down by the police and social services, despite a great deal of detail known to them for more than a decade, including, in some cases, the names of possible offenders and their license plate numbers.

“Nobody can pretend they didn’t know,” Ms. Jay said in an interview.

Awful. And, yes, the idea that “political correctness” is the explanation is absurd.

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Senate Prognosis

[ 41 ] September 2, 2014 |

Good roundup from Sam Wang. Essentially, models that combine fundamentals with polling data continue to favor the Republicans. The polling data itself favors Democratic retention of the Senate. Since Wang is in the latter camp, his bottom line:

The PEC polling snapshot has mostly favored Democrats. Starting from June 1st, Democrats have led for 61 days and Republicans for 26 days, a 70-30 split. During that period, the Senate Meta-Margin has been D+0.24±0.57%. Assuming that the June-August pattern applies to the future, I can use this Meta-Margin, and the t-distribution with 3 d.f., to predict the future, including the possibility of black-swan events. The result is that the November Senate win probability for the Democrats (i.e. probability that they will control 50 or more seats) is 65%.

I’m not endorsing Wang over Silver, Sides et al.; just an interesting difference.

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In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

[ 92 ] September 2, 2014 |

“I quit,” I said, my black leather carrying bag already over my shoulder. I’d imagined this scene for years, a triumphant take-this-job delivery followed by my supervisor’s wounded expression.

His face barely registered emotion as he said, “Go tell human resources.”

I worked for a respected social policy research organization, where Barack Obama had applied for a job before he was president. For seven years I’d sat in a windowless office and formatted reports in Microsoft Word. I sauntered to human resources like a movie inmate on his final walk of freedom through Shawshank prison.

Forty-two and single, I was jumping without a net into the potential person I was meant to be. I’d watched Larry Smith’s famous TED Talk about following one’s passion, and enrolled in an advertising portfolio class. I was determined to rebrand myself as a digital copywriter.

“Good for you,” my father said. “We’re meant to take risks. Read ‘Start-Up Nation’!”

You can probably guess where this story is going.

People want to do meaningful, creative, and fulfilling work, while getting paid to do it, which is great.

In America, people are told from an early age that this is a realistic aspiration for them, which is not so great, since for 96.32% of the population, that turns out to be untrue.

I’ve read or at least skimmed thousands of personal statements in law school applications over the years, and not once has anybody said “I want to be a lawyer because it’s a high-status occupation that pays well.” Instead everybody wants to be a lawyer so they can do meaningful, creative, and fulfilling work.

The cynic assumes these people are lying, to the schools, or themselves, or both. The pessimist assumes they’re telling the truth.

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Until Everybody Was French

[ 70 ] September 1, 2014 |

We all know Kevin Williamson is a horrible human being and there’s really no good reason to link to his trolling of liberals. And so normally I wouldn’t mention his anti-Labor Day screed. Except that he said one of the quiet parts loud:

The Canadian typographical workers had been demanding a 58-hour work week and the repeal of anti-union laws. Parliament obliged, and of course the unions’ immediate response was to press for a 54-hour work week, and then a still shorter one, and so on, until everybody was French. The French 35-hour work week is the current object of envy among our naïve Europhiles, and it has been an object of curiosity among economists: Contrary to their indolent reputation, French workers are, on paper, among the world’s most productive, outperforming U.S. workers on a GDP-per-work-hour basis. There are many possible explanations for that, the most likely of which is lying. It is probable that French people work more hours than they claim and Americans less, with work spilling over the borders of those official 35-hour French weeks and Internet-fueled leisure time infiltrating American weeks.

First, I love his random assumptions that the French must work harder than Americans because derp.

Second, Canada is the bete noire! Even the readers of NRO are going to struggle to see Canada as a hell hole. It’s too close.

Third, how dare American workers copy their communist Canadian brethren and refuse to work a 58-hour week!

Dude, I don’t think you are supposed to openly lament this. That’s supposed to stay in the inner sanctum, where you and the plutocrats slit the necks of live goats and let the blood drip in your mouths. Talking about returning to Gilded Age working conditions comes between courses of the goat blood.

…This was actually his Labor Day rant from last year, but it makes no difference.

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Salaita Appointment to Be Forwarded to Board

[ 25 ] September 1, 2014 |

Interesting.

