Monday, July 26, 2010
Following up Sunday's post, ABA Considers Dramatic Changes This Weekend in Law School Accreditation Standards, Including Dilution of Tenure: Inside Higher Ed, Law School Tenure in Danger?, by Scott Jaschik:
The ABA is moving ahead with changes in its accreditation system that faculty members fear could erode tenure protections for many professors and further weaken job security for clinical faculty members, many of whom don't have tenure to start with.
A special committee of the ABA last week released the latest version of proposed guidelines on academic freedom -- just days before an ABA committee met Saturday to discuss (but not alter) the draft language. In the weeks before the draft was released, many faculty leaders had urged the ABA panel not to do the two key things its draft does:
- Remove language from the ABA standards that has been interpreted by faculty members as requiring law schools to have a tenure system. (The ABA panel that wrote the revisions now says that tenure was never a requirement and that it is removing references to tenure for reasons of clarity -- although that interpretation of current policy is being met with much skepticism.)
- Remove specific language requiring law schools with clinical professors and legal writing professors to offer them specific forms of job security short of tenure.
The ABA panel recommending the changes has stressed that the accreditation requirements still insist that law schools protect academic freedom, and that many law schools would not necessarily change their tenure or other job protection procedures. The report accompanying the most recent draft characterizes the protections for clinical faculty members that would be eliminated as "intrusive mandates" that "are not the proper providence of an accreditation agency" and that eliminating them would "provide approved law schools with latitude and flexibility to articulate and implement policies to attract a qualified faculty and protect faculty academic freedom."
Many law professors think otherwise. They are angry not only over the recommendations, but also over the fact that the new draft came out immediately after so many groups had issued lengthy statements in favor of preserving existing protections. "They are trying to ramrod through an ill-advised proposal," said Michael A. Olivas, a professor of law at the University of Houston. The proposal is "the worst of all worlds, disguised as administrative tinkering.