Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Law and Ethics of Big Data - Call for Papers

RESEARCH COLLOQUIUM: CALL FOR PAPERS

Law and Ethics of Big Data

Hosted and Sponsored by:

The Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Co-Hosted by:

Virginia Tech Center for Business Intelligence Analytics

The Department of Business Law and Ethics, Kelley School of Business

Washington & Lee Law School

April 21st and 22nd 2017

at the

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract Submission Deadline: February 24, 2017

We are pleased to announce the research colloquium, "Law and Ethics of Big Data," at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, co-hosted by Professor Philip M. Nichols, Assistant Professor Angie Raymond of Indiana University and Professor Janine Hiller of Virginia Tech.

Due to the success of this multi-year event that is in its fourth year, the colloquium will be expanded and we seek broad participation from multiple disciplines; please consider submitting research that is ready for the discussion stage. Each paper will be given detailed constructive critique. We are targeting cross-discipline opportunities for colloquium participants, and the Wharton community has expressed interest in sharing in these dialogues.

A non-inclusive list of topics that are appropriate for the colloquium include: Ethical principles for the Internet of Things, Intellectual Property and Data Intelligence, Bribery and Algorithms, Health Privacy and MHealth, Employment and Surveillance, National Security, Civil Rights, and Data, Algorithmic Discrimination, Smart Cities and Privacy, Cybersecurity and Big Data, Data Regulation. We seek a wide variety of topics that reflects the broad ecosystem created by ubiquitous data collection and use, and its effect in society.

TENTATIVE Colloquium Details:

  • The colloquium will begin at noon on April 21st and conclude at the end of the day on April 22nd 2017.
  • Approximately 50 minutes is allotted for discussion of each paper presentation; 5-10 minute author comments, and then a discussant will lead the overall discussion.
  • The manuscripts will be posted in a password protected members-only forum online.
  • Participants agree to read and be prepared to participate in discussions of all papers. Each author may be asked to lead discussion of one other submitted paper.
  • A limited number of participants will be provided with lodging, and all participants will be provided meals during the colloquium.

Submissions: To be considered, please submit an abstract of 500-1000 words to Lauretta Tomasco at tomascol@wharton.upenn.edu by February 24, 2017. Abstracts will be evaluated based upon the quality of the abstract and the topic’s fit with the theme of the colloquium and other presentations. Questions may be directed to Angie Raymond at angraymo@indiana.edu or Janine Hiller at jhiller@vt.edu. If you are interested in being a discussant, but do not have a paper to present, please send a statement of interest to the same.

Authors will be informed of the decision by March 3, 2016. If accepted, the author agrees to submit a discussion paper by April 10, 2017. While papers need not be in finished form, drafts must contain enough information and structure to facilitate a robust discussion of the topic and paper thesis. Formatting will be either APA or Bluebook. In the case of papers with multiple authors, only one author may present at the colloquium.

January 10, 2017 in Business Associations, Business School, Call for Papers, Conferences, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

University of Georgia, Terry College of Business - Legal Studies Professor Positions

The University of Georgia, Terry College of Business has posted information about two legal studies professor positions - one tenure-track and one lecturer. I know each of the University of Georgia legal studies professors; they are an impressive and thoughtful and friendly group. 

Assistant or Associate Professor of Legal Studies:

https://facultyjobs.uga.edu/postings/1754

Lecturer of Legal Studies:

https://facultyjobs.uga.edu/postings/1750

Applications received by February 15, 2017, are assured of consideration; however applications will continue to be accepted until the positions are filled.

January 7, 2017 in Business Associations, Business School, Haskell Murray, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Entrepreneurship, Angie's List, and "The Secret"

I recently finished my first consistent year of running since high school. To celebrate, I bought and read Once a Runner. Yes, that is how nerds like me celebrate - buy and read a book. I was asleep by 10pm on New Year's Eve.