Corey Robin permits himself a little cautious optimism. Alas, I suspect John Wilson’s take will prove accurate:

There is not a chance in hell that [an appointment of Salaita] will happen. I can see only two explanations for this decision: 1) Wise wants to head off criticism (and, as Robin points out, Wise wants to prevent a possible legal challenge) that she violated a procedural rule by failing to forward the appointment to the Board of Trustees. 2) The trustees are upset that she removed the opportunity for them to vote against Salaita, and they want the chance to publicly double fire Salaita.

Considering that all of the trustees signed a letter embracing Salaita’s firing, it would be shocking if even a single trustee voted for Salaita. The Sept. 11 Board of Trustees meeting will obviously be the center of considerable attention, but it ultimately will not change the decision.

I would guess that Corey’s second, more pessimistic interpretation is relevant to the Wise’s formal reversal. Given that UIUC’s attempt to square the academic freedom circle involved reliance on the literal language of his contract (while ignoring the well-established norms Salaita was very reasonably relying on), the fact that Wise’s pocket veto was not really consistent with the literal language of the contract might have presented a problem. By having the trustees explicitly vote the appointment down, their chances of making a Halbig-style argument in a defense to a civil suit and getting away with minimal or no damages might be increased.

I certainly hope I’m wrong. My most detailed explanation for why UIUC’s firing of Salaita is plainly inconsistent with academic freedom can be found here.

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And the John McCain and Lindsey Graham Award For Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Wankery Goes To…

[ 27 ] September 1, 2014 |

John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

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Does the Modern Administrative State Inherently Violate the Rule of Law? (SPOILER: No.)

[ 83 ] September 1, 2014 |

Showing us where the conservertarian movement to restore the law of the Gilded Age is headed, Phillip Hamburger has a forthcoming book called Is Administrative Law Unlawful? “that answers this question in the affirmative.” Unfortunately for him, Adrian Vermeule has read it:

But before criticism, there must first come understanding. There is too much in this book about Charles I and Chief Justice Coke, about the High Commission and the dispensing power. There is not enough about the Administrative Procedure Act, about administrative law judges, about the statutes, cases and arguments that rank beginners in the subject are expected to learn and know. The book makes crippling mistake about the administrative law of the United States; it misunderstands what that body of law actually holds and how it actually works. As a result the legal critique, launched by five-hundred-odd pages of text, falls well wide of the target.

In the first section, I’ll try to reconstruct Hamburger’s critique, whose basic ambiguity arises from the fact that Hamburger is impenetrably obscure about what he means by “lawful” and “unlawful.” Those terms are only loosely related to the ordinary lawyers’ sense. In my view, the best reconstruction is that Hamburger thinks that there are deep unwritten principles of Anglo-American constitutional order, derived from the views of English common-law judges; departures from those principles are “unlawful.” In the second section, I’ll try to show that the book’s arguments are premised on simple, material and fatal misunderstandings of what is being criticized, and never do engage the common and central arguments offered in defense of the administrative state. In the conclusion, I’ll consider a suggestion that the book is only masquerading as legal theory, and should instead be understood as a different genre altogether — something like dystopian constitutional fiction. Although the suggestion is illuminating, and tempting, I don’t think it applies here.

It’s definitely all worth reading if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

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What’s going on at Suffolk?

[ 56 ] September 1, 2014 |

Just days before the start of the new school year, Suffolk University Wednesday abruptly replaced president James McCarthy with a year remaining on his contract, and tapped a veteran educator with a reputation for turning around struggling colleges to serve as interim leader.

At an afternoon meeting, the university’s board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Norman R. Smith, 68, who is best known for his tenure at Wagner College in New York City, where he led a small school on the brink of closing to new prominence.

Smith, who will begin next week, said he was first approached about the Suffolk position just two weeks ago.

“This has happened very fast,” he said. “They didn’t want to go internally, but wanted to have a seamless start for the fall.”

The law school seems to be at the center of the school’s financial problems:

The unexpected change in leadership comes as Suffolk seeks to stabilize its finances and attract students in the college-dense region. Facing a decline in enrollment and revenue, the university announced in June it would freeze employee salaries for the next fiscal year. It also offered buyouts to all law school faculty members with tenure or renewable long-term contracts.

Unfortunately the university’s most recent publicly available tax filings are now two years old, but they reveal a heavily tuition-dependent school with a small endowment and very large bond liabilities (I assume the latter are products of the typical grandiose building schemes that have infested the American higher ed empire over the course of the last generation).

