Saturday, September 21, 2013

The most silent voice of all?

Sorry for the lack of posts from me, but I've been rather busy at work.

But there's a thought I've had for a while now, and I think it's worth a few minutes of my time to share.

We've heard from countless law school applicants, law students, law professors, and practicing attorneys.  We know their standard arguments for the status quo or for change.  But there's one group that has stayed remarkably silent - professors outside law.  Those PhD mathematicians who studied their subject for a decade after high school, contributed to original research (rather than the regurgitated drivel of most law professors), and earned their titles.  Those PhD engineers who are legitimately choosing the relative poverty of academia over industry.  The linguists who are teaching the next generation of diplomats and Peace Corps workers, all of whom spent countless years living and working abroad to master their chosen field.  The biologists who work at the forefront of genetics and microbiology in university labs, the chemists, physicists, and social workers who are making our lives better each and every day?

You, and just about every other professor outside law, put in a massive amount of effort into getting to where you are today.  So why are you not outraged over the fact that a group of privileged, arrogant, unqualified and overpaid colleagues of yours over at the campus law school are gold plated treatment while you play second fiddle?

Why are you not screaming at your provost about this?  You earned your right to be called a professor.  The law "professors" took a three year extended undergraduate degree, proofread work for a judge for a year or lived the life of Riley in a Wall Street law firm for a year, and consider themselves on the same level as you?  After your years of undergrad study, your five years for the PhD, the late nights, the research, the writing, the five years you spent as a postdoc?  And you're being overtaken by a twenty-five year old who just happened to buy his way into an Ivy law school for three years?

Personally, I would be disgusted.

So where are you?  Why have you all stayed so silent?  Why do you accept the bar being set so low for law professors?  Most of you are lucky to get an office, some are thankful for enough chairs in a decrepit classroom for your oversubscribed classes and a whiteboard marker that works.  Why are you not disgusted by the oak-paneled luxury of the law school?  The new carpets in the law school every two years?  (Carpets?  Yes, they have carpets, not dirty plastic floor tiles.)  The spending on the law library while you're struggling to get standard texts in the main library?  The million dollar high-tech renovated moot court room while you can't even get a television that was made later than the 1980s?

Why are you content to be second class citizens?

What has your academic administration told you?  That you need the law school because it pays for your new computers in the math department?  That you'd be taking pay cuts if it were not for the profit generated by the law school that is fed to your second-class subjects like computer science or psychology?

Because if so, if you've been content to let the law school "professors" call the shots over the past twenty years because of their prestige and ability to bring in high-paying students, then why are you now still silent while the prestige of your university's law school plummets below that of the janitorial department?  Law schools are rapidly becoming an albatross around the neck of many colleges.  The tables are turning, and soon the law school will be begging for money at the door of your department.  Are you prepared to give them money?


  1. Non-law academic here. People don't really have much of an idea whats happening in other departments. Even if we did we would go screaming to the Dean or Provost about it.

    If Law Schools can get their students to pay outrageous sums to attend, that's their business. In fact, if we could get our students to do the same, we would. Who wouldn't want law professor salaries? If you could convince your clients to pay more money, wouldn't you?

    And by the way, non-law academia isn't quite as you describe it. It's not so squalid. Tuitions have risen fast in the past two decades. We certainly aren't using televisions from the 1980s. Sure, most professors want higher salaries and more funding, but we're pretty cushy, if not law professor cushy.

    The truth is all Higher Ed is becoming a scam. And its not just law schools or for-profit schools. Non-profits get "profit" by giving themselves funding and perks. Even in the sciences. Conferences are being held at 5 star hotels with dinners at Michelin starred restaurants using government money for cancer research, HIV, you name it. Researchers get huge budges to buy every top shelf Apple gadget. All scientists are not selfless monks seeking to uplift mankind. Some are just as bad as law professors if not worse. Law professors don't lie about research to get published in prestigious journals, when that false research will form the flawed basis for research into deadly diseases. Fraudulent research is rampant in the top peer-reviewed journals for biological sciences and chemistry. (Physics, less so).

    In humanities, you will find a parallel universe of scam decrying and hand-wringing in other blogs and websites. Try the Chronicle of Higher Ed's forums. Or here:

    And by the way, there's "not enough jobs" for PhDs, masters students in the humanities or sciences or engineering. We have no shortage of scientists and engineers, as our politicians and media like to deceptively claim. There's massive overproduction, and it isn't just in law.