Once a Runner is a cult classic published in 1978 and authored by a former University of Florida runner (and fellow lawyer), John Parker Jr. The novel was originally self-published, sold at running stores and out of the back of the author's car. It eventually became a New York Times Bestseller. The story follows the fictional Quenton Cassidy as he moves from a successful (but still somewhat distracted) college runner to a laser-focused, woods-dwelling hermit who increases his training to beat the best runners in the world. He does, eventually, beat one of the very best milers (in a small track meet), and then goes on to win silver in the Olympic Games.

Among the passages that struck me was the following from Quenton's time at a cocktail party, after spending months (in relative solitude) training and logging 100+ mile weeks:

What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared, to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heartrending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes, The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.

Along those same lines, I recently listened to the How I Built This podcast on Angie Hicks of Angie's List. Angie stated that she was an unlikely entrepreneur - introverted, risk-adverse, and not a "big idea" person. But she credited her success to one main thing, perseverance. I am still working on how to best teach my students to persevere, and in this instant access society, more and more students are looking for The Secret to allow them to master the material (or at least get an A) with as little effort as possible. While it can be good to look for more efficient ways to do things, I also think we need to teach our students that some things of great value are only acquired through old fashioned hard work.    

January 6, 2017 in Business School, Entrepreneurship, Haskell Murray, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Law Teaching Positions and Questions to Ask Yourself

I recently updated my list of business law teaching positions. At this point, a number of the positions have probably been filled, but I put posted dates by the more recently posted positions. I still get asked, on a fairly regularly basis, about how one breaks into law teaching, and while I do have thoughts on that topic (basically, write, write, write), I think folks wanting to enter the legal academy should ask themselves a few questions first. 

  1. Are you truly drawn to both teaching and research (or are you just tired of practicing)?
  2. Are you geographically flexible? (You have to be both really good and really lucky to pick your geographic location in legal academia)
  3. Do you have a few years to devote to pursuing a career in legal academia? (these days, it often takes a VAP or two, and/or a few years on the market to secure an academic job).
  4. If you are in BigLaw, are you truly comfortable with a sizable pay cut?
  5. Can you be patient with students, administrators, staff, etc.? (things typically move much more slowly in academia than in practice)

Once you have received one of more offers, I would ask the following questions.

  1. What is my BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement? (If you only have one academic offer, and don't like your alternatives in practice, you should be very careful in negotiating and should try to avoid offending the offering school).
  2. Can I see myself living in this part of the country? (Accessibility to a major airport can be an important consideration as well, if you plan to travel for work or personal reasons)
  3. What is the teaching package? Does it include night, weekend, or online courses?
  4. What are the research expectations? When are reviews done? Roughly what percentage of faculty members achieve tenure?
  5. How is the financial stability of the school? What is the reputation of the school? Does the school have strong distinctive? How is the local competition? What is the discount rate trend? What is the LSAT/UGPA trend?
  6. How do you get along with the faculty members you met?
  7. Is the surrounding town/city an area where it is easy or difficult to find an appropriate job for your significant other?
  8. If you have young children or plan to have children, how are the schools in the area? Does the university have a tuition exchange and/or tuition payment program?

There are many more questions to ask, but again, it is important to start with your alternatives. If you have strong alternatives, you can be more picky, but you also don't want to start your academic career with an overly aggressive negotiation.

I still think teaching is the most rewarding job available, but there are definitely important questions to ask before pursing an academic career path and before committing to school.

December 23, 2016 in Business School, Clinical Education, Haskell Murray, Jobs, Law School | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Faith and Work in Universities

Earlier, I focused on the faith and work movement in churches, and I plan to add to that post over coming weeks. In this post, I will start aggregating information on faith and work in universities. I plan to list university initiatives, scholarly articles and books, and professor presentations.

