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August 26, 2008
More on Professor Joe Biden
Adjunct Law Prof Blog discussed the fact that Vice-President candidate Senator Joe Biden is also an adjunct prof at Widener Law School, available here. The August 26, 2008 web site, Roll Call, provides additional detail of his teaching career. It turns out that Biden is only guarantees he will be there 50% of the time and he team teaches with another prof who does most of the work such as grading papers. Interestingly, Biden has stated he will make at least one appearance this semester. The article also notes that Biden's adjunct salary of $20,500 is much higher than what other adjuncts make. As the article states:
Since September 1991, Biden has been an adjunct faculty member at the Widener School of Law, which has campuses in Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. Biden team-teaches a seminar called “Selected Topics in Constitutional Law” with professor Robert Hayman. The class meets Saturday mornings, and, according to Hayman, Biden guarantees that he will be present for at least half of the class time.
Biden used to teach the course alone, Hayman said, but in 2003, the Senator “went to our dean ... and told him he just didn’t have the time to teach anymore.” The two decided that “maybe a possibility to reduce the time in the classroom was by taking on a co-teacher ... so they settled on me as his co-teacher, with the understanding then that while he wouldn’t be there for the whole class, he would be there for at least half the time.”
Biden spokesman David Wade said “Sen. Biden teaches with the approval of the Senate Ethics Committee and discloses his salary in his Senate Financial Disclosure form each year.”
Hayman said that he manages the administrative duties for the class and that he reads all of the student papers and proposes grades to Biden. The Senator may then suggest changes to the grades Hayman has suggested, but Hayman said that is rare.
It is apparent that Biden is not a "real" adjunct. He is simply a paid to give a series of lectures. Profs grade classes and interact with students. I would be curious to learn about how much interaction he has with students.
Mind you, I do not believe that there is anything wrong with this arrangement and I do not see anything wrong with a sitting Senator getting paid more than other adjuncts. I just think we should be honest in calling this arrangement what it is.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
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The fact that Biden used to carry the class on his own, apparently from 1991-2003, is good enough for me to say that at one time, he was a bona-fide Adjunct Law Professor. In fact, if you add up the number of courses Biden taught by himself as an adjunct, it probably exceeds the number of courses Obama taught at the University of Chicago while he was a professor there. I have no problem with the co-teaching arrangement, either, as he is a sitting Senator and the public interest is certainly not served by Biden grading papers instead of reading foreign intelligence reports or whatever the Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee does. I certainly get your point Mitchell, but given his long and consistent service over the years, I have no problem referring to him as a law professor.
Posted by: Justin B. | Aug 27, 2008 7:00:14 AM
I took Senator Biden's seminar course in 2001. He was there for every class and taught the course alone. He personally read and graded student papers at the end of the semester. In fact, during my undergraduate and law school careers I had the pleasure of being taught by many adjunct professors. Please rest assured that Senator Biden was a "real" adjunct professor.
Mr. Rubinstein, during which semester did you take this seminar course so as to allow you to pass judgment as to the "reality" of Senator Biden's service as an adjunct professor?
I found Senator Biden to be a teacher not a hood ornament.
Thank you for your comment. But if you read the news article I linked to and the law school's own web site in recent years, Senator Biden only made a committment to be present 50% of the time. I suspect your experience may be different from others who had him more recently.
I am actually proud that an adjunct is on the ticket.
Posted by: Brian T. Shaw, Esq. | Aug 27, 2008 9:50:24 PM
I took his class last semester and while he only teaches roughly 50% of the time, those classes are always more than double the allocated time for the course. Maybe you should have interviewed someone, instead of browsing a press release, before writing this article accusing the Senator of being nothing more than a featured lecturer.
Posted by: Student | Oct 14, 2008 8:54:06 PM