    1. True, but other disciplines (aside from medicine) are still paid less than law professors, all premised on the idea that the law professor could command a higher salary in private practice while the English professor could not.

      In most cases, this is bogus. The law professor is getting paid 3-4x market value while the English professor is maybe getting 1-2x market value.

      While they're both scams, the law professor scam is more egregious.

    2. Sorry I put in the wrong link, should've been:

    3. 10:53. I don't see much sympathy for profs in general in the post. He's just pointing out to regular professors that their LawProf counterparts are getting a better deal. If it wakes up a few regular profs and makes them realize that they are getting a second rate deal, great. Anyone complaining that law profs are overpaid and under qualified is a friend of ours, especially as we as a movement have been highly reluctant to be part of any more general student reform movement. We need allies. I don't think Cooper is suggesting for one minute that regular profs are victims here.

  2. According to Paul Campos, the subsidization of the rest of campus by law schools has been widespread. Also, the cries for "social justice" by law professors are particularly strident, all the more so because they have to make up for not having anything to do all day.

  3. The same scam as the law school scam goes on, in less extreme forms, in academic departments. There are lots of articles about the long road to a PhD, in which the earning gains in your 20s are lost, followed by a competitive race for few academic jobs, followed by adjunct teaching, minimum wage jobs, etc.

    Even in science, PhD overproduction is a problem:

    And, what does it mean to win the race to the top of the heap? If you are a professor at Harvard, life is probably pretty good. But, what if you are a professor at an obscure State University? You need to do research -- that's what they hired you for, and if you don't, you won't get tenure and then YOU are on the adjunct path. But to do research you need grad students, so you need to have a PhD program. But, San Jose State hires Harvard grads as professors, not State U PhDs. So, what becomes of all those state U PhDs? You have to work students for 5 years, and then watch them become underemployed. Fun, huh?

    The things that make the PhD scam less terrible than the law school scam are (1) less debt (in general); and (2) better job prospects. Even if PhDs are underemployed, they in general aren't completely jobless. Lower debt and actual employment are huge advantages, even if they are consolation prizes.

  4. The PhD scam is terrible in how much time it can suck out of a person's career for naught. A guy I knew in undergrad spent like 7 years getting dicked around in the system (at a top school in his discipline) before he threw in the towel and found something else to do. My impression is that if you don't have a good faculty mentor (whatever they're called), you're basically screwed. Another woman I know has a PhD in a field that's "in demand" according to our Dear Leaders, but is now in year 5 post-PhD of moving from place to place trying to land a permanent position, basically the PhD form of hustling.

    I hate saying this, but a lot of PhD candidates would probably be better off playing the Georgetown/Virginia/Cornell law school lottery. The term in BigLaw would suck, but they'd make as much in three years as they have in the last decade being academics.

  5. I think you missed the boat on this, Charles. As a previous poster said, higher education is an overpriced scam in itself, whether it be a law or PhD degree. I don't know what university you attended, but my undergraduate professors were not poor paupers - they were well-to-do individuals who had pretty cushy lifestyles compared to the average American - not a lot to complain about there. And I attended a public university that wasn't particularly noteworthy. As long as higher education is financed through unregulated and federally backed student loans, higher education costs will continue to skyrocket and a select group of individuals who are making their money off the backs of their students will continue to benefit.

    Yeah, there is always someone higher paid, but your sympathy with anyone who has a professor job in higher education is misplaced, Charles. Law school professors may be the worst of the bunch, but it certainly doesn't mean the rest of 'em are innocent paupers. I appreciate your effort to try to drum up support for this issue by focusing on the self-interest of a specific group of people, but your focus is misplaced and is better served focusing on another group of people who actually have something to complain about.

    By the way, I second what 5:45am said. There is a massive overproduction of all sorts of degrees - science, humanities, etc. I am not sure why it is being billed as a shortage of graduates in the sciences, etc. I know lots of engineers and science degree holders that can't get decent jobs due to the oversupply.

  6. A few articles of interest to our Michigan readers:

  7. My dad's been a college professor for 30 years at the same institution, and he has run himself ragged yelling at Provosts, Presidents, Deans, about policies that put students and education last. His colleagues in his departments are no different.

    Like the overwhelming majority of colleges, his school has spent enormous amounts of money selling the country club life to rich kids,improving the nationally recognized basketball team, ballooning the bullshit staff rolls (non-teachers), teaching classes on pop art of the 20th century, while marginalizing anyone who smells of weakness. And weakness to these people being an unflagging commitment to one's students.