University Initiatives

Articles and Books

Presentations

December 2, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Religion, Research/Scholarhip | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Journal of Legal Studies Education - Call for Submissions

JLSE

The Journal of Legal Studies Education ("JLSE") is accepting article and case study submissions. The JLSE is a peer-reviewed legal journal focused on pedagogy. In 2015, I published a case study with the JLSE, had an excellent experience, and received helpful comments from the reviewers. The announcement is below:

------------------

The Journal of Legal Studies Education is seeking submissions of manuscripts. The JLSE publishes refereed articles, teaching tips, and review of books.  Manuscripts must relate to teaching, research, or related disciplines such as business ethics, business and society, public policy and individual areas of business law related specialties. The Editorial Board selects high quality manuscripts that are of interest to a substantial portion of its readers. 

The JLSE is a double-blind peer-reviewed journal.

Please submit directly to Stephanie Greene, JLSE Editor-in-Chief, at stephanie.greene@bc.edu.

 

Stephanie M. Greene

Chair, Business Law Department

Professor, Business Law

Carroll School of Management

Boston College

Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

September 30, 2016 in Business School, Call for Papers, Haskell Murray, Law School, Research/Scholarhip, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Distraction Sickness"

In January 2015, I wrote about a resolution to take a break from e-mails on Saturdays.

That resolution failed, quickly.

Since then, I have been thinking a lot about my relationship with e-mail.

On one hand, I get a lot of positive feedback from students and colleagues about my responsiveness. On the other hand, constantly checking and responding to e-mails seems to cut against productivity on other (often more important) tasks.

Five or six weeks ago, I started drafting this post, hoping to share it after at least one week of only checking my e-mail two times a day (11am and 4pm). Then I changed the goal to three times a day (11am, 4pm, and 9pm and then 5am, 11am, 4pm). Efforts to limit e-mail in that rigid way failed, even though very little of what I do requires a response in less than 24 hours. On the positive side, I have been relatively good, recently, at not checking my e-mail when I am at home and my children are awake. 

A few days ago, I read Andrew Sullivan’s Piece in the New York Magazine on “Distraction Sickness.” His piece is long, but worth reading. A short excerpt is included below:

[The smart phone] went from unknown to indispensable in less than a decade. The handful of spaces where it was once impossible to be connected — the airplane, the subway, the wilderness — are dwindling fast. Even hiker backpacks now come fitted with battery power for smartphones. Perhaps the only “safe space” that still exists is the shower. Am I exaggerating? A small but detailed 2015 study of young adults found that participants were using their phones five hours a day, at 85 separate times. Most of these interactions were for less than 30 seconds, but they add up. Just as revealing: The users weren’t fully aware of how addicted they were. They thought they picked up their phones half as much as they actually did. But whether they were aware of it or not, a new technology had seized control of around one-third of these young adults’ waking hours. . . . this new epidemic of distraction is our civilization’s specific weakness. And its threat is not so much to our minds, even as they shape-shift under the pressure. The threat is to our souls. At this rate, if the noise does not relent, we might even forget we have any. (emphasis added)

Academics seem to vary widely on how often they respond to e-mails, but I’d love to hear about the experience and practices of others. Oddly, in my experience with colleagues, those who are most prompt to respond to e-mails are usually also the most productive with their scholarship. I can’t really explain this, other than maybe these people are sitting at their computers more than others or are just ridiculously efficient. As with most things, I imagine there is an ideal balance to be pursued.

One thing I have learned is that setting expectations can be quite helpful. With students, I make clear on the first day of class and on the syllabus that e-mails will be returned within 24 business hours (though not necessarily more quickly than 24 business hours). I often respond to e-mails much more quickly than this, but this is helpful language to point a student to when he sends a 3am e-mail asking many substantive questions before an 8am exam.

Our students also struggle with "distraction sickness," and most of them know they are much too easily distracted by technology, but they are powerless against it. Ever since I banned laptops in my undergraduate classes, I have received many more thanks than pushback. The vast majority of students say they appreciate the technology break, but some can still be seen giving into the technology urge and (not so) secretly checking their phones.

