Recently in Academia Category

The Pro-Criminal Slant, Unabated

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I wrote recently about the extremist views of the legal academy  --  views that, as a whole, are more liberal than any other segment of the legal profession, including public defenders and civil rights lawyers.

One might think that, if liberalism in the original sense still survived, there would be some attempt to correct this imbalance.  But one would need to think again.  My Georgetown colleague, Prof. Nick Rosenkranz (one of a handful of conservatives on the faculty), notes on the Volokh Conspiracy:

John McGinnis has an excellent post over at Library of Law and Liberty (and cross-posted at our new Heterodox Academy), highlighting the rigid liberal orthodoxy of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). AALS has just sent around the notice of its 2016 annual meeting, highlighting its "Speakers of Note." As Prof. McGinnis points out: "Of the thirteen announced, none is associated predominantly with Republican party, but eleven are associated with the Democratic Party. Many are prominent liberals. None is a conservative or libertarian." McGinnis argues that the conference would profit from including some other perspectives.

As Nick shows, liberals talk a good game about diversity of views.  They just never actually seem to do anything about it.
If you follow SSRN or any site featuring legal academics, you cannot help but notice that "scholarly" articles essentially always favor the defense.  Of course, some of them are thoughtful, and some essentially unhinged, see, e.g., here and here.

But one way or the other, they inevitably favor the defense.


The End of Seriousness

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I was initially going to introduce this post as off-topic, but on second thought, it is regrettably relevant to C&C's subject matter.  We deal here with crime and punishment.  These are serious topics, and discussing them presupposes a level of seriousness in the conversation.

There is now evidence that the level of seriousness needed for intelligent debate has vanished  --  or, more correctly, has been forfeited.  You will not be surprised to learn that the origin of this step back to ignorance is academia.

The University of Tennessee  --  hardly a fly-by-night operation  --  is now urging its students to pretend that they cannot tell the difference between boys and girls, and, if they must pretend they know it anyway, that their speech elide the distinction.

Here's the start of the story:

In the boldest endorsement of a growing national trend, the University of Tennessee is urging incoming students and teachers to junk references to "he," "she," and "them," in favor of gender-neutral "ze" and "xe."

The University has helpfully published a chart for those who have trouble getting their Minds Right.
William Sousa has an article in the City Journal with the above title, subtitled, A response to Broken Windows critic Bernard Harcourt.  Sousa is the co-author, with George Kelling, of an NYPD research report on the efficacy of Broken Windows policing.

For the better part of two decades, Columbia University law professor Bernard Harcourt has been on a personal crusade against Broken Windows policing, criticizing both its theoretical underpinnings and its policy applications. A close look at Harcourt's work, however, reveals not only the weaknesses of his arguments but also his lack of attention to other research findings that conflict with his own. His portrayal of Broken Windows policing, it turns out, is fundamentally inaccurate and incomplete. In effect, Harcourt creates and then fights a paper tiger.

By way of background, Broken Windows is a policing tactic that emphasizes the police management of minor offenses. The authors of the Broken Windows hypothesis--George L. Kelling and the late James Q. Wilson--always maintained that Broken Windows policing should encourage proper discretion on the part of officers. Kelling in particular has discussed the importance of discretion when it comes to maintaining order, as in a recent article in Politico, where he indicates that arrest should be the last option when managing minor offenses.
The misrepresentation of Broken Windows policing as "zero tolerance" policing, encouraging arrests for minor offenses, is an important element of the campaign against it.  When you can't win with the truth, you have to make stuff up.
...remember this, from yesterday's Washington Post:  "Major publisher retracts 64 scientific papers in fake peer review outbreak."

Pro-criminal academics and their allies ceaselessly congratulate themselves on how dedicated they are to reason and research, while looking down their noses at those of us on the Archie Bunker side.  Salon recently made an explicit point of this, as I discussed here.

The only thing that's hard to figure is whether the arrogance of these people overmatches their dishonesty.

The Politicization of Academia

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The WSJ has this editorial:

Academics claim to revere open debate but often recoil when they see the genuine article. Witness the campaign some scholars--loosely defined--are waging against Heather Mac Donald for challenging university pieties about a recent surge in violent crime.
*                                        *                                     *

The American Society of Criminology claims to pursue "scholarly, scientific, and professional knowledge," but a better description of its priorities is one-sided inquiry and activist politics.

