Paul L. Caron
Dean



Thursday, August 6, 2020

Political Discrimination And Law Professor Hiring

James C. Phillips (Chapman), Political Discrimination and Law Professor Hiring, 12 N.Y.U. J.L. & Liberty 560 (2019):

There are comparatively few conservative and libertarian law professors on U.S. law school faculties. Why is this? One possible explanation is discrimination based on political orientation. This paper tests this using a model of discrimination based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning economists Gary Becker and Kenneth Arrow in order to measure the “rank gap”—the difference in the ranking of a hiring law school based on one’s political orientation after controlling for other predictors of that ranking (clerkships, publications, the law school one graduated from, etc.).

The paper, using matching statistical methods, finds that upon comparing conservative/libertarian law professors hired from 2001- 2010 with equally-credentialed liberal law professors, conservatives/libertarians end up, on average, at a law school ranked 12-13 spots lower (i.e., less prestigious). (See pages 36-37.) This rank gap is not uniform, being more moderate with the top 75 schools, non-existent with schools 76-100, and the largest with the lowest-ranked schools. (See page 40.) The paper finds a similar “rank gap” for law professors whose political orientation was unknown or moderate compared to their liberal peers. Thus, while there may be other mechanisms causing the dearth of conservative/libertarian law professors in the legal academy, those who do make it in the door appear to experience discrimination based on political orientation.

The paper also discusses the harms that a lack of conservative/libertarian law professors causes. Namely, legal scholarship suffers from an echo chamber; law students, particularly liberal ones, may not sufficiently learn how to make or counter conservative and libertarian arguments; and law and policy is not as strong as it could be without conservative/libertarian critiques and perspectives. (See part I.A, pages 921–30.)

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2020/08/phillips-political-discrimination-and-law-professor-hiring.html

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Comments

CONSEQUENCES

A study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill documents a campus increasingly hostile to free speech, especially for conservatives, with conservative students censoring themselves out of fear that expressing their true beliefs might upset their overwhelmingly liberal professors and lead to retaliation or poor reviews, or that they will be ostracized by many of their largely liberal peers.

The study concluded that "the current campus does not consistently promote free expression and constructive dialogue across the political spectrum," and that "although students across the political spectrum report facing challenges related to free expression, these challenges seem to be more acute for students who identify as conservative."

Indeed, it showed that students who label themselves conservatives are much more concerned about openly expressing their views with faculty because of a concern about retaliation or poor reviews.

"Most alarmingly," the report states, "the proportion of self-identified conservatives who censored themselves at least once (67.9%) is almost 3 times as large as the proportion of self-identified liberals who did the same (24.1%)."

The report, entitled "Free Expression and Constructive Dialogue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," also showed that the tendency of the university to make students more liberal in their thinking is about twice as strong as the tendency to lead them to more conservative views.

These new findings are consistent with a Gallup poll showing that most students believe that they can no longer speak freely because of a small minority of speech-intolerant students and faculty.

For example, some 90% of students at Pomona believe that they cannot speak openly and freely. In that study, 9 out of 10 students said that "the campus climate prevents them from saying something others might find offensive."

Even more alarming, almost 2/3rds of their faculty reportedly feel the same way.

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Aug 6, 2020 6:26:24 AM

Funny how John conveniently forgets the conservative attacks on academic freedom at UNC Chapel Hill Law by various billionaires' think tanks. I guess the politically forced closure of UNC's Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity just isn't as serious as conservative students reporting feeling restrained in a survey. Way to stand up for academic freedom, John!

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 6, 2020 4:46:57 PM

UT: "Way to stand up for academic freedom, John!"

When have you ever done that here? And maybe you could cite some evidence, any evidence, that the UNC Center actually reduced poverty or expanded opportunity? That would be great to see, honestly.

Meanwhile, over at Cornell, Prof. William Jacobsen and other conversative teachers have been targeted with harassment and threats of violence for years, because they dared to hold public opinions that the mob didn't like.

Posted by: MM | Aug 6, 2020 7:45:05 PM

Quote: "The paper also discusses the harms that a lack of conservative/libertarian law professors causes. Namely, legal scholarship suffers from an echo chamber; law students, particularly liberal ones, may not sufficiently learn how to make or counter conservative and libertarian arguments; and law and policy is not as strong as it could be without conservative/libertarian critiques and perspectives."

And what about another factor—perhaps these liberal professors are wrong and need to change their minds rather than just adopt better arguments for their POV.

Posted by: Mike Perry | Aug 7, 2020 5:39:12 AM

"...conservative attacks on academic freedom at UNC Chapel Hill Law by various billionaires' think tanks. I guess the politically forced closure of UNC's Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity just isn't as serious as conservative students reporting feeling restrained in a survey."

Law schools are not ipso facto tools and instruments of progressive programs. Their fundamental and core purpose is to educate students about the law. When they stray from that core purpose into the former they should be reined back in.

Posted by: G Joubert | Aug 7, 2020 6:49:13 AM

"When have you ever done that here? And maybe you could cite some evidence, any evidence, that the UNC Center actually reduced poverty or expanded opportunity? "

Oh, I see - there should be a litmus test to see if that sort of speech and advocacy should be allowed on campus. Got it. Just like the Constitution says! [rolls eyes]

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 7, 2020 8:41:53 AM

Talk about an echo chamber--comments here have become a blast of same-thinking and repetitive non-evidence-based attacks on liberals and progressives in the academy. The idea that any conservative or liberal view is 'needed' to balance a perspective for students is screwy. Good legally sound arguments based on evidence and logic are what is needed.

Posted by: TaxGal | Aug 7, 2020 1:12:14 PM