Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 11, 2023

A Law-School Rankings Formula After Ron DeSantis’s Own Heart

Following up on this morning's post, Methodology Changes In The New 2024 U.S. News Law School Rankings:  Chronicle of Higher Education Op-Ed:  A Law-School Rankings Formula After Ron DeSantis’s Own Heart, by Brian Soucek (UC-Davis; Google Scholar):

US News (2023)After a botched rollout in April and a monthlong delay, U.S. News & World Report is set to announce its annual law-school rankings on Thursday. This year, 42 law schools, including mine, announced plans to boycott, and in response, U.S. News has changed the basis for its rankings — in what is surely the worst way possible.  [Editor's note: 63 law schools did not submit data to U.S. News.]

At a time when public-college faculty are under unprecedented attack from politicians across the country, U.S. News has decided the moment is right to devalue faculty expertise. ...

Consider one of the world-class public law schools in a state like Florida. Soon, if Gov. Ron DeSantis has his way, that school might no longer have classes where race and the law can be truthfully discussed. It might struggle to satisfy an American Bar Association requirement that law schools educate students on “bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” The school might be hemorrhaging faculty members — especially those who are not white, straight, or cisgender, or who might get pregnant — to states that protect academic freedomLGBTQ rights, and reproductive health care. But under the new formula U.S. News has proposed, none of this is likely to affect a law school’s ranking. In fact, the school is likely to see its ranking rise — something DeSantis is sure to lord over critics who say he is destroying public education in Florida for the sake of his presidential ambitions.

Peer scores in rankings aren’t perfect. ... But assessments of law schools by law professors are far more informative.

Full disclosure: It is highly likely that this year’s reduced emphasis on peer scores will hurt my school’s ranking. [Editor's note: UC-Davis's ranking fell from 37 to 60.] UC-Davis School of Law’s reputation among our peers has always been one our great strengths as a law school. [Editor's note: UC-Davis's peer reputation fell from 3.5 to 3.4, likely caused by the decision by U.S. News to discard survey responses completed by faculty and deans from schools that boycotted the rankings.] But this hit in the rankings in no way causes me second-guess our decision to boycott. ...

The very idea of scholarly expertise is currently under attack across the country. It is troubling, if sadly not surprising, that U.S. News should be discounting it too.

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