Posts tagged ‘Brandeis University’

The Power of Institutional Focus

Ilya Somin wonders why some top universities don't have law schools:

It recently occurred to me that there are several big-name
universities that don't have law schools, even though a law school
established at any of those institutions would probably do well.
Princeton arguably heads this list, along with Brown, Johns Hopkins,
Rice, and Tufts. Brandeis University also doesn't have a law school
(ironically, for a prominent university named after a Supreme Court

Why these universities haven't established law schools is a bit of a
mystery (at least to me). Law schools tend to bring in net revenue for
the university. This is even more likely to be true at a big-name
institution that can quickly attract good faculty and students. If
Princeton were to establish a law school tommorrow, appoint a credible
dean, and provide adequate initial financial backing, they could very
quickly turn it into a highly successful (and profitable) enterprise.
Many good students would come just because of the Princeton name, and
most outstanding scholars who are not already at top 20 or top 30
institutions might well be willing to move to Princeton if asked.

Princeton, by the way, does not have a law school or business school or medical school.  It really tries to hold itself up as primarily and undergraduate institution, and works hard to be the premier undergraduate school in the country.  It has graduate schools only in disciplines for which there is an undergraduate degree (e.g. math, economics, chemistry, history).  I have always suspected that they maintain these graduate programs mainly because they have to to attract top academic talent to be available for their undergraduates.  Unlike any other university with which I am familiar, and certainly unlike Harvard where I also attended, graduate students at Princeton feel themselves to be second class citizens.

Somin acknowledges this a bit when he says:

Various commenters suggest that these universities choose not to
have a law school because of their desire to focus on undergraduate
education. That may indeed be the right explanation, though several of
these institutions (including Johns Hopkins, Tufts, and Rice) have
other professional schools on campus. But it doesn't strike me as a
very compelling reason not to establish a law school. If the law school
were to drain resources away form undergrad education, there might
indeed be a conflict between the two. In fact, however, a law school is
likely to bring in net revenue that could be used to improve
undergraduate education. Moreover, some law school professors
(especially at elite schools) teach courses that undergraduates might
be interested in taking, as sometimes happened at Yale, when I was a
law student there.

Even if a law school adds resources to undergrad education instead
of draining them, it's possible that its presence could detract from
undergraduate education in some other, more subtle way. But it's hard
for me to see how. If Yale Law School were closed down tomorrow, would
undergraduate education at Yale improve? Are undergraduates at Yale
currently worse off than at Princeton in some way traceable to the fact
that Yale has a law school and Princeton doesn't? Possibly. But I
remain skeptical.

I would argue that there is an important difference that you can't just get at through incremental analysis.  That is, that the management and faculty of Princeton have a culture and focus on undergraduates that universities like Harvard do not have.  Somin is right that grad schools bring in lots of money -- and so the sum of a med school and a law school and a business school and all that tuition and grant and consulting money (not to mention resultant faculty egos) is hugely distracting for an institution.  Particularly in the case of Princeton where it does not really need incremental money anyway.  Take my word for it, having attended both Harvard and Princeton, there are enormous differences in their institutional foci which have real impacts, both substantial and subtle, on undergraduate life. 

I would love to do a poll.  Ask the faculty of both Harvard and Princeton, "Which would you give up first, your university's graduate program or undergraduate program,"  I bet I know what the answer would be.

But what do I know - we Princeton grads are all nuts, anyway.

College Kids: Suck it Up

Of late, it certainly appears that many colleges have invented a new right:  The right not be be offended.  Many college speech codes still are alive and well, and the broadest of them ban any speech that any particular listener "finds offensive"  (this example at Brandeis University carries especially sweet irony).  As I have written a zillion times, bans on hate speech are usually the leading edge of attempts to apply fairly comprehensive speech controls.

So Kudos to MIddlebury's President Ronald D. Liebowitz, as quoted at FIRE, who makes what should be an obvious point, that there is no crime in speech that makes you uncomfortable.  Speech one disagrees with needs to be answered with more speech.

But greater diversity means change, and change on college campuses
is almost always difficult. Few 18 to 22 year olds are skilled in
inviting or tolerating perspectives that are vastly different from than
their own. Frankly, the same goes for 30-, 40-, and
50-something-year-old academics. Even though a campus may become more
diverse in terms of the numbers of underrepresented groups present, the
level of engagement can still be inconsequential if those representing
different viewpoints are not encouraged and supported to express them.
If an institution is not prepared to make space, figuratively speaking,
for previously excluded groups, and support their presence on campus,
its diversity efforts cannot succeed. And if the wariness about
discomfort is stronger than the desire to hear different viewpoints
because engaging difference is uncomfortable, then the quest for
diversity is hollow no matter what the demographic statistics on a
campus reflect.
In order for the pursuit of diversity to be intellectually
defensible and valuable to those seeking a first-rate education at
places like Middlebury, it needs to result in deliberation. It cannot
simply facilitate the exchange of one orthodoxy or point of view for
another. The best liberal arts education requires all voices, those of
the old order as much as those of the new, and even those in between,
to be subjected to the critical analysis that is supposed to make the
academy a distinctive institution in society.

Lots more good stuff in the speech.

Oh, the Irony

FIRE points out yet another university that is attempting to restrict speech it does not agree with, in the name of, uh, freedom or something.  The university's Student Union proposed to close down the campus humor magazine that made a joke about race relations.  The reason?

Specifically, in response to the "overtly racist, sexist, and generally
offensive articles, statements, and images published in the Spring
Issue of Gravity Magazine," and because the publication of this joke
had caused "members of our community to feel "˜unsafe,' "˜powerless,'
"˜unsupported,' "˜harassed,' and "˜threatened;'"

Now, this university is private, so I suppose as a private body they can define acceptable speech in their private confines any way they want (just as my kids dropping F bombs is legal by the first amendment, but banned in my household).  However, I fear that the folks involved do not understand that they need to leave these attitudes behind when they leave their private little cocoon university, because speech that hurts your feelings is not illegal, thank goodness, in the rest of the country. 

Unfortunately, it is almost too much to ask nowadays that universities understand that, as Louis Brandeis wrote, the best response to speech you don't like is more speech.  The rich irony comes from the fact that this occurred at ... Brandeis University.  The freaking place was named after the man who wrote:

Those who won our independence believed"¦ that freedom to think as
you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the
discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and
assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords
ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious
They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are
subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear
of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage
thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that
repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the
path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed
grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.

Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free
speech and assembly"¦ To justify suppression of free speech there must
be reasonable ground to fear that serious evil will result if free
speech is practiced"¦ [N]o danger flowing from speech can be deemed
clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so
imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full
discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the
falsehoods and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of
education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression.   (Emphasis added.)

Check out the FIRE article to learn much more about the events in question, including what the original joke was.