Interested in how our readers manage their e-mails. Any tricks or rules that work for you? Feel free to e-mail me or leave your thoughts in the comments.

September 23, 2016 in Business School, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, September 16, 2016

2016 SEALSB Conference - November 10-12 - Durham, NC

For the fourth straight year, I plan to present at the Southeastern Academy of Legal Studies in Business ("SEALSB") Annual Conference, and I am on the SEALSB executive committee.  SEALSB is one of eight regional associations under the Academy of Legal Studies in Business (ALSB), and ALSB is the national organization for legal studies professors in business schools.

More information about the conference can be found here and deadlines are included below. Today is the deadline for early bird registration, best paper submissions, and award nominations. 

Friday, September 16: 

Friday, September 30: 

  • Abstract submission deadline to be a conference presenter

Tuesday, October 11:

  • Hotel cutoff date for group rate (subject to room block availability)

Friday, October 14:

  • Submission of papers (not for award consideration) to be included on USB flash drive. (Otherwise, bring 25 copies to the conference.)

September 16, 2016 in Business School, Conferences, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 9, 2016

ALSB Promotion and Tenure News: 2016 Edition

Last year, on the suggestion of an ALSB colleague, I did a post on promotion, tenure, and administrative appointment news for legal studies professors in business schools. I continue that series this year, below. I am happy to add to this list, as I am sure it is incomplete. Congrats to all!

Robert Bird (UConn) - promoted to full professor

De Vee Dykstra (South Dakota) - appointed associate dean of Beacom School of Business

Marc Edelman (CUNY) - promoted to full professor and awarded tenure

Josh Perry (Indiana-Kelley School of Business) - appointed to Dean of Undergraduate Affairs

Jamie Prenkert (Indiana-Kelley (Bloomington Campus)) - appointed Associate Vice Provost

Scott Shackelford (Indiana-Kelley) - promoted to associate professor and awarded tenure

 

September 9, 2016 in Business School, Current Affairs, Haskell Murray | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Better Meetings, Better Teaching

During the past few days, I have participated in a lot of meetings.

This has led to some thinking on what makes a good meeting.

To me, a useful meeting is one that accomplishes things that could not be handled appropriately by an e-mail. Some meetings are held, I am convinced, because those calling the meetings are not sure that participants read and pay attention to e-mails. This worry could be best addressed, in my opinion, by making expectations regarding e-mail management clear, perhaps coupled with consequences for those who ignore the contents.

That said, e-mail is not appropriate in all cases and here are four categories where in-person meetings can work better than e-mail:

  1. Inspire. Perhaps some can be inspired over e-mail, but it seems much easier to inspire in person. As such, I think some good meetings can be used to inspire participants to achieve organizational goals. But inspiring others, especially sometimes cynical professors, can be difficult to do.
  2. Build Relationships. Sometimes the only times you see certain colleagues are at faculty meetings, so meetings can be a good way to build relationships, especially if folks hang around before and after meetings or if significant time is given for small group discussion.
  3. Engage in Group Discussions. E-mail is pretty good for one-way communication, but as anyone who has been on a group e-mail with hundreds of replies knows, e-mail isn’t great for dynamic group conversation. As such, it may make sense to have meetings when a group needs to converse about working through an issue. That said, preparation for the meeting can often be done alone, and the lion-share of the conversation can be done in small groups.
  4. Engage in Difficult Conversations. When tone is important, e-mail is often inadequate. Thus, in-person meetings may be important for communication of sensitive or controversial information.

When meetings focus on things that cannot be done remotely, I think meetings can be quite useful. Similarly, when teaching, we should think – what is it that students cannot get through an e-mail, the internet, or an online class? We should focus on those things. As such, I am trying to do even more interactive projects and small group discussions in class this semester.

August 26, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Service, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Even More Advice for Students

Belmont University starts classes on Wednesday. Below I share a few tips for new students. Josh posted a good list earlier this week, but my list is a bit different, perhaps because I teach primarily undergraduate and graduate business students. None of these is new or earthshattering, but, like many simple things, they remain difficult to put into action.

