Friday, September 28, 2007

I Could Live Here, Yeah

One thing I like about traveling to academic conferences is that you really get to see how profs work and live. The campus tours are always nice, but even just the ride from the airport around the city gives you an idea of the local scene. Meeting Criminal Justice Prof was really nice, as was seeing his neighborhood. Seriously, if I could re-do my Blogging Across America, I would not meet my blog friends in random coffee shops or restaurants near their schools. Though that is nice, again, because you get a campus tour. But it's even better to see where and how academics live, and the local coffee shops and neighborhoods. It's a better picture of your potential future life.

Not that I don't appreciate tours of obvious landmark museums and cultural amenities, but for the most part, academics don't live in concert halls. They live in nice houses with exposed brick walls, two blocks away from great coffee shops--that serve Vietnamese Coffee! Bonus!!

It's also nice, at this non-stressful juncture when I can get away with asking questions that I might not try during AALS, to ask profs what they do in their abundant spare time. Everyone has different hobbies, but I'm excited about hiking trails and botanical gardens. I like regional arts scenes. I like tree-lined streets with brick houses.

Yeah, I could live here. I could imagine raising a family here. Of course, this is all moot, because when I go on the market I will wear a sandwich board with one side saying "Will Teach for Tenure" and the other "Have Feet, Will Travel." Of course, geographic flexibility means that I'd be happy to teach anywhere, including here.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

When September Ends

This video is unbearably cheesy. But teenage love is inherenty melodramatic and given to hyperbolic, soap operatic statements of love and insecurity. "I want to stay with you forever" and "I'm never going to leave you" is something said by the very young with no conception of time or the changefulness of time.

I don't get what she sees in him, but okay, if you say so. He looks like that guy from Billy Eliot. Maybe he is. I still don't get the conceit of the dramatic reprisal, but again, young love is dramatic. One moment you promise forever, the next, you want to take back all the yesterdays. Still, gotta wonder--what did he do exactly? Something so bad he had to...join the army? Dude, Love IS a battlefield. Pat Benatar, you speak the truth.

Anyway, I thought this song would be nice for the last few days of September, even if it's a little too much like an '80s after school special.


Feist - 1 2 3 4

Believe it or not, this is the grown-up version of When September Ends.

"One Two Three Four
Tell me that you love me more
Sleepless long nights
That is what my youth was for

Old teenage hopes are alive at your door
Left you with nothing but they want some more

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, You know who you are"

I totally dig the Bob Fosse choreography and electric blue sequin jumpsuit.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Leaving On a Jet Plane

I hate this movie and Ben Affleck, but like this song. I prefer John Denver's version above all, but I like the girl at the piano take. The only thing good about that movie was Steve Buscemi and the exploding asteroid, although the premise is as ridiculous as the idea that Ben Affleck can act.

I'm leaving, on a jet plane, for a conference. I can't say where, no. I can't say what, either. But, it will explain the paucity of postings.

Okay, I'm leaving--PowerPoint in hand, wearing the Glasses of Gravitas and Heels of Chutzpah (remember, aspirate the C), and am ready to rock!

I better, one of my former law professors is also presenting. It's like we're colleagues! Or not. I still do air quotes with my fingers when I refer to him/call him by his first name.


Questions Concerning Org Theory and Sex Harassment Law

The field of organizational studies is occupied by three disciplines: political science, sociology, and business administration. Each discipline approaches the subject differently and thus limitedly; political science considers the administrative state, sociology concerns itself with the macro-analysis of organizations and institutions, and business administration focuses on the micro-analysis of organizational actors and dynamics. These disciplines tend to treat the law as an exogenous coercive force on organizations, one that affects organizational form, structure, and business practices.

Only recently have sociolegal scholars begun to apply organizational theory to the law, chiefly in the context of employment discrimination law. Sociology of law scholars such as Susan Bisom-Rapp, and Lauren Edelman have introduced theoretical and methodological approaches grounded in organizational studies to the study of employment law. These authors have argued that the endogeneity of law is central to explaining the mutually reinforcing ways in which legal institutions and private organizations collaborate to correct a problem. In many cases, businesses respond to legal regulation by creating prophylactic regimes (diversity training, mentoring programs, grievance procedures) that lead to very little substantive change in organizational culture or in outcomes in employment. Businesses tend to mimic each other in their practices, and thus organizational isomorphism tends to spread through the industry: what may be regarded as exogenous coercion (legal regulation) is also endogenous self-regulation that attempts to satisfy the goals of compliance and normative conformity. Thus, the literature in the area addresses the adequacy and efficacy of businesses practices that seek to comply with federal employment regulations and judicial tests: affirmative action programs, diversity and sexual harassment training, networking and mentorship programs, and most efficacious of all, manager accountability programs.

However, even these new institutionalist accounts of employment law do not adequately address the question of whether the employment regulations and legal standards are themselves sufficient impetuses for changing entrenched organizational cultures and practices. That is, by going too far in the direction of examining the endogeneity of legal regulation and the efficacy of responsive self-regulatoin, the scholarship does not address, as doctrinal legal scholars tend to do, the sufficiency of the law itself to act as an exogenous, compliance-compelling force.

In Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth and its companion case Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, the Court addressed the question of whether employers may be held liable for the actions of their sexually harassing supervisors in cases in which the harassed employee suffers no adverse, tangible employment action. The Court, per Justice Kennedy, stated that Title VII was “designed to encourage the creation of antiharassment policies and effective grievance mechanisms,” to further the goals of deterring harassing conduct. In the absence of a tangible employment action, the employer may raise the Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense that the employer 1) “exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexually harassing behavior,” and 2) “that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.” Thus, the Court appears to encourage prophylactic, but possibly merely symbolic organizational practices on the part of employers to address the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The question remains whether the Ellerth/Faragher encouragement of employer preventative policies, which may be merely symbolic and ineffective, exists in tension with the Meritor savings Bank v. Vinson Court’s statement that “the mere existence of a grievance procedure and a policy against discrimination [does not] insulate the [employer] from liability. While those facts are plainly relevant…they are not necessarily dispositive.” When is the endogenous, preventative regulation within and among organizations sufficient to satisfy the exogenous legal standards created by the courts to redress harms already suffered? Do such legal standards and regulations make any sense, particularly in light of social science research that assesses the most efficacious methods for transforming organizational culture and employment outcomes? And should these legal standards be reconceptualized in light of such findings?


In a Worn-Out Suit and Tie

I like this song.


Risk-Taking or Risque: Behavioral Norms and Codes in the Blogosphere

Keep in mind that I wrote this as I was eating dinner, because I have other stuff to do--like nervously going over my presenation, reading extra articles to make sure I capture Org Theory correctly and apply it to sexual harassment law intelligently an in an interesting and useful way, and spazzing. I also have class tomorrow. Ugh. Special thanks to Ultimate Org Theory Guy for helping me fine tune this idea, clumsy though it may be. Hey, this is a two-page assignment, not a dissertation.

Risk-Taking or Risque: Behavioral Norms and Codes in the Blogosphere

The distinction between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is that the former brings online preexisting forms—for example, an online edition of a newspaper (; the personals section of the classified (; an online shop of a bricks-and-mortar store (take your pick). In contrast, Web 2.0 comprises forms that have no preexisting corollary—for example, online social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace, and most prominently, blogs.

“Web logs,” or “blogs,” first appeared as an unstructured way of aggregating news, information, and personal reflections. The early blogging platforms encouraged the personal chronicle model, for example LiveJournal and Diary-X. But with the emergence of newer, better blogging platforms and their elevation from the personal and mundane to the political and powerful, the blogosphere has become a new organizational field of its own. The blogosophere has transformed the terrain of information consumption and discussion—everyone has a blog, from the college student to journalist to the law professor to the grandmother who knits to the presidential candidate. It is hard to imagine a world without blogs, much less a political campaign without one—although at one time, Howard Dean’s Blog for America appeared to be revolutionary. Blogging is just one way people try to make sense of the current situation, whether it is a Supreme Court ruling (SCOTUSBlog) or the Virginia Tech shootings (student blogs were a major source of information in the tumultuous hours immediately following the tragedy).

Google’s acquisition of the Blogger platform is one such example of the industry’s recognition of blogs as a vital form of information dissemination and discussion. The blogosphere has thus become more institutionalized as it acquires the characteristics of other organizational forms—the imprimatur of corporate authority conferred by the Google acquisition conveys a sense that this form is not only here to stay, but will be constantly improved by a tech industry innovator. What was once a popular, if feature-deficient blogging platform has become “branded” with the Google seal of approval, and brand-name loyalists will flock to the Blogger platform. The blogosphere is further institutionalized by other organizing tools and principles: the advent of paid blogger platforms such as TypePad; the means of syndication through RSS or Atom feeds; the ability to track incoming links through Technorati; the ranking “ecosystem” of the Truth Laid Bear that measures all inbound links to measure blog popularity. Indeed, blogs are much like any other media business—often funded by advertisements, and more recently consisting of more than one individual—group blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy, and a paid support staff for Talking Points Memo.

This is the macro view of blogs. On the micro-organizational level, we can take our analysis of blogging to the level of the individual, even as we recognize that blogs have an organizational ecology of their own. While blogs may be able to function like institutions—for example, the particular field of the legal “blawgosphere,” with its strange jargon and relative insularity—they are run by human actors. Blogs themselves may appear to operate under a sort of mimetic isomorphism—legal blogs are similar in style and structure, as are knitting blogs, science blogs, etc.—with norms and codes that are generated endogenously by that subset of the blogosophere or across many disciplines. Linking and commenting policies are one such example of institutional norms that permeate across different blog types through mimetic isomorphism, and “memes” are the precise, but short-lived, points of replication. However, such norms, codes, and memes are generated by individual bloggers. And that is where the micro-organizational level of analysis must begin.

Decisions about which blogs to add to a blog roll are made by individual bloggers—even if theyare a part of a group blog. The social network aspect of blogrolls is entirely dependent on the rapport between bloggers; and is thus dependent on the formation of ties, whether weak (Granovetter) or strong. Strength of tie does matter for linking and blogrolling, but the long-tail effects would be associated with frequency or recurrence of linking. Single-instance or occasional linking would likely indicate weak ties. Bloggers are more likely to link to other bloggers that they “know,” either virtually or in real life, an exchange of offline identity that serves to establish trust, homophily, credential, and rapport. This is not the core of my hypothesis though, but perhaps explains the conditions for it.

