Sunday, April 02, 2023

The Rosenbury Deanship and Class Bias


Laura Rosenbury became the Dean of UF law after a failed search in which the central administration was pushing of all people, Anthony Acosta. Why she was selected in the second search no one knew. Her faculty interviews were fine but not unusual. Now as everyone knows, she will be the President of Barnard. Quite a step up I would say and a little mysterious since she has had no experience with undergrads, has only a law degree, and writes for non referred journals. 

Still, when she was hired the Law School was pretty much a wreck and, therefore, the Provost must have seen in her a grittiness that would lead to risk taking and major changes. He was right. The improvements she made cannot be underestimated. When she was hired the Law School was  an outlaw operation. It ignored University policy on most things and that was corrected. It had so-called centers  in specific areas of law that made no sense in terms of UF's mission and were out of compliance with what it meant to be a center according to University regulations. Most were abolished. 

When she arrived students wanting to be associated with a journal by writing on had to write on a different topic for each journal. It made no sense to put then through this torture. That changed. The primary law review advisor  had a vise like grip on the job. He was replaced by a scholar and some practices that I never quite understood were ended. 

The LLM in Tax was a sleepy little segment of the law school. It was highly ranked because there were so few LLMs in tax and had, at times, some big names in the area. When she arrived the applicant pool was poor, few people were regarded as nationally know tax scholars, and there was talk of disbanding it all together. One way or another (there is a whole story on this) the program came under intense scrutiny, Changes were made.

For the first time in 10 years committee assignment began to make sense. This too is a long story but I will cut it short by saying the former dean seemed to have a single objective -- to keep being dean. Consequently, committee assignments appeared to be driven by political considerations.

I am positive there are more things she accomplished and I cannot say what role any of these factors entered into her "promotion" to Barnard. Also these changes did not require an infusion of funds from the central administration.

So was there a down side? She was know to lose her temper sometimes and at others break out in tears when things did not go her  way. She vetoed faculty candidates, so I have been told, that did not attend the "right" schools.  I have heard of but was not witness to instances of abusive behavior toward staff -- only those beneath her, if course. As far as those above her he was the ultimate yes person. As an example, when here only a short time she was introduced to a group as young a vivacious by a student, This was a big deal to her an she even wrote about it. But within a few years she was carrying out DeSantis' orders and labelling the new hand picked right wing President the "embodiment of   academic freedom."  Ambition breeds hypocrisy.

Her biggest public claim to fame came by raising the Law School ranking from the mid 40s in the USNews rankings to the high 20s. This is where class bias and ambition over all come in.  A large part of raising the ranking was to raise the average LSAT scores of the entering class in two steps. First, she lowered the size of the class. This does not mean she rejected unqualified candidates. Plenty of qualified candidates were rejected. "Qualified" took on a new definition. It was not longer qualified to successfully complete law school and become a productive attorney. No, qualified became who would make Laura Rosenbury look like an effective dean.. 

The second step, was to enter the market for high LSATs and GPAs. I mean literally buying students with high scores by paying them thousands of dollar in tuition waivers and stipends. I asked many of them why they chose Florida and the consistent answer was "it made me the best deal." 

What does this have to do with class bias. I know of no studies that do not show a positive correlation between socioeconomic class and standardize tests scores like the LSAT. I do not know you how GPA correlates with socioeconomic class but I suspect it is also positive.

 Where does the  massive infusion of  money come that is used to subsidize students who already have advantages over the less affluent?  Quite honestly, I do not know but to some extent, the Provost seems to have given Rosenbury a blank check. But where does it originate?  Maybe some comes from law students and others stuck with paying tuition and taking out loans to do so. Some from grants from alums and some from taxpayers. If it all comes from wealthy alums that is one thing although it still seems crazy to subsidize those who least need it. I doubt Rosenbury gave a damn where it came from. If any comes from taxpayers, no matter how laundered by the State or the University, then it becomes a redistribution from those in lower socioeconomic classes  to the relative well off. In short, as all elitists, Laura Rosenbury used those less well off to promote herself and. in some measure catch the eye of Barnard.  The elites always figure out a way to do that.


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