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January 15, 2014

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Rick Bales

I'm struck by the paucity of female applicants, and disappointed that decades after we achieved gender equality in the classroom, we still have a long way to go in the boardroom, the partner's club, and the dean's office.

Eric Muller

It's hard for me to understand who is benefited by disclosure of this list of names at this stage of the process.

CBR

There certainly a cost to disclosing the names at this stage, but I have to think that the larger benefit is simply compliance with the open records law. I worked in state government for years (in a state with a robust open-records law), and I think the value in openness is considerable. Some states do make exceptions for personnel decisions (e.g., delaying disclosure of candidates until after the hire has been made), and I'm not against that--but I also think there is value in seeing the slate of candidates early, especially if there is interest in ensuring that a diverse pool of candidates is considered. UF alumni and Florida taxpayers also have an interest in the school's leadership, and early disclosure of the candidates lets them have a chance to weigh in too.

Jacqueline Lipton

Do other states have laws that require disclosure at this stage of the process or is Florida unique in this respect?

Guest

It's actually hard for me to understand who would be materially harmed by being disclosed as on this list. All of these candidates surely are tenured, if not extremely well-regarded, at their home institutions, and even if it might not be difficult to conceive that one of their colleagues might take their candidacy or expression of interest in another school's deanship as an affront, it's surely difficult to concieve of what such a colleague would or could do about it.

On the other side of the balance, as they say, I have no problem understanding why an alumn of UF Law would benefit from seeing the pool of applicants and nominees when it's at this point. To claim that there's no benefit to such a person, let alone that it's difficult to imagine, is a bit churlish.

Anon

Any sitting Dean would be reluctant to have his or her name surface in an early Search as one example, plus those who do not make it to the final round of interviews have been publicly, and unnecessarily, slighted. And it is hard to see how the faculty member -- who kind of seems like the Campos of the East -- was acting in the best interests of the law school, where he works and where the students he is paid to teach attend. Just for show.

Eric Muller

The folks on this thread who can't imagine the harm in the disclosure of not just the names but also the application letters of 24 applicants for the deanship either don't have very good imaginations or don't understand how human beings actually feel and behave.

Newguest

"It's actually hard for me to understand who would be materially harmed by being disclosed as on this list. . . it's surely difficult to concieve of what such a colleague would or could do about it." Those who control their salary or assignments might assume that there's little return in favoring them. Those considering them for another position (e.g., another deanship) might regard this as showing a roving eye. Anyway, the point isn't strictly harm to the candidates; Florida might be harmed if they regard this as betraying some understanding, or as a sign of further releases, and the candidates bail. I guess we would have to know more about what the school or the recruiting firm (which appears surprised by this development) told the candidates before. Particularly about disclosing their application letters, not just their names. If everyone knew, much less of a problem.

"On the other side of the balance . . . I have no problem understanding why an alumn of UF Law would benefit from seeing the pool of applicants and nominees when it's at this point. To claim that there's no benefit to such a person, let alone that it's difficult to imagine, is a bit churlish." Sure, seeing candidates is interesting. Given that some will not make the cut, and others with withdraw, and others will fall into the middle, it is not that actionable a list.

I can't fault what happened in Florida, given the law, which seems to require this. I assume it also requires such disclosure regardless of whether anyone asks for it -- that is, it functions more as a affirmative obligation than a reactive one (like, say, FOIA), such that the faculty's judgment in pressing for the information and disclosure can't fairly be faulted. I'd still lack confidence that sharing all this here was a kindness to anyone, other than future applicants for positions in the state. Especially can't see how anything warranted linking to the actual candidate information, unless all were informed that this would happen and given options.

Stan

"Campos of the East" was a nice touch.

Jacqueline Lipton

And does the law require this level of disclosure i.e. application letters, lists of referees, etc? Or does it just require the list of names to be disclosed? As per Eric's comment, there is arguably a significant difference between the two levels of disclosure.

Paul Horwitz

I can hardly blame Jeff Harrison for asking if he's interested and the law requires it, although I'm not sure what serious information he gained. I gather that searches through search firms can be structured to avoid such early disclosures in similar cases elsewhere, and I can hardly blame that for happening either, somewhat empty talk about the spirit vs. the letter of the law aside. But of course mandatory early-stage disclosures of this sort are much more likely to be destructive for such searches.

