Paul L. Caron

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Tale of Two Law Schools: Colorado & New Mexico

20021218_hoffsommers_2Christina Hoff Sommers (American Enterprise Institute) has written an op-ed about her recent visits to Colorado and New Mexico law schools:

As a writer and frequent campus lecturer, I am accustomed to encountering activist professors. Nevertheless, when I visited the University of New Mexico Law School recently, I was taken aback by the political fervor of the faculty.

I had been invited by the student-run Federalist Society to lecture on the foibles of campus feminism. I consider myself a feminist, but I believe that academic feminism has been hijacked by gender war eccentrics--like the law professor who confronted me at the University of New Mexico. In the question-and-answer period, she insisted that American society is a "patriarchy." Well, the UNM Law School is no patriarchy. The dean is a woman and fifty-seven percent of this year's entering class is female. ...

A 2004 study by the New Mexico Federation of College Republicans found that 100 percent of the full-time professors at the law school were registered Democrats. The Federalists could not find a conservative to serve as their faculty adviser....

The dean of the law school, Suellyn Scarnecchia, professes a commitment to diversity--but that does not include changing the school's strict "liberals only" hiring policy. She and her faculty seem not to question the ethics of running a public, taxpayer-supported law school as if it were a re-education camp for the political left.

After speaking at UNM I next lectured at the University of Colorado. Far from being under siege, the Federalists say they are treated respectfully by most faculty and students. With a few notable exceptions, the professors do not pummel students with their politics....

The state of New Mexico has only one law school. Each year it accepts only about 100 students. Under constructive leadership, it could easily be on par with Colorado, which ranks 43rd compared to New Mexico's 77th place on the list of best law schools--and Colorado is moving up all the time. Sixties-style activism and political fervor have their place, but at the UNM Law School these are practiced at the expense of the intellectual, economic and civic mission that a state law school is expected to fulfill.

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As a conservative, I basically agree with Ms. Sommers, and find a similar situation (if not so extreme) on my own faculty. But I think one has to be clear in identifying the problem. The issue on most law school faculties, I think, is not radicalism of left or right but a depressing predictabiliy and a lack of interest in genuinely diverging viewpoints. I think that a genuninely radical feminist, or someone interested in the legal problems of the Third World, would feel no less an outsider at most American law schools than a member of the Federalist Society. When I was a law student we used to accuse the conservative white male professors of "replicating" themselves without real interest in different outlooks. We swore we would never do the same. But we have.

Posted by: michael livingston | Oct 28, 2006 10:33:30 AM

New Mexico has changed a lot over the years, mostly for the worse.

Posted by: Jake | Oct 28, 2006 5:48:27 PM

Christina Hoff Sommers' article contains many gross misrepresentations about the University of New Mexico School of Law. Two recent opinion pieces in our local paper do an excellent job of explaining why Sommers is dead wrong. Here are links to those pieces:

Posted by: Sergio Pareja | Oct 30, 2006 10:25:05 AM