I hypothesize that pseudonymity negatively impacts the social networking aspects of blogging. Concomitantly, this downward trend is compensated by a positive effect in the ability to engage in risk-taking by the pseudonymous blogger. The “chilling effects” on speech that may inhere to public blogging—that is, the endogenous norms and codes, the posting, linking, and commenting policies—affect the pseudonymous blogger less. By insulating him or herself from the institutional norms through the veil of pseudonymity, the pseudonymous blogger is likely to believe him/herself able to engage in freer discourse without fear of online or offline reprisal—at least not one with tangible effect on reputation, employment, etc. Because of this, the pseudonymous blogger may feel less constrained by the organizational environment of the blogosphere, and thus engage in “riskier” blogging—that is, more honest, more personal, and in some cases, more risqué. Sometimes, the blogger may disregard blogging norms completely and engage in negative, ad hominem, vitriolic, and snarky blogging.

Organizational theory has been used to analyze businesses, schools, political parties and other institutions of indefinite life and great complexity. It is debatable whether a blog is an organization with a common goal and indefinite life, as so many blogs seem to flame out or else have a short shelf life, or else attached to actual organizations and institutions. Yet some blogs are in their Nth year of blogging, and appear to last even as the writers change in and out. While there is currently a study of the sociology of the blogosphere, namely the private/public dichotomy (e.g. Sarah Ford, U Amherst), I do not know of micro organizational theory being applied to the behavior of bloggers. Surveys could be done to operationalize variables for “risk-taking”, although absent a laborious content analysis (and one likely to be hard to assess), such surveys will likely result in subjective measures of a blogger’s own valuation of his or her risk-taking. Still, I believe that the particular environment of the blogosphere is one that would offer an interesting site of analysis for micro organizational behavior.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

'Cause Innovating Is Hard To Do

I'm still polishing my PowerPoint presentation, but need to take breaks from it to do other stuff--like, you know, go to classes and do homework kind of stuff. I am actually eating and sleeping this time around though. This is good. I am getting better at being a working academic.

I have to write an "innovation paper" for my Micro Organizations class at the Business School. It's a Ph.D class, not an MBA class, but still--it's a bit different than the grad school/law school courses I'm used to.

Also, I'm a bit flummoxed about how to go about this. I can come up with ideas for law review articles, and I used to be very good about coming up with theses for literature courses. I can even come up with political science papers. But hmm, how to do this:

"Innovation Papers: These are brief discussions of novel hypotheses (something not already known or immediately obvious to research in Organizational Behavior). You will state a hypothesis and present a short justificaiton about why it is likely to be true and interesting."

Perhaps this is the type of question all scholars should ask of themselves in their own disciplines. The problem is, Orgs is not my discipline, so I'm not as familiar with the terrain and what is "novel and non-obvious."

Hmm, well, let's try. Likely what I'll do is bring some legal perspective and new institutionalism to the table, but in hopefully a new way.

I'll post the assignment when I'm done.


I Guess That Makes Me A Cupcake

What's a masculine baked good? Brioche? Nah, anything French is immediately effete, n'est ce pas? Maybe a Ding Dong!

I don't mind cupcakes, but I do mind the strange retro-foodie culture that expects that I'll pay $4 for a cupcake. Shoot, you could buy a box of Betty Crocker and make an entire tray for $4! Better yet, make one from scratch with premium cocoa powder. But then again, I am a girl. So maybe this is why I am all into baking. And this is why I'm a cupcake. That would be my answer to "if you were a baked good, what would you be, and why." My other answer to the standard is "Eucalyptus." Or wait, is the standard question what kind of animal? Osprey bird then. Isn't there a drink variation? Cape Cod. This is stupid. But even more stupid:

This is quite possibly the most stupid article ever, and not just because of these quotes:

As Ms. Kramer Bussel, who organizes monthly cupcake meet-ups in New York City, said, “If you bring cupcakes to a party, you are so popular.”

Until the late 1990s, the cupcake often shared the mental dessertpantry with canned peaches and ambrosia; it was nostalgia food, mom-in-an-apron
food, happy food.

But then cupcakes took a very chic turn. Trend-setting bakeries like Magnolia, the Greenwich Village cupcake empire, arrived on the scene; by 2005, a parody music video on “Saturday Night Live,” which was later viewed more than five million times on YouTube, included the lyrics, “Let’s hit up Magnolia and mack on some cupcakes.”

And now the new cupcake, having drifted so far from Betty Crocker, is facing fierce competition from the retro cupcake, which is the new, new cupcake that is really the old cupcake.

Americans still find time to whip up some batter and slide a tray in the oven. It’s easy, and the appeal is multifaceted. Cupcakes are portable, cute and relatively inexpensive. They are also “feminine and girlie,” Ms. Kramer Bussel said, so the majority of cupcake bakers and fans are women.

Cupcake is a term of endearment, but it can also be a rather mean-spirited word.“Cupcake teams” in sports are said to be soft and easily crushed. Asfood, though, cupcakes are democratic; everyone gets one. And theyare libertarian; individual and independent compared withcommunal cakes, which may not have enough slices for everyone.


Ms. Lettre declines to join in the Stepfordiness of Ms. Kramer Busse. Despite being an avid baker herself, she elects to keep gender stereotypes and constructs out of her eating habits.

This is why I live in America. We have gender-neutral words. We do not indiscriminately assign genders to nouns, bien sur! (Click to enlarge):

Although as the ultimate libertarian food, perhaps I should be baking them more often for TC. But, I think I'd rather go with mini bundts or tartelettes, to add a dash of sexual politics to this gender construct.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Free Fallin'

Heartbreaker, you got the best of me.

I dig the lined legal pad.

Thanks to Legal Theory Prof for reminding me how much I love this song!


Top Ten Star Trek: TNG Episodes

Everyone who really knows me knows that this is my favorite TV show in the world.

I agree with all of the episodes on this list as being some of the ten best of the show. But I quibble with the ranking.

If the list were extended to 15-20, and did not seem centered on metaphysical meditations of the human condition, I would include some other cool episodes like A Fistful of Datas or the ones with the evil Lor. But that may be my abiding love for Brent Spiner talking.


The Worst Kept Secret

Taking stock, I have counted twenty-one blogging (includes emeriti and guest) law professors that I have come out to as the Real Life Alter Ego. Add about 10 more for a few non-blogging law profs, fellow disgruntled law/grad students, and a few lawyers.

I still think this is a relatively modest number though. Most of the people I have come out to contacted me first. Snide comments about how one who calls herself "Belle Lettre" must be a wallflower or shy violet may ensue. I always extract a promise not to out me in the blogosphere (at the dinner table is up to you), and would only come out if there's a back-and-forth dialogue. At least a couple of emails or so. I get randomly emailed often, but do not answer every email (sorry), or if I do, only to say "thanks for reading!" I'm much more likely to respond to a substantive email, and enjoy the dialogue that results from follow-up link posts.

I come out to friendly types who seem to like my writing and express a mentorlike, solicitous interest in my career. I especially like dialogues about academia and literature. I used to be a lot more reticent about coming out, but now I like to maximize the social networking aspect of the blog, which gives me a lot of good advice, food for thought, and mentors and friends.

One thing I didn't really think about is that my future students may eventually figure out that their prof used to be Belle Lettre. I don't know how many college students read my blog--but if indeed that by the time they go to law school and I start teaching, if they did read enough and read carefully between the lines (or heck, my demographic details are enough of a giveaway as there aren't a lot of Vietnamese American women law profs writing in employment law)--yes, they may figure out that their prof and this weird blogger are one and the same.

I expect that I will retire this blog completely when I 1) Go on the market; or 2) file my dissertation and graduate. These are two different temporal points--I will go on the market a year before I file, so likely Fall 2009. But I will graduate Spring 2010. I guess it depends on when I start working. But I do plan to stop blogging as Belle Lettre one day--even if I never come out publicly. I like the idea of blogging away, taking off a year or so, and reemerging as The Real Life Alter Ego. It would be like Clark Kent taking off his glasses permantly (dude, was Lois an idiot?) and saving the world in his pinstriped suit. I will not be saving the world, but I will be writing about it. That's the myth of the armchair academic right, that we conflate the two?


OrgTheory's Take on the Blogger's Transformation of Scholarship

I very much like this post by Fabio Rojas of OrgTheory on how bloggers have transformed the academic sphere:

On presentations and blogging presentations:

Presentations are opportunities for people to recieve the advice they need to improve their work, in a setting that carries little risk. This is consistent with the idea that science has a component of professionalization, which as Elizabeth points out, assumes a degree of trust between speaker and audience, similar to a student and teacher. Blogging research talks seems consistent with the first view and inconsistent with the second view. My opinion is that one should be sensitive to what a workshop is about, but not let professional development become a shield against honest public critique.

There is another issue raised by presentation blogging. Traditionally, active researchers belong to an ”invisible college” of fellow scholars working on a topic who certifiy what counts as knowledge in an intellecual niche. The purpose of workshops is to vet your papers before they are submitted to the key journals. One benefit is that fellow researchers get a chance to point out flaws, which is what science is all about. Another benefit is strategic: by responding to comments of likely reviewers, or people in the network subscribing to similar views, an author improves their chances in the review process. The process is not full proof, but in areas with well defined boundaries and dense social ties, workshopping a paper in a few key places greatly increases the chance that your paper will appear competent and plausible to the people assigned to judge it.

This obviously raises issues for "live-blogging" colloquia and workshops. I enjoy and benefit from live-blogging, even if I can't do it myself. But I very much appreciate having a virtual seat in other conferences that I can't attend due to time, money, opportunity. But I do understand what Fabio is saying about how "works-in-progress" conferences are much more delicate to handle. It is one thing to live-blog a conference in which all the papers have been published, or all the panelists know that the session will be podcast, blogged, or otherwise publicly promoted. Indeed, panels on "blogging and scholarship" seem like there should be no expectation of privacy! But for others, particularly research conferences or works-in-progress, I think participants would get nervous about having their drafts discussed in so public a manner.

Again, perhaps this is a quirk of legal scholarship--we want to claim our ideas and works as intellectual property as soon as possible, and it's not like we publish research that is intended to be replicated and falsifiable. Also, because of our lack of peer review, the response-criticism comes after publication. Workshopping helps work out the kinks in our papers; but it's not necessarily the time for "public critique" that Rojas claims as a good. Perhaps this will change with the advent of more peer-reviewed journals and interdisciplinary scholarship, but for now it seems unlikely that public critique will enter into the early stages of legal scholarship, even if live-blogging is much more common now.

Also, there's the problem with writing about someone else's claimed, but yet-unpublished ideas. Is the communication of a work-in-progress at a workshop the same as "releasing into the public sphere for discussion" that goes with publication? Now that publication is a continuum--you can put up a draft on SSRN before you get published by a journal--when do you release your words to the wind? Is there a difference between circulating drafts among colleagues in the field and at your school vs. to an audience at a workshop, who may then live-blog it and extend the reach and number of reviewers? Does it matter who does the releasing? It is one thing if I post a draft on SSRN of a not-fully developed work; quite another for someone else to do it without my knowledge or express permission, whether on a blog or by forwarding my draft. There's that whole disclaimer on most "drafts" posted on SSRN: "this is a work-in-progress and may not be cited or circulated without express permission by the author." Ah, we legal eagles. Anyway---I hope that no one live-blogs my panel next week!