  1. Be Professional. As I often tell my students, you start building your reputation in school. I have declined business opportunities from former classmates because I remembered how they conducted themselves in school. Be on time, be prepared, be thoughtful, and be honest. We should recognize that people change over time and be open to giving second chances, but, unfortunately, not everyone will be quick to change an opinion they form of you while you are in school.
  2. Get to Know Your Classmates and Your Professors. Building relationships is an important aspect of personal and professional life. It is tempting to just put your head down in school and not spend time trying to form strong bonds. An incredible number of students never meet with their professors or only meet with them right before a project or an exam. Professors and classmates are worth getting to know as an end in and of itself, but can also have tangible benefits like better recommendation letters and client referrals.
  3. Use Laptops Carefully, If At All. There is a growing body of research that shows taking handwritten notes is better for learning the information than typing. For law students, I understand that it can be helpful to have your notes typed to jumpstart your outlines, but, at the very least, disable your internet connection while in class. We are not as good at multitasking as we think.
  4. Outline Early and Do Practice Tests. Staying on top of your outlining will give you a bit of time later in the semester to do practice tests. In graduate school, most students can memorize the course materials, but practice applying the material properly is often what propels students into the "excellent" category.
  5. Work Hard, but Schedule Breaks and Take Care of Yourself. It took me a while to learn this, but you actually perform better when you work hard and take care of yourself. For me, this means at least 7 hours of consistently placed sleep, nutritious meals (including breakfast), exercise at least 4x a week, and one day a week detached from work. Even during law school, I consistently put my books down for one 24-hour period during the week (with an exception for the exam period). Some students need to be reminded to work harder; law school should require the work of a full-time job in my opinion. Other students, however, get caught up in the competition and the rigor, and forget the importance of taking care of themselves.

Hope the fall semester is good to all our readers.

August 19, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Western Michigan University Business Law Professor Position

Western Michigan University (Haworth College of Business) has an opening for a tenure-track assistant professor of business law. Details below the break.

Continue reading

July 29, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Business Law Professor Openings

As in past years, I will maintain lists of law professor openings in the business areas (excluding commercial law-only posts) and legal studies professor openings outside of law schools. If your school has an opening that you would like posted, feel free to contact me. 

The law professor openings list uses the PrawfsBlawg spreadsheet, if an alternate link is not provided. Positions added after today will include the date added.

Law School Professor Positions (Business Law Areas)

Legal Studies Professor Positions (Outside of Law Schools, Mostly in Business Schools)

July 29, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Jobs, Law School | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thank You Letters

Following on Joan's excellent post about networking letters, I wanted to share a few words about thank you letters.

Attorney Kyle Westaway organizes "thank yous" into four levels:

  • Level 1 — Email saying thanks for the time and insight.
  • Level 2 — Level 1 + this is how your insight impacted my life.
  • Level 3 — Handwritten thank you note.
  • Level 4 — Level 3 + a small gift.

This seems right, and Kyle's entire post is well worth reading at the link above.

A mere thank you e-mail usually isn't worth much, but it is better than nothing (unless the thank you is typo-riddled, and then it might be worse than nothing). The e-mail is worth more if the author recounts meaningful specifics from your conversation or picks up on a way that he/she might be of assistance.

The handwritten note has made a comeback after interviews, but I don't think it has had the same resurgence after networking/advice meetings. This is a shame because generally the interviewer is just doing his or her job, while the person who is honoring your networking/advice request is usually the one bestowing a true gift. Due to the relative rarity, I think handwritten notes are even more appreciated after a networking/advice meeting than after an interview. For handwritten notes, I think it is worth investing in personalized stationery and trying to remember to send the notes right away so that the delay is not elongated.  

