Friday, November 10, 2006

Why I love the Marines, or: Semper Fi and happy birthday to the Corps

I wanted to reply to Jim's post on principals and principles. Jim's right (as usual!). I've seen too many people at too many institutions who think of the tenured faculty as the main (only?) constituency of a law school. If you ask sitting deans and former deans, you can get a real feel for each dean's priorities by asking for whom the dean "works." For example, Dave Van Zandt at Northwestern has said many times that he works for Northwestern University. I used to say that I owed my fiduciary duty to the law school as a whole, and not to any particular constituency. (And I used to compare my duties as a dean to the duties of a lawyer for a debtor in possession in chapter 11. Sometimes that comparison was a bit too close for comfort at a state school....)

I think that those deans who say that they serve the faculty as the primary constituency probably have an easier time of deaning than I did at one of my two deanships. Certainly the faculty--tenured ones in particular--have countless ways to make their pleasure or displeasure known. And I would hope, for those deans who see their jobs as serving the faculty, that serving the faculty isn't the same thing as catering to the faculty. Now that I'm a professor again and no longer a dean, I'm back to being very focused about my deadlines--teaching preparation (well, not this year!), research, speeches, committee work, etc. A dean should have a bird's-eye view of the school as a whole and use that view to try to pull people out of their individual mindsets.

Today, on 10 November, my husband and I are celebrating the Marine Corps' birthday with around 25 of our friends. We went to the Marine Corps' Ball in Houston last year, and I saw over two hundred people who put others' interests above their own. Some of them lost colleagues in the current war, and when their platoon was mentioned, they stood to remember their fallen friends. Others came back with serious, sometimes crippling injuries. All of them came back much older than when they were first deployed, with experiences that they often would tell only other Marines.

I look at the Corps, and I see people who understand that the parts are not as great as the whole and who embrace the ideas of honor, courage, and commitment. I'm someone who might not have met many Marines except that I married into a Marine family. My husband, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and now some friends are former Marines. (Never say ex-Marine!) I see how the Marines instill leadership in their recruits, and I think that we could learn a lot from the Corps. I also see how Marines grieve when one of their own dishonors the Corps by doing something inconsistent with its principles.

Maybe that's why I'm so disappointed when law professors, most of whom lead extremely privileged lives, aren't willing to sacrifice much of anything for the goal of making legal education as good as it could be (and, for a school that is a part of a university, making that university as good as it could be, too). Marines as young as 17 "get it." Why can't we?

Happy birthday to the Corps. Whether or not you agree with what's going on these days in the world, it is heartening to see how these fine people live their lives. They do us proud.


Blogger kelly v said...

Semper Fi, to all my favorite Marines and their wives.

From your favorite Airman

11/13/2006 10:29 PM  

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