Gossip. All Schools have it and, let's face it, sometimes it is juicy and fun. Sometimes it is even true. A great deal of the time it is the work of bored and nasty people who want to be authorities on something -- anything.
At my School, just in the last few weeks, I have heard the following:
1. The Dean will tear up the ballots on a faculty candidate if the results are not to his liking. (Not much of a rumor because a good rumor needs to be plausible.)
2. Someone in the Administration is having an affair with a secretary. (Plausible but unconfirmed and a generic rumor.)
3. One faculty candidate was only invited to campus because the Committee mistakenly believed he was an African-American. (Plausible but uncomfirmed. This rumor was traced to the originator who conceded, "I might have said this" but it remained a rumor.)
4. A faculty member is teaching from bar review materials. (Plausible but not juicy.)
5. Professor A slapped Professor B.
6. Professor A did not slap professor B. (Stalemate rumors.)
7. Professor C is only teaching the course he is teaching to keep Professor D from teaching it.
8. Professor E voted for a candidate the Dean favored after being promised more money for a Center.
And there are the more general ones:
1. Professor F has an alcohol problem.
2. Professor G practices law most of the time.
3. Professor H is homophobic.
4. Professor J is racially insensitive.
One thing gossip tells us is that people have time on their hands. The second is that at some point it begins to undermine the ability of a faculty to cooperate sufficiently to do what is best for stakeholders. Incorrect information becomes the basis for actions.
How to control it? That's the hard part. It serves some kind of need. I once took it upon myself to trace a rumor to it orginator who did fess up but then yelled at me about something else and, I feel confident, immediately found sympathetic ears in order to hatch new rumors. Unilaterial action is not the answer. Like any addiction, group intervension might work.
So, how does a law school cure itself of its gossip addiction? Is there Law School rehab? Can you do it in a day?