Monday, May 27, 2013

The Intellectual Diversity of Law School Faculties

Joel Alicea, president emeritus of the Harvard Federalist Society and the organizer of the Federalist Society’s conference on intellectual diversity, has published an article in the Washington Times entitled ALICEA: The Academy’s War on Free Thinking: U.S. law schools treat diversity of news as a "thoughtcrime."

Alicea begins, "'One cannot truly understand a legal argument on behalf of one client or side without thoroughly understanding and addressing competing arguments and objections,' said Harvard Law SchoolDean Martha Minow at a recent Federalist Society conference on intellectual diversity in law schools. Unfortunately, this foundational tenet of legal education is not realized in the nation’s leading law schools, including Ms. Minow‘s, where students learn a narrowly progressive view of the law from a predominantly leftist faculty. Our nation’s top law schools are failing their students, and in a country whose future will be shaped by those students, it is an urgent problem that we should demand law schools address."

He continues, "It is beyond dispute that the nation’s top law schools are bastions of liberalism. A 2005 study by professor John O. McGinnis and lawyers Matthew Schwartz and Benjamin Tisdell found that 94 percent of Stanford Law faculty who made political contributions gave exclusively or predominantly to Democratic candidates, and although partisan affiliation is hardly the best proxy for jurisprudential and political views, the degree of the disparity is staggering. Professor Nicholas Rosenkranz of Georgetown reported at an intellectual-diversity conference that the ratio of liberal to conservative faculty at his institution is 116 to 3."

He adds, "My own experience as a student at Harvard Law School is that liberal premises are assumed in most classroom discussions. . . .  The message is the same: Conservative beliefs need not be taken seriously. This marginalization of students who dissent from campus orthodoxy on vital questions of law and policy is shameful."

He argues, "But the intellectual homogeneity of the legal academy poses a deeper problem than the marginalization of conservative students. It is the predominantly liberal student body at elite law schools that is most harmed by the dearth of conservative voices."

He concludes that "If our elite law schools are to serve their students and the country well, they must actively seek out the best minds representing all points of view."

(Scott Fruehwald)

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