On the networking aspect of workshops and colloquia:

Presentation blogging has the potential to change this system because it provides a chance for the discipline at large to respond to a work. Public discussion allows scholars who are not in one of these “invisible colleges” to provide additional information about a project. A person might attend a presentation, or download a paper, and write a response, which then draws its own counter responses. As to be expected, most comments will be of little value, but by expanding the paper’s audience, there is a chance that a insightful person outside the network can point out flaws, or improve the paper in other ways. Furthermore, scholars inside the network can read these comments and develop a more refined view of the paper, and of their own work.

To borrow a phrase from Mark Granovetter, the review process for many papers is built on a network of strong ties, which creates redundancy of information. Presentation blogging creates the opportunity for weak ties among scholars, generating new information. Thus, for some papers, presentation blogging has the potential to transform the production of knowledge, from a system based on chains of presentations and reviews in circumsribed settings, to a system where the broader discipline becomes a source of criticism and insight.

I very much like this insight by Rojas. It is true that podcasting and live-blogging extend the reach of academia. Each subset of the AALS is a smaller network of scholars who tend to go to the same conferences, know each other and each other's work, and in many cases, have gone to school with each other (surprise, surprise, Top Five'rs). But the blogosphere has extended the reach of my network to include others who don't write in my particular field, and live-blogging conferences has exposed me to different scholarship and other areas of law. And I do like my virtual seat at the table at other conferences. And I am very much a fan of Granovetter's "the strength of weak ties" argument.

So, live-blog away, those of you who are so inclined at those conferences in which scholarship is shared at the end stages. For those of you are considering live-blogging works-in-progress colloquia or research conferences, then perhaps you should think a bit before blogging someone else's work. But that said, I don't think there's anything wrong with blogging a report on how the conference is going in general, who is presenting on which topic and what their general argument is, etc. If it's on the conference schedule of presenters, topics, and abstracts, then it is fair game. But as to more precise articulation of someone else's argument (things are lost in translation; presentations do not capture arguments as well as papers do; if the author wanted to publish a draft on SSRN they can do so themselves) as invitation for public discussion (again, who is doing the inviting), then I don't know. I'm just not sure at what stage the wider, bloggable "public critique" enters the discourse.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Jane Austen Book Club: The Movie Review

While I didn't read the book (as is the case with most "chick" flicks, e.g. The Devil Wears Prada), I needed a happy fix, and so I went to see The Jane Austen Book Club last night. I liked it. It was well acted and well-cast. I especially enjoyed watching one of favorite Anglo pretty boys, Hugh Dancy (from the HBO Elizabeth movies) as an American Silicon valley tech geek. Watching a pretty man act the bumbling, awkward, love-starved geek is refreshing. Why are they always British though? Even without the accent, you can tell that he was going for Hugh Grant (who gives me the creeps as he ages). It's as if the only time the juxtaposition of beautiful but awkward, intelligent but inept works is when it's coming from an Englishman.

I loved the uptight marvel that is Emily Blunt (again, frigid beauty works best with the Brits), and the sassy but warm Maria Bello (a Yank thing), and the rawly vulnerable Amy Brenneman. There should have been more Lynn Redgrave as the 70 year old pothead hippie mother. Kathy Baker was appropriately the aging boomer maven. The rest, I could have done without, namely the token male presence of Jimmy Smits and the 20-ish young woman in the movies that I just never identify with (Maggie Grace).

So I liked it, but can't really tell if the movie matches the book. Maybe I would read it, if my light "genre" reading weren't reserved to sci fi/fantasy novels recommended by TC.
Supposedly, that in forming this book club to discuss the novels of Jane Austen and emotionally support each other through various hellish states, the women (and the token man) find that their relationships mirror those in Austen's books. I didn't really see this. Perhaps it's the pitfall of film, but the movie was so absorbed with advancing the stories surrounding its characters that the actual time discussing the books and characters was very little. The book club scenes existed to show dramatic tension between the characters. Passing references to how one character identified with Fanny Price or Charlotte Lucas, but it's not like any of them really said or lived any relationship that could be said to resemble one in any of Austen's novels. Perhaps the book does a better job of this. Perhaps I'm missing something. Do they think of Austen's books as a way to conduct their own personal lives in the novel? If so, that is really bad. I would never think of Austen as a how-to guide for finding happiness in love. It cheers me up, but it's not exactly instructive. Actually, this whole "What Would Jane Do" pathology in recent pop culture is really weird and frightening.

At any rate, supposedly all of romantic comedy is based on "chick lit, which owes its existence to Regency era novels of comedy and manners by Austen, etc. I don't like the segregation of literature to "masculine" or "feminine," and it should be entirely up to the reader what they will do with their time. As of now, I'm reading (in my abundant spare time, 20 minutes before bed) "A Game Of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin; "A Way in the World" by V.S. Naipaul; and re-reading "Mansfield Park" by Jane Austen. I usually have a book for the train, one for conscious awake-time, and an easy one right before bed. This in addition to my law-related reading, which of course takes precedence, and might be more satisfying than a WWJD kind of book.

I get frustrated with fluffy reading. "Fun" reading I love--I love the mysteries of Wilkie Collins and Agatha Christie, the swashbuckling of Perez-Reverte and H. Rider Haggard, and I'm getting into sci fi/fantasy. But I dislike feel-good reading, that Oprah-esque neat end-tying and redemption, where everyone ends up partnered up or glowing with the saving grace of self-importance. Fluffiness is for pancakes. I do not equate fluffy with feminine--fluffy to me would also be reading "masculine" emo books like "Indecision" by Ben Kunkel (I never did get through it, it was so self-involved that I couldn't get beyond the first few chapters); or books by Jonathan Safran Foer--which I have read, feeling vaguely dissatisfied and undernourished after doing so.

In case you are wondering if I ever watch anything other than Austen-based movies, I will say that last night's other feel-good option was 3:10 to Yuma.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Keep Fishin'



Dry The Rain

Shaky, homemade video--that I actually like.

Impressive: running from one city through another, finishing in a third, a train stop away.

Contextual: it was roughly three miles to and three miles back, so only a total of six miles.

This is why context matters, and no, I'm not just being po-mo.


I Defy Thee, Inclement Weather From On High

Not only do I defy you, I will run to meet you on the rain-soaked streets. Be ready, worthy adversary, to greet me.

The Rain
by Robert Creeley

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.
Summer Downpour on Campus
by Juliana Gray

When clouds turn heavy, rich
and mottled as an oyster bed,

when the temperature drops so fast
that fog conjures itself inside the cars,
as if the parking lots were filled
with row upon row of lovers,

when my umbrella veils my face
and threatens to reverse itself
at every gust of wind, and rain
lashes my legs and the hem of my skirt,

but I am walking to meet a man
who’ll buy me coffee and kiss my fingers—

what can be more beautiful, then,
than these boys sprinting through the storm,
laughing, shouldering the rain aside,
running to their dorms, perhaps to class,
carrying, like torches, their useless shoes?
The Prediction
by Mark Strand

That night the moon drifted over the pond,
turning the water to milk, and under
the boughs of the trees, the blue trees,
a young woman walked, and for an instant

the future came to her:
rain falling on her husband’s grave, rain falling
on the lawns of her children, her own mouth
filling with cold air, strangers moving into her house,

a man in her room writing a poem, the moon drifting into it,
a woman strolling under its trees, thinking of death,
thinking of him thinking of her, and the wind rising
and taking the moon and leaving the paper dark.
Before the Rain
by Lianne Spidel

Minutes before the rain begins
I always waken, listening
to the world hold its breath,
as if a phone had rung once in a far
room or a door had creaked
in the darkness.
Perhaps the genes of some forebear
startle in me, some tribal warrior
keeping watch on a crag beside a loch,
miserable in the cold,
though I think it is a woman's waiting
I have come to know,
a Loyalist hiding in the woods,
muffling the coughing of her child
against her linen skirts, her dark head
bent over his, her fear spent
somewhere else in time,
leaving only this waiting,
and I hope she escaped
with her child, and I suppose she did.
If not, I wouldn't be lying here awake,
alive, listening for the rain to begin
so that she can run, the sound
of her footsteps lost, the sight
of them blotted away on the path.
The Fitful Alternations of the Rain
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The fitful alternations of the rain,
When the chill wind, languid as with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here and there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere.
Storm Windows
by Howard Nemerov

People are putting up storm windows now,
Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain
Drove them indoors. So, coming home at noon,
I saw storm windows lying on the ground,
Frame-full of rain; through the water and glass
I saw the crushed grass, how it seemed to stream
Away in lines like seaweed on the tide
Or blades of wheat leaning under the wind.
The ripple and splash of rain on the blurred glass
Seemed that it briefly said, as I walked by,
Something I should have liked to say to you,
Something ... the dry grass bent under the pane
Brimful of bouncing water ... something of
A swaying clarity which blindly echoes
This lonely afternoon of memories
And missed desires, while the wintry rain
(Unspeakable, the distance in the mind!)
Runs on the standing windows and away.
Let the Fall Leaves Fall
by Clyde Watson

Let the fall leaves fall
And the cold snow snow
And the rain rain rain ’till April:
Our coats are warm
And the pantry’s full
And there's cake upon the table


Saturday Poet: Anne Sexton

Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.

Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

The Room of My Life

in the room of my life
the objects keep changing.
Ashtrays to cry into,
the suffering brother of the wood walls,
the forty-eight keys of the typewriter
each an eyeball that is never shut,
the books, each a contestant in a beauty contest,
the black chair, a dog coffin made of Naugahyde,
the sockets on the wall
waiting like a cave of bees,
the gold rug
a conversation of heels and toes,
the fireplace
a knife waiting for someone to pick it up,
the sofa, exhausted with the exertion of a whore,
the phone
two flowers taking root in its crotch,
the doors
opening and closing like sea clams,
the lights
poking at me,
lighting up both the soil and the laugh.
The windows,
the starving windows
that drive the trees like nails into my heart.
Each day I feed the world out there
although birds explode
right and left.
I feed the world in here too,
offering the desk puppy biscuits.
However, nothing is just what it seems to be.
My objects dream and wear new costumes,
compelled to, it seems, by all the words in my hands
and the sea that bangs in my throat.

Admonitions to a Special Person

Watch out for power,
for its avalanche can bury you,
snow, snow, snow, smothering your mountain.

Watch out for hate,
it can open its mouth and you'll fling yourself out
to eat off your leg, an instant leper.

Watch out for friends,
because when you betray them,
as you will,
they will bury their heads in the toilet
and flush themselves away.

Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.

Watch out for games, the actor's part,
the speech planned, known, given,
for they will give you away
and you will stand like a naked little boy,
pissing on your own child-bed.

Watch out for love
(unless it is true,
and every part of you says yes including the toes) ,
it will wrap you up like a mummy,
and your scream won't be heard
and none of your running will end.

Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can't be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

Special person,
if I were you I'd pay no attention
to admonitions from me,
made somewhat out of your words
and somewhat out of mine.
A collaboration.
I do not believe a word I have said,
except some, except I think of you like a young tree
with pasted-on leaves and know you'll root
and the real green thing will come.

Let go. Let go.
Oh special person,
possible leaves,
this typewriter likes you on the way to them,
but wants to break crystal glasses
in celebration,
for you, when the dark crust is thrown off
and you float all around
like a happened balloon.

The Kiss

My mouth blooms like a cut.
I've been wronged all year, tedious
nights, nothing but rough elbows in them
and delicate boxes of Kleenex calling crybaby
crybaby, you fool!

Before today my body was useless.
Now it's tearing at its square corners.
It's tearing old Mary's garments off, knot by knot
and see - Now it's shot full of these electric bolts.
Zing! A resurrection!

Once it was a boat, quite wooden
and with no business, no salt water under it
and in need of some paint. It was no more
than a group of boards. But you hoisted her, rigged her.
She's been elected.

My nerves are turned on. I hear them like
musical instruments. Where there was silence
the drums, the strings are incurably playing. You did this.
Pure genius at work. Darling, the composer has stepped
into fire.


Who is he?
A railroad track toward hell?
Breaking like a stick of furniture?
The hope that suddenly overflows the cesspool?
The love that goes down the drain like spit?
The love that said forever, forever
and then runs you over like a truck?
Are you a prayer that floats into a radio advertisement?
I don't like you very well.
You don't suit my clothes or my cigarettes.
Why do you locate here
as large as a tank, aiming at one half of a lifetime?
Couldn't you just go float into a tree
instead of locating here at my roots, forcing me out of the life
I've ledwhen it's been my belly so long?

All right!
I'll take you along on the trip
where for so many years
my arms have been speechless


Friday, September 21, 2007

Bringin' It Back To Y'all



Are You Sure You Want to Go to Law School?

Seriously? After reading this excellent post? Or this other excellent one? How about this one? Does this describe you? [UPDATE: first link fixed]

Bottom line: unless you want to be a lawyer, and practice law, and spend 70-80 hours a week doing so in order to pay off your massive debt, don't go to law school.
These are culled from posts from over a year ago:

Things You May Not Know About Law School:

It is like junior high, but worse.There are lockers and hallways, so you can't avoid seeing/saying hi to people you don't like, unlike a large college campus.

There are mandatory classes and "sections" first year, so you definitely can't avoid forming/being rejected from cliques, study groups, group think. This will make you feel like you are back in kindergarten with separate Early Bird/Later Gater groups.

There are great classes and professors to be had. Don't just go after the Bar classes. Do 5-6 bar classes (on top of first year classes, which are all bar classes), but choose the best professors based on the student evaluations. Teaching style is all-important, as is exam format (in-class, closed book, take-home). Your grade is based on one final exam, so put all your effort to that (unless of course, you value "learning").

There are "organizations," e.g. student-run journals, legal clinics, and many student organizations (many ethnic-affiliated) which often make you feel that if you don't join, you're left out. This is a stupid thing to believe. Don't join everything. Join at most one organization, and really, really consider reasons not to run for an officer position, particularly the EIC or co-chair position. They're fraught with juvenile politics.

There is a lot of peer pressure to go out to stupid things for the sake of "networking," being perceived as social, friendly, cool, a drinker. Don't go.

There are kegs in the courtyard (I am not kidding) and other SBA organized social events, which again make you feel like a loser if you don't go.

By the way, SBA stands for "Student Bar Association," which is really similar to the "Associated Student Body" back in high school, which is again, a popularity contest with election slogans like "better vending machines" and "increased printer page allotments." The class president is the same jock you would have hated back in high school.

There are still the jocks, the homecoming queens, and the geeks social enclaves like in high school. The most annoying thing is, everyone has money or is used to the idea of money. Lots of pretension. Learn to identify cheeses by region and talk about rinds. Say that you eat at expensive celebrity chef restaurants. Flaunt expensive leather goods and designer shoes/jeans. Eat organic. Become an oenophile. Learn to hate yourself and question your roots.

Married people have it better in navigating the social waters, simply because they already have someone to be friends with in a new city, and because they can play the marriage card "I can't go to every stupid club/social event because I need to spend time with the spouse."

You shouldn't join every club, journal, clinic, or ethnic org out of guilt or resume building. Stick to one or none first year, two maybe second year, and continue with one or two third year--AT most. So that means one journal and one clinic (like HALSA/AIDS) and minimal involvement in a social/ethnic org. Do something because you're interested in the work or the work is worthy of your 10-20 hours a week, not because it's resume padding or because you feel guilt from going from 0 to whitewashed. (Do I sound bitter? I don't mean to sound bitter.)

Things I Regret About Law School:

Taking on too much first year.

I joined two journals and an ethnic org, and was a law fellows mentor to an undergrad. This is TOO much. Tell yourself that you are a good person, and don't need to prove it beyond scientific doubt by trying to fix the world your first year. Also, don't subscribe to identity politics as the reason for joining an organization. Identify the reasons you would join such an organization, and if it's "hanging out with people who look like me," don't do it.

Taking on too much my second year.

Okay, so by second year I quit everything except the Asian-Am journal (fascinating, and my best friends from it) and became, stupidly, co-chair of the Asian student org. BIG mistake. Being a member of an org is one thing, being an officer, and the top officer at that, is very different. Don't do it unless you like group politics. I hate it, sucked at it, by the end I was ready to give up my post or be impeached for not being able to go to EVERY event. Groups will ignore the events you organize or go to on themes important to you--for instance, I organized a "teach-in" against a proposed law I thought was unjust. I also did a lot of other inter-org coalition building. Yet all my board members can remember is that I didn't go to bowling night or karaoke night.

This is probably what I regret most about law school, and what triggered a mini-breakdown during the second year. I can handle school stress--it's the social pressures I never, ever learned to handle. I've been one of those kids who can operate pretty independently, never even being offered drugs or alcohol, and never really succumbing to any pressure to party, drink, etc. But I got it all in law school, and heaven help me, I failed. And that's my biggest regret--that I wasn't strong enough to say no even when it was in my best interest. What I hate is that it was my own fault, and whether by internalized guilt or peer pressure, I tried to do everything, and ended up doing everything very badly. If you go to law school, do only very few things (like I said, at most one journa/clinic and one org) and do them well. And make sure you care about them and know your reasons for doing them.

Not knowing how to make friends.

This seems incredibly stupid, but you need to make friends wisely. When I first came to school, I was new in town. So I made friends in my section with the first people who spoke to me. I said yes to everything--even though I am not a drinker or a bar hopper. Thus, after going to "Bar Review" (ha! get it?) four weeks in a row my first four weeks, but not being a drinker or group socializer, I couldn't take it anymore. I abruptly withdrew from all the drinking games and the bar reviews. And I got my ass nailed for it. My bar buddies took it personally that I wasn't drinking and living it up with them. They asked me if it was because I was getting "into all my 'Asian things' and not hanging out with white people anymore" (it is true, they said that). I hated them even more for it, and made new friends--yes, some Asians, but my best friends first year were across all races.

The problem is, because in first year people think/act/perform in groups, that's all they can associate with you--your perceived "group"--you are not an individual, and you do not have individual friends. It's all about your "study group" and your "social group." This is why I fell flat on my face first year. I'm really great at making and keeping friends, when I am able to on my own terms and form individual relationships based on shared interests and values. It's forming groups of friends I suck at--how to navigate group politics, absorb new members, shake off members that turn out to be weird, realize that you are the weird one being shaken off. So watch for that. Be aware that your "groups" may change over the course of three years, and that your clique first year will slowly degrade into individual friendships, and that you will have different close friendships by third year than in first year.

Update for 2007: Apparently, I still have problems learning which people to make friends with, because I only have one friend from my actual program from last year (he's Favorite Russian Dude) and the rest are an ad hoc assemblage of friends from the affiliated Ph.D program, and two law students whom I met at a dinner party--and yes, they're all Americans. Last year's attempt at having a group of international friends, like some happy Coca-Cola commercial ("I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company") miserably failed, and I am no longer speaking to FDD even. I have no international friends this year. I swear, the LL.M program has made me xenophobic and isolationist. But I'm cool with that, because I know that my intellectual cosmopolitanism will override this one day (and so I don't have to concentrate on that now), and because once burned, twice shy is better than being stupid and masochistic.

Things I don't regret:

Being where I am now. Since law school is the reason I am where I am, then I'm glad I went, met the few people I like, and am joining the legal academy. But that's "end of the day" stuff, not the quotidean hell I endured for four years as a law student.

This year is good. But then again, I'm not in law school this year--I'm taking courses in various other departments. And so I'm never at the law school and am not in any student orgs. So I only go there to have coffee with a few friends, attend public lectures (that part of law school I do love) and see my advisor. So yeah, this year I like law school.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pseudonymous Online Identity and Real Life Social Networking

Facebook has this "contact importer" function to scan your gmail address book. That is how I have found and then "friended" some profs who've contacted me as Belle and then The Real Life Alter Ego.

I'm finding a couple of law profs from my current law school and my last law school. But I am reluctant to add them. It's that unbridgeable gap of "They have taught me. They are not my friends in any sense."

However, I wouldn't say that I'm "friends" with every professor who has contacted me via the blog--I would only say I have a few whom I write consistently enough and talk about personal in addition to professional matters. But for some reason, I'm much more likely to "friend" (v., transitive) a blog reader prof than anyone I've met in a purely professional capacity.

Why is that? It's not like this blog is a cocktail party. Most of the profs who email me tend to do so in a professional capacity, offering advice and support--it's only later, after I've revealed my real identity, that we become a part of each other's social networks. Yet I feel more professional remove from any professor I've met through school or at a conference than one with whom I have an epistolary relationship--even though the former is much more real-life! I was just writing about this to Technology and Marketing Prof, explaining to him how being pseudonymous works for me, and how it helps market my real life self--and so in my many ways, I can build a real-life social network even as I operate a pseudonymous blog with a fictitious online persona.

