Given the criticisms in the comments to Bridget Crawford's post on the law professor Twitter census, I think it might be worth it to look a little more deeply at the issue of law professor "tweeters." As I indicated in the comments on Sunday afternoon, I'm coming late to the issue of Twitter. I wondered why a law professor would tweet? Michelle Meyer had some apt observations about its importance in the comments.
I thought Bridget's census might be worth a little more inspection, in terms of the question: who's tweeting? There are 139 tweeting professors identified as of June 8th by Bridget Crawford after removing 7 professors at schools outside the U.S. and one at UC-Irvine, which U.S. News has not yet ranked. The professors are on the law faculties of 92 schools in the United States. Many professors are the sole known tweeter on their faculty, but one school (Pace) has five, Pepperdine and SMU each have four, and Chicago, Drexel, Harvard, Southern Illinois, and St. Louis University each have three. Focusing now on the ranks of schools of the 121 professors at U.S. News “top schools” (ranks published in March 2012): The range of school ranks is represented from 1 through 145, with a median rank of 58.0 and a mean of 65.4 (SD = 44.3). Schools of 25% of professors in this group had a rank between 1 and 26, and schools of another 25% had ranks between 101 and 145. Eighteen other professors are at U.S. News “second tier” schools, whose ranks were not published. They are at 14 different schools. One thing is clear: law professors at schools throughout the U.S. News spectrum are tweetting.
I'm guessing that tweeting is about getting information out, building a community, and -- ultimately -- a reputation. We could debate whether faculty are entitled to build their personal reputation on the law school's budget. But I think most people think they are not only entitled to but expected to help build the institution's reputation. Student reliance on U.S. News suggests that strong reputation is something students want. As we have seen repeatedly and in many contexts, school reputations are important.
At right is a bar graph that shows the distribution of law professor tweeters according to their schools' U.S. News ranking.