Orin Kerr

The letters are actually pretty fascinating, given how different candidates pitch their strengths.

Eric Muller

"I can hardly blame Jeff Harrison for asking if he's interested and the law requires it." I don't understand this position, if it means that the fact that there's a legal entitlement to demand disclosure of a piece of information entails insulation from questioning the reasons for demanding it and the costs and benefits of demanding it. There are lots of things that the law probably entitles me to know -- if I'm not mistaken, North Carolina law would allow me to demand to see my faculty colleagues' emails -- but I don't pretend for a moment that if I actually made that demand because "I'm interested," my faculty colleagues wouldn't have reason not to like me.

Newguest

As to blame, it may be that the law affirmatively required posting -- then, the agency of the faculty member may be somewhat less, as opposed to a circumstance in which disclosure turns completely on whether someone elects to seek the information. I don't know. So far one can discern, the reason for asking was both "I'm interested" and something a bit more complicated:http://classbias.blogspot.com/2014/01/petty-status-power-and-law-profs.html

Paul Horwitz

I appreciate your point, and I'm happy to accept the criticism. I think I made clear that I doubt Prof. Harrison received any terribly useful information as a result, and that I think requiring disclosure is a mistake. Beyond that, I guess I just think the Internet is a much nicer place if we are cautious, circumspect, and charitable in our criticisms. (Up to a point, and I would understand if you think I took that too far.) To the extent that there is an open meetings law that actually covers this information, however unwisely, I'm not sure I would want to rush into outrage even if the reason that the person sought the information was nothing more than a view that such laws ought to be obeyed, and that the institution in this case or habitually evades them. I made clear that the effect of this law/request is in my view bad for the search and the institution, and more generally I would add that I have concerns about broad open meeting laws. But I'm perfectly happy to be very Canadian about expressing my sentiments, and happy to be criticized for it too.

Orin Kerr

It's interesting to me that Alex Acosta says that under his Deanship at FIU, the school promoted diversity by raising female JD enrollment from 46% to 52%. There's an interesting question in that claim; is diversity measured based on the proximity to 50/50, in which case the change slightly improved diversity but somewhat overshot the mark, or is diversity measured based on the percentage absolutely, with the thinking that any added female lawyers adds diversity to the still-largely-male profession as a whole?

Sunshine, disinfectant, etc.

If it's a public institution, why shouldn't we see the letters? All the stakeholders could then comments on the candidates' priorities and strengths.

Could Professor Muller please be specific about his cautionary language? What is the danger? The 3 comments he posts here are so vague and innuendo-ish. (I am not disagreeing with him. I just don't know what his objection is.)

Jeff Harrison

First I'd like to say my effort has been exaggerated. I asked to see the list and a colleague gave to me. The only brouhaha is that I asked the Chair of the committee first and he referred it to a University official who claimed there was no list. My modest efforts were driven by the simply notion that people should tell the truth (radical I know) not any grand principle about dean searches. If I had not asked, the list would have become public in a few more days so my demand was irrelevant with respect to the embarrassment the applicant might experience. My personal view is that I do not want a dean who will only be considered if his or her identity is kept secret. Two of our three past deans have been marvelous and they were all produced by an open search. I do not mean to slight the other one but there was no search.

For the doubters, particular Muller, it might be useful to know that the law faculty has had virtually no input to this point. The search was conducted by a private firm which I assume largely recycled the same list created for other schools. The search committee is composed largely of non law school people and, I think, are a minority on the committee but I do no recall off hand. We are still weeks away from the law faculty having any significant input.

The process was largely taken over by the central administration and law professor make up a minority of the membership. In this instance openness as soon as possible was important so the law school could begin to have meaningful

Jeff Harrison

Sorry for not editing better. The incomplete paragraph at the end was supposed to be deleted but I was in a rush because my dinner was getting cold and I needed a reboost of my notorious crankiness.

Kipper

The interesting thing is that there had been 24 candidates on the list when they first posted it, there were 23 this morning, now there are 22. I did not notice who dropped.

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