It's interesting about pseudonymous blogs. In many ways, people email me the way they would never email a non-pseudonymous blogger. I think I establish bona fides in my blog as someone who is serious and motivated about joining the academy. And I'm sufficiently personal and neurotic and open that I bring that out in others. I get emails from professors telling me about their own personal experiences going on the market, their own dynamics at their school. Heck, once I posted on trying to figure out which books to move from my parents' house to Liberal College Law, and I couldn't decide (one emailer said "ship them all, you'll be grateful to have them") and lamented that some books were missing because I had let former boyfriends "borrow" them, only to lose not only love, but some great books. And I got at least 3-4 emails about that, an how one guy keeps rebuying his Zorba The Greek.

I also get a lot of "hey, how are you, and I offer you mentoring or advice if you need it" emails. That's how I became friends with Hipster Law Prof and Dynamic Law Prof, actually. They just emailed me, and we started an epistolary friendship. It initially starts off as prof-to-Belle, but by email 2 or 3 I tell them who I am, and I suppose my pseudonymous bona fides then match up to my real life credentials. In that way, I think that's why I'm able to use this as a quasi networking tool, and even get to goconferences (as my real self) to present my work (at this stage in my career, without the blog, I'd be such an unknown that there is no way I would have the contacts or opportunities I have now without having been able to market myself through the blog. I have the credentials, but some profs also "know me" through my blog, so it's a social network + resume.

But to be honest, I would be really limited if I was only Belle--Belle gets out there more, but the true connections form when I reveal myself as The Real Life Alter Ego. I get lots of cool emails and links as Belle, but all of the actual benefits of social networking: the advice, the friendship, the support, come into play when I actually form off-blog, non-pseudonymous connections and correspondence.


Grad Student Support Groups Both Formal and Informal

Ah, the power of informal social networks.

Everytime I go get my refill for Allegra (Awesome Part of Country is not so awesome if you have pollen allergies), I pass by the student counseling center. If you scan the walls of the campus counseling services they have all these dissertation support groups for grad students. I mean, a lot of them, and as many as any other type of support group for substance abuse, disordered eating, etc. Clearly, dissertating is an extremely stressful process. I'm not even in the writing phase, but I feel stressed just drafting my sample questionnaire and IRB proposal--nevermind the data collection and analysis when I get to that point this spring. But I'm for some reason resistant to using these formal counseling groups to get through the stress. I don't really want to talk to strangers about my particular project, and while misery loves company and I would appreciate the sympathy and commiseration, I wonder how useful it would be to consult with students in other departments about the writing process.

Enter the informal social network.

I'm good friends with several people in a Ph.D department that has a lot of its students jointly pursuing J.Ds at Liberal College Law. Every week, they meet for a "Wacky Wednesday" lunch, just to talk, chill out, gripe, exchange gossip and vent. I like that idea.

Two of the women in that department and I decided to do our own lunchtime coffee right before Wacky Wednesday, to actually go over our dissertation projects. How to refine our research question that might be adequately addressed and resolved in a monograph; how to operationalize our variables (which to make dependent/independent, how to code); which literature to discuss; how much space should be devoted to theoretical/conceptual frameworks, etc. I think this is much more useful than just complaining about the process to strangers. My friends, one of whom has a J.D. and thus has a similar project and approach, find these meetings more useful than any other. I "get" her anti-discrimination law project and what she's trying to do, and she "gets" mine on the FMLA, having worked at the EEOC . But we're personal friends, and so consulting each other isn't as fraught with anxiety as it would be to talk only to advisors and impersonal colleagues in a workshop. And it's much more sustained discussion, because we take turns and so discuss one project at a time for up to an hour. You can't 'move on' and table a friend for discussion.

I wonder how much junior faculty do this: schedule a time to meet with other colleagues at their school, or really utilize email/phone to contact friends in the same field at other schools, to refine their projects and just be supported throughout the writing phase with someone to act as a sounding board and an extra pair of eyes.

I'd highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to my next Dissertation 'N Dessert lunch hour.


Test Your System 1 and System 2 Cognitive Processes

This is the shortest psych quiz for heuristics and bias, developed by Kahneman and Frederick:

1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat cost $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

Hightlight below for answers:

1. $0.05

2. 5 minutes

3. 47 days.

From Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment by Thomas Gilovich:

(describing the dual-process systems theory of cognition by Kahneman and Tversky):

"There is another set of dual-process models that do not conform to the cognitive miser perspective. These models, often referred to as "two systems" models, postulate the existence of two mental systems that operate in parallel. An associationist, parallel-processing system ("System 1") that renders quick, holistic judgments is always in operation--not just when motivation is low and judgments are made on the cheap. The assessments made by the associationist system are then supplemented--and sometimes overridden--by the output of a more deliberate, serial, and rule-based system ("System 2")."

If you got the wrong answers, you probably relied too much on System 1 cognition, which makes you more susceptible to errors of cognition, namely ones due to automatic, unconscious, low-effort, difficult to control heuristics and bias. System 2 cognition involves more cognitive effort and is more deliberate and logical, so you would have worked the problems out better and seen the tricks.

Don't worry. I missed #2, although I think it was because I freeze up with word problems, and forget that I actually rock logic. My dad told me all throughout my childhood that I was bad at math, because I was not as quick at it as my math-major siblings. He would test me by setting me up for embarassing failure at family gatherings, asking me to do poly multiplication, word problems, and long division in my head. One of my brothers is actually very good at these things. I am not.

I can, however, recite Shakespeare and recite up to five lines of poetry after reading it for just a few minutes. I actually have a fairly good memory, and some would say, immediate recall photographic memory. But did he ever test this? No. So I grew up thinking I was bad at math, and for a long while that was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I grew lazy with math, thinking that it wasn't worth the effort since I inherently sucked at it. To a certain degree, it does come harder to me than any other subject. I actually had to do the homework. I could breeze through literature, history, art, etc., but had to actually try with math, chemistry, and physics. I had to do every bit of homework, and then extra practice. So I just gave up, because I was lazy and it was easier to believe that I sucked at these subjects. Somehow though I made it through honors math classes all throughout high school with at least B+/B averages (and these were my only B's, so comparatively it did seem like I sucked when all my other grades were A's), and I went up to Calculus AP (but did not take the test). And I rocked statistics in college, and got A's. So I can't be that bad, I guess.

So I have to disabuse myself of other cognitive biases and heuristics, namely my latent resistance to math and numbers so I don't freak out and become stupid. Oddly enough, only the questions that remind me of word problems from high school do this to me. I am perfectly happy looking at p-values, T-tests, and correlation coefficients. Empirical legal studies does not scare me.

The joke is that every liberal arts/social science major went to law school because they couldn't do math, and that they fear math. This is by and large, a widespread joke that has some traction. But I wonder how much of it is really true (really? that much of the population responsible for our legal system and governance can barely add?) and how much of it is just an easy, lazy myth that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just a little bit of effort would do much to correct this serious cognitive error and bias.

Also, don't tell your kids they suck at something. If you do, they probably will just to spite you with their mediocre grades, and regret not having chosen economics as their major (rather than political science! arrrgh!).


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Comments Feature: Look at Sidebar

Yay for Haloscan!

Comments will still be moderated (just say no to trolls), but they won't be lost in the kerfuffle. Recent comments can be now be seen on the sidebar, so that you know which posts have updated comments.

Perhaps this will encourage more of you regular readers (and drive-by, much love do I have for you) to comment! Just because there's moderation, doesn't mean that I don't read and cherish each one. I need to be better at responding at them, true--but that's usually because I always think about them a while and turn them into blog posts.

"It came from the comments" is one of my favorite ledes.


Feist: One Evening

A bonus video for you. I am in a 60's and 70's influenced girl pop kick.

Recast this video with your favorite hipster guy (HLP) and your favorite mod girl (TC), and swing it, baby!


Fitting Into the Culture of Academia

I'm debating whether this merits cross-posting on MoneyLaw. I have a blog inferiority complex.

I have another friend (no, all these friends are not named "Belle") who currently feels unmoored, and not fully comfortable in our academic environment. Academia is as much a social culture as an intellectual enterprise, and she is finding it hard to connect to people here, as it takes so much social and intellectual effort. Is this due, she wonders, to the demographic mismatch, that the reason for the weirdness that she feels is because of a lack of homophily, particularly racial/ethnic difference? Or is it just institutional, the reason for the difficulty of forming human connections?

I'm still formulating my thoughts on this, but this is my email, and keep in mind this is a personal response to a friend:

I don't think the disconnect and divide and discomfit is necessarily only attributable to race. There are many criteria for homophily; and race/gender are but two (albeit often salient) axes. But when I was co-chair of an ethnic student org at Bourgie Metro Law School, I HATED it. I wanted to do social justice and inter-org coalition building. But I got a lot of flak over having to go home on weekends to spend time with my family, and so would miss out on bowling night or karaoke night--I almost got impeached! And then some of the people in this organization were so offensive: they would say that Filipino is as close as you can get to black; that they could never imagine dating a non-Asian and professed judgment over our friends who did (especially if they dated black people); and I sort of dated a guy who would never have introduced me to his parents because he was Taiwanese and I was Vietnamese, which was too low-status in the Asian racial hierarchy. This contributed to my rejection of identity politics and disillusionment with identity-based social/legal movements. Maybe it was just that crowd, but I find that the ugly honest side of people is always discomfiting--when you hear what people really think, it doesn't matter if they look like you.

That said, perhaps these opinions were expressed becasue I looked like them, and professed to have the same interests as them--except that I was into community outreach, not just "being Asian and hanging out with Asians." I no longer think that race is the most necessary criteria for homophily; I think it's personality, convictions, interests, and values.

The reason why I clashed with the LL.Ms last year (I have absolutely no friends from that class, except ONE, and he's now in Russia, and he's very different from me) isn't so much culture clash as it was personality clash. They were prissy drama freaks. I am the type that is loyal and doesn't end things over one disagreement or misunderstanding. And I value more how people treat each other rather than what they have in common with me. The Roomie has nothing in common with me, not even personality or habit (she likes to go out, I like to stay in), but she treats me well, and I treat her well, and we care for each other and have the same definition fo friendship. So when I say that I like people who have things in common with me, it's not just books, music or backgrounds--it's their definitions of what constitutes cordiality, collegiality, and friendship.

And I think that the disjuncture in the academy, particularly in the legal academy, is that it's full of competitive types who might have different definitions of the above, and different ways of compartmentalizing people. They occcupy professional roles and personal roles. So they might have intellectual fit with you, but the difficult part is bridging the intellectual to the personal and emotional. They might be perfectly different to their friends and families compared to how they are professionally in school, in the classroom, on the journal, clinic, office. I do that to a certain extent, although I'd like to think that I can be true friends with my colleagues and peers. Indeed, although last year was a mess, I do count several people as true friends and intellectual peers.

