Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Land Use Lecture Series: The Boehl Lecture Example

So (continuing from my post yesterday) . . . Judith Wegner's lecture on annexation and land use dilemmas last week at the University of Louisville contains a kernel of wisdom about having distinguished land use scholars come to a university setting to give a prominent lecture and to interact with students, faculty, alums, and those in the community who are interested in land use issues.  There is no substitute for a physical gathering in a place or places of inquiry and idea-exchange to hear listen to and converse with an expert who brings a fresh, different, outside perspective.  Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for blogs (like this one), SSRN, conferences aimed mostly at other scholars, email exchanges of scholarship, etc.  But those of us who study land use law -- the law of physical space, essentially the law of geography -- know that physical place is important to community-building, exchange of ideas, and the development of knowledge and understanding.

Picture the following: Professor Wegner gave her lecture, with PPT, to a Law School lecture hall filled with over 150 law students, graduate urban planning students, professors in law and other disciplines, and local lawyers, planners, community advocates, and the like.  After the post-lecture Q&A, the crowd retired to the faculty lounge for a reception and countless conversations about the lecture and other land use issues.  And then a small group of students (both law and urban planning), professors (law, urban planning, and geography), and a local land use lawyer went to dinner with Professor Wegner at the funky Lynn's Paradise Cafe (very Louisville & good Southern food) to continue discussions on a range of topics.

The Boehl Distinguished Lecture Series in Land Use Policy was established with discretionary funds from my chair's endowment to bring a nationally prominent land use scholar to the University of Louisville every semester.  The idea is to enrich land use education and thinking at the University of Louisville far beyond what our existing faculty and programs could do by themselves.  There is a free public lecture for which the lecturer receives an honorarium and payment of travel expenses, with no expectation of a publishing the lecture.  This allows us at U of L to hear directly about cutting-edge research that may be appearing or soon-to-appear in a publication venue elsewhere, instead of pushing a lecturer to come up with an entirely brand new (and perhaps only half-developed) topic.  The lecture is advertised locally quite broadly.  The lecturer is expected to participate in a meal with a small group of students, faculty, and community members whom I invite, usually at dinner following the lecture and public reception (with the reception being funded by the Center for Land Use and Environmental Responsibility, which I direct, and the dinner being funded by the chair endowment).  The lecturer is also expected to give a faculty workshop, usually at noon the next day.

The Boehl Lectures have been enormously enriching.  The past lectures have been:

Winter 2007: Tony Arnold (Louisville), inaugural lecture, "The People's Land: Justice Brandeis, Environmental Conservation, and Wisdom for Today's Land Use Challenges"

Spring 2007: Linda Malone (William & Mary), "Think Globally, Act Locally: A Pivotal Transformation in the Global Warming Debate"

Fall 2007: Eric Freyfogle (Illinois), "The Endless War: Private Land in Law and Culture"

Spring 2008: Julian Juergensmeyer (Georgia State), "Infrastructure and the Law: The Evolution of Infrastructure Requirements"

Summer 2008: Victor Flatt (then at Houston, now at North Carolina), "Act Locally, Affect Globally: Local Government's Role in Addressing Climate Change and Other Large-Scale Environmental Harms"

Fall 2008: Vicki Been (NYU), "Silver Bullet or Trojan Horse? The Effects of Inclusionary Zoning on Local Housing Markets"

Spring 2009: Timothy Beatley (U. Virginia School of Architecture), "Green Urbanism: Planning for Sustainable and Resilient Cities"

[hiatus while I was visiting at University of Florida and University of Houston]

Fall 2010: Michael Wolf (Florida), "Private Property and Public Protection: The Brandeisian Alternative"

Spring 2010: Judith Welch Wegner (North Carolina), "Annexation, Urban Boundaries, and Land Use Dilemmas: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future"

This lecture series has stimulated thinking about and interest in key land use issues, facilitated interdisciplinary collaboration, engaged our students, and developed relationships with lawyers, planners, officials, developers, environmentalists, and others in our community who care about land use issues.  It has had far more benefit -- both in breadth and depth -- than investing in any one person's particular research agenda or any single project.

On the other side of the coin, I have been very grateful for opportunities to speak at other law schools and universities (including planning schools) and have been enriched by my interactions with faculty, students, and friends at these schools and universities.  To be blunt, being physically present in a guest-lecture setting has enabled me to see the richness of the programming and intellectual activity at these schools in a way that a glossy brochure in October or November just cannot convey.

The bottom line is that I would encourage land use scholars to consider ways of providing and enhancing opportunities for outside speakers and distinguished lecturers at their schools.  The network of good, hard thinking about land use issues will continue to develop through electronic media in the virtual world, but not nearly as well or as extensively if it does not develop and flourish through face-to-face interactions in the physical spaces of higher education. 

(Also, if you want more information about how we pull this off and the kinds of resources it takes, please contact me at tony.arnold@louisville.edu)


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