Sunday, August 16, 2020
Following up on my previous post, Saints, Sinners, and Scoundrels: A History Of Catholic Legal Education: Kathleen Boozang (Dean, Seton Hall), A Light Unseen?, 94 St. John's L. Rev. ___ (2020):
This essay responds to Professors Breen and Strang's forthcoming book, A Light Unseen: A History of Catholic Legal Education in the United States, in which they present their ideal vision of a Catholic law school. The Essay, A Light Unseen?, suggests that Breen and Strang's vision potentially interferes with academic freedom and does not present a sustainable business model in today's law school market. The Essay presents an alternative vision of how a Catholic law school can be distinctively Catholic, beyond these schools' commitment to social justice. ...
I also doubt that a sufficient number of Catholic aspiring academics exist to staff all of the Catholic law schools in the country. The book itself reflects the paucity of professors at critical times, including the early history of Seton Hall Law, where the founding Dean Miriam T. Rooney’s efforts to create a law school of the kind envisioned by A Light Unseen were handicapped by that reality. Candidates would have to be not only Catholic, familiar with the Catholic intellectual tradition, but also qualified for whatever subject matter needs the particular law school has at the time of the search. Finally, A Light Unseen addresses the economic model of law schools, imagining a better world in which Catholic law schools charged lower tuition or awarded more need-based scholarships. As dean of a Catholic law school, I would absolutely like to base our discounting solely on need, lower our tuition, or increase our discount rates, but the business model does not support such moves. That being said, we do behave differently because we are Catholic. As readers will recall, the Seton Hall Law faculty voted themselves a pay cut in 2012 to enable the retention of untenured faculty despite the effects of the 2008 crash. To me, that was a decision by a faculty dedicated to its mission as a Catholic law school. And today, every single one of those untenured faculty have tenure, and they are now faculty leaders and associate deans.