So anyway, if you feel uncomfortable, it's okay. Just be yourself, and if you don't feel like you fit in, you don't have to. What you do have to do is take people for who they are, as they should take you for who you are. It's not about adjustment and fit as it is about compromise. Compatible doesn't mean perfectly mirroring, or even perfectly fitting--it means "going along with well." So long as you can maintain some modicum of sanity and cordiality with people (and you definitely can) I think you are doing as well as can be expected here. You will find some who love you sincerely and feel a deeper connection with you (me); but for the most part, I think this is rare, as all true connections are.

The rest of my connections are pleasant (I am just aiming for drama free this year) and I don't think I fit in particularly well here. I just think I am good at doing my own thing, and being comfortable in my own skin, and so long as wherever I go my skin moves with me, I'll be okay. When I want to break out of the comfort zone of me, I extend a hand and press the flesh with someone else, and that new contact can lead to good or awkward. But I'll take it for what it is and hope for the best, and hope that some handshakes lead to real human connections.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007


This song makes me so happy.

And I dig the Tim Burton meets Fellini meets Bob Fosse vibe of the video.

Jazz hands!


Blogging Across America Without Moving From One's Seat

I forgot to give the report.

Meeting Legal Theory Prof was a tremendous delight! It was fortunate that he was in town and had a free day. And because of my obsessive compulsive need to plan and script my days, I have the capability to be spontaneous within those parameters. Indeed, some might say that I have become as capricious as the Spring zephyr.

I'm unused to having people, other than my best friends, visit me, thus when called upon to provide some suggestions for nourishment and entertainment I was at a loss. And I live a really vibrant, fun college city. There are plenty of great bookstores and restaurants, but what to suggest unless you know your guest's proclivities? When TC visits, it's easy enough: something with pork and four stories of books. Because pigs are delicious, and books are even more so. But the potential for error surrounding a meeting a senior prof is great: it's half job talk, half socialization. I always end up choosing the wrong kind of restaurant: good food but too noisy to talk, and too busy to do so comfortably without feeling rushed out; or mediocre food but quiet enough to feel the awkwardness of the lulls and hear each other comment about how bad the food is; or I completely misjudge the parking situation in Liberal College City and the meeting starts off stressed.

So I mitigated that by entertaining at my house. And yes, I rose at dawn to bake a fresh coffee cake. Did you actually think I was going to serve burnt scones? Frittata and coffee cake ended up fueling almost three hours of conversation, which was lovely. It was most useful conversation--I got a lot of advice about when to publish, going on the market, the vagaries of legal scholarship and theory, institutional culture at schools, etc. And then we got to talking about really fun stuff: shared hobbies like photography, classical music, jazz, opera, and art. and then we ended up trekking to the local school museum and taking some photographs around campus--and before I knew it, the entire day had passed in a really lovely manner.

It's really nice to realize that you can have so much in common with another person. Blogging really shrinks your world in other ways. I get so caught up in being nervous about these blog meetups with more senior profs (seriously, sometimes they can be almost an interview and really stiff and awkward) that I forget how much fun it can be to hang out with them. As Hipster Law Prof says, "yes, we're superfun."

I'm getting a little bolder about meeting up with profs now. It used to make me nervous and twitchy. I used have palpitations about any type of blog meet up. But I'm definitely much more comfortable with contacting a prof in the area (usually a blawgger or commenter who has directly contacted me) whenever I'm traveling, and any prof coming to town (if you know where my current town is) should feel free to contact me. Blogging across America is awesome, especially if I don't have to hop on a plane to do so!


Monday, September 17, 2007

Actually, No, I Didn't Play That Card

I write often about my own path to academia and how it's different than most law profs out there--the daughter of Vietnam War refugees; a first generation born to parents stuck somewhere in Vietnam in the 1950s; one who rembers well enough what it was like to grow up poor and fit eight people in a two bedroom apartment; a dilettante who became that way because her family worked the night shift stuffing inserts and sections for the LA Times all throughout her childhood (you start reading the paper and wake up with newsprinted skin).

But oddly, I've never mentioned any of this in any of my personal statements when I applied to college, law school, law school two.

My friend the Organizational Engineer asked me about this, as she's currently applying to Business Ph.D programs. She, like me, had a childhood marked by struggle--but the teenage years were okay. Same with me. We lived eight to an apartment, with my two sisters in one bedroom, my three brothers in another, and my parents and I in a kitchen--up till the age of eight for me. And then we moved into a four bedroom house--which was still a tight fit, but I didn't have to sleep in the kitchen and I started eating brand named snack foods not just on special occasions (ahhh, Twinkies--how you disgust me now, where once I loved you). Once I turned 15, my family stopped working for the LA Times at night. By then, two of my brothers were engineerS, my sister was a dentist, and they all contributed to the household fund. They still do. I plan to once I get a salary, in addition to helping put two nephews through college. This is how we hardworking immigrants achieve the American dream. Ironically, it's also through a lot of Federal and State financial aid that is then forgotten once my siblings reach the higher tax brackets.

So my friend is being advised by her friends to write about her struggle--but it was so long ago. Should she? She doesn'st feel fully comfortable about it. That's how I feel. I remember what it was like to be poor--distantly. By the time I was actually applying to colleges, the struggle was no longer there, and it was no longer as difficult. True, there are certain things that remained true until I was 18 years old--I did most of my learning at the library because I couldn't afford to buy books, and I often skipped lunch to funnel the money to buying books and CDs (this is why my vast amount of cultural capitaland esoterica is hard won but cheaply bought in used bookstores, library sales, and cheap "greatest hits" recordings from Target and Naxos). But really, did this have much bearing on my college application? For some reason, I didn't think so then, and I don't think so now. Even if ten years ago, when I applied to college, the experiences were more proximate and potentially more directly related.

I remember well what I wrote then: I wrote about my thirst for knowledge (and I suppose the working within the confines of poverty would have been relevant, except by then I didn't think I was that poor anymore). I wrote about why I wanted to major in English literature and political science. I wrote about my belief in a well-rounded, holistic, classic liberal arts education, which is why I wanted to study two different disciplines. I wrote some very purple prose phrases, like how I wanted to burn the candle at both ends without myself being consumed, or my belief that studying in two discplines would, instead of pulling me apart, give me two signposts for directing my intellectual development. (Ugh). College personal statements are probably the most general types, and for the UC system, it's just one application that you send to the Regents along with multiple checks and checked boxes for the campuses you want to apply to. You can, at this stage, still be figuring things out for yourself, but it helps to show more direction than most lost 18 year olds.

And then when I applied to law school, I wrote about my belief in social justice, my feminist activism, and why I wanted to study the law in particular as opposed to continuing on with English literature or political science. I wrote how I wanted to study a subject that would not only add to my own store of knowledge, but something where there was more at stake than my own insight. I wasn't content to surround myself with only books and think that this was my universe and way of understanding the human condition. I wanted to study a subject that could make a difference, at the end of the day, to human lives and real government. Yet I didn't want to do this at too far a remove of macro political theory (which is what I would have done in poli sci grad school). And I was pretty specific about why I was applying to each law school in particular, and the subjects I wanted to take and the professors I wanted to learn from. You should, at this stage, know why you want to go to this type of school and embark upon this career path.

And then when I applied to law school again, it was even less personal. I wrote about my intellectual path through law school and again the commitment to anti-discrimination law, but I basically just wrote a research proposal and really identified the faculty I wanted to work with in particular. The higher up you go, especially if you're applying to doctoral programs, the more specific you should be about why you want to do this (it is a huge commitment of time and resources; don't go to grad school/law school just to "figure out" what you want to do with your life) and who you want to work with. Ph.D, LL.M and S.J.D. programs are there to help you become an academic--particularly by matching you up with a faculty advisor. If there's no one on staff who can/wants to work with you on your project for the years it will take to finish, you'll probably be rejected no matter how strong a candidate you are. You should know, by this stage, what you want to do, why you want to do it, and who you want to work with.

So no, I didn't play the poverty/struggle/race card at any stage of application, but that doesn't mean that it's wrong to do so. But it wasn't for me, and I didn't do it. If it's particularly proximate in time and cause for you, perhaps you should mention it, especially if it impacted your studies or characterized your most recent experience (for example, I imagine surviving cancer during college and graduating cum laude is pretty commendable). But otherwise, old cards and tricks should best be left in that old hat.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Not Quite Awesome

Awesome: Having one of your Blawg Idols/Mentors/Friends over for brunch tomorrow.

Not Awesome: Burning the bottoms of your cranberry walnut scones because you were distracted by a phone call from your sister.

Extremely Not Awesome, but Explanatory: Your sister is up for a major surgical procedure, so you have to take every call and during the course of the conversation forget about things like baking for your Blawg Idol.

Hopefully Awesome: Not having time to whip up more scones due to a prior engagement this evening that looks promisingly like what those young kids call "fun."

Well, I hope Legal Theory Prof will still like the spinach mushroom omelette and the non-burnt and still delicious tops of the scones (pick away the carcinogenic, charred parts LTP). And I hope he doesn't rememer this or take it into account if he interviews me in a couple of years.

This is what always happens to me during my blog meetups. I always spill something, accidently order something with mustard (which makes me either choke or pick apart my food like a grooming gorilla), or my dinner companion suggests we share a dish, which would include some shellfish that I'm allergic too but am too timid to refuse thinking "oh, it's not like I'm deathly allergic" (I just pass out in lethargy later in the day). You'd think that I could mitigate against this by entertaining at my house, which I'm almost expert at. And then, I burn the bottoms of the scones.



Friday, September 14, 2007

Thoughts From A Former Anteater on the Chemerinsky Debacle

Updated as of 9/15/07, 11:00/1:00/2:00 in "News Sources" and "Blog Commentary"

(This post is ironic considering how much effort I've put into being ambiguous about the schools I've attended and where I'm from. But now you know which school is Suburban State University, and that my home state is California--not just Sunny Desert State. And I spent the first 21 years of my life in Orange County. I am a native daughter and alumna, and feel that I am duty-bound to offer my thoughts.)

Brief Recap:

Prominent constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky (Duke) was hired to be the inaugural dean of the new law school at UC Irvine. UCI had been campaigning to be the site of a new public law school in Southern California for the last decade (it was in competition with UC Riverside). Currently, there are three public law schools in Northern California (Hastings, Davis, Boalt Hall at Berkeley) and only one in Southern California (UCLA). Despite a negative vote by the UC Regents last year, UCI has pressed ahead with the plan to open a new law school, funded in large part by a $20 million donation from local real estate developer Donald Bren.

UCI began a nationwide search for an inaugural dean, and Chemerinsky was one of the finalists--and up till this week, the chosen candidate. However, within a week of hiring him, Chancellor Michael Drake of UCI flew to North Carolina to personally inform Prof. Chemerinsky that UCI would have to rescind the offer. The reasons for this revocation is disputed; Prof. Chemerinsky asserts that Chancellor Drake explained to him that due to his liberal views, Prof. Chemerinsky would be a "lightning rod" for criticism by conservatives. Chancellor Drake disputes this account. Many academics speculate that politcs, particularly the political pressure exerted by Donald Bren, is really the reason for the revocation of the offer.

