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February 23, 2021

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STAN NADEL

When was the last time that West produced anything of sufficient scholarly value worthy of tenure at a major research university? He has been very active producing political works, some of which we might well agree with, others not so much, but I think nothing in the way of real scholarship. His complaint here reeks of an overweening sense of entitlement, and when balked he naturally blames Jews because that's the way he ticks.

anon

Ask anyone who knows Harvard if Harvard is a bastion of Jewish influence and a comfy home for Jewish individuals ... please.

Stan, I would wonder, at least with respect to law schools: When was the last time the VAST majority of law professors (the "highest academic rank" Lubet helpfully notes) produced anything of sufficient scholarly value worthy of tenure at a major research university?

LawProf John Banzhaf

“When was the last time the VAST majority of law professors . . produced anything of sufficient scholarly value worthy of tenure at a major research university?”

Here is one answer which I wrote not too long ago:

As a law professor, I have often pointed out to my colleagues that, something like half of all law review articles - which have been estimated to cost (law students through their tuition) about $100,000 each - are never cited even by other academics, and most have virtually no impact in the real world of law.

They are thus increasingly seen by many - including the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice - as increasingly irrelevant, and often useless.

Moreover, as I have noted in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other lay and legal
publications, those who believe that law professors can only have influence by writing scholarly articles - rather than persuasive legal briefs, effective filings before administrative agencies, proposals for new legislation, etc. - are “myopic legal eunuchs''; unwilling to use (and incidentally to test) their legal abilities in the real world of law where they can advance the public good, rather than simply accumulate page counts and pad resumes.

There, in the real marketplace of ideas, scholarship is not judged by law students who are as much in an ivory tower as their professors, but rather by those qualified to assess the value and relevance of the ideas in the real world of law, and to act on them if the scholarship is persuasive.

anon

John

Absolutely.

I'm not sure if you are limiting the 50% comment to those law review articles garnering even one citation. I would say that far more than 50% of law review articles are never read by anyone beyond a very small (perhaps 30) cadre of persons who are interested in some way in the author, not the writing.

And, even among those that are cited, painfully few are "of sufficient scholarly value worthy of tenure at a major research university."

In fact, nearly none, in terms of proportion.

That won't stop the "highest academic rank" from looking down their noses at practitioners, however.

The sort of shocking part of the West story is the position that Harvard offered. I, for one, agree that it was insulting to West, who has had a long academic career.

I don't often agree with West, and especially not about the subject mentioned, but, he is, in my view, worthy of tenure.

As for his animus toward Jews, I am quite sure that he doesn't actually feel that way at all. Unfortunately, many intellectuals are able to convince themselves that animus toward Jews is simply "objective reality" ...

And, again, Harvard is a really really messed up place, full of bigotry and prejudices, IMHO. So, West should perhaps aim a bit broader in his reproach.

Doug Richmond

Law professors are not "the highest academic rank" and Prof. Lubet never suggested anything to that effect. He correctly pointed out that the "highest academic rank" at Harvard is "University Professor." In fact, as Prof. Lubet notes, West was once a University Professor at Harvard. See Richard Bradley, Harvard Rules 96 (2005) (reporting that in 1998, then-President of Harvard Neil Rudenstine "elevated West to the position of University Professor, the highest status a scholar can obtain at Harvard").

anon

Amazing not only how law professors (and other academics) bestow upon themselves endless litanies of titles (Game of Thrones-style), but then take care to correct others who don't appreciate their nuanced usage. Mea culpa, most honorable Richmond, sir, mea culpa.

Who cares what fine distinctions someone places on the title "highest academic rank." Status and attention seekers, mainly. Or, those just wanting to quibble on irrelevant grounds.

If you don't think it was sufficient to simply state that West was worthy of a tenured position, as I did above, that fine. You may wish to point out that reference to West holding the "highest academic rank" at Harvard holds some special significance now, because that title was awarded at the University level.

One is not even sure of the meaning you attribute to the source you quote.

In any event, whether awarded at the law school or University level -- this title appears to have had no bearing on the subject at issue, as Harvard has made painfully clear.

anon

Incidentally, and so predictably, the Wikipedia research approach to find pull quotes used to support some marginal but pointless, inaccurate and irrelevant quibble, turns out to be wrong.

As quoted in the Harvard Crimson on this issue: "“He was a University Professor before he left Harvard the first time, which is [Harvard’s] most distinguished academic position ...”

One finds this formulation to be standard: "distinguished positions" (mostly endowed, i.e., bought) not the "highest academic rank" (like some militaristic authoritarian society of bombastic executives).

Even the little quote above, which was used to support the phrase "highest academic rank" refers to "status" -- nothing is said about "rank."

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