How Should Universities (Especially Law Schools) Treat The Powerful?
Jacob Levy has a two-part series on how we honor powerful people, starting with the issue of confederate monuments and then moving on to how we should treat people who worked for the government to do bad stuff. One of the core arguments is that we generally give powerful people too much credit, honor, and respect, so trends that cut back against that are probably good. I think he has persuaded me that this is correct. (I’m reminded as well of this recent article by Leah Litman, which I’ve been trying to find the time and words to write about, and may return to in another post.)
I wanted to highlight a couple of paragraphs from Levy’s second essay because they are especially relevant to how law schools operate:
The shared media culture of the days of Walter Cronkite is long gone; there are now paid media niches available to match the polarization and fragmentation of American politics. Why slink offstage in disgrace when there’s a living to be made continuing to denounce Trump’s enemies?
In light of all that, consider the institutions that thrive on prestige and proximity to power: not only think tanks and lobbying firms but also corporate boards, elite media such as the New York Times, elite universities, and the celebrity-intellectual circuit of ideas festivals and televised debates. It’s tempting and easy for such institutions to conflate openness to different ideas and ideological perspectives with bestowing prestige, honors, and money on the powerful, regardless of what political agenda they served with their power.
In the case of the university, this is the difference between maintaining academic freedom for students or faculty members who advance a range of ideological positions and awarding honorary degrees or prestigious platforms, such as commencement addresses or endowed lectures, to persons whose claim to fame just consists of their time in politics and public office. Students and faculty members must be free to argue in favor of (for example) closed borders and the end of rights of asylum and refuge. They should also be free, in their various clubs and departments, to invite speakers to a campus to advocate those ideas. But should the architects of the family separation policy— not only Nielsen but also John Kelly, Chad Wolf, and the ideologists in the background Steve Bannon and Steven Miller— be honored for their careers? Should they receive visiting university fellowships for distinguished public servants or asked t
Article from Latest – Reason.com