I attended UC Irvine for my undergraduate degrees in English Literature and Political Science, graduating in 2002. Initially, I was going to write a detached blog post about the Chemerinsky Debacle without admitting my own affiliation with UCI--but that appeared to me to be cowardly and disingenuous. As an alumna, it can be argued that I have the responsibility to either defend my institution to the death, or else lead the charge in its criticism (I choose the latter). And after consulting with a trusted group of academic mentors and friends, I think I can admit to this without compromising my pseudonymity (which is compromised all the time by the fact that I come out to any friendly type who asks). And I shall endeavor to write about this in a judicious manner while offering my own personal experiences and insights.

But first, a massive link round up of some of the best commentary on the Chemerinsky Debacle. I am going to excerpt the news articles and blog posts to help with the vast amount of reading:


Chancellor Michael Drake's Second Statement, 9/18/07:

I subsequently made the very difficult decision that Professor Chemerinsky was not the right fit for the dean’s position at UC Irvine. I informed him on Sept. 11 that we were rescinding our offer and continuing the recruitment process. This matter has been the subject of extensive media coverage over the last 24 hours, much of which has been characterized by conjecture and hearsay.

I made a management decision – not an ideological, political or personal one – to rescind Professor Chemerinsky’s offer. The decision was mine and mine alone. It was not based on donor pressure or political pressure; it was based on a culmination of discussions – over a period of time – that convinced me we could not effectively partner to build a world-class law school at UC Irvine. That is my overarching priority.

My decision was absolutely not based on Professor Chemerinsky’s political views; they are, in fact, quite similar to my own. Nor was this a matter of “academic freedom.”

Open Letter to Chancellor Drake

We find deeply disturbing the many reports now circulating regarding the hiring and “firing” of Erwin Chemerinsky as the founding Dean of the UC Irvine Law School because he is too “politically controversial”, and not least regarding your role in this unfortunate debacle. We are disturbed because of the deep violation both of the integrity of the university and of the intrusion of outrageously one-sided politics and unacceptable ideological considerations into a hiring process that should be driven by academic excellence, administrative expertise, leadership capacity, and personal integrity. By your own admission, Professor Chemerinsky exhibits all of these qualities in very considerable measure, which is why you sought to hire him in the first instance. Thus to withdraw the offer even after it has been formally accepted confirms that it is for reasons that should play no role whatsoever in the process, as even self-professed conservative deans of law schools have been quick to point out.

But perhaps above all we are deeply concerned that, if the reports are true, as our institutional and intellectual leader, and as our representative, you have failed to defend the integrity of the university, its recruitment process, and the sanctity of academic freedom you have given voice to supporting in the past. We have no idea what pressure you came under from those promising to support the university financially or politically, but we have heard nothing of your public undertaking to stand up for the intellectual independence of the university, its hiring processes which weren’t allowed as a consequence to run their course, of academic integrity and of the principle of reasonable independence. It is this that disturbs us most deeply.



LA Times: UCI reportedly working on a deal to rehire Chemerinsky

UC Irvine officials on Friday were attempting to broker a deal to once again hire liberal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of its fledging law school, just three days after its chancellor set off a national furor by dumping him.

An agreement would be an extraordinary development after Chemerinsky contended this week that Drake succumbed to political pressure from conservatives and sacked him because of his outspoken liberal positions. The flap threatened to derail the 2009 opening of the law school and prompted some calls for Drake's resignation.

Also Friday, details emerged about the criticism of Chemerinsky that the university received in the days before Drake rescinded the job offer, including from California Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who criticized Chemerinsky's grasp of death penalty appeals. Also, a group of prominent Orange County Republicans and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich wanted to derail the appointment.

LA Times:

The decision to drop Erwin Chemerinsky as dean could delay the 2009 opening. In the wake of the turmoil, some faculty members have called for Chancellor Michael V. Drake's resignation.

The Wall Street Journal

Chemerinsky, who was slated to begin at Irvine next summer, said the chancellor “said he hadn’t expected that I would be such a target for conservatives, a lightning rod. It’s clear that significant opposition developed,” including, Chemerinsky added, from certain members of the Regents of the University of California. The chancellor told him that even if regents ended up approving the appointment, it would be after a “bloody battle,” and damaging the law school.

“I’ve been a liberal law professor for 28 years,” Chemerinsky said. “I write lots of op-eds and articles, I argue high-profile cases, and I expected there would be some concern about me. My hope was that I’d address it by making the law school open to all viewpoints

The Los Angeles Times

Drake disagreed with the account. "No one said we can't hire him," he said. "No one said don't take this to the regents. I consulted with no regents about this. I told a couple people that I was worried and that this might be controversial, but no one called me and said I should do anything."

LA Times Op-Ed Columnist Dana Parsons

Orange County is obviously conservative political territory. And UCI, like most universities, longs for a sustainable base of financial donors to keep it moving forward. Did a deep-pocketed cadre of conservative donors put the heat on Drake to rescind the offer?

Or did the impetus for the Dump Chemerinsky movement originate with the UC system's Board of Regents, which would have to approve the contract?And, if either speculation is correct -- and Drake didn't simply change his mind, as he says -- why didn't Drake stand his ground and fight for Chemerinsky?

You may think I'm avoiding the obvious, but I'm not: Yes, I know conservative Orange County businessman Donald Bren has pledged $20 million to the new law school and will have his name on it.Is Bren the heavy? Did he learn of Chemerinsky's hire and throw a billion-dollar fit?

Could be, but it's almost inconceivable to me that UCI would offer Chemerinsky -- or anyone -- the job without, if only as a courtesy, telling the man the school is named after. That just doesn't make sense, and unless I'm hopelessly naive about such things, that means Bren would have had time to indicate his displeasure -- if, in fact, he would have had any -- before Chemerinsky had a contract to sign.

Orange County Register (local paper)

Yet as early as Aug. 29, Republican political consultant Matt Cunningham said he received a forwarded e-mail in which Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich asked fellow Republicans how Chemerinsky's appointment could be stopped.

Attorney Scott Baugh, chairman of the county GOP, said Chemerinsky shouldn't have been picked in the first place.“It's not because he's a liberal,” Baugh said. “It's because he's polarizing. You wouldn't hire Jerry Falwell to be the dean of religious studies at Berkeley.”

In UCI's case, many Republicans in Orange County were shaking their heads.“He's exemplary. He's a marquee name,” said Irvine attorney Michael Capaldi, former president of the venerable GOP Lincoln Club and a former Chemerinsky student. “Every attorney I know – Republican or Democrat – thinks this is silly.”Republican attorney Jim Lacy, a former Dana Point councilman, called the firing “sad,” noting that Pepperdine University's law dean is conservative hero Ken Starr.


Brian Leiter:

UCI Fiasco, Part 1: "UCI has disgraced itself."

UCI Fiasco, Part 2: " The "conjecture" that still seems rationally warranted on all the evidence, however, is that the University of California at Irvine caved into political pressure, and has now foregone any chance of hiring a credible Dean for the new law school. What a shame."

UCI Fiasco, Part 3: "One fears Chancellor Drake may not be long for his own administrative post at this point. In order to recruit a credible Dean candidate, the University will have to at least give the appearance of independence and being able to stand up to political pressure, and it is no longer clear the current Chancellor can do that."

UCI Fiasco, Part 4: "Given the facts that are now coming out--which make clear that the Chancellor (his increasingly incredible protestations to the contrary notwithstanding) caved into the most venal kind of political pressure from partisan hacks outside the university--it's getting hard to see why anyone would want this job."

The Volokh Conspiracy:

Ilya Somin: "Indeed, UC Irvine's decision to rescind the offer is likely to do far more harm to the school's reputation than hiring him ever could have. "

Jonathan Adler: (quoting Prof. Douglas Kmiec): "I will continue to believe that the law has its own place above politics, but Erwin's dismissal surely makes that belief harder to sustain. UC Irvine's inability to keep politics out of its decision-making will make things difficult for the new law school. It will become more difficult to recruit new faculty and to attract the respect that the school would have so easily acquired by giving the deanship to Erwin -- and which it so tragically forfeited by its casual, and all too last-minute, withdrawal of the offer."

Eugene Volokh: (on whether issues of academic freedom are implicated in the hirding of an adminstrative dean, as opposed to scholar): "Naturally, some decanal hiring decisions may still be too narrow-minded, or otherwise foolish. And, as I've said, the way the decisions are made and publicized may well be extraordinarily counterproductive, as they seem to have been here. But the First Amendment and academic freedom standards for them must be vastly different than the standards for hiring professors."

Ilya Somin, #2: "Like Eugene Volokh, I believe that ideology can sometimes play a legitimate role in assessing candidates for deanships. A school can legitimately refuse to hire a dean whose ideology prevents him from enforcing administrative policies he disagrees with or does serious damage to the school's image. However, there is no reason to believe that Chemerinsky's fairly typical liberalism falls into that category. Indeed, Chancellor Drake says in his statement that Chemerinsky's views are similar to his own. "

Eugene Volokh, #2: (on whether not hiring Chemerinsky based on his being politically controversial violates article 9, § 9 of the California Constitution): " Can it really be the case that a university can't consider (and in some instances try to avoid) possible political controversy in making such decisions? As to the selection and retention of faculty and students, the First Amendment and academic freedom principles should indeed preclude such considerations. The question is what should be done in other contexts, such as choosing whom to invite to give a lecture to donors, whom to appoint as a fundraiser, and the like."

Eugene Volokh, #3: (regarding whether California Employers may avoid political controversial employees): "it's possible that a California state statute nonetheless prohibits this. In fact, if the statute is read according to its text, coupled with the way the California Supreme Court has interpreted it, then all California employers must retain employees despite their controversial off-the-job statements, even when those statements are incendiary and alienate the employer's customers, donors, employees, or others."

Stuart Benjamin: (trying to figure out why UCI did this): "3) Willful Self-Destruction: This one is less obvious. Suppose you were a Regent, or some other powerful person in California, and you strongly opposed creating another publicly funded law school but knew that it was moving forward. What would you do? You might try to inflict maximum damage on the law school before it even started, in the hope that this would so harm the school's prospects that it would never open. And I can't think of a better, realistic way of sabotaging the new law school than this one. Yes, I can imagine better unrealistic ways, but in terms of things that could ever happen, this one is an amazing carom shot. In one fell swoop, UC Irvine has lost the best Dean candidate it's going to find, made itself look incompetent and/or cowardly, and made it unlikely that anyone of merit will want to be a Dean or even a professor there (unless they change their minds and offer Erwin the Deanship after all). "

Workplace Prof Blog:

Paul Secunda: (discussing whether ot not this implicates First Amendment issues under the Connick/Pickering Test): "I actually think this is a hiring case, rather than a firing case, because although Erwin signed an employment agreement with Irvine, it was apparently contingent on the Board of Regents signing off on it...So I think for these purposes, his "firing" can be treated as a "failure to hire" case. In all, it appears that Erwin, who probably knows better than I do, has a viable First Amendment retaliation claim for its failure to hire him based on passed expression on matters of public concern. Of course, this is just a legal analysis and there are many reasons why Erwin may choose not to pursue this course."