    My dad spent his summer raising money and creating an ad-hoc scholarship program for students in his department whose return to school/ family finances were being jeopardized by skyrocketing tuition. Then he let some scumbag Dean of fuck all take credit for all his work, because the scumbag's name on it meant it would be implemented without question and his students would be aided immediately.

    My dad accepted a nomination to a position he despised, for no money, and no gratitude - head of the faculty senate - just so he could try and control costs for students.

    And FWIW, I know that he and his colleagues in his departments agree wholeheartedly with the broad sentiments and conclusions of this blog.

    He's also got a child, me, who got scammed hard by law school. Every time he's got a student who wants to go to law school, he sends that student my way so I can talk him/her out of it.

    What I tell him, and what I think is lacking in the movement whether it's law school or undergrad, is an alliance between faculty and students to force specific changes in policy. But let's face it, you'd have to be pretty engaged as a student, and you'd need lots and lots of them to make it work - a super-majority ready to hold a line of "do not raise tuition or we're not coming back."

    Point is: the scammers are making small fortunes on this stuff - fortunes they could not make in a competitive marketplace unsupported by annual infusions of hundreds of billions of dollars in credit, and they KNOW it. They will fight like their rotten lives and rotten moral centers depend upon ripping people off, because they do. You gotta go to the mat against people like that or you can't win.

    1. Great comment, thanks.

    2. Just out of curiosity, does your dad's college have a climbing wall?

    3. What's wrong with a climbing wall? It promotes fitness.

    4. A massage parlor promotes relaxation. But that doesn't mean it should be part of an institution of higher learning financed by federally backed student loans. Climbing walls, racquet ball courts, massive sports stadiums, hot tubs, and other amenities are all symbols of the Higher Education Bubble. These things are designed to attract rich students at the expense of those of more modest means. Higher tuition is one result.

    5. ROLF! Climbing wall! I love it. I don't know, but they've got a bullshit night MBA program for a mere 60k. Sign right up!

  8. Bit off-topic, but there's a prominent article in the L.A. Times today about a USC law grad with over $200,000 in debt and no legal job (other than self-employment.),0,7057189.story

  9. I am glad for the traffic on this collaborative blogging effort.

    Please look into the work of Alan Collinge and add to your list of important blogs on this site.

    Collinge has added the Rolling Stone Magazine article to his list of important news developments.

    1. Working link:

  10. Everything in America is a scam...or is about to become one soon. Charities, health care, contests, fortune telling, higher education and the beat goes on. Look at politics and this is the best we can do...and these are people who make decisions that affect all of us. Most people do not even bother to vote and why should they because they all know it is a scam. Professors included.

  11. Probably because they are too busy just trying to make it and/or maintain. Really just keeping their heada above water.

  12. Academia is very insular. The universe to a professor is his/her respective school, the main ones being Humanities & Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, Business and Law. A history professor has nothing to do with, say, a biology prof or biz school prof, though he/she will consider an anthropology prof or even a physicist or education prof to be a peer.
    An academic is someone who has a Ph.D., meaning they have written a thesis. Law profs haven't written theses, so they are not academics, they are "impostors in the temple." Most biz profs don't have Ph.D.s, so they are not academics either (unless they have a Ph.D. in something like econ.)
    Profs outside your school are basically Martians, so you don't worry about what they do. And everybody knows that Law and Biz Schools are "professional", i.e. dedicated to making money and raising the visibility of the university, and so cannot be judged by the same standards as the rest of the university.

  13. In addition to the comments above, law schools are profit centers for universities (both in the short-term and long-term as a source of rich alumni donations). As far as university administrations are concerned, the 'ordinary' professors are just a bunch of not very productive (lucrative) workers complaining about the lush treatment given to the people who pull in large sums of cash.

    It'd be like the low-profit group at a Wall St firm complaining about how lavishly the traders at an incredibly high-profit group are being treated.

  14. It's actually not surprising that academic professors, especially PhDs, don't care much about politics, activism or changing things. they're professionals in what they do, study, and that's a good thing. They mind their own business and don't let other people's titles bother them.

    Law school professors are not gold plated, and they're only respected by people who are ignorant of law, and their students, they're what they are worth, their degree and experience, some have more some have less. The word professor doesn't mean much, and PhDs don't resent other people being called it, because they have something better, DOCTOR, and their research at their fingertips.

    Non-law professors are silent about law schools or status quos, the same way and reason anybody is, it just doesn't concern them.