Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Goodbye to all that

Goodbye to All ThatThe objects of this autobiography . . . are simple enough: an opportunity for a formal good-bye to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that; forgetfulness, because once all this has been settled in my mind and written down and published it need never be thought about again; money.

Once again, Bill Henderson has done it. Bill has written the definitive analysis of Clayton Gillette's pathbreaking article, Law School Faculty as Free Agents, 17 J. Contemp. Leg. Issues 213 (2008). I wholeheartedly agree with Bill that "Gillette's essay provides the type of straight thinking needed to move the Moneyball-Moneylaw debate into a mode of institutional analysis that can produce actual results."

In future posts, I will directly engage Bill Henderson, Clayton Gillette, and Jeff Lipshaw with my own assessment of faculty free agency. But it is orientation week here at the University of Louisville, and I am on my way to an alumni event. For the moment, I will relate an anecdote prompted by part of Bill's post.

Bill insightfully connects Clayton Gillette's work on free agency with Julius Getman's powerful 1992 exposé, In the Company of Scholars: The Struggle for the Soul of Higher Education. Bill recounts Getman's disillusionment with the way "[a]cademics at elite institutions were often insecure, elitist, focused on personal agendas, and uninterested in solving real world problems":
People who become professors are rarely indifferent to the title and status that comes with the role. It would be difficult to overstate the role of hierarchy in academic life. Its power is manifest at every point, its impact felt on every issue. . . .

The desire for status — a higher place in the academic hierarchy — shapes both personal and institutional goals and decisions. It can have a positive impact in fueling effort, but it can be destructive, as well, interfering with effective teaching and scholarship and leading institutions and professors away from useful or enjoyable endeavors toward those thought to be more prestigious.
In the Company of Scholars, at 252-53.

Suffice it to say, if only in passing and for the moment, that I wish I had read Julius Getman's book before I pursued and (in my darkest hours) regrettably secured a law teaching job. I enthusiastically try to make legal education worthwhile for others even though — and arguably because — I wish I had followed almost any other career path besides the one I took. Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome // bygones, temps perdu, vorbei.

Back in the days when I hadn't yet begun despising the New York Mets but was doing everything that would eventually feed this intense hatred, I noticed that Potter Stewart and Robert Graves both died on December 7, 1985. En route to two degrees in English as I walked my crooked path toward law school, I felt reasonably well-suited to compare the accomplishments of Stewart and Graves. In 1985 I believed that Stewart had done more to advance the human condition. Now I am far less certain. Poetry and empire do not mix, and knowing academia as I have come to know it is persuading me, day by day, that I chose poorly.

All that remains, of course, is to make amends. I leave that for another day, but emphatically not another scholar or another dean. My pain shall be others' gain.

After which, even anecdotes fail. No more anecdotes. And, of course, no more politics, religion, conversations, literature, arguments, dances, drunks, time, crowds, fun, unhappiness. I no longer repeat to myself: "He who shall endure to the end, shall be saved." It is enough now to say that I have endured. My lung, still barometric of foul weather, speaks of endurance, as your spine, barometric of fair weather, speaks of salvation.

Goodbye to All That


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