Thursday, May 8, 2014
Above the Law reports that Mae C. Quinn, Professor of Law and Director of the Juvenile Law and Justice Clinic at Washington University Law School, has declined an award for “Experiential Professor of the Year,” calling it both "offensive and marginalizing":
Thank you very much for thinking of me and for your hard work in generating such a tremendous list of honorees. But I find being named “Experiential Professor of the Year” both offensive and marginalizing. In fact, I shared these views about this award with a number of students last year after another “clinical” colleague was given the award for the first time. In my mind it would be fine to have two teacher of the year awards, allowing the students to describe why each faculty member demonstrates excellence – in all of its many forms. But this kind of express ghetto-ization and limitation through labeling was exactly what I was told did NOT exist at Washington University when I was recruited to teach both in our clinics and outside of our clinics. So receiving such an award makes me very sad.
I am sure that those who conceived of the award meant well – that is, wanting to make sure professors who do not generally teach “traditional” classes, which are usually larger than “experiential” class sections, are not forgotten. But I do teach such classes – and I do so using a podium, as well as experiential exercises, simulations, films, community engagement and the like. More than this, to truly address this oversight what is necessary is new thinking around what it means to be an excellent teacher and professor in the 21st century. Reinforcing divisions between experiential and non-experiential, clinic and non-clinic, skills and non-skills is out of step with modern norms and developments in law schools and legal institutions across the country. It normalizes other unnecessary divides and hierarchies in legal education. And it does not serve our students well. In my mind, every class should teach students to both think – and do – as lawyers. I fear this award absolutely sends the wrong message about this school and its views on the future of legal education.
At Tennessee I was named Teacher of the Year. Period.
In light of my feelings about this award and its implications, I respectfully decline the designation.