Glimpses into yesterday's ITLSS inbox:
Six hours later:Hey Professor,Here is the article about the [Fordham] Con Law Professor giving his students a multiple choice exam that had been sitting online for everyone to see all semester (w/ answers) that I had written to you about earlier. Not as hard hitting an article as I would've written, but it covers the basics.The school's 'solution' (substituting grades from other classes, many of which are easy A 2 credit courses) essentially gifts 80 out of 400 members of the class a better than median grade on the only curved and 4 semester credit class of the semester. You can imagine the consternation this is causing amidst the viciously competitive job market.I see that there was no good solution here, (although giving students the option of a P would have made more sense than allowing them to replace their grade with the grades of non-curved classes) the section in question already suffered 6 weeks of aggravation and stress. What bothers me is the stunning lack of accountability for the Professor who couldn't be bothered to accomplish his one concrete job for the semester. No reprimand, no apology, no consequences. He's an old man who clearly is no longer fit to teach and collect his large chunk of federal loan payments.
Hey Professor, so they have already bowed to public pressure and instituted what looks like a pass/fail, and did so by invoking one of your favorites - the 'balancing test'. They "very much regret the situation" but have announced zero disciplinary measures or repercussions for the highly paid Professor who caused all of this.Four hours after that:
I regularly read ILSS and wanted to get your thoughts on a situation that has occurred at my law school (University of Arizona). I am a 1L and was enrolled last semester in civil procedure. During the course of the semester it was clear to everybody in the class that our professor was not up to snuff. I'm not just talking about quickly brushing off topics or being hard to reach outside of class; I'm referring to basic deviations from professional norms that we are all held to. In the first week of class alone, the professor was late twice, each time students went to her office to find her asleep at her desk . . .
[Long tale of incompetence and subsequent shenanigans related to grading redacted for privacy reasons. Short version: Prof put on administrative leave and the administration is trying to figure out what to do with the class's grades]
The administration is working to come up with a solution that will only help the students (which I predict will look like everybody above median will keep their grade and everybody below median will switch their grade to a pass). My question for you is: do you think the class should press the school to refund our money for the course (at least partially)? The school treated the class like just another expense and took a risk by putting this "professor" in the classroom. The risk did not pan out as they would have liked, but the students are the ones that are skirting the costs and not the school. Any insight that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
These sorts of incidents are perfectly predictable consequences of an increasingly out of control system, which features less and less accountability for those who exploit and are exploited by it. Law schools charge prices completely unrelated to the value of law degrees because they can. Students borrow sums of money completely unrelated to their subsequent ability to pay that money back because they can. Professors get away with metaphorical murder because they can.
From the look of it I doubt this Fordham guy puts ten hours a week into his "job," and his behavior is hardly unusual, as anyone who works at a law school is perfectly well aware. Yes lots of law professors work hard. Lots don't. After a few initial observations on this theme I haven't pursued it, because it's marginal to the central problem, and references to it become a distraction, since apparently nothing upsets the average law faculty member more than the suggestion that law faculty on average don't work very hard. But in any case it's a side issue: Even if every law prof in America published 100,000 words a year and spent 30 hours per week preparing for classes that wouldn't by itself lower any graduate's debt load or get anyone a job.
Still it's true that the non-work habits of professors are one outcome of the egregious featherbedding that is a prime consequence of having tripled real tuition since the 1980s: it's not an exaggeration to point out that it would possible to get rid of half the faculty at most law schools with no significant loss of educational quality. (Doing so would merely return faculty student ratios to what they were in 1980). And that of course has consequences for long-term reform: a few months ago somebody posted on I forget which law prof blog about a "no-frills" model law school that would charge only $20,000 per year year in tuition, obviously without realizing that no law school anywhere charged even that much (in constant, inflation-adjusted dollars) as recently as the early 1980s.
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