As to small gifts, those obviously would not be appropriate after an interview, but might be a really nice touch after a networking/advice meeting. If any readers have good thoughts on appropriate small gifts, please share in the comments or over email. I have always had a hard time thinking of these kinds of gifts. Wine seems like a common choice, but it could be risky unless you know the person drinks alcohol.

Finally, this recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Stop Making Gratitude All About You struck a chord. The author suggests praising the recipient rather than just describing how the recipient benefited you or made you felt. Of course, praise should be sincere and can be overdone, but I think the author is onto something.

July 22, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Joan Heminway, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wharton Professor Position in Business Ethics

Untitled

David Zaring, who is a professor at Wharton, has the details over at the Conglomerate.

Wharton is open to JD-only, PHD-only, or JD/PHD candidates for this position.

Applications  can be submitted here and the application deadline is November 1, 2016.

July 19, 2016 in Business School, Ethics, Haskell Murray, Jobs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Pepperdine University, Seaver College - Business Law Professor Position

Today, the following business law professor position at Pepperdine University's Seaver College was brought to my attention. Further information is available here and below.

-----------------

Assistant Professor of Business Law

The business administration division of Pepperdine University seeks a candidate with a terminal degree in law for a tenure-track position in business law. Candidates are expected to complete all requirements for the JD before the date of appointment, which is August 1, 2017. A documented research interest in law is required and teaching experience is preferred. The expected courses taught would be undergraduate classes in business law and international business. The flexibility to teach occasionally in another field is preferred.

The business program at Seaver College, is accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). USA Today ranked Seaver's business program as the 7th best undergraduate business program in the country. We have approximately 775 undergraduate students in the Business Administration Division. Despite the large number of majors, our classes are small (rarely more than 25 students) and our faculty is collegial and collaborative. The division offers Bachelor of Science degree programs in accounting, business administration, and international business, and a contract major in finance. Degree programs are offered on a full-time, residential basis at the campus in Malibu, California. Seaver College has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 students. Please visit our website for more information.

Pepperdine University was established in 1937 by Mr. George Pepperdine, a Christian businessman, who stressed the desirability of a complete education built on a Christian value system. The institution is committed to the ideals of the founder. Successful candidates also must demonstrate an active commitment to Pepperdine's Christian mission and tradition. Located near Los Angeles in Southern California, Pepperdine University is especially interested in candidates who can contribute through their teaching, research and service to the diversity and excellence of the University and our surrounding community.

Applicants should apply at apply.interfolio.com/35896.  A background check will be required as a condition of employment.

For more information, please contact the chair of the search committee:

Keith Whitney (keith.whitney@pepperdine.edu )

Chair, Recruiting Committee

Business Administration Division

Seaver College, Pepperdine University

24255 Pacific Coast Highway

Malibu, CA 90263

July 5, 2016 in Business Associations, Business School, Haskell Murray, Jobs, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

MALSB - Call for Papers and 2017 Conference

See below for information on the The Midwest Academy of Legal Studies in Business (MALSB) Annual Conference in Chicago, IL and their call for papers. I attended MALSB this year, found it beneficial, and reflected on the conference in this post.

---------

Midwest Academy of Legal Studies in Business

2017 Annual Conference

March 22 – 24, 2017

The Palmer House Hilton Hotel – Chicago, Illinois

Conference Registration and Call for Papers

The Midwest Academy of Legal Studies in Business (MALSB) Annual Conference is held in conjunction with the MBAA International Conference, long billed as “The Best Conference Value in America.”

The MBAA International Conference draws hundreds of academics from business-related fields such as accounting, business/society/government, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, health administration, information systems, international business, management, and marketing. Although the MALSB will have its own program track on legal studies, attendees will be able to take advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of this international conference and attend sessions held by the other program tracks. 

