Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Yes, I Did See the New York Times Article.

I was wondering why my shoulder was hurting yesterday - turns out somebody was twisting my arm. So, yeah, I'll comment on the New York Times article.

I haven't said anything as of yet because, frankly, I haven't had very much to say. It's nice to see my friends quoted in the paper of record. Beyond that: meh. I don't find myself especially interested in the opinions of the professors in question. (Prof. Ackerman think's Alito's a "judicial radical"? I'm shocked! Shocked!) The question of what duties an institution like Yale Law owes its alumni is an interesting one (the answer, I imagine, is "whichever set of duties maximizes overall alumni giving") though it's not one the article deals with with much depth. I'm enough of a irrationalist/traditionalist/localist that I think there's some kind of duty to support one's academic kith and kin (at least, more than Will Baude and Dan Solove seem to) though I don't think it's especially strong. Maybe a tie-breaker, maybe a reason to be less vocal in your opposition or more vocal in your support.

The thing that bugged me most in the article was what Dean Koh had to say:
The earlier nominations were a turning point for the law school, said Harold Hongju Koh, the current dean.

"This kind of self-awareness of Yale's prominence really emerged for the first time with the Bork and Thomas hearings," Dean Koh said. "The U.S. News rankings started in 1987, too, and we've been at the top of those rankings ever since."

A spokesman for U.S. News & World Report said the law schools at Yale and Harvard were tied in the 1987 rankings. There were no rankings the next two years. In every year since, Yale has claimed the top spot.

The law school at Yale accepts about 6 percent of those who apply, and 87 percent of those who are accepted attend, Dean Koh said. It has about 195 students a year, about a third as many as Harvard.
Now, I'll admit the possibility that Dean Koh's full interview was a parade of insightful, on-point commentary on the subject at hand, and that the reporter merely cherry-picked the banal, anodyne attempts to schill for the law school presented. It's been known to happen. And I understand the pressures that Koh is under, both in his capacity as dean (too strong a statement in either direction risks alienating alumni donors) and personally (as a potential future Court nominee himself, he might want to avoid controversial statements that could later be used against him). But: still. Couldn't we have gotten something slightly more substantive? Are we at the point where we can eliminate "law school dean" as a position from which public intellectuals can plausibly be drawn?