Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chemerinsky vs. Tamanaha on Tutition Costs

I was reading the latest defense of the Law School Cartel, and had to take a break from student woes for a minute.  I remember having to bludgeon my way through Mr. Chemerinsky's con law text book for two semesters way back when, and not surprisingly, I find his defenses equally obtuse now.  Ladies and Gentlemen, "You Get What You Pay For":


Some of my favorite parts:

“Tamanaha is correct that law professors are paid significantly more than university faculty in disciplines like English, philosophy and history. Imagine that a law school tried to pay at that level, say roughly half of current faculty salaries at top law schools. Who would come and teach at a school where they got paid half what other law schools would pay them, and who would stay there when other opportunities arose?”

Imagine!  Who, indeed, would deign to teach for such six-figure paltry scraps by slumming it with the Philosophy department?  By the way, Erwin, the problem you’re talking about is called “price-fixing”.  UC Irvine could take the moral high road and “lead the way,” or something. 

About half of our budget is faculty salaries and benefits, but even slicing these in half wouldn't save nearly enough for a tuition decrease like the one Tamanaha argues for. The only way to accomplish that would also be to cut the size of the faculty at least in half. Increasing the teaching load from an average of three to four courses won't help much, since I and many on our faculty are already teaching four or more courses every year.”

Indeed!  A crushing burden!  You might have to actually forego a conference or something, and some people might have to (gasp) look for and compete for a job!  Someone, stop the madness!

“Cutting a law faculty in half would require relying far more on relatively low-cost adjunct faculty. Tamanaha's assumption is that relying on practitioners rather than professors to teach more classes won't compromise the quality of the education students receive. Here I think he is just wrong. There are certainly some spectacular adjunct professors at every law school, and they play a vital role. But as I see each year when I read the student evaluations at my school, overall the evaluations for the full-time faculty are substantially better than they are for the adjuncts. It is easy to understand why. Teaching is a skill, and most people get better the more they do it. Moreover, full-time faculty generally have more time to prepare than adjunct professors who usually have busy practices.”

The legal logic here is indeed mighty – “Here I think he is just wrong.”  Stand back, everybody!  Bask in the glory of those high-dollar “thinking-like-a-lawyer” skills everybody touts so much!

Ah well - the long slide towards the reverse-democratization of (legal) education continues.  Let's get down to Brass Tacks:  Law School (and most of higher education) is about the feedback loop of educating the well-to-do, so that they in turn support the school.  If it were actually about making, say, legal education affordable and/or accessable to the masses, then the "presteige quotient" collapses and well-to-do will not be showing up because they don't really care how much tuition is in the first place.  Defending liberty and pursuing justice will always take a back seat to "keeping things in the family," per se.

A little honesty would go a long way, and would allow non-trads and regular students both to make more informed decisions.  But, somebody's gotta get bilked, you know - how else would the economy function?      

1 comment:

  1. Chemerinisky is a dog. He is a truly clueless academic. When a person says "I think he is just wrong" - and does not provide any reason for their belief - then that thought is pretty worthless. It shows that the person uttering this line has no real case or argument.