For more information on the MALSB and its Annual Conference, please see the attached Call for Papers or go to http://www.malsb.org/

June 2, 2016 in Business Associations, Business School, Call for Papers, Conferences, Haskell Murray, Research/Scholarhip | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Grade Inflation and Participation Trophies

A few months ago, Inside Higher Ed ran a story that noted "that grades continue to rise and that A is the most common grade earned at all kinds of colleges." (emphasis added).  This finding surprised me. I knew grade inflation was becoming more and more common, but I did not expect A to be the most common grade earned, especially in the undergraduate setting.

The article reported that A's accounted for "more than 42 percent of grades" and "A's are now three times more common than they were in 1960." (emphasis added).

This grade inflation trend is a mistake, in my opinion. And it is a trend that is impacting graduate schools as well. At the law school I attended, they moved from a 100-point scale and a 78-point mean when I attended, to letter grades and a much higher mean GPA. I understand why my alma mater made the move; they were very different than other law schools, even at the time, and a student with an 85% average had a tendency to be discounted by employers, even if that person was in the top 10% of her class. Business graduate schools may well have led the grade inflation charge, probably driven, at least in part, by employers who would only reimburse for a B or better in a class. Again, I think grade inflation is a mistake.

Is grade inflation simply an extension of the participation trophy phenomenon? "Entitled" might be the most common adjective I hear used to describe students today. "65% of Americans Say Millennials Are “Entitled,” 58% of Millennials Agree." And if these students grew up being rewarded for just showing up, why wouldn't they be entitled? For the most part, I agree with Pittsburg Steeler, James Harrison, who famously returned his children's participation trophies. To be clear, I think there is a place for team (and individual) achievement trophies and for most improved trophies, but trophies for just showing up seems to encourage mediocrity.

I also understand this mother's point of view, who argued in favor of participation trophies, given the situation of her "mildly intellectually disabled" son. She is concerned for "kids who don't have the chance to ever be the star athlete [or student] no matter how hard they work for it" and hopes for recognition "that not everyone is born with the same abilities." When teaching, my heart does go out to the C-student who appears to be doing his best, while a slacker gifted student may be able to get a B with minimal effort. We should encourage the determined C-student, but also teach him that achievement takes time and effort and is more difficult for some. I believe that former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden defined success well when he wrote: "Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming." I want my children and my students to know that I care about them regardless of their relative achievement. I want them to know that doing their very best is all that can be rightly expected. But I do not want to shelter them from the reality of failure. And I want them to realize that life is not always fair. And I want to help them to find a career well-suited for them, which may be aided by comparison to others over time.  

In light of all of this, how should we respond in our grading?

I think there has to be a discussion at the college and university level. Individual teachers are in a tough position. At most schools, a professor who believes that Cs are average, and As are only for true excellence, would be a significant outlier and could wreck individual student GPAs. Personally, I think colleges and universities need to establish a presumptive mean grade (and maybe some distribution requirements as well). The grade mean would have to have some flexibility, especially for smaller classes, where the high achieving students may be concentrated or absent from particular classes. I know there are some who find a required grade mean limiting, and an established mean is not without faults, but I think it is a more fair system and limits the race to grade inflation that is sure to occur if more flexibility is granted.  

While effort should be recognized and encouraged, grades and trophies should represent relative achievement. Competition is a reality of business. You don't get clients just by trying hard; you get clients by being the best. Students and athletes need to learn to compete, push through failure, and at some point realize that it may be best to move on to a different area.   

May 27, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Commencement Speeches and Ordinary Work

It is commencement season – our commencement at Belmont University is tomorrow. Commencement season means commencement speeches. Commencement speeches often comes with an extra helping of cliché advice. If I had to guess, no piece of cliché advice is more common in commencement speeches than “follow your passion in your career.”