Black Law Profs:

Prof. Trina Jones, Duke Law: "The law school at UCI was to be devoted to the public interest. Yet, Chancellor Drake rejected a candidate with a lifetime of demonstrated commitment to serving the public. It appears the Chancellor acted out of fear - a fear that the appointment of someone with Chemerinsky's record, someone with stated and expressed views, would stir up too much debate, stimulate too much dialogue, and incite too many people to action. In other words, he seems to have feared that UCI law school, from its inception, would do precisely what academic institutions are supposed to do - encourage us to think critically and to engage in robust and spirited debate. "


Sam Kamin: "That's really, really bad for UCI. First, Erwin's views, while on the left, are pretty solidly within the mainstream. Second, did they not know his politics before they hired him? No one thought to Google him? Third, if you open your law school by making it clear that you will allow your donors to dictate the political views of your dean, good luck finding qualified candidates of any political stripe willing to take the job."

Professor Bainbridge (UCLA Law):

"To be sure, hiring and firing a Dean is different than hiring or firing a professor. As a school's chief administrator and fundraiser, the Dean must be able to work with people of all political persuasions. Given how important fundraising is in the modern job description of law school deans, an ability to work well with donors is essential. The new UC Irvine law school will be smack in the middle of Orange County, which is less of a conservative bastion than it once was, but since a new law school will have no alumni to tap for funds, the UC Irvine Dean will have to attract money from local boosters, who are still mostly GOP-leaning real estate barons. So Chemerinksy always struck me as an odd choice. But, shouldn't they have figured that out before signing him to a contract? "

UCI Grad Student Bloggers:

Scott Eric Kaufman:

"I'm a graduate student.

Do you really think I'll be able to do anything about it? I could lodge a complaint. I could get those conservatives who listen to me to write something about how they wouldn't have opposed Chemerinsky's appointment because he had sought to create an ideologically diverse department.


I'm a graduate student. Do you really think anyone in administration will listen to me?"


"I’m not advocating that we protest whenever a conservative gets hired to an academic position; I’ve known a number of intelligent and professional center-right professors who would be good on any faculty, and I teach conservative thinkers who I respect. But at minimum we have to reject attempts to dislodge qualified employees because they hold left-wing views. (Think about what I just wrote; is it 1947?) So to answer Scott Kaufman’s post (linked above): yes, write a complaint. Write complaints to everyone involved. Tell everyone you know to write a complaint. Get UCI—or whomever—to realize that the outrage it provokes from, horror of horrors, hiring liberal employees is nothing compared to the outrage it provokes from firing them out of fear before they’ve even stepped in the door."

My Own ("Belle Lettre") Thoughts:

I can't really add much to the above other than my own experiences living in Orange County for 21 years, and having personal knowledge and perspective on UC Irvine's academic and institutional culture.

UC Irvine was founded in 1965 as a part of UC President Clark Kerr's California Master Plan for Education. The Plan is something I believe in fervently: that everyone, regardless of economic means, should be able to have access to quality higher education. It was in the spirit of democratizing higher education that UCI, and its sister campus, UC Santa Cruz, were born. The ten UC Campuses--Berkeley (1868), San Francisco (1873), Davis (1905), Los Angeles (1919), Riverside (1954), Santa Barbara (1958), San Diego (1959), Irvine (1965), Santa Cruz (1965), Merced (2005) are famous across the nation, and to a certain extent internationally, for offering quality education at good value (this has changed with recent budget crises). For most California residents, an education at any of the above institutions is an excellent deal.

UCI is the 5th best school in the UC system, after Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Davis. I chose to attend this school, rather than other higher ranked schools (I was admitted to Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, and selective liberal arts schools) for a variety of personal reasons: I grew up poor and could not turn down the full scholarship; and family care reasons compelled me to live at home with my parents in a neighboring city and commute only 8 miles to school, saving on living expenses and allowing me to help out at home. And so I've never regretted the decision to attend UCI instead of the other ("better") schools--until now.

It is the number one critical theory program in the nation. As an English literature major, I was happy to take classes in Krieger Hall (named after Murray Krieger) and knew that the department was much shaped by Yale deconstructivist J. Hillis Miller. I lurked in the back of graduate classes taught by the late Jacques Derrida. Slavoj Zizek has taught at UCI. I say this to communicate that UCI is not exactly the most conservative school in the country in terms of its curricula. Perhaps no one takes postmodern deconstructionist theory as a credible threat to conservatism, but I never really thought of my education there as being controlled by conservative politics. I might reconsider that belief now. But during my years there, I thought that UCI was like any other "liberal" institution of higher education--particularly in the context of the liberal state of California and the liberal UC system. During my time at UCI, ethnic-studies majors such as Asian American Studies, African American Studies were added to the undergraduate division. I took classes from the Women's Studies department. UCI's academics, if anything, would appear to tilt left--just like most schools in California.

Indeed, if anything, UCI suffers more from collective apathy than conservatism. But that doesn't mean that there aren't those at the campus who weren't politically active (and indeed, in recent years I believe that political activity has increased, particularly the anti-war movement). I was a campus activist. I was an editor of the campus feminist newspaper, and volunteered for the Center for Women and Gender Education. We often collaborated with the Cross-Cultural Center and the LGBT Center to give informative talks, sponsor Take Back the Night vigils, and organize protests. During my college years, hot topics included Prop 209 (repealing affirmative action); SP-1 and SP-2 (UC Regents initiatives barring any use of race, gender, national origin or religion in admission considerations); the Knight Amendment (to bar recognition of homosexual marriages); and the unionization of graduate student teachers in the UC system.

However, the active left at UCI does run up against the consesrvative admnistration--but by "conservative," I mean generally stodgy and penny-pinching, like most adminstrations are. In my junior year of college, the administration wanted to shut down the Center for Women and Gender Education. I had by this time spent two years volunteering there, believing in the Center's mission to educate the campus community on gender issues and provide resources such as rape crisis counseling and sexual health information. My co-volunteers and I used our feminist newspaper as a platform to decry the administrative shortsightedness; that in their quest to trim the budget they were threatening to cut out a vital service to the university. We passed around petitions. We staged protests. We used our campus radio show to get out the word. In the end, we were successful. The Center was kept. But then it was renamed "The Center for Women and Men," a move that pissed me off--after all of our work, our efforts to claim a separate, safe space on campus for women's issues was for naught. They might as well have named it "The Center for Everybody but Transsexuals and Hermaphrodites."

This episode to me is emblematic of the institutional and academic culture of UC Irvine. While the curricula, faculty and student body of UCI generally tilts left, they're often constrained by the generally conservative, apathetic environment. Again, by "conservative," I mean "excessively restrained" and "over-cautious." Change is glacially slow, and activists and innovators engage in uphill battles ending in Pyhrric victories. Protests are as much preaching to the converted as they are preaching to the deaf. Even if there is some victory (keeping the Center; unionizing the TAs) such victories are always constrained by institutional recalcitrance to change (or else very much muted, as was the case with the Center). But I don't think the administration is draconian or influenced by the extreme right. But now UCI definitely gives that impression, and that is very unfortunate.

UCI is situated in Orange County, where I was born and bred. Orange County is generally characterized more by its fiscal conservatism than its social conservatism, despite the proximity of Rick Warren's Saddleback Ministry and the annual Harvest Crusade. Everyone votes with their wallet, but most express generally libertarian views rather than socially conservative ones. The local newspaper, The Orange County Register, is a terrible paper--because of its bad reporting and writing, not because of its excessive libertarian tilt due to the fact that it's owned by Freedom Communications, a libertarian outfit. Even though Orange County is a big Red dot in the middle of a Blue state, it's not so far out to the right as the recent coverage would depict. Yes, Orange County votes Republican--but if any of the candidates expressed strong conservative views regarding abortion, I doubt they'd find as many constituents.

Chemerinsky appears to me to fall within the mainstream of the political spectrum--to the left bank, to be sure, but not extremely outside of it. That he is against the death penalty is not to me sufficiently radical (in fact, I think it commendable). That he is generally in favor of a strong, central federal government and is generally left on social welfare issues does not make him a Communist, even by Orange County libertarian standards. I do not say this to criticize Libertarians, or their prevalance in Orange County--I say this to situate Orange County in the political spectrum, and to argue that Chemerinsky's dismissal as a "polarizing" "lightning rod" for conservative backlash is wholly insupportable. I can't believe the idiocy of denying such a prominent, respected scholar the deanship of California's first public law school in 40 years.

In the wake of yet another scandal, one that hits to the heart of my fundamental beliefs in academic freedom and excellent-but-accessible higher education, I am ashamed of my school. Despite its past scandals involving frozen embryos and donated organs, I have not felt so embarassed about my school until now. I have spent the last five years speaking nostalgically and admiringly of my school, and how even though it was the lowest ranked school to which I gained admission, I was grateful for the quality of education I obtained. I started attending UCI in high school, when I was lucky enough to get admitted to the University Program for High School Scholars--a few students at my high school were selected to take college courses (lower or upper division) for credit. While at UCI, I crafted my own liberal arts program by enrolling in two separate honors programs, each culminating in a senior thesis. I took advantage of every opportunity at UCI: the Campuswide Honors Program, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (which gave me a President's fellowship), the Scholarship Opportunities Program. I have never had reason to complain about the excellency of my instructors or the quality of my peers. My education there is instrumental to my belief in public education--that one may indeed obtain an excellent education at a state university, and that by subsidizing and democratizing higher education we as a community, state, and nation benefit.

But in the wake of this scandalous, cowardly failure to hire Professor Chemerinsky, ostensibly due to his political beliefs, I am embarassed for my school. I am unhappy that my school is so shortsighted that it has compromised its own commitment to excellence and academic freedom. I am unhappy that it has allowed politics to infect the selection process for the steward of a new law school that was to be devoted to public service and public education. As an alumna of UC Irvine, I am signing the petition to the Chancellor.

I sign the petition as an alumna of UC Irvine; a native daughter of Orange County and the community UCI Law intends to serve; and an aspiring academic who believes in the potential for excellence in public education and academic freedom. I do not believe that the goals of excellence or freedom are being served by the failure to hire Professor Chemerinsky, whose credentials and stature are beyond doubt. I write this post in protest, and hope you all will join the chorus of voices against this terrible decision.