Wednesday, January 31, 2007

To Be Loved

I have described our Herculean efforts of yesterday. Today is a day for rest. Breakfast in the solarium and a brisk walk. We stopped for latte in the A.M and wine in the P.M.. In between, a couple of galleries that might appeal to the students. The affection the Italians feel for us is hard to ignore – especially the waiters. Every time we leave a tip I notice the waiters making eye contact with each other and more often than not one is touching his cheek with his index finger and pointing at his eye. No doubt this is a comment on our generosity or refined dress. (Except for Marvelle, who really needs to smarten it up a bit.)

My only concern during the week, other than making the summer program in Italy as rewarding as possible for our students (just think of the opportunities to study comparative law!), is for the untenured faculty at my school. I know they miss me and that the lack of emails is example of how much they respect what I am trying to do here. I have become, in a sense, the de facto associate dean for their development. Every day I try to drop in on one or two and encourage them by describing how I became so successful. I know they prefer me to the official Associate Dean, Celia (or as they call her “Busy Bee”), who seems to come around just to pump up the stress level. I am sure I relax them, in part because I am such an easy-going guy, and I think the Dean made a wise move by keeping me in a unofficial role when he declined my offer to act as Associate Dean for Untenured Development.

Now the good news. The way Hugo has designed this summer abroad program opens up so many possibilities that are just not there when the students are “on location.” He has raised the idea of a split summer program – 3 weeks in Rome and 3 in Florence. It is rare that a summer program gives students an opportunity to study in two cities but one of the advantages of a video summer program is that they can “travel.” This means more work for your beloved band of gypsies but tomorrow we are off to Florence.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Working to Keep Student Costs Low

The four us had brief naps at the St. Regis Grand and then dove right into our research. We found several restaurants that would be a little pricey for the students but since they will not be coming, the restaurants were just right. We also found several wines that would be perfect for them if there were coming and had sufficient funding. Caroline took careful notes so we can remember to revisit some of the better restaurants when we broadcast back to the students.

This morning Hugo and I taxied over to Le Sapienza to speak to our counterparts. Unforunately, we were unable to find the Dean or department head so we left our cards and our hotel phone numbers with instructions to contact us. It was quite annoying that we found so few people there who spoke English. We left our resumes to make it clear what an opportunity this presents for the University there. By nightfall there was no return calls which means almost certainly that the materials we left were lost. In any case, with the program Hugo has devised, we do not really need to be associated with another University. Well, we did what we could be be neighborly.

After that we shopped for appropriate housing for the four of us. Marvelle suggested one large apartment but I had to veto that idea right away. In fact, I find it in Marvelle’s best interest for me to avoid eye contact. I fear for her dignity and my friendship with Hugo whenever she is near me.

We are torn between Trastevere and Novona. Its is a tough call especially since we are attempting to keep the costs down for the students. As I noted earlier, at 30 students and $3000 per student we are attempting to stay under 90K. This will mean some sacrifices, but I think each apartment should not exceed 25,000 for the 6 week stay and that includes staffing. It's not what we are accustomed to at the Vineyard but we can rough it in the interest of giving the students a first class experience.

All four of us closed out this very hard day with massages in the Hotel Spa and then a room service dinner. It is essential that we stay alert and relaxed to perform at our best.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Marvelle at 30,000 Feet

Our hard working group arrived in Rome this morning and settled down for a nap before getting to work sampling restaurants for the new summer program. First I want to add to my effort to enlighten people about the hazards of being a privileged law professor. Yes, it is the women thing again and, yes, it involves Marvelle.

The instance I am talking about raises one of the big ethical delimmas of flying. You are headed down an aisle -- usually to give your card to the flight crew so they will know there are important people abroad. If you are a man and there is a woman coming the other way and no seats to duck into you must make the decision about which way to turn your body. Turning so your posterior is pointing inward -- toward your fellow passenger -- seems rude. Turning so you face the other passenger means the risk of inappropriate touching.

Seeing Marvelle coming down the aisle and knowing her feelings for me, I was just such delimma and felt that the "posterior out option would be extra rude." On the other hand, I was fully aware that when it comes to me she has a woman's needs and might not yield to me my rightful half of the aisle. In fact, she would likely attempt a face to face passage.

When we came face to face she immediately turned so she faced away from me and pushed herself as far away as possible. I was relieved but as we parted my hand accidently brushed her posterior. She immediately looked up at me. I could tell by her look that she interpreted the touch as indicating that her fascination with me was mutual -- not just that I too am fascinated by me but that I was fascinated by her.

Somehow over the week I must attempt to make it clear that I am very fond of her but not in a romantic way. She is, after all, Hugo's wife and Hugo is the Supreme Superior Senior vice president in charge of international programs.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

In Service to the Students

I realize some law professors question the importance of elitism and a sense of entitlement to efficient and effective legal education. Let me give an example of how wrong the doubters are.

My friend Hugo, supreme senior vice president of international programs, and I have developed a new template for foreign programs that we intend to roll out this summer. In fact, as I write, Hugo, Caroline and Marvelle and I are packing because we will be in Rome all next week setting the program up. (Yes, I will miss a week of class but it will be made up by showing the film “Being There.” )

The program is open to all second and third year students. The cost is yet to be determined but the program will be operated at cost. Right now we are projecting an initial enrollment of 30 so I am estimating tuition of only $3,000 each. During the six weeks of the program Hugo and I (along with Caroline and Marvelle who have graciously offered their services to the Law School for “expenses” only) will be in Rome. The students are the big beneficiaries here because they will stay in the U.S. or wherever else they want to be. Twice a week Hugo and I will offer lectures via video feed. While in Rome next week, we will explore potential tours to “take” the students on via video feed. During the actual program, in addition to the lectures, we will conduct the tours and them to our dinners and “clubbing,” all via video. In other words, they get all the adventure and enrichment of a Roman summer plus law school credit, without having to actually go there. Hugo suggested and I agree that we needed a back up plan in case the video does not operate as we anticipate. To this end we are committed to sending the students written reports each week so they will not get behind. Because we are sensitive to student needs there will be no exam.

