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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, February 27, 2017

Blackman:  The First Step To Addressing The Political Imbalance Of Law School Faculties Is For The AALS To Acknowledge There Is A Problem

AALS (2018)Following up on my previous posts (links below): Josh Blackman (South Texas), The First Step To Improving Intellectual Diversity, Is To Acknowledge There Is A Problem:

Debates over the lack of intellectual diversity on law school campuses usually deadlock in one of three ways. ... Fortunately, there is a way to resolve this deadlock. The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) maintains extensive records of applicants on the entry-level hiring market through the Faculty Appointments Register (FAR). With proper protections for confidentiality, scholars can systematically compare the intellectual diversity of the applicant pool, with those in fact hired for tenure-track positions. The AALS granted access to the 2007 FAR registry to Professors Trace E. George and Albert H. Yoon. Their research considered how hiring was impacted by an applicant’s race, gender, clerkship, alma mater, advance degrees, and other factors. (Among their findings, “at the intermediate call-back interview stage … women and non-whites are statistically significantly more likely to be invited for a job talk interviews,” but are “no more likely than similarly situated men and whites to get a job offer.”). George and Yoon’s important work, however, did not focus on intellectual diversity.

In January 2016, the AALS executive committee met with several leading conservative and libertarian scholars, including Randy Barnett, Brian Fitzpatrick, Jim Lindgren, Amy Wax, and George Dent. These professors asked for the creation of a Political Diversity Task Force, as well as for access to the FAR data, so they could study how ideology impacts entry-level hiring. One month later, the Executive Committee replied that Task Force would not be created, and the professors would not be given FAR access—even to the same data that George and Yoon relied on. In the year since this letter was sent, no action was taken to respond to the concerns.

The first step to improving intellectual diversity on law school campuses is to acknowledge there is a problem. By refusing to even permit a task force to study the issue, and analyze anonymized data that was already released to other scholars, the AALS instead buries its head in the sand.

This absolute frustration led me to sign a letter addressed to the AALS, which was organized by George Dent, and joined by many of my colleagues. I am sick and tired of debating the topic of intellectual diversity, only to have my interlocutor deny there is even a problem. If indeed there is no problem, let the data speak for itself. I will gladly shut up if the law school hiring process is immune to ideological discrimination—especially in public law fields like constitutional law—and that it is merely the case that not enough qualified conservatives are applying. If it is the case that my own personal experiences at the meat market, and those of my Federalist Society colleagues, are mere delusions, I will gladly move onto other matters. However, if there are problems, we can address them. But it is unacceptable to sit by, year after year, and do nothing.

(Hat Tip: Greg McNeal.)  Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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What the Iowa and North Carolina legislatures really ought to do is just require that key student and faculty admission and employment data be made public. For students, it could be aggregate data. For faculty, it might as well be named (it would be easy to figure out who was who), but it need not contain anything except that informatino that is on the vitas that many universities already make public and certain other data (e.g. party affiliation) that can be reasonably required as a condition of employment---- just as data, not as a political test).

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Feb 27, 2017 7:28:58 AM

You're presuming that the function of academic institutions is to promote intellectual life. They're real function is to sort the labor market (which could almost certainly be done in a manner much less expensive and time consuming) and to promote the position of the New Class as allocators of value. The people you call 'conservative' or (more infrequently) 'libertarian' do not act in support of this latter project. There presence also is an injury to the conceits of the modal type in academe, who fancy their sectarian opinions are knowledge itself, rather than a manifestation of the kultursmog in their social nexus. You cannot reform the contemporary academy, anymore than you can reform a whorehouse.

Posted by: Art Deco | Feb 27, 2017 8:02:25 AM