Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Encouraging Engaged Scholarship: Perspectives from an Associate Dean for Research

Sonia Katyal (Fordham), Encouraging Engaged Scholarship: Perspectives from an Associate Dean for Research, 31 Touro L. Rev. ___ (2015):

Today, there is little question that faculty scholarship is intimately related to the reputation of a law school, and also relatedly, to the law school rankings game. Central to this reality are some emergent administrative positions — the position of Associate Dean for Research, for example — which carry important possibilities for a law school, both internally and externally, in terms of promoting attention to scholarship. Yet this position, which has only recently emerged in law schools over the last twenty years, is also one that is largely fluid and often determined by the relative institutional capabilities of the rest of the University administration, in addition to the larger landscape of legal education. Because there is no precise one size fits all model for an Associate Dean, the fluidity of the position enables us to consider a range of variables that impact scholarly visibility, both internally within a law school community, and externally within the larger scholarly world. How can we, as Associate Deans, strive to support the productivity of faculty members in these shifting times? How can Associate Deans navigate complex social relations on faculties, where issues of gender, race, class, and other variables often abound? How can we draw attention to scholarly endeavors at a time when law schools are undergoing a massive transformation for the future? How can we ensure that legal scholarship remains relevant and important? How can we value the many types of scholarly contributions that our faculty can make, without imposing a narrow view of what counts as “serious” scholarship?

Answering these questions is not an easy task. Just as there are many different types of research and scholarship, there are many different roles for an Associate Dean for Research. As Associate Dean for Research at Fordham, and one of the small number of minority women who have held this position in law school academia, I have been struck by how many of these issues can be indirectly tied to traditional, institutional questions about building a law school community. Here, questions about identity, seniority, productivity, and interdisciplinary scholarship emerge, often without clear answers. Indeed, also, identity politics — not just demographic identities, but institutional identities — affect so many of the range of questions that surround productivity and the way in which research is valued and embraced in a law school community. Mainstream law review publications, clearly, are an essential part of every law faculty in the country, and should be valued and encouraged, but an administration, should also have a greater sense of the importance of other types of engaged scholarship. Here, I draw on the history and trajectory of American Indian legal scholarship as an illustrative example.

For my perspective, see The Associate Dean for Faculty Research Position: Encouraging and Promoting Scholarship, 33 U. Tol. L. Rev. 233 (2001) (Leadership in Legal Education Symposium) (with Joseph P. Tomain):

This Article recounts the experience at the University of Cincinnati College of Law with the Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development position in the hope that it may be of interest to those schools that either have a similar position or are contemplating establishing such a position. Along the way, we offer our thoughts on the respective roles of the Dean, Associate Dean, and Faculty in improving the quality, productivity, and visibility of a law school faculty and their scholarship. The Associate Dean position was established at Cincinnati two years ago to (1) promote excellence in scholarship and teaching, (2) facilitate and coordinate scholarly activities, and (3) publicize the scholarly activities of the faculty. Responding to the first two charges, the Associate Dean has worked to provide greater institutional support for faculty research at each stage of the production process in the form of various initiatives such as a Work-in-Progress Group, Summer Scholarship Series, Faculty Workshop Series, Scholar Exchange Program, and Law School Working Paper Series. In response to the third charge, the Associate Dean has ramped up our publicity efforts, using both old and new technologies in increasing faculty participation in our alumni magazine, monthly web-based faculty news, and periodic e-mail and print publicity. The Dean has revamped our system of scholarly incentives and rewards, combining elements of both the all-for-one-and-one-for-all approach and the eat-what-you-kill approach. In the end, all of these efforts are aimed at strengthening a scholarly community in which the whole is greater than its parts. The guiding ethos should be that a rising scholarly tide lifts all boats, and that when we row together we not only get to our common destination quicker and easier, it also makes for a more enjoyable and satisfying journey. Like the man who sets out to slay a whale armed only with a row boat and a faith that leads him to bring along a jar of tarter sauce, we come to this task armed only with the ideas described in this Article and a faith in our colleagues that allows us to experiment with different ways to build this scholarly community.

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