In FY2012 Suffolk was carrying nearly $400,000,000 in debt, versus total assets of just over $600,000,000, half of which were comprised of the downtown Boston real estate which the school currently occupies. Almost 95% of the school’s revenue came from tuition. The school paid its former president David Sargent — his presidential tenure was from 1989 through 2010 — just under $1.2 million in FY2012, which seems like a very prolonged and passionate golden handshake. Sargent began his “academic” career as a member of Suffolk law school faculty, and eventually became the school’s dean. The law school’s then-new building was named after him in 1999 in the midst of his reign, which seems rather tacky, but I’m probably failing to appreciate what a “transformative” figure he was etc. etc. (Actually he appears to have been forced out in 2010, after much outcry over his increasingly grotesque compensation packages).

Speaking of the law school, the striking news that the university has offered buyouts to all of its tenured faculty raises some questions regarding the school’s financial status. Suffolk Law by itself generates about one fifth of the university’s total tuition revenue. Recall that tuition revenue makes up almost all of the university’s operating income, so the if the law school catches a cold the larger institution may soon develop pneumonia.

What’s the impetus for trying to seriously downsize the law faculty? Is the law school losing money, or not making enough surplus income for the university? I’ve calculated how much net tuition revenue the law school cranked out in FY2013 per full-time faculty member:

Full time sticker tuition: $24.8 million
Full time discounted tuition: $15.7 million
Part time sticker tuition: $12.6 million
Part time discounted tuition: $4.4 million
Total JD tuition revenue: $57.5 million
Non JD tuition revenue: $1.3 million
Total tuition revenue: $58.8 million
Total tuition revenue per full-time faculty member: $632,258

Note this isn’t the law school’s total revenue, as it omits endowment income, annual gifts, grants and contracts, rentals etc. Let’s assume all of the latter comprise only 5% of the law school’s total revenue (frankly it probably isn’t much higher than that). That would mean the school was generating around $670,000 in annual revenue per full-time faculty member in FY2013 (the school’s dozens of adjuncts are of course paid next to nothing — probably a few hundred thousand dollars collectively).

It’s hard to believe the law school can’t generate some surplus income for the university on the basis of those figures, despite the inevitable existence of various Assistant Vice Deans For Achieving Bureaucratic Rectitude, paying the debt on the school’s fancy relatively new digs, and so forth. On the other hand, the law school is dealing with plunging demand: while class sizes have yet to be much affected, the school has moved from a mildly selective to a quasi-open admissions model. In 2004 the school admitted 40% of its applicants; last year that figure was 77%, and the median LSAT score of matriculating students has plunged from the 67th to the 41st percentile.

All this raises the question of whether the ongoing crisis in American legal education is creating an opportunity for central university administrators to engage in draconian cuts, in order to restore their law schools to something of a cash cow status, after years of profligate law school spending in the severely negative sum pursuit of rankings and “prestige.” Of course the answer to that question will vary across institutions, but at many universities I suspect the answer will be yes.

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Everything Becomes Crystal Clear…

[ 113 ] September 1, 2014 |

Now, at this late hour, we finally come to understand:

Thirty-six hours after the Obama administration banned importation of the classic brand of AK-47 assault rifles as part of sanctions against Russia, a Maryland dealer specializing in the weapon took stock of its inventory.

There was nothing left.

Laboring almost nonstop, workers at Atlantic Firearms in Bishopville, a Worcester County community on the Eastern Shore, had shipped hundreds of Russian-made AK-47s — an assault rifle prized by both consumers and despots — as buyers wiped out gun dealers’ inventories around the country. The frenzy was brought on, in part, by a suspicion among some gun owners that the Russia-Ukraine conflict was a backdoor excuse to ban guns many Democrats don’t like. Some customers bought eight to 10 rifles for nearly $1,000 each or more, stockpiling them as investments.

Did Putin and Obama meet secretly at the G-20 in September 2013, arranging a plan by which Putin could carve up Ukraine and Obama could carve up our Second Amendment rights? It would be irresponsible not to speculate!

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Labor History on Labor Day

[ 12 ] September 1, 2014 |

I don’t have time for a major post on Labor Day, as I have just completed the manuscript draft of my logging book and am exhausted. But I do have 116 This Day in Labor History posts, helpfully archived, for your perusal. That ought to serve your Labor Day needs.

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Sunday Links

[ 105 ] August 31, 2014 |

Some links for your reading pleasure…

 

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