Thursday, April 10, 2008

Class is in

At law schools there tend to be three divisions. One is between faculty and staff. And then there is the tenure track/non tenure track faculty division. Finally the high paid and low paid tenure track people. This last division is not necessarily between tenured and untenured people. Sometimes tenured people make only slightly more than untenured faculty and much much less than the highest paid faculty.

Obviously law schools operate as though staff are second class even though the have families, children, hopes that those children go to college, and are often better educated, more interesting and kinder than faculty. These are the people who use sick leave to take a child to the dentist. Faculty just take the afternoon or the day off. I have rarely seen a faculty class person stick up for a staff person when an injustice occurs. When was the saying “question authority” amended (or was it always this way?) to “Question authority when it is in my self interest to do so.” In fact, most of the elitists in legal education probably cannot image the life of someone making 20-30K a year and whose job depends on being subservient.

The tenure track/non tenure track division is only slightly less stark. Sometime non tenure track people are hired because they provide a buffer in times of economic woe. The are treated like the white collar version of temps or day labor. Since they are on one-year contracts, they can be fired thereby sheltering tenure track faculty from economic downturns. It's a bit like diversification except it means using people. Generally tenure track people doubt that non tenure track people can cut it primarily because those folks did not attend the "right schools." Ironically, often the school the non tenure track person did attend is the one at which the tenure track person is now teaching.

The high pay/low pay division is less obvious but not when you think about it this way. Do the high paid people want to rock the boat? Not on your life. The high paid people are more likely to think an existing administration is responsive, thoughtful, and doing a fine job. They may look at an inexplicable salary structure and decide its not all that bad. The idea of taking a risk or speaking out on behave of the "low classes" is just not in the cards. (Remember the modern version of “question authority.”) Of course, they will call for collegiality when they want help. But they do not "give" collegiality when it means the outcome may upset the class system. Get in a fox hole with a high paid law professor at your own risk. With very few exceptions they do not not "question authority" unless their pocketbooks are on the line.


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