Monday, August 15, 2011

Other barriers to communication

The following comment from a law student isn't posting for some reason.  I thought it was particularly perceptive:


Another aspect of the 4th issue you've identified [the rationalization in the face of law student and law graduate unhappiness that "The law is a learned profession and the study of it is a personally enriching experience, not merely a way to make a buck"] is that professors are likely out of touch with student dynamics. Law students are generally under the impression that doing anything other than kissing up and thanking profs for their transformative brilliance will result in a dearth of recommendations. Few of us are willing to see what happens if we tell our real-life profs what we actually think.

Law profs usually don't treat us like future colleagues who might have something to bring to the academy. Why should they, when they rely on the gate-keeping function of the job market to keep our pesky questions at bay? It's easy for profs to brush our discontent aside as a sign that we're potentially loony, obsessive, or unaware of "how things work." And, at least at my T-30 law school, profs' assumption that we'd be telling them if we really had doubts contains (unintentionally) sexist dimensions. Male students are just gunners if they want to talk to profs outside class, but female gunners also risk classmates' comments that we're trying to draw attention to ourselves and sleep with our profs if we dare to express anything dissonant. If we can't talk to you to tell you that our lives aren't getting sufficiently enriched given the lack of jobs, that we need to find some way to step it up a little for our $160k, we're going to be even more dissatisfied as graduates.

A legal academy without dialogue is inherently disrespectful to the study and practice of law. Law profs should be on the front lines of creating an environment where students and faculty alike can examine the problems confronting the field. Anonymous grading isn't enough because profs aren't doing the heavy lifting to apply it as a mechanism to support debate without retaliation. Before profs go about congratulating themselves on their successes, they should consider whether they've earned students' respect. Profs have to win our trust if they want us to tell them what's wrong while they can still do something about it.

It's a mark of genuine friendship, or at least common goals, if we decide to stop by office hours and break our silence. When profs demonstrate that our complaints will not be ignored or dismissed, and when profs have the courtesy to avoid drawing burgeoning lines of communication into the open, they actually make a difference. Blogging right before the academic year is also a very productive choice. I hope this project will continue to spark genuine discussion.

15 comments:

  1. Yeah your comment system is having problems as some of my comments haven't been posted either. You might want to see if you have a "block spam comments" option checked or something.

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  2. I hesitate to offer legal advice to a law professor, but here goes. You do realize, I hope, that if any student at your school sues your school, asserting as grounds the grounds you have asserted on this blog, he or she will be able to discover your name and compel you to testify on his or her behalf. Your tenure will not protect you from what is likely to happen next.

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  3. Ted, I see you've joined the chorus of professors threatening this blogger in the hopes of shutting him down. Your behavior leads me to wonder if the problem isn't merely a scam, but rather an all out conspiracy.

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  4. Guess we've discovered the limits of academic freedom.

    I would have expected a professor from the home of Loyola 2L to be more circumspect than to appear here, concern-trolling about LawProf's rice-bowl.

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  5. Mr. Seto-
    Obviously, this Prof has thought about the risks and decided to go ahead anyway. I know that kind of boldness is rare among legal/academic types, so I guess the only explanation you could come up with is stupidity. Not everyplace is like your corner of the world, and not everyone is a total coward when is comes to desperately holding on to their salary.

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  6. From the post:

    *************
    If we can't talk to you to tell you that . . . we need to find some way to step it up a little for our $160k, we're going to be even more dissatisfied as graduates.
    **************

    "Our $160K"?

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  7. Craven cowardice and greed, thy name is Seto. Types like you will be the first ones up against the wall.

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  8. Ted, if something isn't done to fix this crisis, your tenure won't protect you when the entire law school industry collapses.

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  9. I also have to add, Ted, how shocked I am that your only concern is the litigation this professor could face. Have you no concern for your students? In a few months, ten thousand young people will graduate from law school, but will never practice law. Where is your concern for them?

    This blog and others like it should be mandatory for law professors. You need to see what is going on with your students, the ones who aren't rock stars. This is real and it is a problem. It might not be your problem yet, but it will be someday. O.k., it might never be your problem. You might retire before the bottom really falls out. But is this what you want your legacy to be?

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  10. Here, let me answer that for him. "I won't give a good goddamn, because I got mine."

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  11. If anyone doubted you were a mid-career tenured professor, your trouble with blog technology should put that doubt to rest.

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  12. Why would you not link to the scamblogs in the sidebar?

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  13. I am a former tax student of Prof. Seto's and I am shocked by his response. Hopefully he meant something like "You're doing the right thing but please be careful because . . ." and not "You better stop or we will destroy you by way of . . ."

    Ted seriously, wth?

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  14. Prof. Seto,
    Why don't you and the rest of Loyola's professors spend a little less time making threats on blogs, and a little more time finding jobs for your graduates.
    Thank you,
    Unemployed Loyola Graduate

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  15. At August 15, 2011 11:49 AM , Anonymous Theodore Seto said...

    I hesitate to offer legal advice to a law professor, but here goes. You do realize, I hope, that if any student at your school sues your school, asserting as grounds the grounds you have asserted on this blog, he or she will be able to discover your name and compel you to testify on his or her behalf. Your tenure will not protect you from what is likely to happen next.

    ***

    Pompous ass.

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