Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

More Law Prof Debate On Ideological Discrimination In Faculty Hiring At Chicago-Kent, Other Law Schools

Chicago-KentFollowing up on yesterday's post, Law Profs Debate Prevalence Of Ideological Discrimination In Faculty Hiring At Chicago-Kent, Other Law Schools:

Ralph Brill (Chicago-Kent), One Current and One Former Chicago-Kent Law Professor Debate the Prevalence of Discrimination Against Conservative/Libertarian Candidates in Law Faculty Hiring:

Jim Lindgren asks: “Since I was hired at Chicago-Kent in 1990, Ralph, how many conservatives, libertarians—or even moderate Republicans—has Chicago-Kent hired?” 

Ralph Brill:  Frankly, I don’t know, because, during that period, to my knowledge, no one other than you or Randy Barnett ever asked faculty candidates to what political group they belonged?   I know I never did.  I have asked others who were there at the time and they all swear they did not. 

Of course, once people joined the faculty, I probably knew from lunch time conversation in the faculty lounge that perhaps five or six voted Republican in recent elections — After Randy Barnett and yourself, there were Dale, Fred, Fred, Phil, Gerry, and, perhaps on some issues, Jeff.  But individual’s political leanings were never discussed by the full faculty or dean when we were voting on whether to extend offers or not to candidates.  (Apparently, according to you, they were discussed behind closed doors by some members of the recruitment committee, but never by the rest of us.)

If anything, the possible questioning of a candidate on politics did occur well before Jim Lindgren joined the faculty.  Thus, when I joined the faculty in 1961, the majority of the full time faculty was openly Republican. The dean was so ardently so that he even refused to lower the school’s flag or call off classes when a president he despised, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. We had several faculty members in the 1980’s who ran for judgeships as Republicans or not on the Democratic ticket.  The vast majority of the Board of Trustees before our merger with IIT were Republicans.  The major officers at IIT after the merger also were Republicans.

Jim Lindgren asks:    “Do you think that maybe part of the reason that Chicago-Kent’s amazing improvement plateaued in the early to mid-1990s was that it ceased to do substantial hiring on the right half of the political landscape?” 

Ralph Brill:  The law school’s reputation started to rise dramatically in the middle 1970’s , because of a number of factors, none of which had to do with the political beliefs of faculty members.

And I take issue with your use of the word “plataeued”. Except for the last couple of years we have continued to rise in US News rankings.  BTW,  I didn’t notice any major rise in rankings at Northwestern after you blessed them with your presence in 1996. 

Chicago Kent’s reputational gains have been and continue to be due to so many different factors.  We have major programs in Labor Law, Intellectual Property Law, International Law, International LLM’s.  We have been one of the major schools emphasizing practical skills training, with so many schools trying to catch up on so-called experiential learning these days.  Since the 70”s, we have had highly successful successes in Trial Advocacy, Moot Court, Legal Writing and Clinical Education, which draw very fine students and rank highly in the view of deans and professors throughout the country.  Many of our faculty have been inducted as members of the A.L.I. I encourage readers to look at the school website for the amazing scholarly production of leading articles and books by the current faculty.


Jim Lindgren asserts: “In the early 1990s, Chicago-Kent not only discriminated against conservatives, but even against people who were feared to be conservatives.” 

Ralph Brill: To prove this statement, Lindgren cites examples of faculty who in fact were hired even though, he asserts, some Chicago Kent faculty were afraid that they were conservatives, but they turned out to be Democrats.  I don’t know?  It doesn’t seem to me terribly persuasive to assert that the school discriminated against conservatives by hiring them, even though we thought they were conservatives, is it?


Jim Lindgren asserts:  “In short, even when Chicago-Kent had a substantial number of conservatives and libertarians, faculty candidates were discriminated against on political grounds. I would be surprised if it’s not worse now.” 

Ralph Brill:  His support for this “alternative fact” – found in the previous two sentences ---  he was asked at Texas when he gave a presentation there what his political beliefs were;  and a faculty member at Northwestern admitted that he voted against a conservative candidate for the Northwestern faculty???????   What exactly would that syllogism look like there Jim????   What discrimination did we inflict?  Was making you Freehling Scholar and Associate Dean for Faculty Development in your second year at Chicago Kent discrimination against you????


Ralph Brill:  Frankly, Jim Lindgren was a major cause of a diminution in the drop in reputation of Chicago Kent at the time he left in 1996.  He had made a motion and gotten Dean Matasar to put through a lessening in the degree requirements at Chicago Kent from 90 hours to 83 hours!!  1. That meant a loss of tuition at a tuition dependent school of 7 hours of tuition per student over the student’s three or four years of law school ---do the math!  2. The school was one of the only schools, and still is, that requires three years of Legal Writing courses totaling 11 hours, and allows students to take up to 16 hours in clinic or other non-traditional courses towards degree requirements, so many students would not be taking major bar exam courses now that 7 less credits were required.  3. The purpose of the reduction was, in Jim’s argument, to reduce faculty teaching loads so they could do more scholarship.  But the actual number of courses would have to remain the same, whether required to be taken or not, and thus faculty really was not “freed” to do scholarship with lower teaching loads. 

The result was: to make up for loss of tuition, the school had to admit more students, going from a total of 750 day and evening to over 1000 within two years. That increase, of course, meant that admissions standards were lowered to get the extra 250 students, and class sizes for the required courses, bar exam courses, or those taught by popular teachers increased dramatically in size.  Bar exam results suffered in the aftermath of the downturn in student admission standards and reduction in taking bar exam courses.  And of course no additional major scholarship was possible for the full-time faculty, who still had to teach the basic core courses, often at the expense of having to give up their specialty courses to cover the major ones.   Having accomplished those effects, Jim left for Northwestern, and Matasar moved on to other schools.


Michael Livingston (Rutgers):

A lot of the problem is that the few conservatives on law faculties tend to collaborate with the dominant liberals. Lindgren, who like myself is somewhat oppositional, is an exception. At Rutgers, nearly everyone hired in recent decades is liberal or radical, a fact which contributes to the mediocrity of the school as well as its lack of balance, but I don't think we're unusual.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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So it never occurred to C-K to charge tution by the school year rather than by the credit hour?

Posted by: David Bernstein | Feb 28, 2017 12:29:18 PM

Me think he doth protest too much. I know a school that declined a candidate b/c he clerked for Thomas. Is that bias?

Posted by: Anon | Feb 28, 2017 4:12:50 PM