I doubt anyone without a sense of entitlement could develop something comparable and fully comprehend what it will mean to our students.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Downside of Elite: Lunch With Marvelle

In my last post I mentioned lunch with Marvelle. (She corrected my spelling.) She is the wife of Hugo the vice president in charge of foreign programs and my sometimes coauthor of several ghost articles. Our families mingle from time to time.

Due to some poor planning by my wife Caroline, the lunch, which was supposed to be for the four of us, ended up being for just two -- Marvelle and your humble author.

Being alone with a women is when being a law professor from an elite university actually is a problem. I do not want to get into locker room talk here but women cannot leave privileged law professors alone. And they seem to be able to spot us from miles away. What accounts for it? It is very hard to say. We -- my fellow law professors who are similarly "afflicted" and I -- have discussed it but are unable to agree on a satisfactory answer. It is some combination of pure animal magnatism and palpable intellect.

And back to Marvelle. It was clear she was stricken. She hardly ate half of her salad (lemon juice dressing on the side, hold the croutons, no onions, are those organic carrots?, no outer leaves of the lettuce and could I have a real salad fork, please). She did have four glasses of wine. I tried to put her at ease and explain that this happens all the time but she just stared at me as though she could not even begin to process what I was saying.

Well, I ended the lunch somewhat abruptly, helped her into her coat, bid farewell to the waitress who was looking at me slack-jawed and seemingly entranced, and saw her off.

I will try not to be alone with Marvelle again so she will not have to endure what must be very upsetting.

The New York Times Rule

There he goes again. Harrison is maybe the only law professor who does not follow the golden rule: Do not write down anything you would not want to see on the front page of the New York Times. So what does he do? He puts the letters I wrote up on classbias. So out it goes into bloggiland and he looks so . . . . well, poorly trained. (Bloggiland!! That is such a side-splitter. I think Duncan, down at the club, came up with that one.)

The NYT rule is an important one to most law professors. In effect, it is dangerous to leave, shall we say, "tracks." For example, suppose you want to say something to a colleague just to reassure him. Oh, something like, "You are twice the scholar Dwayne is." or "I'll make sure that candidate does not get through." Later that colleague repeats what you have said. If there are no tracks you can simply chalk it up to a "misunderstanding" or say "I might of actually said 'You and Dwayne have your own strengths.'" If you have left "tracks" then you are in something of a pickle.

Ok, off to meet with Marvell for coffee. Hugo and Caroline could not make it and I have always found Marvell to be quite interesting so it will be nice to get to know her better.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Never Trust a Blogger

A few days ago I sent a letter to Jeff Harrison who is a fellow law professor and who, despite his whining, seemed like a nice guy. The letter was about a pressure packed day I had. You can read it over on classbias. Now he has published it and I think his purpose is to ridicule me.

The way he has presented the letter it makes me seem like I do not work hard. I will admit that, looking at it now, there is a sense that I did little actual work that day. Nothing could be further from the truth. Harrison does not understand two things:

1. Those of us who are well educated and well bred are thinking all the time. For example, during both my massage and my racket ball game I was considering the importance of tax cuts for the wealthy and elimination of the inheritance tax.

2. We need our "down time." It is during the down time that our brains recharge. For example, it is clear to me that the proper schedule for law professors like myself is one teaching day a week. Every other year should be a sabbatical.

I know those who do not understand will say the usual working class schedule is 40-50 hours a week and a two week vacation but those people are so much less productive, they have to work longer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rankings: What is the Problem

Too many blogs to name here and operated by law professors are devoted to law school and law review rankings. All of the writers play off the US News and World Report annual rankings. These professors obsess over rankings. In concede that I agree with them in a sense. The USNWR rankings are way to complicated and consider a number of irrelevant factors. For example what do LSAT scores, employment, bar passage have to do with the quality of a law school?

The quality of a law school depends on one factor -- the faculty. The quality of the faculty, in turn, depends on the quality of their education. I suggest a simple ranking system: Divide the number of faculty who graduated from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Duke, or Penn by the total number of faculty. The higher the number you get, the better the law school. Really, why make it any more complicated than that?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Fighting Back

In recent months two particularly silly blogs have come to my attention. (Blogging is annoyingly democratic. Any moron can say anything.) Moneylaw and Classbias, like impotent fleas, are going nowhere but do have a propensity to be pesky from time to time with their cheap shots at my profession -- law teaching. None of what the contributors have to say is important but once in awhile I will be using this forum to set the record straight.

Moneylaw, the brain child of Jim Chen, is based on the idea of the baseball book Moneyball. The best I can tell from wading through the gibberish is that he and his fellow contributors think that one can deliver legal education more effectively and at a lower cost. Jeff Harrison is responsible for Classbias which appears to be nothing but whining about the fact that some people are not as gifted, as smart, or as well educated as the rest of us. His view seems to be that we could all be replaced by janitors.

Their favorite targets are Ivy League schools and hiring practices that have existed and been successful for years. What the do not get is that the existence of law owes itself to the institution of private property. The more you have, the more you rely on law to protect it. Who better to do the protecting that those of us who identify with those who control wealth. Their approach would be tantamont to putting the proverbial fox at the gate to the chicken coop -- or whereever chickens live since I am hardly the person to know, nor to want to know about farming. Coupon Coupon