Earlier this year former ASC president Joanne Belknap of the University of Colorado at Boulder published a call for "criminology activism" among crime experts, citing their responsibility to "advocate for social and legal justice." The society's journal has since shifted toward papers that downplay particular crime trends and emphasize a policy agenda that opposes broken-windows policing or much attention to black-on-black violence. In the process it has abandoned its old role as a forum for a healthy clash of ideas.

The Left Goes Bonkers, Part II

In my original "The Left Goes Bonkers," I described a theory that the Just Compensation Clause entitles criminals to whitewash their record and fabricate their resumes' by just making stuff up (or composing "from whole cloth," as the theorist candidly acknowledged).

I had no idea that, instead of merely whitewashing one's prior stint in prison, the Left would come up with the idea of whitewashing  --  or more correctly, eliminating altogether  --  prison itself.

And no, I am not making this up.  The idea is advanced by Prof. Allegra McLeod of Georgetown University Law Center.  If Prof. McLeod has missed a single liberal shibboleth, I haven't been able to think of it.  Below is one paragraph from the abstract of her piece (courtesy of SL&P):

[T]his Article explores a form of grounded preventive justice neglected in existing scholarly, legal, and policy accounts. Grounded preventive justice offers a positive substitutive account of abolition that aims to displace criminal law enforcement through meaningful justice reinvestment to strengthen the social arm of the state and improve human welfare.  This positive substitutive abolitionist framework would operate by expanding social projects to prevent the need for carceral responses, decriminalizing less serious infractions, improving the design of spaces and products to reduce opportunities for offending, redeveloping and "greening" urban spaces, proliferating restorative forms of redress, and creating both safe harbors for individuals at risk of or fleeing violence and alternative livelihoods for persons subject to criminal law enforcement.  By exploring prison abolition and grounded preventive justice in tandem, this Article offers a positive ethical, legal, and institutional framework for conceptualizing abolition, crime prevention, and grounded justice together.

I am seldom left speechless, but this time...................

Academia, Still Stark Raving Mad

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Law eventually will go where elite academia goes, which is why I do occasional entries on the latter. The following story about academia is a classic, so to speak. It's titled, "Columbia Students Claim Greek Mythology Needs a Trigger Warning":

The Greek myth [the Rape of Persephone] has been recounted for thousands of years in hundreds of languages, scores of countries and countless works of art. It's considered a cultural touchstone for Western civilization: a parable about power, lust and grief.

Now, however, it could be getting a treatment it's never had before: a trigger warning.

In an op-ed in the student newspaper, four Columbia University undergrads have called on the school to implement trigger warnings -- alerts about potentially distressing material -- even for classics like Greek mythology or Roman poetry.

"Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom," wrote the four students, who are members of Columbia's Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board. "These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background."

And no, I am not making this up.  I couldn't make it up.

Satire vs. Reality

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Kent posted earlier today about how difficult it has become to tell satire from reality. His subject was what remains of freedom of speech on campus.

In a matter of hours, I stumbled across the following.  It's from a New Age piece about how we can fix inequality.  The basic suggestion is that we should abolish the family, since childhood experience tells much of the tale about where a kid will wind up, and where he winds up is likely to be unequal to where some other kid winds up. And no, this is not something I imagined.  Unfortunately, it's not satire, either:

One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.'

'What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn't need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people's children'. . .

'The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don't--the difference in their life chances--is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don't,' he says.

This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion--that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted.

This kind of stuff is enough to make Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby look sober.

Education Today

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Here is a news item pointed out by Eugene Volokh:

BOSTON--Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college's academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. "As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it's inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion," said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus. "Whether it's a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here." Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.
This is, of course, satire.  The report is from the Onion.  But it is only one step more absurd than reality.

Academia, Still Stark Raving Mad

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About four months ago, I discussed demands by law students at Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown law schools (full disclosure:  I teach part time at Georgetown) for a postponement of exams because of the "trauma" they were experiencing from a couple of news stories, most prominently the failure to indict Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson for murder.  (The fact that he had not committed murder or any other crime was not considered particularly relevant).

In the class I teach, I will generally say something or other about gathering evidence before charging people with crimes.  I even occasionally mention the tiresome requirements of due process.  But I tend to be behind the times.

My anachronistic view of teaching law was highlighted again today by this story:  "If you help Freddie Gray protesters in Baltimore, you can defer an exam."

Jihad Wins on Campus

Most readers will remember the liberal reaction to 9-11:  If the country goes overboard with restrictions on liberty, the Jihadists will have won.  Yes, we need to act, we need to protect ourselves, but we also need to remember that what they hate most about us is our freedom.  They cannot defeat us with weapons.  But if we start to whittle away our own liberties, if we close our minds, that is their victory.

