Paul L. Caron

Monday, May 10, 2021

Northwestern Law Faculty To Vote Today On New Dean Hari Osofsky's Tenure In Controversial Search Process

Update #1:  Glenn reports that the Northwestern faculty approved Dean Osofsky's tenure

Update #2Hari M. Osofsky Named Dean of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

Update #3:  Northwestern Dean Pick Means Women Will Run Half Of The T-14 Law Schools Come Fall

Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee) reprinted a lengthy anonymous email he received, purportedly from a member of the Northwestern Law faculty, which included this email from the interim dean:  

Northwestern (2018)Sent: Friday, May 7, 2021 9:55 AM
Subject: Meeting Monday, at 10:00 a.m.: Candidacy of Professor Hari Osofsky

Dear colleagues:
I am calling a tenure-line faculty meeting for next Monday, May 10, at 10:00 a.m., for the purpose of discussing and voting on a recommendation that the Provost’s selection for our new dean, Professor Hari Osofsky, be named to the tenured faculty of the Law School. Professor Osofsky is currently the Dean of both the Law School and the School of International Affairs at Penn State. She was previously on the faculty at Minnesota Law, among other schools. She is an accomplished scholar in several fields, including international and environmental law, and, of course, an experienced administrator.

I attach to this email Professor Osofsky’s CV, and here is her webpage. Members of the search committee will also speak to her background and qualifications at the meeting.

This unusually expedited procedure is necessary, given the continuing nonpublic nature of the search. In that regard, this meeting is being held before any public announcement and before any broader internal announcement. I therefore request (as does the Provost) that you refrain from sharing this information either internally or externally and keep this confidential until the matter is concluded and such public announcements can be made.

Please let me know if you have any questions. A Zoom link will be forthcoming shortly.

James B. Speta
Interim Dean

Glenn concluded his post:

This is, for those who don’t know about such things, quite thoroughly unusual. Normally a person isn’t hired as Dean until the faculty has met that person, and voted — as a binding or non-binding recommendation to the central administration — on acceptability as Dean. The tenure vote is always up to the faculty, and it is a grave breach to threaten the faculty about it.

I have no opinion on whether Hari Osofsky would make a good Dean because I know nothing about her, which places me in the same position as the faculty expected to vote on her tenure — by non-secret ballot — on Monday. Speaking personally, were I a candidate at an institution that was behaving as described above, I would withdraw my name in the face of such tactics, as I would expect them to taint my deanship. Perhaps there is some innocent explanation for this behavior, though I can’t think of one.

Brian Leiter (Chicago), The Northwestern Law Dean Search:

There's an alarmist, and not entirely accurate, report here.  I received an anonymous e-mail to the same effect.  I do not know who sent it, or if they were even at Northwestern.  A few points: ...

[A]fter talking to a few Northwestern folks, the only "threat" I've heard of is that the Provost threatened to put the law school in receivership if the faculty torpedo the Dean search.   That's pretty autocratic behavior by the Provost, but par for the course at Northwestern, which has tended to centralize power in administrators, including Deans (recall the Van Zandt era at Northwestern Law).

So a rather too secretive process, with bad behavior by the Provost, but a rather good outcome, or so it seems to this observer.  

The relevant ABA accreditation rule is:

Standard 203. DEAN
(a) A law school shall have a full-time dean with the authority and support necessary to discharge the responsibilities of the position.
(b) Except in extraordinary circumstances, a dean shall also hold appointment as a member of the faculty with tenure.
(c) The dean shall be selected by the university or the governing board of the law school, as appropriate, which shall have and follow a procedure for decanal appointment or reappointment that assures meaningful involvement by the faculty or a representative body of the faculty in the selection of a dean.
Interpretation 203-1
Except for good cause, a dean should not be appointed or reappointed to a new term over the stated objection of a substantial majority of the faculty.

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