For example, in Steve Job’s famous Stanford commencement speech he said:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

Jim Carey, in an otherwise pretty original and somewhat odd commencement speech, included some of the cliché “follow your passion” advice when he said:

My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Like almost any cliché, the “follow your passion” instruction contains some wisdom. I do think there are students who take conventional jobs out of fear, and fear shouldn’t drive a decision as important as career choice. That said, I also think this cliché advice can do a good bit of harm. I see students overly focused on trying to find work that fits with their current interests --- music, sports, travel, etc. --- or work that they think will “change the world" and make them feel good in the process. As a result, students often ignore work that may seem ordinary, but is just as important, if not as glamorous.

Accounting, mentioned in Jim Carey’s speech, is actually one of those areas that students often pass over as “ordinary work” or turn to reluctantly, out of fear.  Few people I know have a natural passion for accounting. But I have seen a passion for accounting develop over time. As the philosopher William James said

Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.

Most work is “ordinary” work. Even the splashy work celebrated in commencement speeches (and indirectly celebrated by the choice of commencement speakers) has ordinary elements, or was, at the very least, preceded by less unique work. I worry that students, attempting to follow the advice of Jobs, Carey, and others, bounce from job to job trying to find work that makes them feel good immediately and all the time. While I don’t necessary think “do what you love” is bad advice, I think it needs to be tempered with “find work the world needs and that fits your talents,” “do good work wherever you are,” and “know that most work is needed and important, even if it does not grab headlines.” I wish we took more time at our universities to celebrate the day-in, day-out grind of the faithful, ordinary worker. And I am trying to impart to my students that their future work matters, even if it seems common and doesn’t receive much recognition.

May 6, 2016 in Business School, Haskell Murray, Law School, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Reflecting on the MALSB Conference

Last week I attended the Midwest Academy of Legal Studies (MALSB) Conference in Chicago, IL. MALSB is one of the 12 regional associations of legal studies professors in business schools that has an annual conference. The Academy of Legal Studies of Business (ALSB) is the national association and the annual national conference is similar to AALS.

Given that I started my academic career at a law school, and still attend some law school professor conferences, I notice differences between law school and business school legal studies professor conferences. While there are plenty of similarities between the conferences, I note some of the differences below.

Pedagogy Presentations. While law school professor conferences do usually address pedagogy in a few panels, the business school legal studies conferences I have attended seem to have a much stronger emphasis. For example, I think the regional and national ALSB conferences tend to have 30%+ of the presentations dedicated to pedagogy. Many of the business school legal studies conferences have master teacher competitions as well, where finalists present their teaching ideas or cases to the audience and a winner is chosen by vote. I think some of this focus on pedagogy is because a fair number of business school legal studies professors are full-time, non-tenure track instructors without research responsibilities. In any case, I generally find the pedagogy presentations quite useful and think law school professor conferences could increase their focus on the area.

Relative Lack of Subject Area Silos. Maybe the biggest difference I have noticed between law school professor conferences and business school legal studies conferences is the relative lack of subject area silos at the legal studies conferences. At most law school professor conferences I attend, I can and do spend the entire time listening to only business law (narrowly defined) presentations. I leave small and big law school conferences only having heard about business associations, corporate governance, M&A, and securities law. At MALSB I heard those presentations, but also heard talks on employment, constitutional, contract, tax, and white collar criminal law. The conference organizers try to keep the panels in generally the same subject area, but the panels bleed into other areas and there is almost never enough pure business presentations to keep you fully occupied at a legal studies conference. The relative lack of subject area silos is good and bad. It is good because the exposure to other areas can lead to new insights about your own areas, but I still attend some law school professor conferences for more focus and depth.   

Associated Journals. Most of the regional and national legal studies associations run blind, peer-reviewed law journals. In my opinion, these journals are excellent for our field and offer a nice alternative to law reviews. I've stuck with the national journals to date because a number of the regional journals do not have WestLaw or Lexis contracts yet. As I have said before, I think there is room for even more traditional peer-reviewed law journals, perhaps run by law schools or by law school associations.

Enjoyed my time at MALSB. The people and the presentations were definitely worth the trip.   

April 22, 2016 in Business School, Conferences, Haskell Murray, Law School | Permalink | Comments (4)