Remember that?

Freedom of thought and speech was once thought to be most treasured, and most fiercely protected, on campus.  If there were any place where the chill of the post 9-11 world could be fought off, it would be there.

Well, not exactly.  The American campus has become the stronghold of intolerance  --  intolerance, but with a twist.

The State of Legal Scholarship

Prof. Dorothy Brown of Emory has this op-ed in the WaPo, headlined "Law schools are in a death spiral. Maybe now they'll finally change."  The article includes this passage:

While law firms can fire lawyers, law schools cannot cut their largest expense: faculty. Most faculty have tenure, which equals lifetime job protection -- as long as the school remains open. While faculty could be part of the solution to legal education's woes, we are actually the problem.

Legal scholarship is in a terrible state, with counter-intuitive incentives for faculty. Status comes with publishing, but more publishing means less teaching and interacting with fewer students. In the legal academy, second- and third-year law students select which law professors' articles to publish; while my second and third years are brilliant, they cannot select for quality the same way experts would. But even if you think the student-run system is fine, the value of legal scholarship, which is rarely read, has its skeptics, among them Chief Justice John Roberts. Scholars at the University of Florida argue in a recent study that very few articles are cited for their ideas. This broken system is also subsidized disproportionately by the tuition dollars of poorer law students.
As additional, huge problem that is neither mentioned by Brown nor considered in the notorious USN&WR rankings is a lack of diversity of viewpoint.  When students hear nothing but one side of controversial issues for their entire time in school, what you have is not true education but Maoist indoctrination in the guise of education.  When the academic consensus on any issue with political overtones can be predicted with 100% certainty merely by identifying the Politically Correct position, the consensus no longer means anything.

A Safer Country, Credibly Reported by the NYT

I have not been shy about criticizing editorial stands in the New York Times, most recently its decision to label as "self-pitying" the NYPD's attitude of disgust with the dalliance between Mayor de Blasio and vitriolic enemies of the police, including but hardly limited to Al Sharpton.  The Times used the adjective "self-pitying" to describe the NYPD before the second murdered officer, Wenjian Liu, was even buried.  At that time and under those circumstances, I considered, and still consider, applying the label "self-pitying" to Liu's brothers on the force somewhere between callous and vile.

But credit must be given where due.  Yesterday, Erik Eckholm published a piece in that self-same NY Times noting that, with crime down so much over the last generation, some prominent people in both parties have started to think about reducing prison costs. Not surprisingly, the piece gives most of its attention to those who favor incarceration and sentencing reforms.  Still, when Mr. Eckholm spoke with me in preparing the story, I found him fair and patient, and he correctly quotes me in the article as saying, "When people are incarcerated, they're not out on the street to ransack your home or sell drugs to your high school kid."  I thought that was an apt quotation, summarizing the intuitive reason most people understand that more incarceration means less crime  -- something that has been reliably true for at least the last 50 years.

One quite useful item in the article is a sidebar graph showing the staggering crime decreases since the peak year, 1991.  It was, of course, the early Nineties when the determinate (and tougher) federal sentencing system of the Reagan era  --  copied in many states  --  started to kick in.  More criminals stayed in jail longer.

For those who want to believe that there's only an ineffably mysterious relationship between the amount of crime we get on the street and the number of criminals we take off the street  --  hey, go for it.  There is nothing I'll be able to do to change your mind.

Being Believed and the Virginia Rape Hoax

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University of Virginia Professor and Hoover Institution Fellow James Ceaser has an insightful piece in the Weekly Standard on the disgraceful "journalism" and  -- let's face it  --  copious lying that went on in the Rolling Stone's reporting of a gang rape. It's a rape that, I have come to believe from the available evidence, is a 100% hoax. It is, in that respect, like the Duke lacrosse rape hoax of a few years back: It's not just that the rape did not occur as reported; it's that it never occurred, period.  

Kent noted in this post that rape is a serious, ugly crime, and that its victims deserve justice.  I could scarcely agree more.  

What has happened in this episode shows at least two things are needed to start down the path to justice:  Go to the police instead of Rolling Stone, and tell the truth.

And one more thing.  Going on a date is not rape, getting offended is not rape, and being groped is not rape (although it is a battery).  Intercourse without consent is rape.  Words have meanings, and credibility depends upon respecting this fact.

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